(Robert Holmes) reviewed by Marian de Haan


Sheer rubbish, it's even less logical than Terminal. Why go through the charade of trading the Tachyon Funnel for Orac when all it needs is a threat like "Hand me Orac or I'll destroy you with my Funnel!"? (Judith: maybe it only works well at long-range?) For that matter, why does Servalan go along with Egrorian's plan when she apparently already has access to the Funnel? (Judith: because she wants Orac) I can accept the Funnel's beam travelling faster than light for the destruction of the moon 17 light-years away, but wouldn't it have taken 17 years for the image to reach them? (Judith: we know they have faster than light communications, so I assume we're seeing an image transmitted by other means - or else Egrorian faked the entire demonstration <evil grin>. I always thought Avon was far too accepting of the funnel.) Why would Avon want to bring a gun which, as Vila rightly points out, he won't be able to smuggle into Egrorian's base anyway [a very clumsy plot device], but omit to equip himself with more sensible gear like a spacesuit and teleport bracelet? Can we really expect Avon to trust his life to an unknown shuttle without sensible precautions? And why can't Orac overrule the shuttle's flight computer - no Tarriel cells? (Judith: wouldn't have helped in any case. It was the fuel/weight problem that was the killer.)

This seems to be the point where the producers stopped taking the show seriously. The episode contains more silly laughter than the rest of the entire Series put together. The crew's usual reaction to Vila's boasting is scorn but here Dayna and Soolin are giggling at his prattle like a pair of immature schoolgirls. However nice it is to see them laugh for a change, it doesn't feel in character. Likewise, Tarrant's grin when it looks like Avon has pulled off the deception with the false Orac, seems too artificial. Only Vila stays in character, with his puerile dreaming about handpicked virgins. [And Vila is the only one who can get away with regarding women as lust objects.]

Avon being so jolly cheerful to Vila is totally out of character, as is that pat on the cheek. [I know it's a set-up for later events but that's no excuse IMO.]

Avon's too dim to think for himself of the easiest manner to ditch the last 70 kilos, but jumps to Orac's suggestion without further thought. (Judith: I think Orac merely confirmed what Avon hadn't been willing to admit to himself until that point.) That shuttle seems of a very simple design, with only a flight deck and cargo hold, yet Avon fails to find Vila (Judith: at some level, he didn't want to find him). He puts on such an insincere voice that Vila is bound to get suspicious. As he doesn't know that Vila has overheard Orac, why doesn't he just order Vila to come and help him? That cajoling just isn't in character, and a dead give-away to Vila that Avon's up to something.

"Only in the pursuit of Liberty," sounds very unlike Avon - even at his most sarcastic. And that quote from the French revolution may show us what an erudite bloke the writer is, IMO it's hardly the stuff one would expect a mad scientist a thousand years in the future to know. (Judith: why not? I can use phrases like 'Crossing the Rubicon', 'Et tu, Brute', 'Delenda est Carthago' and their origins lie much further back than that.)

Not the fault of the writer, but a piece of bad directing is Avon and Vila standing in front of the shuttle's console. Unless the shuttle's front is supposed to be transparent, it looks like they're standing outside the craft.

The chance for a spectacular end is missed: just imagine Servalan being subjected to Hoffal's Radiation. IMO that would have given a much more satisfactory fate for the character than her just fading away after the next episode.

Personal appreciation: * With a script like this, one can excuse the director for thinking it's supposed to be a pantomime. Still, B7's attempt at comedy fails utterly. Sorry, but I really hate this one. Egrorian is such a parody of the standard mad scientist that it hurts. For me his over-the-top performance totally ruins the episode.

Egrorian and Pinder behaving like drunken schoolboys is painful to watch and it becomes absolute agony when Avon starts imitating them - his "Avon in the privateer Scorpio" reply and later that daft giggling with Egrorian. Obviously Paul Darrow is having the time of his life but it makes me cringe.

I hate this episode for the impossible position it puts Avon in. [Blake is never saddled with that kind of choice.] (Judith: you mean 'win the revolution, but at the cost of innocent lives' isn't an impossible choice?) Nevertheless, Avon going after Vila with that gun is a tremendously powerful scene, acted very well and making up somewhat for Egrorian's performance.

As so often in B7, that scene can be interpreted any way you like. Note the strange manner in which Avon holds his gun, sticking it around the corner as if he doesn't want to see where he's shooting. His body language seems to indicate a turmoil of conflicting feelings.

My take is that, while the rational part of Avon's brain tells him that killing Vila is his only chance to survive, the emotional part deep down knows that it is the one thing he can't bring himself to do. Meanwhile the practical part of his brain is still desperately groping for another solution. For me that explains him holding his gun in that particular manner: he hopes his finger will be able to pull the trigger before his mind can stop him - his famed survival instinct. Still, I don't think he could have done it. :-) (Judith: I think he could, though he'd have found it hard to live with afterwards.)

Fortunately in B7 even the worst episodes have some redeeming features. Servalan's face when Egrorian proposes to her is a picture. Her pat on his cheek is probably brought in to mirror the scene between Avon and Vila - and feels just as much out of character.

It's a pity Avon has unearthed his S4 "winter costume" again, as I liked him much better in his "summer" outfit. His hair's so stiff with gel it looks like spun sugar. Apparently the costume designers ran out of ideas for Servalan's dresses as this one seems rather ordinary. At least there's some extravaganza in that silver-leafed brooch on the shoulder strap and the back flaps, for the rest this dress could have come off the peg of any moderately decent shop.


"If you had a brain..." One thing you can rely on in a Robert Holmes script is that Vila dares to challenge Avon.

"Why do you think I'm sending Tarrant?" Love that line - very Avonish.

Tarrant was taking a course at the Space Institute ten years ago? He must be older than he looks! :-) (Judith: if all the Tarrant age anomolies were added together, they would provide decades of discussion for interested fans. Come to think of it <grin> they already have.)

"I could keep an eye on Tarrant..." Vila is consistent in his distrust of Tarrant - nice bit of continuity.

What is that plastic thing Avon tells Vila to ditch? It looks like some kind of toy car. Well, considering the childish behaviour of Egrorian and Pinder, maybe we should not be too surprised about that. :-)

When the shuttle first accelerates, Vila has to hold Orac to prevent it from sliding from the console. When later Avon gets the shuttle out of the orbit Orac seems glued to the console. Has it grown roots in the interval? :-)

Why did Avon take only Tarrant into his confidence about the fake Orac? Was he forced because Tarrant flatly refused to let go of Orac? :-) Why not tell Soolin? Dayna might let it slip out to Vila, but surely Soolin can keep a secret. [Another thing you can rely on in a Robert Holmes script: the roles of the women will be kept to an absolute minimum.]

When Avon and Vila are safely back on Scorpio, why don't they give chase to Servalan and blast her out of space? With their Stardrive they must be able to overtake her craft. (Judith: Scorpio had pathetic weapons.)

What Could Have Been Done To Improve It:

- Let Egrorian be played seriously. His character would have been much more effective as a cold, calculating, ruthless power-mad scientist.

- Leave out Servalan. Egrorian on his own has enough potential, his pathetic desire for her diminishes his credibility.

- Let Vila find the gun and go chasing after Avon.

- If Servalan has to be in it, then let her fall victim to Hoffal's Radiation.

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