Approaching a planet called Cephlon, the Liberator crew comes to the aid of a stricken ship. Avon, Jenna, Vila and Jenna teleport down to the surface to see if anybody survived the crash-landing. Of the two-man crew, one of them, Maryatt (James Lister), is already dead, but the other, Ensor (Tony Caunter), is alive – although badly injured.
They teleport him back to the ship, but when the others realise that Jenna hasn’t returned, Avon, Vila and Gan return to look for her. Ensor is insistent that they leave straight away (to the planet Aristo and his seriously ill father) and he forces Blake at gunpoint to comply.
This leaves the others stranded on a planet high in radiation and surrounded by distinctly unfriendly primitive types …..
Like several previous stories, Deliverance has two main plot-threads running throughout the episode. The first, concerning Ensor and the deal he’s made with the Federation, is set up here, but won’t be concluded until the series finale, Orac.
Ensor and his father have enjoyed a long period free from Federation interference, but his father’s declining health has meant they now need to trade something to pay for the medical attention he desperately needs. They offer the Federation Orac and in return the surgeon Maryatt travels back to Aristo with Ensor Jr.
There’s several major flaws with this. Are we to suppose there’s no non-Federation surgeons available? Even more ridiculous than this is Servalan’s plan. She’s rigged Ensor’s ship with a bomb and once it detonates (killing both Ensor and Maryatt) she plans to travel to Aristo and take Orac. Ensor Snr will be dead by then, since the medical attention he requires wouldn’t have arrived, so she foresees no difficulties.
The obvious question is why didn’t she simply detain Ensor Jr after he’d approached her. Why go to all the trouble of allowing him to leave and with a top Federation surgeon who she needlessly sacrifices? When she later discusses this with Travis, he expresses a twinge of conscience when he realises that Maryatt has been killed – he was the surgeon who saved his life.
Travis is more subdued in this episode, no doubt this has something to do with the loss of his command during the Project Avalon debacle. After he enters Servalan’s office, she deliberately ignores him for a moment.
TRAVIS: You sent for me?
SERVALAN: You’ve lost some of your fire, Travis. Whatever happened to your pride?
TRAVIS: My pride, Supreme Commander?
SERVALAN: I ignored you. A calculated insult. You obviously recognised it as such.
TRAVIS: I did.
SERVALAN: And yet you remained silent. There was a time when you wouldn’t have taken an insult like that from anyone. Not even me.
TRAVIS: True. I want my command back. To get it I’ll do whatever’s necessary. If you think my silence is weakness, you mistake me.
Both Jacqueline Pearce and Stephen Greif are excellent in this scene. Travis is more restrained and rational than we’ve previously seen – though he still has an intense desire to hunt Blake down. Servalan’s murder of Maryatt clearly disturbs him, but he’s prepared to ignore that (and help Servalan steal Orac) if it means he’ll get his command back. By now, hunting Blake is his sole motivation and he’ll do anything which will ultimately lead to Blake’s destruction.
As for Servalan herself, she oozes ruthless, smiling villainy in a way that would become very familiar over the next three series. This is highlighted when she tells Travis that Maryatt will be posted as a deserter (ensuring that his family will be sold into slavery into one of the Frontier Worlds).
The second plot, on the surface of Cephlon, has its problems, mainly centered around the shambling, skin-covered primitives. Once you’ve seen them, you know you’re in for a rocky ride – articulate conversationalists they’re not. The most interesting game to be played when they pop up is to try and identity them, as the likes of Harry Fielder and Pat Gorman are amongst their number.
But the last fifteen minutes or so are livened up by the arrival of Meegat (Suzan Farmer). She is convinced that Avon is an all-powerful Lord, sent from another world to aid her people. “Counting yourself, that makes two people who think you’re wonderful” says Vila acidly.
Paul Darrow has some nice moments here. He manages to show us that Avon is both uncomfortable and slightly flattered to be worshiped as a God. And Avon lives up to his God-like status by reactivating a dormant spaceship, which contains genetic banks and brood units.
GAN: Do you really think we could launch that ship?
AVON: If the people who built it did their job properly, I don’t see any reason why not. And it does seem we have a reputation to live up to.
VILA: Oh, you certainly do, Lord Avon. I wonder why she picked on you?
AVON: Well, now, you are hardly the stuff that gods are made of.
VILA: And you are, I suppose?
On its own, Deliverance isn’t that impressive, since it’s mainly concerned with setting up the plot for the final episode (and the stand-alone part of the episode, with the grunting primitives is quite tiresome – although Meegat is some consolation).
The line about the high levels of radiation (always a favourite Terry Nation trope) on Cephlon seems to be merely a throwaway one – but we’ll see how it pays off in Orac.