The Way Back - Perspectives on the Federation and Resistance

By Jason Juneau.

When we first meet Blake, he is a model citizen. The whole plot of The Way Back revolves around Blake coming to terms with his past as a revolutionary and what that means for him now. What is so critical is the role both the dissidents and the Administration play in this. The two act dialectically to transform our Blake from that model, complacent citizen to the fiery rebel who is defiant in the face of deportation and exile. I would like to look at this dialectic.

It is the dissidents, specifically Bran Foster who is responsible for recovering our hero. It was he who no doubt had Ravella contact Blake using information on Blake's family as a lure. Ravella must have had some prior meeting with Blake before the beginning of the Way Back, as she mentions instructions that she had given him(avoiding eating and drinking). That was the first blow to the Administration's mental hold on Blake. Ravella also is the first to attack the Administration and its practices to Blake, though initially Blake's wall holds well. As well it might. Until the later massacre of dissidents, we see little overt sign of Federation tyranny. The presence of Dev Tarrant does not qualify as we are unsure of him until after his meeting with Ven Glynd. All of what is "bad" on the Administration's part comes from the mouth of Ravella, Richie and later Foster himself.

The effect of this rhetoric and maybe the fresh water (and the reduced level of drugs in his bloodstream, as he's not been eating any food) is to knock harder on that wall and leave Blake a bit confused. His reaction to Foster's speech is quite reasonable. Everything Foster said contradicted commonplace assumptions on Blake's part. He could neither confirm nor deny Foster's allegations. And so he retreats, "to think". The first pebbles of the avalanche have begun to fall.

If we had any doubts about the dissident rhetoric on the Administration, they are put savagely to rest. The cold-blooded massacre by the masked troopers is matched in coldness and pragmatism by the discussions at the Justice Department by Morag, Ven Glynd, and Dr. Havant. They have a problem. Blake witnessed the massacre and its clearly damaged his wall further. His previous role as a dissident leader combined with his knowledge presents a difficulty and the way these three discuss it smacks of one's conversation with a mechanic on problems with the radiator or transmission. Its cold banal evil. Blake is a symbol of resistence; so they cannot simply execute him, else they have created something worse, a martyr. A problem they faced once before.

Their solution, after spit-balling a number of scenarios is to charge Blake with a crime so henious(in effect child molestation), that it would counteract any credit or distinction he had as a dissident leader. Morag in effect proposes black-balling the man so that no one would trust him. The fate of child-molesters in today's prison is relevant here. Also released offenders are often pariahs in the neighborhoods they later settle in. Morag's solution is wonderfully efficient and few would have anything to do with such a person. But the effect on Blake is startling.

Up until the charges are made known to him by Varon(his defense attorney), Blake is still in dismay. The massacre rocked the mental walls, giving him a sort of amnesia and in the ensuing crisis, Blake, still believing his only crime to have gone outside the city, simply wants to make no defense and make a simple statement on the massacre. He does not realize that the Administration will not give him that chance. They have changed the whole venue of conflict and have put Blake on an appalling defense. Varon's revelation of the new charges to Blake have the effect of a bomb on his consciousness. He quickly pieces together the Administration's plan, but is in effect helpless, with even his attorney disbelieving him. As he himself exclaims, "You've done a brilliant job!"

The subsequent trial is a farce, and of course Blake can make no statement in court. But, as he is put under by the guard, he see Dev Tarrant. Here he sees the man who was to have been Bran Foster's key supporter standing in court. No guards restraining him! In the course of a few days the combination of theFoster/Ravella initiative combined with the calculated brutality(the massacre of the dissidents), villainy(trumping up such despicable charges, and treachery (Dev Tarrant) of the Administration serve to shatter Blake's mental walls. While he still hopes for Varon to salvage the case, by the time he is in the waiting cell for the prison ship, Blake the revolutionary has returned. The failure of Varon to stop the deportation and Blake's deportation were only the final nails in the coffin of Blake, the model citizen. Between them, Ravella, Foster, Dev Tarrant, Ven Glynd, and Morag had unleashed the most dangerous revoutionary in all the Federation. All that was left was an pportunity, a chance for Blake to find the weapons and people he would need to fight.


In this essay I keep refering to the Administration. The Way Back offers our best look at the civilian side of the Federation's government - though we see it largely in reference to its control of dissidence. We really do not meet Space Command, the military wing, until Seek-Locate-Destroy. I would argue that even the troopers we saw in The Way Back(at the massacre and later in the court for example) are Administration troopers unaffiliated with Space Command. They are political troops for internal security.They are not of the same caliber as the Space Command formations and we see no evidence of mutiods among them. Similar distinctions are present in many regimes, both past and present. The "Popular Army" units in the Iraqi army are perhaps a parallel. It is the failure of the Administration to control the Blake problem which will bring in Space Command and set the stage for Servalan's career as President.

Hope this is okay with you.


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Last changed on 08th of December 2002