In Defence of Vila, or Teamwork is Overrated Anyway

By Sally Manton Poor Vilakins. From the moment we meet him he's one of life's natural losers - all he ever wanted was a quiet life of thievery and simply luxury, and what he got was all the 'joys' of being one of the galaxy's most wanted men among a group of people not exactly noted for their patience and tolerance of others' failings. Most of them treat him badly on occasion, with Dayna, Tarrant and (though it hurts to say it) Avon being chiefly noticeable in this regard; the excuse, both on the show and by defenders of the latter three, seems to be that he asks for it by being inadequate, indolent and irresponsible, and (I guess) fair game. Which is in my opinion very unfair to the man (of course, when did Avon ever pretend to be fair? No one answer that).

So, is Vila a lazy, cowardly, selfish, irresponsible sod?

Without a doubt.

Do the others have a right to resent that?


Vila was *always* lazy, cowardly and selfish, and never made the slightest attempt to pretend otherwise (one of the things I love about him is that utter honesty about himself and his motives - he has no illusions about himself, far less than Avon does). He is in fact, mentally and emotionally, totally unsuited to their line of - errrr - work, or to working in a group at all. He always was, from the minute we met him, a non-soldier who just happened to get swept up in this whole battle and is coping as best he can in his own erratic and very individualistic way.

To Vila, as to Avon, 'team' is just another four-letter word. He does like to have other people there to lean on and be friends with, but he doesn't like the restrictions of The TeamUberAlles, and handles them extremely badly (anyone want to re-watch Shadow, then argue this point?) He doesn't *belong* in a team, certainly not in a team of fighters in a war situation, and Blake knew that from the start, certainly before they got off the London. Blake (and later Avon, until he's hit by the trauma of 'Rumours'/'Terminal'/'Rescue' and the effort becomes too much) also knows that, unsuited or not, Vila and his gifts - his unique gifts - are a hell of an asset to their version of the rebellion.

Blake chooses to take him on; Avon chooses to keep him on; the others are one and all more than happy to exploit his talents at every turn (while *not* showing any appreciation or gratitude thereof, and in one or two cases turning nasty when he baulks at being exploited).

In my opinion, Vila is an extremely valuable member of the crew, far more so than Gan, Cally or either of the pilots. Yes, they're all more reliable than he is, but they would also be easier to replace with someone of similar talents (as Avon states, as Tarrant agrees, as Jenna proves). Avon was wrong. Vila is *not* expendable, never was and never is right through to the end.

But the problem - which most of Our Heroes can't solve so prefer to ignore - is that Vila's talents spring from exactly the same source as do his drawbacks; he's a highly successful social delinquent, so much so that repeated attempts to 'adjust' him back to proper thinking simply hasn't worked. It is *ridiculous* to demand that level of anti-social genius and then get aggrieved that it doesn't come in the mental and moral shape of a Boy Scout Trooper.

He's a bad team player *for the same reasons* he's such a good crook. And it's only fair that the people who want to benefit from his high level of crookedness accept that drawbacks come with the package.

Does that mean he should be allowed to run amuck? Of course not, neither the Liberator nor Xenon Base would survive it, but at the same time, the others have to accept the bad with the good and cut him some slack - they should either make allowances, or stop using his talents at every turn.

Vila needs watching, and quite often hauling (verbally, often in Blake's case with no more than two or three sharp words) back into line. He's fairly resilient - the odd snarl and flash of temper he can shrug off - but glaring abuse such as Tarrant's third-season outbreaks ('City on the Edge of the World' and 'Moloch'), Dayna's ugly sneering, and the increasing general belittlement in the fourth season are, in my opinion, inexcusable. It also appears to me - particularly from the glycolene ballast scene in 'Animals' but also generally from this period - that he gets stuck with more of the drudgery than the others in 4th season (he'd get out of it if he could, I know, but the way he, Soolin and Tarrant especially act and talk here, I've no doubt they dump it on him and rather enjoy doing so). I'm not surprised his drinking did increase.

He is worth the extra effort. And by the time of Shadow, let alone by Aftermath, he's damned well earned his place, awkward, unwilling and sometimes out-of-control as it is ...

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Last changed on 18th of November 2000