Thursday, 22 March 2012

Blakes 7 DVD rewatch: Series 1 Episode 5: The Web - a moral dilemma with an easy solution

What happens in this one?
During a bit of down-time on board the Liberator while en-route to Centero, Jenna notices the ship is mysteriously increasing speed, while new crew member Cally is overcome by an alien power which makes her punch Vila, who had just changed into a new outfit and was rather pleased about it. The Liberator is directed into an uncharted area and becomes trapped in a spooky space-like web. Cally is freed from the alien control, but then Jenna is taken over - and the alien force uses Jenna's body to insist on a visit from Blake, which in turn will enable the crew to free the Liberator from the web. Blake discovers a pair of humanoid creatures called Geela and Novara who are channelling the consciousness of a strange withered creature called Saymon who exists in a tank of goo and is known as 'The Lost'. They want some energy cells from the Liberator in order to wipe out some of their own creations known as Decimas, who at one point Blakes describes as 'dwarves'. Blake feels sorry for these fluffy squeaky if rowdy animal creatures after he notices that they mourn their dead (like humans do), and a moral dilemma ensues.
'Well I think my new costume's the best, but let's not say anything about how it was only
the female crew members who were taken over by the strange alien old creature.'
If you've ever wondered what life might be like on board the Liberator on a weekend then this episode might give you an idea - and it looks like Jenna's got the short straw, as she's the only one on the flight deck and having to work. Although it's not all bad: she's got a new outfit.

As has Vila - some sort of multi-coloured suede jacket affair - and who promptly gets knocked out by a possessed Cally so she can carry out her fiendish plan to re-route the ship, while Avon is carrying out his 'own research', which he's a bit cagey about. A plot line to be picked up later? Nah.

Gan and Blake meanwhile are snoozing, and it is noted that Blake likes to sleep fully dressed but with his space-shirt undone to the navel - but when Jenna summons him to the flight deck she doesn't appear to notice the extra flesh on show. Looks like we're going to have to wait a bit longer for any signs of a romantic sub-plot between them, given that SPOILER ALERT she'll leave with him at the end of the series.

Norvara and Geela: a pair of living, walking human-like entities controlled by the consciousness of six people, channelled through the withered remains of that group's sole survivor. Don't ask.
Moral dilemma

Ignoring the two sequences where graphic-style animation is used instead of model work to show the Liberator in flight, with rather lame results, and after lots of scenes on board which occasionally feel a bit padded out, Terry Nation's script then begins to build up to an interesting moral question about the right every creature has to an existence, and raises questions about who has the power to control that.

And just in case we missed the serious adult themes, Blake checks the details again - and again.

"Did you mean it when you said about destroying all of the Decimas?"

It's because Saymon, the little withered creature in the tank of goo who controls Geela and Norvara and whose first line to Blake is to apologise for not having used his lips in a while, had been part of a group of six trying to discover immortality.

The 'combined mental powers' of the six now direct Geela and Norvara, who look like they should actually be on Top of the Pops or in some extravagant discotheque due to their flamboyant outfits and deliberately flat delivery reminiscent of someone fighting to stay away after popping a sleeping pill.

Their creations, the Decimas, had become aggressive and out of control, and the power cells that Blake can provide will be used to eliminate the creatures.

"No! I can't let that happen! We must come to a new understanding - and you won't get those cells until we do."
The Decimas smash up the laboratory...
'My friend'

But what's nice (sort of) is that at this point Blake refers to Avon as 'my friend' - as opposed to say, 'my crew-mate', meaning that Blake is, perhaps, growing fond of Avon, even though Avon would still probably kill him in a flash.

Blake's compassion to the Decimas is honourable but confusing - especially when we later see that Blake has apparently allowed them access to Saymon's laboratory and they all kick off, smashing up the room and squealing like there's no tomorrow.

A few of them get particularly angry at a white table with chrome legs, but can't do much about it, so they just turn it upside down and hope no-one will notice.

As Geela and Norvara are beaten to a pulp and the Decimas turn on Saymon, Blake and Avon escape - happy to allow Saymon to perish in order for the violent, angry Decima creatures to live. Presumably the argument is that Geela and Norvara and Saymon were never truly alive anyway. Hmmm.

...but have a bit of trouble with the table, so they just push it over.
'Cutting remark'

But some good came out of Blake's actions - the Decimas go onto grow extensive fur and become the Ewoks in Star Wars. Perhaps.

And Blake himself is content, almost like there never was a dilemma to deliberate over - and in what could be the origins of Jerry Springer's 'final thought' we hear him and Avon chewing over the moral issues of the episode's shenanigans, followed by Blake's attempt at a cutting remark. In turn, that's  beaten with a retort from Avon which then ends with a further comeback from Blake - but it's not quite as effective: 

Avon: "I'll tell you a fact of life Blake, change is inevitable."
Blake: "And that's why we fight, Avon."

End credits. Servalan next time - woohoo!

Fact box ahoy:
Blakes 7 S1E5 The Web
First shown: 30/01/78
Director: Michael E Briant

Guest Star(s): Richard Beale (an actor who can surely only be prouder of his appearance in B7 with a bit-part in Lovejoy in 1994).

All images/screen-grabs copyright BBC

Related stories:
-Blakes 7 DVD rewatch: Season 1 episode 1: The Way Back. Sci-fi for grown ups?
-Blakes 7 DVD rewatch: Season 1 episode 2: Space Fall - story grips, effects do not
-Blakes 7 DVD rewatch: Season 1 episode 3 - Cygnus Alpha: BRIAN BLESSED; plot holes
-Blakes 7 DVD rewatch: Season 1 Episode 4: Time Squad - Enter Cally the telepath. Hmm
-Blakes 7 DVD rewatch: Series 1 Episode 5: The Web - a moral dilemma with an easy solution
-Blakes 7 DVD rewatch: Season 1 Episode 6 - Seek-Locate-Destroy - Enter Servalan and Travis, straight from a fetish club

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