Pro Pella

by Harriet Monkhouse

Ben Steed's 'Power' has always repelled me, and the most repellant aspect of all is the way that he, using Avon as his mouthpiece, betrays a tragic heroine in its final few minutes. Until Avon arrives to unlock the door to Scorpio's silo, I find Pella completely understandable and, on the whole, sympathetic. Then Avon announces that she has been plotting for selfish ends all along; she turns her gun on Dayna and finally shoots Kate, her last surviving companion. It's an almost unbelievable turn of events.

I am sure that Pella's original plan was formed to preserve the Seska. But by the time they have been reduced to five - and then three - there is only one way to do that: to leave Xenon. They had effectively lost the war with the Hommiks long ago. Nina's 20-year-old news bulletin explained that they had already passed the survival threshold, and then there were still 94 Seska (52 of them infants).

And Pella doesn't make much secret of her plan for leaving: she tells Kate and Luxia that their future depends on Avon, for without him Scorpio is lost. She informs Vila that the only way off the planet is through the silo door; and she begs Nina to escape with her, because "we can get off this planet". Kate tells Tarrant that Scorpio is their only contact with civilisation. Admittedly, she goes on to repeat the Seska's offer to Dorian: technical skills in return for nutrients. That was a necessity in Dorian's day - they could hardly tell him they wanted to take his ship. Maybe Kate assumes it's best to keep to the same story until they're sure of these strangers. Maybe Pella chose not to share the detail of her plans with her young companions. But Scorpio is the only way out; the only alternative to subjugation by the Hommiks, who throw nucleic bursters into Seska procreation vaults, hunt them with neck clamps, break their spirit, force them to bear sons - and expose their own daughters. Nina learned to accept her fate; maybe Gunn-Sar was less brutal than old Maravik. For Pella, surrender was unthinkable.

There seems no reason to doubt Pella's loyalty to her fellow Seska. Surrounded by Hommiks, she hugs her companions and urges them to save themselves if they can. Inside the Hommik base, she expresses concern for Luxia: "We've got to find her. She's very young. They're going to operate on her... and then on me." If she wanted only to save herself from the operation, she need not have tried to find Luxia. When they discover that it is too late to save the girl, Avon wants to go but, despite the shock of discovering Nina's role as surgeon, Pella insists "I can't leave Nina", and spends several minutes trying to persuade her that escape is still possible. "Nina, these people, they're good. We can get off the planet," she says.

At that moment, she still believes in goodness; she still thinks Avon and his crew will be her allies. Her friendliness to Vila as they discuss the silo door has its ulterior motive, but it needn't be completely faked; she turns on him only when he grabs her arm (unaware of the overtones that physical act would carry for a Seska). Even then, she apologises - "I am sorry, Vila, truly" - as she flings him to the floor in her haste to rejoin her companions. She kills the odd Hommik during her escape from their base: of course, they're her deadly enemies, whose crimes against her people have already been catalogued. No apologies expected there.

But what happens to her in the Hommik base changes everything. She meets Nina, her heroine, and finds her not merely the wife of Gunn-Sar but actually performing operations to deprive Seska of their powers. This is Pella's Gauda Prime. "Have you really betrayed us?" she might ask. Yes, Nina has, and the proof is lying on the operating table. Even then, Pella can't bring herself to believe this was by Nina's will. "What have they done to you? How could you be a part of this?" And she continues trying to win her back, repeating her name - Nina - in almost every sentence she speaks, asserting her original identity as a Seska (Gunn-Sar habitually addresses his wife as "woman"). But Nina soundly rejects her, and everything she herself once stood for. Reverting to Gauda Prime, she was lucky that Pella didn't kill her there and then.

As it is, despair tips Pella over the edge: if Nina can't be trusted, no one can, certainly not Avon, who now reveals himself as a Hommik in Dorian's clothing. Immediately after Nina's departure, he demands the dynamon crystal from Luxia's necklace and imposes his will on Pella by physical strength, forcing her to her knees, then pulling her up to kiss her. What did she tell him about the Hommiks breaking the Seska's spirit so that they will bear sons? Avon has reverted to type with disappointing speed, as she comments ("You are nothing more than a Hommik") after getting her own back, forcing him to kill Cato and knocking him out in the computer room.

Now, self-preservation is all she has left. "We are the Seska," she tells Tarrant. But by then she senses that she is the Seska, all alone.

And maybe I can find a reason for her shooting Kate. Maybe it is a little more than her new knowledge that, if she can't trust Nina, she can't trust anyone. When Nina discovered Kate, she greeted her with such warmth and affection... they look a little alike too... Is Kate Nina's daughter, by birth or by fostering? And when Pella dashes for the door to the silo and Kate cries no, does Pella see Nina telling her she won't leave Xenon, and shoot to kill the woman whose betrayal has broken her heart?

I remember another angry young woman who had lost all her companions to the enemy, back on Saurian Major. Blake was able to draw Cally into his crew and give her hope again. If Blake had been looking for dynamon crystals, would he have forced one from Pella's hand without explanation? Or would he have said "actually, the reason why we need that crystal is that it's essential to get all of us away from Xenon, and you can carry it back to Dorian's base yourself if you don't trust me"?

Hard luck, Pella, you had to run into Avon. We don't see it, but I'm sure Avon took her own dynamon crystal from her corpse, to keep as a spare for the new teleport system. A spare crystal, when he could have had a highly intelligent, scientifically-trained human being instead.

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Last changed on 03rd of March 1998