STAR ONE - Wading in Blood and Bad Temper

By Sally Manton

AVON: As far as I am concerned you can destroy whatever you like. You can stir up a thousand revolutions, you can wade in blood up to your armpits. Oh, and you can lead the rabble to victory, whatever that might mean. Just so long as there is an end to it. When Star One is gone it is finished, Blake. And I want it finished. I want it over and done with. I want to be free.

CALLY: But you are free now, Avon.

AVON: I want to be free of him.

BLAKE: I never realised. You really do hate me, don't you?

No, of course he doesn't. Avon never hated Blake. He never even disliked him. He is irritated, even infuriated, by quite a few aspects of living with Blake and in the shadow of Blake's political agenda. He dislikes the fact that he is letting Blake run his life, a fact that grates against his independence and his survival instincts (watching Blake's back is *not* the galaxy's safest place to be). And he has never had any time for Blake's cause of freedom for the masses, which by this stage he loathes with a vengeance.

If Avon had ever hated Blake, he would have said so clearly, pointedly, and months before this. I don't think Blake believes it either, or not for more than twenty minutes. He is, quite understandably, hurt - Avon's speech blisters and is meant to - but by the time of the 'mine field' discussion, both men have gotten over it, and for *them* this bit is remarkably relaxed and friendly. (Sally's Rule One of Blake's 7 - Blake and Avon Actually Like Each Other. Just Don't Ask Either of Them Why.)

So here they are heading towards Star One, towards what could be called their own private Armageddon (except that the Federation would prosecute any religious imagery anyway), and the two most complicated characters in a show full of them are - surprise - at loggerheads again. But is the argument about what they are about to do? I don't think it is that simple. It is very easy to see Avon's speech as a criticism of the plan to destroy Star One, yes. And (in an Avon-dominated fandom) it is also easy to agree with him, to exaggerate the violence and destruction that will follow the destruction of what is, after all, an instrument of oppression, to paint Blake as the villain of the piece (quite an achievement, with Servalan, Travis *and* the Andromedans in the wings).

It is very easy to get it wrong.

My view is that Blake's decision to destroy Star One is in fact not only justifiable, but the only just decision he *can* make - and also that Avon actually agrees with that decision. He's fighting Blake on personal grounds, not political, and certainly not humanitarian. I love Avon dearly, but I cannot understand how this speech can turned into one of his more outstanding humanitarian moments. Quite the reverse.

Yes, the results of destroying Star One will be violent - but *how* violent? We don't know. Cally says "many, many people will die..." which can be interpreted however you like, but if it was millions, she'd put it a bit more strongly (like - well - "millions"). But many, many people are dying anyway, or caught in a living death). Who is to say which is the greater number? And these five people are the only ones *in* a position to do anything.

Blake has been thinking of this for a long, long time now, since well before 'Pressure Point'; he must have thought long and hard about the consequences, both good and bad, of the destruction of the control centre of the dictatorship. And the consequences of *not* doing anything. Which - on the internal evidence of the series - are considerably worse than some fans seem to think.

The evidence in the series is that the *majority* of people were oppressed (for example, see Earth in 'The Way Back', Saurian Major in 'Time Squad', Albion in 'Countdown'). Losing the battle against the Federation means a continuation of drugged slavery (can people in that position have any ability to choose freely?) brutal oppression (like the people of Albion had the choice between being ground into total poverty or genocide), enslavement as a political weapon, abuse of people's minds, both the rebellious and the innocent (those children whose minds were tampered with) and widespread, systematic murder (the Federation is after all doing a fine job killing off everyone and anyone who wants to put forward any ideas at all about their *own* freedom).

The tactics used in all of these places are efficient and show evidence of long-time experience, so we can assume that there are a lot of worlds with drug programs, with the equivalent of solium bombs enforcing savage exploitation, with massacres great and small.

Blake knows all of this. He as good as says so in response to Cally's quibbles. And he decided long ago that destroying something utterly evil was worth the price. That is my interpretation of his words "We have to win. It's the only way I can be sure that I was right." Right in *that* decision, right in what he's done since, right in accepting the responsibility for all the destruction and violence, right in fighting at all. Right in believing that what he was fighting *was* that evil. Because if they don't win, then he might as well not have bothered from the start. And Cally (whose shining moment this is not) misunderstands and thinks it's something to do with his ego.

We don't have a lot of evidence, true, about the level of support for what they are about to do. We do not know that the majority of people in the Federation would agree with the destruction of Star One, nor do we have any proof they wouldn't support it (especially once they got the drugs out of their system). What we have proof of is that a lot of people do admire and follow the Liberator's progress, that Space Command and the political powers-that-be do believe Blake has a dangerous level of popular support ('Seek-Locate-Destroy' and 'Pressure Point' indicate this).

In the Federation there's not an iota of proof that the oppressors had any popular support outside their own ranks, the ruling caste and the military. The evidence in the series points in the other direction - that the Federation had to clamp down hard on dissidents, and on information about Blake's successes, because they were afraid of the popular support he would inspire.

What we do know is that there are a huge number of people who cannot - literally are not permitted to - have an opinion on something like this. A great number who would probably support Blake, who can do absolutely nothing about it. They're helpless. Star One is a large part of the reason they're helpless. Star One, as I said, is an instrument of oppression. Destroying the Federation is the only way they are going to have that choice.

To turn to a not-at-all-coincidental historical parallel, in Nazi Germany the oppressors had a lot of support from the average citizen, who could ignore the ugly realities of what was happening to a huge number of innocents because he was happy. Their comfort and happiness was dependent on the same system that built the concentration camps and brutalised Europe and the USSR. And there was no way to help the suffering except by destroying the average citizen's comfortable dictatorship. So whose rights have precedence? I think the rights of the oppressed do have to have weight over an above the oppressors.

I'm not saying what Blake decides to do isn't ruthless. He knows what he's doing. He knows people are going to get hurt, are going to die. He knows if he *doesn't* destroy Star One, "many, many people" will die at the hands of the Federation anyway. Possibly more. Certainly millions will suffer. The violence is there *already*.

So Blake, knowing that there is going to be bloodshed and misery - and with no proof that it will be worse or better whichever way he goes - is prepared to take the responsibility, the blame, on himself in order to at least try to make things better for the majority. If he doesn't do this, bloody as it may be, *no one else can*. He knows this. And if no one does it - as he sees it, and I agree with him - no one (except the oppressors) gets a choice at all. The violence will continue. In fact, the only way to stop the violence is to destroy the Federation. And that itself will take bloodshed, whatever way the rebellion is fought. There is no way out of that conclusion that I can see.

*There is no middle ground*. It's everyone or no one.

Either the Federation rules everyone (and kills an unspecified but large number in the process) with the help of Star One, or Blake gives everyone a chance of freedom (and kills an unspecified but large number in the process) by destroying it. There's no way most people can choose between these alternatives for themselves, no way at all. They do not have the power. Either the Federation or the rebels are going to make that decision for them. Me, I'd rather it was Blake.

If he doesn't do this, what of those who want freedom and can't get it any other way? What of the people whom the Federation is killing while Star One operates? Don't they have some rights too? Or does Blake have to cede that freedom is not the right of the helpless, because they can't fight for it themselves?

As to whether or not the 'common people' would support Blake in the face of this upheaval over Star One's destruction - well, was it supposed to be any less when they were going to destroy the same computer centre on Earth? Neither Cally nor Avon had any reservations then. Cally was as gung ho as the best of them - "we must take this chance!" - accepting their right to kill in the pursuit of freedom for two years. She's been first and foremost behind every single mission, bloody or not. She is and always has been as if not more fanatical than he was. And Blake shows enormous restraint by not reminding her rather pointedly of this.

Avon clearly believes that, after the computers are destroyed and the rebels have a chance, *Blake* is the only one who will have the popular support to defeat the Federation - "you are the only one they will all follow." He doesn't think popular opinion would turn on Blake then, so why should it do so later?

As for the argument that he could have used Star One to peacefully dismantle the Federation - there's no evidence that that would have worked. Yes, in The Keeper, Avon brings up the idea of controlling Star One. He does it once, in a desultory way, almost as if testing Blake, and drops it at once. He doesn't care much for it either.

Trying to undo the complex web of control could have caused every bit as much pain and chaos as simply destroying it. (The British tried to control the partition of India. Didn't help a lot of innocent, dead people.) As for 'disbanding the military' - that would have been a much more complicated and (probably) bloodier process than that - could anyone, let alone a rebel in Blake's position, really think they'd have gone quietly? Blake would probably have *had* to start exerting more and more control to try and keep things from getting just as bad as they would have if he'd just blown the thing to hell. It is just the sort of danger that would have brought the risk - that he was aware of - of his own corruption.

Blake, alone of the crew, has been broken. He *knows* he's fallible. He didn't trust himself with that power, even as a benevolent despot. If he was right - if he proved corruptible - then with Star One in his hands the oppression may have become even worse.

We have to give the man credit for having courage, far more raw courage than Cally, who knows all this just as well as he does, but is suddenly hit with qualms about having blood on her hands rather than on Space Command's. Blake is prepared to take the blood on his own hands. He knows what he's doing. He does care, but he'll do it because he sees no choice.

Now. Avon. He doesn't give a damn about the bloodbath. He wouldn't stand in its way if he could. He is sincerely saying "I don't care *what* happens, *who* gets killed (except me - oh, and when push comes to shove down there, you) just as long as I get shot of this whole thing." Oh, and he is out to hurt, yes - he's still simmering from their clash in 'The Keeper' (the last time he got really mad at Blake, he lashed out in a similarly icy but personal way - see the beginning of 'Trial'). That lends a personal touch to the vitriol, but he is still speaking the unvarnished truth. And once he's had that stab (as in 'Trial') it's back to business as usual between them.

Avon is an individualist. He is also unabashedly cold and selfish, and rather disinterested in people per se - he finds it bad enough that he cares about the few people he lives, works and fights with. There is no evidence whatsoever in the whole fifty-two episodes that he gives much of a damn about anyone outside that small, tight circle (except Anna Grant, of course), certainly none that 'people he doesn't even know' have received more than a few thoughts in passing (usually because someone else, like Blake, has forced said thoughts on him). To say that - at this *one* moment - he suddenly finds a respect for the rights of these people, or even for their lives - is to me out of tune with who he is.

My opinion is that Avon has no qualms or reservations whatsoever about the destruction of Star One. He's genuinely all for it. His speech is an intensely personal and blisteringly honest one, focusing on what *he* wants. Avon sees the consequences of the destruction of Star One just as clearly as Blake does, but literally does not care about what will happen for him to get what he wants. At all. When he says "you can wade in blood up to your armpits..." etc, he's dead serious. He wants out. Of everything. (Well, he *thinks* he wants out. Then he can't find Blake afterwards and can't keep his side of their bargain. And the Federation (in the shape of Servalan) won't let him out anyway. And he doesn't like it one bit. Helllloooooo, 'Terminal'.)

And what is it he wants? To be free of - well - 'it'...the Cause, the fighting, the danger, the being forced to care about people he doesn't want to like or trust...the everything, including a lot he probably can't define to himself. Yes, he's put up with it all for two years, but somewhere between Countdown and Star One, it seems to have become too much for him. He's sick of it all. And, with the destruction of Star One, that for the first time since Breakdown and the bolthole, he can see an end to it all. He has also learned over the last two years that, whether he likes it or not (and he doesn't) Blake is able to make him do what he often doesn't want to do. Being free of 'it' isnt going to work *unless* he's free of Blake.

What Avon knows is that destroying Star One will have the consequence he wants: that is cripple the Federation enough to give Blake's Cause some chance, give Blake the chance to go back to Earth to take that chance, and give him his anomalous 'it' - whatever he defines or doesn't define that as. And (the way he feels at this minute) the consequences to the rest of the human race be damned.

What Avon *believes* is that Blake actually can't win. Not that what he's trying for is pointless, stupid or wrong, but that it just can't be done. He has believed this from the start, he says it in Cygnus Alpha, and I don't think he ever changes his mind. He agrees with Blake that destroying Star One is the best course open to them - the best, maybe the only real chance they have at that moment of defeating the Federation, and that he has believed that since Pressure Point. Sadly, I also believe that he still thinks it can't be done, but he's prepared to try.

A last point - it would have been interesting to watch the pair of them if Avon *had* been able to take Blake back to Earth, with all the danger involved (presumably Jenna and maybe Cally would have gone with Blake). Would he then had blithely shot through, or done a Horizon-like dither to try and find an excuse to stick around and keep an eye on them? My money's on the latter...and I think even Vila would call it a safe bet.

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Last changed on 22nd of June 1999