Yes, truly, there were, though sometimes you tend to forget it. I admit I've been guilty myself of going joyously cross-eyed watching the endlessly fascinating Blake-and-Avon interplay and ignoring everyone else (except Vila. Sometimes.) But on sitting down and watching the seeming free-for-all that goes for crew dynamics in the first two seasons - and that works - I did get interested in watching the way Blake handles the rest of this motley group of people. He really is very good at this, you know...
Vila's comfortable with Blake. The scenes with the two of them of 'Seek-Locate-Destroy' are lovely, with Vila doing his (obviously) already familiar routine, knowing exactly how far he can go with Blake (and exactly how far it isn't going to work) and the looks Blake gives him when he pushes it. I love the exchange:
VILA: There isn't a lock I can't open - if I'm scared enough.
BLAKE: Are you scared enough for that one?
VILA: What do you think?
Vila constantly back-answers Fearless Leader in that inimitable half-whining, half-joking way, and Blake takes it in his stride (from Duel - "how can you doubt me?" "It isn't easy, but somehow I manage it,") but he need do no more than raise his voice to have Vila fall (albeit complainingly) back into line.
In 'Bounty', Blake actually says "I trust you" to Vila - sure, he jokingly qualifies it straight afterwards, but how often in the whole 4 seasons does Vila get to hear anything that positive? (And, as he fiddles with a device that can take Blake's head off the moment he makes a mistake, he knows that it's true. You will notice who chooses to put his own neck at risk first.)
In 'Voice from the Past', Vila shows just how much he trusts Blake when he unhesitatingly swallows that distinctly silly story about Avon and Cally. At the end of 'Countdown', he seems to bear no resentment for the way Blake stopped him leaving Albian when the situation turned deadly (he's a resilient sort, and once the danger's over, bounces back to normal).
On the other hand, like Jenna, Vila did seriously think about leaving Blake in 'Trial' - if not too hard nor for too long - and his comment after seeing the message, "He really cares about us, doesn't he?" sounds oddly surprised, as if he hadn't realised it before.
Blake runs his prize thief-come-comedian on a leash, but with a very light hand, in my opinion. For a perfect example, there's 'Shadow', and Vila's quite extraordinary outbreak of irresponsibility (and by the way, note his confidence that, even as he does this, Blake won't just up and leave him there). My reading is that Vila was actually very lucky. Blake let him off very lightly; Cally's collapse distracted him from the verbal dismemberment he had planned, and by the time he has time to think about it again, he's still annoyed, but lost the edge of his fury, and if he did say some few pointed things about 'don't do it again', they couldn't have been too scarifying. Vila's clearly not too chastened - from his talk at the beginning of Horizon, he'd like nothing better than to do it all again.
Blake is more than aware of Vila's liabilities in their line of - er - work, which is why he deliberately doesn't take Vila to Space City. But his unique talents are valuable enough to balance it out. And he's good to have around for less severely practical reasons, as his humour (far gentler and more often self-directed than Avon's) is a valuable leavener in a prickly and sometimes explosive group. Blake would have realised this very quickly (he's often listening to the Mutual Disparagement Society of Vila and Avon, clearly enjoying it without feeling any need to interfere or even join in) and he never had cause to change his mind. And I have no doubt that he likes Vila. He's sometimes exasperated by him, sometimes annoyed, sometimes infuriated, but for the most part he treats Vila in a firm, calmly friendly manner, letting the complaints slide by him. Vila is selfish - they all know that - and he does need watching, but he's worth the trouble.
One further point, rising from that bullying scene in 'City at the Edge of the World'. Faced with Vila's intransigence, Tarrant - the newcomer, with no idea how things have been run here before and no leadership skills - resorts to brutal tactics to get his own way. Tactics that Vila, after two years complaining at, back-answering, arguing with, but in the end trusting and obeying Blake, is clearly, totally unprepared for. The changeover must have been a hell of a shock...
For the first season, especially, they do share a warm, friendly camaraderie, with a fair amount of good-natured teasing on both sides, and an unusual (for this group) level of physical affection - there's her hug in 'Cygnus Alpha', his arm around her after the fancy piloting in 'Breakdown', the gentle touch on the cheek at the end of 'Bounty', and the obvious closeness at the start of 'Mission to Destiny'. But it's interesting that he tends to confide in Cally ('Weapon', 'Pressure Point') and in Orac it's Avon that he talks through his doubts about the explosion of Ensor's ship; under pressure in 'Duel', he asks them for input on the ramming manoeuvre, rather than the pilot Jenna.
When Cally lets it slip that he's been discussing the attack on the Weapons Development Centre with her, Jenna is clearly a little miffed. I think she would like to be his confidante, his main ally, but doesn't and can't believe the way Cally does, nor challenge the way Avon or even Gan does. When discussing anything with Jenna, Blake has a tendency to slip into lecture mode ('Seek-Locate-Destroy', 'Killer'), indicating that although he likes and respects her, he might not have the regard for her intellect that he has for the other two.
And there are other dark currents. Jenna is extremely tough and pragmatic, possibly the toughest member of the whole crew; like Avon, she seriously considers leaving Blake in 'Cygnus Alpha', and unlike Avon (as I see it) she does it again in 'Trial'. While Blake is the only one in 'Bounty' ready to give her some benefit of the doubt (after all this time, the others are very easily convinced that she's sold them out, which may be unfair, but says something about how she appears to them), he doesn't discount the possibility that she has turned on him.
Then there's that line in 'Horizon'. Personally, I see "Avon might run" as mostly headache-induced bad temper (the reaction to Avon's backache-induced snarlier-than-normal behaviour), but the unspoken inference is interesting - "you might be willing to go with him if I don't separate you". It's also interesting that Jenna either missed that implication or saw but didn't disagree with it. And it wasn't Jenna whose word he wanted over Star One, was it?
There's no doubt that their relationship, though still good, is cooler in the later part of Season 2 (her rather bimbo-ish turn in 'Killer' notwithstanding). After Gan's death, Jenna doesn't really have much of a relationship with anyone except Blake in fact, so she becomes increasingly isolated. Had she come back after 'Star One' - without him - I doubt she'd have stayed very long, as there was really no place left for her...
Blake invites Cally into the crew without any discussion with the others, and has almost immediate cause to regret it when she runs amuck in her first alien take-over (yes, it's not her fault, but her timing was appalling). He's very patient and forgiving with her, but not stupidly so; he assures her that he knows they can trust her, then tells Gan to keep an eye on her. And in 'Breakdown', where her misguided burst of conscience (letting Gan loose) gets both herself and Avon attacked, Blake doesn't waste time on recriminations, but immediately gives her something to do while he goes to rectify her mistake.
In response, she supports him when the others baulk ('Weapon', 'Pressure Point'), and works with Avon to try and save Blake from himself in 'Voice from the Past'. I like their gentle joking in the transporter in 'Orac', the way they work together at a distance to fool Largo ('Shadow'), and his worry over her that does such endearingly awful things to his already ragged temper.
I have yet to forgive Cally for that sudden cold-feet episode in 'Star One', but it's clear Blake doesn't blame her for it; by the time they're at Star One he's teasing her about finding a door - "preferably one marked entrance", and he turns to her as well as Avon to get rid of the bombs when he's too badly injured to do it himself.
How much Cally misses him after the war is hard to tell. She seems to have lost her way as far as the rebellion goes - she doesn't seem to know what she wants, any more than Avon does. But she clearly knows of and supports Avon's early 3rd-season search for Blake, and probably would have supported him over the message that led to Terminal (had he seen fit to mention it). And her last thought as she dies is to call Blake's name...
But there are a couple of interesting points about this simple friendship. Gan does not follow blindly (I like the fact that, when Gan is torn, it's between two aspects of his better nature - his loyalty, liking and respect for Blake and his uneasy conscience) and Blake does not expect it of him; when Gan objects, Blake takes the time to argue the point out, to defend his own position.
This is made clear from very early, in 'Cygnus Alpha'. Gan - who has assumed a leadership role among the prisoners - does not fall blindly in with Blake's plans in their first scene, but is cautiously supportive ("They might agree. It's worth a try."). In the later scene where Blake is flung into the cell after being tortured, Gan moves to *physically* support him by helping him up, then stands back during the argument when the others attack him, listening silently and making up his mind during Blake's passionate speech. Gan then calmly - almost casually - declares his support, and his backing is crucial in swaying those who do decide to go with Blake. And once he's decided, he's solid - calmly taking the most dangerous place in the escape plan.
From that time one, Blake relies on Gan, but doesn't take him for granted. This is shown not only in the obvious case of 'Shadow', but also in 'Pressure Point', when they find that Kasabi's group have been massacred, but Blake argues to go on. Contrast this to Blake's sharp, cold retort to Avon over exactly the same point - "unless you can come up with some good reasons why not, we're going ahead as planned." Of course, is this because he knows that arguing with Avon won't do any good, whereas Gan listens to him and (reluctantly) agrees? Or (putting on the rose-coloured glasses) because he knows that by this stage, Avon will go with him no matter what, so arguing is simply a waste of both their energies?
Gan's death is one of the times Blake's emotions completely swamp his reason, in his bolt from the ship and from the rest of them (a far more violent reaction than when he believed Cally dead in 'Seek-Locate-Destroy').
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Last changed on 21st of June 2000