“He probably would,” replies Avon coldly. “But then, he always was an idiot.”
The story of Kerr Avon in Blake’s 7 is rather surprising. For a while you’re certain he’s going to mutiny. His main reason for getting up in the morning appears to be critiquing Blake. In fact it sometimes feels like it’s only because he’s curious how far Blake’ll go that he’s holding back: he’s like the companion figure in Doctor Who, a viewer surrogate. He even talks like a disdainful Gogglebox viewer who’s somehow got through the screen into the story.
And one of the people he’s watching is earnest, hot (and curly) headed self-appointed leader, Roj Blake. We rarely see Avon’s moments of heroism when he’s isolated from the crew, but there are a couple of crucial episodes in the first two seasons where Avon heads off to rescue his hapless leader at risk to his own life when he could as easily take off in their psychic spaceship.
Throughout the Star One narrative, Avon criticises Blake’s judgement pretty often (this is because the script editor’s role is somewhat lax, to the extent that we get the same storyline a few times with different looking tabards) and he does say that after the last vigilante action he’s off.
Well, things go a bit weird then. Blake doesn’t die that this point, although he makes sense that he would, narratively – but anyway, Avon is in charge of the ship, and the adventures continue. He’s a changed man, partly because he’s been watching Blake, partly because he’s been watching another character: Servalan.
At the start of last season, in what might therefore be read as an extreme fanboy fantasy moment, she tells him she wants him to rule the Universe with her. They’ll zoom around in the Liberator, drinking bright green drinks and laughing at the little people. Avon rejects her, but he does take twenty seconds aside for snogging her like a sixth former on the back seat of the bus. He’s certainly capable of being seduced by Servalan, just as he is by Blake. The common factor would seem to be power. Avon has presumably lived his life in the growing shadow of the Federation, and now that he’s a free man, he finds himself reproducing its operations. Organise, direct and control.
Now we hear that Avon’s set up a base from which to manage his operations, in a story he begins by being specifically concerned that the Federation are moving in on colonies across a series of worlds. He’s starting to think tactically, perhaps. And if he happened across one of those dissident worlds that Blake was obsessed with, would Avon go that bit further than his erstwhile leader did and take charge? He’s certainly more likely to than his crew, who are all (in this story at least) soldiers, with even Vila arguing that Tarrant won’t do the right things and ask the right questions. Tarrant is enjoying himself too much for Vila’s liking, but as such he serves Avon’s purposes. And things do work out for them: Tarrant and Dayna throw themselves heroically into things, meet the rebels and the traitors and the mutant scientist in the bunker (I imagine Terry Nation phoning his agent during this story, just to check that he hadn’t written this without realising it).
They also spot an old enemy, now seemingly more of a desperate fugitive than the Liberator crew ever were. Are the roles beginning to reverse for Avon and Servalan?
I like the idea of Servalan on the run, living on her wits and manipulating Federation captains on a personal level. The scene where her unmistakable shadow falls across the body of her victim – as she blasts a full-length Andrew Skilleter print of herself out of recognition – is delicious.
The rest of the story, unfortunately, is about as turgid as this show has ever got. I thought it was bad last week – and it was – but at least we had a bit of telepathy thrown into the mix. Holmes, one of the greatest TV writers there will ever be, somehow fails to make anyone say anything interesting or entertaining. Christopher Neame gets some good moments in the opening scenes, but with no thanks to the script. It’s criminal that he gets no big scene with Servalan, whom he strangely resembles.
I hear people saying that this series still has good stories to come. One of them had better come along soon, because I’m losing the will to watch – and it would be a shame to give up when I’ve come this far. Particularly when, as I have tried to suggest, the strange relationship between Blake (dead), Servalan (back from the dead) and Avon (dead behind the eyes) has such strange, torrid and tragic potential in it.