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Blake's 7: Orbit (1981)
Season 4, Episode 11
10/10
Arguably one of the best TV science-fiction episodes ever made
29 October 2018
This is as hard-core science-fiction as you ever find on TV, revolving around an insoluble problem in mechanics, and capping the always simmering tension between Vila and Avon which continued since the second episode of the first series. Avon and Vila were Blake's 7's longest serving duo, Vila appearing in the first episode (and therefore the only character to appear in every episode) and Avon in every episode from the second on. This episode expertly levers the character flaws in the two anti-heroes. I'm struggling to find other TV SF episodes to compare with this. Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, from Star Trek TNG, Blink, from Doctor Who, perhaps the pilot episode from Lexx, but all of these are space-fantasy, not science-fiction in the way that Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke or William Gibson would have written it. When it comes to hard core mechanics, this episode is, to my mind, unbeaten.
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Blake's 7: Gold (1981)
Season 4, Episode 10
8/10
Last hurrah. After this, things turn nasty
29 October 2018
This is a lighthearted (by Blake's 7 standards) heist episode which comes at a good place in the series, before things start getting very bleak indeed with the final three episodes. There are plenty of thrills and spills on the way, and a lot of care obviously went into the scenario, including exemplary modelling of the Space Princess. Vila gets to play the hard man on this one, which is part of the overall tautening up of characters ready for Orbit, Warlord and Blake. Blake's 7's sharp-witted verbal duelling, bleak politics and cynical undertone went out of fashion in the post-Cold War 1990s, when the show was frequently derided, but in today's climate it plays very well and often seems prescient. Politics, big business and crime all swirl together in this enjoyable episode which doesn't seem like much of a brain-teaser--until the end, when you realise it's too late, and you should have been paying closer attention.
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Blake's 7: Sand (1981)
Season 4, Episode 9
10/10
Seminal and frightening episode by Tanith Lee
29 October 2018
Tanith Lee's first Blake's 7 episode, Sarcophagus in series 3, was scary, but had no particular function in the overall story arc. This episode is crucial to the development of the characters of Tarrant and Servalan, and leaves the crew of Scorpio as powerless as they ever are at any point since Space Fall. This, alongside Orbit, is one of the outstanding episodes in series 4 from my perspective. It brings to a conclusion Tarrant's personal storyarc which began with the murder of his brother in Death Watch. It was worth waiting for.
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Blake's 7: Games (1981)
Season 4, Episode 8
8/10
Tour de force
29 October 2018
This is a tour de force episode. The characters don't discover what it's about until the very end, but when they do, it seems inevitable that things were leading there, as it always does in a good tour de force. Up to the nihilistic finish, it is enormous fun, and let's each of the main characters perform a party piece. I didn't see this episode the first time round, and it was a surprise (and a delight) when I finally did get to see it. This episode is part of the Servalan sequence which forms the main drift of the final series.
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Blake's 7: Assassin (1981)
Season 4, Episode 7
9/10
Focussed episode with a big scenario
29 October 2018
The cast list in this episode is one of the longest in the series, and we're given a planetary adventure, and the first adventure on a non-Liberator/non-Scorpio starship since Mission to Destiny, if we discount the brief interludes on Sarcophagus and Death Watch. Like Mission to Destiny, it is a mystery-thriller (but not a whodunnit). The big cast, diverse locations and big plot give it a bit more of a filmic quality. Indeed, there's more than enough plot here to fill out a decent length film. This episode is highly resonant with modern themes about human trafficking and gender stereotyping. It turns over the character of Tarrant in a way which is not resolved until Sand, later in the series. This is the third episode of the final series to revolve around Servalan, after her reappearance in Traitor and in Animals.
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Blake's 7: Headhunter (1981)
Season 4, Episode 6
8/10
Chiller
29 October 2018
One of the strengths of Blake's 7 was that it never stuck to a single plot format or set of tropes, or even a single kind of story. In keeping with the reasonably solid SF basis of the series, this is a Frankenstein/the Mummy chiller which is technologically completely credible within the milieu of the show. The climax follows the logic of the premise exactly, and the technical side is absolutely watertight, being shot on location with authentic equipment. This is a relatively straightforward episode, and it seems shorter than most of the others. It is rich in conflict between the main characters-a Blake's 7 strength rarely surpassed. It is one of just a few episodes where Avon is weaker than the rest of the cast, and puts loyalty above his own personal safety.
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Blake's 7: Stardrive (1981)
Season 4, Episode 4
8/10
The end is chilling
29 October 2018
This episode suffers from some lacklustre editing and below par model making, and it meanders about a little as it reaches its conclusion, but when it does, the end is absolutely chilling. If you want to know the difference between Blake's 7 and Star Trek, watch this. It tells you everything.
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Blake's 7: Power (1981)
Season 4, Episode 2
10/10
Pretty much perfect
28 October 2018
Notwithstanding other reviews, this is one of the best Blake's 7 episodes, which manages to be true science-fiction and also an exciting adventure story at the same time. Being entirely planet-bound, and with a minimum of technology, it has aged well. Thematically, it has gained in resonance. In terms of science-fiction, this is a story in which the conclusion depends entirely on the logic of the premise, without shortcuts, mumbo-jumbo or special pleading. It gives us a lot: psionics, dystopia, technical problems, and a countdown to a nuclear detonation. In terms of adventure, we get two single-combats, guerilla fighting, a mystery which must be solved to save the day, and the chilling spectacle of unwanted surgery. Thematically, issues of feminism, human trafficking, and even same-sex procreation have given this episode more resonacne now than it had then.

I remember being knocked over by this episode when I first saw it in 1981. Rewatching it on DVD, it has lost nothing. Don't believe the bad reviews. Watch it for yourself.
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Blake's 7: City at the Edge of the World (1980)
Season 3, Episode 6
10/10
Arguably one of the best TV SF episodes ever made
11 September 2018
Although some of the concepts borrow a little from Asimov's Foundation, this is a completely new, original SF story which is uncompromising in the application of its premise through to its inevitable, but completely surprising, conclusion. Blakes 7 aspired to high SF with brutally realistic politics and good science about 70% of the time, with episodes like Orbit sticking to hard science better than almost any other show. It also had better character writing and better acting than you usually get. The visuals of the Liberator were absolutely stunning, and very few TV shows have ever matched them. However, there are also several episodes where the technology of the day has not stood the test of time, like the previous one, the Harvest of Kairos. This episode is a masterpiece of everything that made Blakes 7 great. Four way tension of a kind you never got on US shows (including _that_ series), a hardcore SF plot, impeccable visuals, and the prospect of Colin Baker bringing a level of menace which his Doctor Who character never managed. Sadly for lead character Vila... well, you'll have to watch to find out.
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Blake's 7: The Harvest of Kairos (1980)
Season 3, Episode 5
9/10
Conceptually one of the strongest episodes, let down by monster visual
11 September 2018
The great thing about Blake's 7 is that it was-most of the time at least-real science-fiction. This episode is, conceptually, one of the very strongest, bringing together two kinds of alien biology, computer science, the first credible space battle in the show and an excellent twist. All TV SF is quickly surpassed by improved graphics. Sadly, the appearance of the monsters in this episode jars so much with the overall quality, close to the climax, that its power is reduced. Even so, as a carefully constructed SF adventure, this one takes some beating... except that the next one, The City at the End of the World, is even better, and is not let down by anything.
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Blake's 7: Pressure Point (1979)
Season 2, Episode 5
10/10
Plot logic, betrayal and tragedy makes for a heady combination
2 September 2018
This episode was shocking when it first aired in 1979. It changed the rules as far as the series was concerned, making it by far the edgiest SF we had seen on British television. It held this mantle right up to Edge of Darkness (the TV series, not the film) years later. If you leave the shock ending aside, you're left with a story told in the SF genre that would have stood up as a Le Carré thriller, complete with an intellectually devastating (and yet inevitable, if only we had had time to think about it, which we never do) conclusion. Beginning with a typically Blake's 7 premise of Cold War cruelty and betrayal, it builds without ever allowing a chink of implausibility to alleviate the tension. This is not an episode you can rewatch often. It is too raw and shocking. But it is one of the most important reasons why Blake's 7 should not be forgotten.
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Blake's 7: The Keeper (1979)
Season 2, Episode 12
8/10
True science-fiction, not just space epic
2 September 2018
Blake's 7 improves substantially with age. It's now long enough ago for the 1970s effects to be retro, rather than just so-so. This allows the true SF nature of the series to shine. On the surface of it, this is a mundane piece of space detective work, where the crew go through a list of suspects until they are left with the only possible solution. Except that the solution fails. It is at that point when the inevitable (but entirely unexpected) result of the story-arc catches up with them, and we are treated to a true science-fiction twist based on real extrapolated science, not just a technical hand-wave attributed to 'science like magic'. I remember watching this in 1979 and being blown away by the climax. This episode also bears all the marks of Blake's 7 realism: endings are seldom happy, deaths are tragic and time is taken to mourn them, the main characters are fragile and may at any time die.
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Blake's 7: Gambit (1979)
Season 2, Episode 11
8/10
Masterpiece episode, if over-florid
30 August 2018
Set on a florid pleasure-station called Freedom City, this episode is full of sour-glitz and ill-judged glamour. In terms of the story-arc, it advances the plot by about five minutes, but it is a masterpiece of suspense as a result of its Avon-Vila sub-plot.
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