Blake Revisited

An appraisal of a science fiction series

Third Edition, July 1993 - Copyright Frances Teagle




By luck or by judgement, a really good cast was assembled, which is a prime requirement for a series/serial of this sort. Too many science fiction series rely on melodramatic fireworks to tide them over the wooden acting of the majority of the cast. Most of these players have had considerable stage and television experience, and some quite eminent guest stars pass through. Attention has been paid to the concept of "physique du role", everybody fits the part. Naturally, later episodes can be written to exploit the strong points of the players, but the early ones demonstrate that the mixture was right from the start, the actors seem to have had no difficulty in getting into their parts. Small roles are cast from strength, providing keen competition for the permanent crew. There is no question of the regulars outshining them, one or two bravura performances must have made them look to their laurels.

Roj Blake              Gareth Thomas          
Jenna Stannis          Sally Knyvette         
Kerr Avon              Paul Darrow            
Cally                  Jan Chappell           
Vila Restal            Michael Keating        
Olag Gan               David Jackson          
Dayna Mellanby         Josette Simon          
Del Tarrant            Stephen Pacey          
Soolin                 Glynis Barber          
Zen                    Peter Tuddenham [voice]
Orac                   Peter Tuddenham [voice]
Slave                  Peter Tuddenham [voice]

Servalan               Jacqueline Pearce      
Travis-1               Stephen Greif          
Travis-2               Brian Croucher         

The hero. Blake is well presented, care is taken not to make him too perfect for credibility. On the whole, he is a good guerilla leader, perceptive and imaginative as well as showing the more conventional virtues of idealism and goodwill. Blake is usually a patient person, although Avon often provokes him to asperity.

As with present day guerilla/terrorist activities, his operations often have a high casualty rate, which doesn't seem to trouble him inordinately. Lives are lost in the initial abortive breakout (Space Fall) and the rescue attempt on Cygnus Alpha. Significantly, most of the prisoners decline to join him for a second escape. Guilty (Federation officials) and innocent (XK-72 personnel) alike are liable to be destroyed in the crossfire.

His, is the positive purpose that guides the Liberator's activities. Far from infallible, he is rescued from disaster several times by Avon and Jenna, having got into the predicament by ignoring their advice in the first place. His refusal to kill Servalan and Travis when he has the opportunity (Orac, Duel) is ill-judged, although his reason, that they would only be replaced by another pursuer, whereas he knows he can defeat them, is quite a good one.

His humanitarian ideals lead Blake to go out of his way to help others; preventing the genetically engineered Decimas from being exterminated by their creators (The Web), transporting the survivors of the Ortega and their vital neutrotope home to Destiny. "That great big bleeding heart will get us all killed one of these days" comments Avon sourly, as Blake helps Dr. Bellfriar to identify an alien organism. He is even more critical when Blake proposes to warn everyone, including Servalan, to steer clear of plague-stricken Fosforon (Killer). However, this idealism can pay dividends, such as going to the aid of Ensor's sabotaged spacecraft, which leads to the vital acquisition of Orac.

He eventually falls into the trap of believing in his own legend. Obsessed by his desire to capture the Federation Control Centre, he misleads the crew into following him and conceals vital information about Servalan's ambush of the local resistance fighters from them. He is rewarded with an empty installation from which the equipment had been removed decades ago, and must face the terrible responsibility for Gan's death in their retreat. This experience comes close to destroying him.

His interpersonal skills are considerable. He usually manages his disparate crew very well and he is generally diplomatic and winning, especially with neutrals. His ties are closest with Jenna, on whom he relies for support. He is firm with Vila and considerate with Gan. With Cally, who has a marked similarity to his idealistic nature, his relationship is close but brotherly. He will confide his more hazardous plans to her before disclosing them to the others (Weapon, Pressure Point) and he is more receptive to her telepathy than they are (in Volcano she cannot make the pre-occupied Avon hear her warning). His relationship with Avon is strangely symbiotic. Their skills are largely complementary; leadership, personnel management and general strategy (Blake) versus scientific knowledge, pragmatism and clear-thinking caution (Avon). Relentlessly swift to puncture any self-conceit, Avon prevents Blake from exercising too complete a control over the crew, while Blake restrains Avon's criminal impulses and gives his life some purpose. Unable to break away until sundered by the Galactic War, they orbit each other like binary planets, light and dark.

Inevitably, Blake becomes increasing fanatical in his campaign to find and destroy Star One central control computer, provoking Avon to a fierce outburst of rejection (Star One) which Blake finds very hurtful ("I never realised, you really do hate me, don't you?"). But neither is consistent in his attitude to the other and soon after, they have apparently resumed their normal relationship. Badly wounded by Travis and forced to resign command to Avon, Blake declares that he has always trusted him, motivating him to fight off the alien invasion until reinforcements arrive.

Casting: Excellent. Fine voice and friendly face, not too handsome. Very easy and naturalistic style, particularly with the dialogue.

An outlaw. Her previous career as a "free-trader" has accustomed her to a hard and dangerous way of life. Criminal contacts from her past float to the surface from time to time (Bounty, Shadow). When Blake first meets her in the prison cage, she seem self-assured, tough and unsympathetic, although her first act is to prompt Vila to restore the watch he has just stolen from Blake. However, she softens to Blake's predicament and soon becomes his main ally. As a skilled pilot, she is crucial to his escape plans and she also guards his back against Avon. There is a physical tussle over the teleport controls when Avon fails to persuade her to join him in abandoning Blake on Cygnus Alpha. It is she who performs the vital function of training the inexperienced crew to operate the Liberator, several training sessions feature in the early episodes.

Her nature is pragmatic and sceptical ("You don't really believe that?" says Avon in Space Fall, "No, but I'd like to," she replies) and although she is fond of Blake she can view him objectively, thus in Star One, she asks Avon to watch out for him as he is not giving himself enough time to think. "Blake is an idealist, Jenna, he cannot afford to think," comes the inevitable reply. It is she who spots the Andromedan invasion fleet and takes the decision to alert Servalan, whose instant mobilisation saves the day.

Compact but surprisingly muscular, Jenna is a useful soldier (Project Avalon), perfectly prepared to fight and kill, single-handed if necessary (Time Squad, Bounty). She rescues her male colleagues from Travis in Pressure Point by holding Servalan hostage for them. She is a very bold pilot, prepared to fly to hell and back (Duel, Breakdown), it is no surprise therefore, that her reported end is violent ("She hit the self-destruct." - Blake).

Blake and Jenna demonstrate affection freely. She embraces him on his safe return from the first teleport trial and they frequently touch, usually an arm round the shoulders. Not a virginal lady, she has had lovers before (Tarvin) and may be intimate with Blake, although she sometimes manifests reservations about him (Pressure Point, Trial). She easily twists the amorous Gola (The Keeper) round her little finger, in order to find that amulet. Her prestige as the pilot gives authority to her relationships with the others. Vila holds her in considerable respect, he is not entirely joking when he tells Blake "It's an honour to be locked up with her". It is to Jenna that Gan confides his story (Time Squad) and he makes great efforts to learn to handle Liberator under her tuition. Her relationship with Cally is amicable, although she does not share the latter's taste for seeking out dangerous missions (Weapon). Her attitude to Avon is more complex. As Blake's chief ally, she has good reason to mistrust him. No sooner have they salvaged Liberator, than he is tempting her to abandon Blake on Cygnus Alpha and share the loot with him. He seldom misses an opportunity to sow doubts about Blake, which are sometimes hard to counter (Trial). Yet quite often they seem to have a good under- standing between them, sharing a detention cell in Space World, they sit in close contact. Avon probably appeals to her more cynical and lawless side.

Casting: Very good. High class appearance and voice. The part is played briskly and unsentimentally.

A genuine and apparently unrepentant criminal specialising in fraud. The most intellectual of the crew and the most knowledgeable, particularly about electronics; he is a very useful person, but dangerously double-edged. An Alpha Grade like Blake, Avon is a fallen angel, supercilious and fastidious in manner, caring little for the opinion of others and often ruthlessly selfish (he is quite candid about this -- "I look upon self-interest as my great strength" he says to an indignant Tarrant in Dawn of the Gods). However, he is no degenerate; Dorian's revelations are greeted with revulsion (Rescue) and the ghastly Shrinker is also an object of loathing (Rumours of Death). Avon has his own code of conduct which includes a certain sense of honour ("I'm a man of my word. In the end, that's all there is really" - Rumours of Death), but expediency reigns supreme ("I have no objection to shooting Travis in the back" - The Keeper).

He is avidly curious. A technocrat par excellence, in the early episodes he is often seen investigating Liberator's circuitry (Cygnus Alpha, The Web). The knowledge thus gained enables him to modify equipment or produce his own (the detection shield - Trial) and keep a rein on Zen (Breakdown) and Orac (Shadow). It also comes in handy as a bargaining counter, "Kill me," he tells Servalan when cornered "and you will never control this ship". This relish for investigation leads him to turn detective aboard the Ortega ("I don't care if their planet turns into a mushroom, I shall stay because I don't like an unsolved mystery" - Mission to Destiny). Although he criticises Blake's curiosity (Horizon), he runs similar risks to satisfy his own when the mood takes him (Ultraworld, Moloch).

Avon could be said to function as Blake's doppel-ganger, which enables him to display the dark and negative aspects denied to a popular hero. His nature is devious and ambivalent, he can be sullen, carping and malicious. His relationship with Blake is complex. He does not occupy the traditional position of second-in-command since he refuses to owe Blake allegiance. Blake acknowledges this in his remark to Cally, "If he stays, it must be for his own reasons" (Breakdown), and generally knows better than to demand unthinking obedience from him. Avon's own reasons for joining Blake in his desperate attempt on Federation Control Centre are, as he candidly admits, that if it is successful, Blake will have to stay on Earth as leader and co-ordinator of the opposition forces, leaving Liberator to him. This detachment counterbalances Blake's authority with the others, sometimes causing them to think more carefully about their own position.

Yet he is somehow unable either to sever the connection or let Blake perish as a result of his own ignorance or carelessness (The Web, Voice from the Past, Trial). Having arranged a refuge on the XK-72 spacestation, he races back to give the alarm when he discovers Kayn's duplicity. When it is clear that his private message to Servalan revealing the fugitive Travis's whereabouts has endangered Blake, he teleports down to save him (Hostage), paying the price, a shot in the arm from Travis, without complaint. Left alone on the Liberator with every excuse to assume that his companions are dead (Horizon), his struggle to break away is protracted. In an anguished voice, he questions Orac repeatedly on the logistics of single-handed operation and survival odds, but in spite of the favourable reply, he is driven to risk all in a rescue attempt. Is it the proximity of Federation pursuit ships, or can he not bear the prospect of solitude? When Blake is incapacitated in the final confrontation with Travis (Star One) Avon promises to take Liberator into battle against overwhelming odds to check the alien fleet until Federation ships arrive. His last look at Blake, before he turns to give his orders, is full of pain and compassion.

His relationships with the rest of the crew are generally prickly. Jenna as Blake's chief ally, resists his attempts at subversion (Cygnus Alpha, Breakdown) but seems ready to fall in with his proposal to abandon Blake in Trial. Gan is treated relatively kindly, perhaps he is not fair game. Avon has more respect for Vila's felonious talents than he shows ("We can easily replace a pilot, but a good thief is rare"), but seldom misses an opportunity to gibe, and Vila affords him plenty. However, they have a degree of mutual understanding sometimes verging on comradeship, as in their joint venture into Krantor's casino behind Blake's back. His relationship with Cally is important. She is in some ways Blake's female counterpart, so that the unshakeable honesty that attracts him to Blake must attract him to her. Her psychic abilities are sometimes greeted with derision ("You do not know they are in trouble, you reason it from the evidence" - Horizon), but that may be fear lest she should detect his own deceptions (Hostage). Although he mocks her drily for staking both their lives on Blake's return in Mission to Destiny, he later confidently stakes his own life on her loyalty in Sarcophagus. It could be argued that when she is lost he begins the descent into paranoia. The impulsive and cocksure Tarrant is a thorn in the side. Avon regards him as expendable and frequently gives him his head, using him as a lightning conductor while he himself bides his time in the background, taking the initiative when he thinks the moment is right (The Harvest of Kairos). He is quite indulgent with Dayna, but seldom makes any effort to shield her from danger, she would probably be furious if he did, but he will intervene promptly if anyone holds a gun to her head (Harvest of Kairos, Power), of course, this may be merely a demonstration of his leadership. Soolin, being a cynic of similar proportions to himself, is often both confidant and sparring partner. However, Avon's independent pose does not deceive his companions. "You may think you're a loner," says Dayna "but you're not really". Dorian is even more certain, "I wouldn't expect you to admit it, but you belong to them Avon, just as they belong to you".

Echoes of his previous attachment to Anna resound when he meets her brother Del Grant (Countdown). The trauma of her loss has caused a retreat from personal relationships and he refuses to confide in Blake when the latter offers sympathy. The later discovery of her treachery and subsequent career as an informer increases the trauma (Rumours of Death), although he may have exorcised her ghost sufficiently to turn to Cally for companionship.

Avon uses his cynicism as his shield. A highly defensive personality, his chief weapon is his malicious tongue coupled with an extensive vocabulary. He is not however, invulnerable. In Deliverance, Vila and Gan watch with evident amusement as the worshipping Meegat drives a coach and horses through his defences. Avon is not without a sense of humour and sometimes in an unguarded moment can produce a winning smile.

In the first two series he usually avoids violent action ("I think I shall contain my enthusiasm here in the warm." - Project Avalon) and claims to despise heroics. However, he can be cold-bloodedly reckless when playing for high stakes such as control of the Liberator. In the harsher climate of the last two series his position as leader and his own determination to keep control of Liberator and Scorpio expose him to much more violence, hardly an episode goes by without a knock on the head, sometimes several (Power). Avon's attitude to pain is stoic, neither mental nor physical anguish will divert him from his objectives. His most hair-raising exploit is to kidnap Shrinker (Rumours of Death) by allowing himself to be captured anonymously and holding out against the interrogators for five days until the specialist in unco-operative prisoners arrives in his cell, ready for teleportation to vengeance.

Avon has a certain affinity with Servalan ("It's a pity you and I were always on opposite sides." - Aftermath). Their meetings are charged with attraction as well as antagonism (Death-Watch). On several occasions he uses sex as a weapon when dealing with dangerous women. He receives Dayna's advances with aplomb ("I'm all in favour of healthy curiosity, I hope your's isn't satisfied too easily.") and later casually passes her off as his wife (Powerplay) to Tarrant and Klegg, but he makes no effort to retain her affections and she is generally to be seen in Tarrant's company.

The role provides much of the tensile strength of the series. Any drama is generally improved by adding a factor of internal stress to the protagonist group, otherwise they can slip into bland or sentimental relationships which can make them a very dull set of people to watch when there is no rousing action taking place. It is the sort of problem that besets series like Star Trek and predecessors such as 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Scriptwriters try to relieve it from time to time by introducing a mental case or traitor to the crew, but these are one-episode solutions that leave little lasting trace. Avon is a potent and fascinating character. Without him, it is difficult to envisage the series being able to continue after Blake's departure at the end of Series 2.

Casting: Well-nigh perfect. Played unflinchingly without a hint of apology. Excellent nuance of facial expression, highly distinctive voice with the precise articulation needed for the venomous dialogue. Neat and feline in gesture.

Telepathic Auron communications expert. Rebelling against the isolationism of Auron's leaders, she joined the resistance movement on Saurian Major and suffered exile from her own people. Cally is the only member of the original crew without a criminal record. Her character has considerable complexity. Of all the crew, she has the most empathy with Blake and his aims. She is dedicated, idealistic, clever and brave, perfectly capable of taking prompt action on her own initiative (Shadow). She is also something of a kamikaze; at her first appearance, she declares "There will be companions for my death. I plan to raid the Complex and destroy until I am destroyed". It is she who suggests raiding the Federation Weapons Research Base for armaments to attack Federation Control with. When Blake reveals his intention to join with Kasabi's resistance fighters in raiding Earth Control, she backs it instantly.

However, she is desperately vulnerable to psychological attack by rogue Aurons (The Web) and assorted telepathic aliens (Shadow, Sarcophagus, Ultraworld). The Thaarn, half-crazed by his loneliness, goes to elaborate lengths to gain her companionship (Dawn of the Gods), not dreaming that she could attempt to destroy him. Her isolation from her own kind makes her exile doubly hard to bear. Servalan's destruction of Auron ends all hope of reconciliation and return. Far from being alien, although not of Terrestrial descent, she is the most tenderly human of the crew, as Avon recognises with his remark "She is more human than I am" (Shadow), although in their quarrel in Sarcophagus she accuses him of testing her reactions ("After all, I'm not quite human") it is the malign influence of the Intruder who is trying to alienate her from the crew. Avon counters this by placing himself in extreme peril, confident that she will choose the human side.

She often seems to function as the soul of the group, personifying the feminine principle or anima. The chieftain Ro and the assistant kommisar (Horizon) are both disturbed by her mystic personality. Her warning to the former motivates him to reject the Federation at a crucial moment. "Are we fanatics?" she asks Blake as he prepares to destroy Star One, "are you sure that what we are going to do is justified?" His reply that it is the only way he can be sure that he is right, visibly troubles her.

In Series 3 she moves into a closer relationship with Avon, probably as she is his only remaining intellectual equal, and he manifests unusual concern for her wellbeing. This attachment arms her to break the hold of the Intruder from the Sarcophagus to prevent her from slaughtering Avon, who has deliberately provoked her to a killing rage to this end, in order to regain control of the Liberator. Interestingly enough, this is foreshadowed by Blake's hallucination in Voice from the Past that they have paired up (`mutual affinities") and are plotting to oust him.

Casting: Excellent. Not conventionally pretty, with a rather high-pitched voice, but projects an emotionally-charged character of great intensity.

A thief and lifetime criminal. He actually seems rather proud of this ("More a vocation than a profession"). A streetwise graduate of the Federation's Delta service grades, he is sly, lazy and sharp-witted. The clever thief and trickster has a long and honourable tradition in folklore, provoking laughter, sympathy and some admiration. Vila fills this role very well, he is good-natured, tolerant and abhors violence.

His skills make him a very useful member of the crew ("a pilot can easily be replaced, a good thief is rare" - Avon) and he is given plenty of opportunity to use them, lockpicking (Time Squad; Bounty), breaking and entering (Seek, Locate, Destroy; Project Avalon) and consultant safe-cracker (The City at the Edge of the World). His sleight-of-hand tricks are are used to distract the guards on the prison transport while Blake and Avon slip through the inspection panel during the first escape attempt, and to placate Gola, Charl of the Goths, while Jenna searches for an important clue (The Keeper).

Vila adopts an unheroic stance, "No need for belligerence, pretty lady, I'm harmless." he says as he surrenders to a gun-toting Cally in Time Squad; although he is not always as faint-hearted as he makes out to be, sometimes screwing himself up to independent action when absolutely necessary (Bounty) and rushing back to rescue Kerrill when he hears her shriek of surprise as she falls into the transporter (The City at the Edge of the World). He never volunteers for anything and has generally to be coerced into action, usually by Tarrant. Vila knows the universe is hostile and never expects quarter. Running away is his favourite strategy, although physically he is no weed but obviously fit and agile. He usually attaches himself to Avon, reckoning that the latter's contempt for heroics will keep him safe; this ploy is not always successful.

Vila is not entirely reliable, dropping his gun at a vital point during the abortive escape in Space Fall and dozing off or leaving the teleport controls when on duty. His worst offence is sneaking off to Space City behind Cally's back (Shadow) after hiding Orac (who has an ulterior motive for suggesting this arrangement). A similar expedition to Freedom City in the company of Avon and Orac drops him quite literally in the hot seat, but he has the satisfaction of winning a large sum of money even if he may never have the opportunity to spend it. Vila is likely to complain of headaches and stomach pains in moments of stress and to badger Cally for a potion from the medicine chest. Although not a real alcoholic, he has a taste for liquor and swallows it whenever he can, enthusiastically drinking his way through Dorian's wine cellar.

He has a genuine liking for Blake and Gan and is polite to the ladies although he makes a few playful passes at Dayna (Death-Watch, Rescue). He seems to respect and rather admire Avon ("With hands like that ... you might have made a respectable pickpocket"), although their relationship is a barbed one, from their constant bickering come many of the series' most memorable lines. Tarrant's dangerous enthusiasm is regarded with cynicism and well-grounded mistrust, their dialogue usually has a sharp edge to it. Vila could be said to represent the voice of Everyman, albeit with a better than average vocabulary.

Casting: Excellent. Has an expressive face and the right voice. Avoids sentimentality, projects a believable, likable rogue without slipping into the usual whining "little man" characterisation.

Not the muscleman of conventional drama. Although normally gentle and protective (he is several times seen wielding the medical kit), he is the only member of the crew convicted of a violent crime (he took a Federation guard apart with his bare hands after the killing of his woman). He has been fitted with a brain implant to prevent him from killing again. While he can cheerfully throw opponents around in a melee, he is unable to fire a gun at anybody or kill them with his hands until the implant malfunctions (Breakdown), when his immense physique makes him very dangerous.

Presumably a Delta Grade citizen like Vila, Gan is relatively uneducated but he is far from simple-minded, being naturally good-mannered and well-spoken. He makes efforts at self-improvement and can be seen using Orac as a learning machine. He becomes a useful crewman after Jenna's training. Gan is usually a firm and comforting support to Blake ("Another one who's willing to let Blake do his thinking for him" - Avon), but not, in fact, totally uncritical. Transparently honest and forthright, he is dismayed at Blake's proposal to use the Terra Nostra crime syndicate for his own ends and protests strongly ("Think what it is they control; everything dirty, degrading and cruel on just about every colonized world.").

Well-liked by the rest of the crew, Gan is difficult to quarrel with, even Avon doesn't often sharpen his tongue on him. His death is the first major tragedy of the series.

Casting: Very Good. Avoids the "dumb ox" characterisation.

The Dark Lady of Space Command, Federation Supreme Commander and chief antagonist. She personifies the regime's ruthless tyranny and functions as the focus for all opposition. The power of a drama is often directly related to the potency of the enemy, and she is an exceptionally powerful adversary. According to her ex-tutor Kasabi, who assessed her as unfit for command, she gained her eminence through her powerful connections. Servalan represents authority with a seductive beauty. Her external appearance and frequently smiling expression, masks an evil nature effectively on first acquaintance. No vestige of conscience ever seems to trouble Servalan. Torture and slaughter are used to maintain her power; genocide, germ warfare and trickery to extend it (Children of Auron, Death-watch). Her remorseless, conniving personality is most clearly demonstrated in her scenes with Travis, which usually feature one of them unfolding their plots to the other (Project Avalon, Deliverance). Whereas Travis is usually dour and obsessed, she is sparkling and vivacious, going about her wickedness with gusto. She is not averse to playing with fire, sometimes goading Travis and revelling in the explosion, When Travis escapes from the court martial during Blake's revenge attack on Servalan's headquarters, and demands a pursuit ship at gunpoint, she accedes without any apparent chagrin, even throwing in three mutoids to help him with his free-lance pursuit of Blake.

Such a character would take her pleasures where she found them and Servalan is in a position to indulge her partiality for men. At her introduction to the series, she is seen arguing with her toyboy Rai, a junior officer. The psycho-strategist Carnell (Weapon) has engaged her affections sufficiently for her to take his abrupt flight and cheeky parting shot with an indulgent smile. She evidently enjoys Jarvik's rough wooing (The Harvest of Kairos). Blake is regarded merely with the contemptuous dislike she reserves for all idealists, but she finds Avon rather attractive and alternates between the desire to win him over (Aftermath, Death-watch) and the urge to exterminate a dangerous opponent (Harvest of Kairos, Terminal). Vila, she regards with a contempt which is almost good-natured (Moloch); Cally, with something akin to jealousy (Powerplay, Harvest of Kairos); Dayna, with pure hatred (possibly spurred on by her secret guilt over Mellanby's death). Manifestly, the chief objects of her desire are Liberator and Orac and she would give anything to lay her hands on them. This handicaps Travis in his campaign to destroy Blake and leads to elaborate plots such as the one to introduce a deadly virus to the crew and thus take over the undamaged ship.

Servalan is quite ready to venture into the field herself, clambering down dripping tunnels after Orac, and getting shot down in the Galactic War while making a personal appearance at the front (Aftermath) or investigating the Sardoan matter transformer (Moloch). She extricates herself from trouble with murder (of Hal Mellanby), theft (of Orac), threats and bribery, surviving the hazards of the Galactic War and the Chengan body-snatching expedition, to become President of the Federation. When the High Council regains power and ousts her, she adopts the identity of `Commissioner Sleer', resorting to more murders (Traitor) to protect herself (disguising her striking appearance seems not to have occurred to her). She is not cast down by this reversal of fortune. When she meets Tarrant on Virn (Sand) she is confident of regaining the power she loves so much.

Casting: Ideal. A very sexy lady with a voice to match. Projects authority very well (some viewers have suggested the character is modelled on Margaret Thatcher, however, the first series predates that lady's rise to power).

Servalan's executive arm. Travis is driven by the stark obsession to see Blake dead. He has refused plastic surgery for the damage inflicted on his face by Blake at their first encounter years before, probably in order to keep his motivation intact. He is a military extremist, already on suspension when the action begins, pending an investigation into the massacre of civilians who had surrendered after a revolt. Remarking that "Travis is an advocate of total war", Servalan ignores the protests of other officers to make full use of his dangerous talents to locate and destroy Blake, an end which he pursues with venomous dedication. Travis's speciality is the baited trap (Seek, Locate, Destroy; Duel; Project Avalon).

Travis inhabits a dreary hell almost entirely unrelieved by human feelings. He takes pleasure in tormenting his captives: Cally, tortured unconscious (S.L.D.); Avalon taunted with the knowledge that she is the bait to entrap Blake. He is quite likely to abuse his underlings, notably the mutoid in Duel. However, a better self does exist and it emerges briefly and even movingly to protest against the enslavement of the murdered surgeon Marriott's family, sacrificed to one of Servalan's secret schemes to acquire Orac. Of course, his daemon swiftly reasserts control and his momentary regret dissolves without trace. This effect is gained with very few words and restrained facial expression - top quality acting.

Casting: First class. Travis is a high calibre sombre villain in black leather, making a strong contrast to Servalan's evil but irrepressible joi de vivre. His grainy voice matches the characterisation well.

The replacement, 2nd series. The first Travis has been replaced by a younger man and appears to have been considerably demoted by the transformation. During his first appearance (Weapon) he refers to his visits for retraining to a psychiatric institution which appears to have altered his personality and undermined his confidence. The resulting character, although more overtly vicious than Travis-1, is not so formidable and frightening. He projects a more proletarian image, particularly vocally, and he finds Servalan difficult to cope with. She manifests increasing contempt and threatens to sent him to the slave pits when he is no longer useful.

However, the character grows in stature at subsequent appearances. It is Servalan's fault that his trap in the fake control centre (Pressure Point) fails. She throws him to the wolves in an attempt to cover up her own failure and he is brought to trial for the massacre of civilians three years previously. Travis offers the defence that he acted upon instinct and an officer's instincts are a result of his training, therefore his judges are as guilty as he is. Delivered with passion, this argument shakes them, but they condemn him nevertheless. The watching Servalan comments that it is a pity he's got to die, since she has nobody half as good left to replace him and she is not unhappy when he escapes during Blake's punitive strike at her HQ.

In his remaining episodes, Travis's relationship with Servalan alternates between unofficial agent and fugitive. After the failure of his attempt to capture Liberator for himself (Hostage), Servalan, who has been tipped off by Avon, finds him defenceless, but allows him to go, on the agreement that if he delivers Blake to her, she will post him as dead ("There's no-one as free as a dead man.") Their next joint effort (Voice from the Past) narrowly fails and Travis flees. He attaches himself to the runaway Docholee, not so much to locate Star One, as to trap Blake. Servalan decides to sacrifice him in order to kill Docholee and Blake with a grenade placed in his artificial arm (Gambit). Even after this betrayal, they recombine to track Lurgan's brain print on Goth (The Keeper), but it is at this point that Travis deserts her, when Servalan rejects his suggestion that they combine to rule the Federation through Star One. Realizing that she will never share power with him, and loathing the whole human race, he allies himself with the invading Andromedans for the ultimate revenge (Star One). This time Blake does not stay Avon's hand and Travis finally meets his fate.

Casting: While it is difficult to follow such a strong actor as the previous incumbent, this performance is better judged on its own merits, which are considerable, with no reference to its predecessor.

Renegade Federation officer, gun-runner and mercenary. "Tarrant is brave, young, handsome. They are three good reasons for anyone not to like him." says Avon, who is having the same kind of problems with him as he himself gave Blake. Tarrant is an enthusiastic adventurer, headstrong, impulsive and sure of himself; the longeurs of ship life make him increasingly impatient and inclined to challenge Avon. As Hower remarks (Volcano), he still sounds like the Federation captain he once was, and is not above bullying Vila into undertaking a dangerous mission (The City at the Edge of the World).

Tarrant is a capable officer, alert and suspicious. He quickly demonstrates that he is as good a fighter pilot as he thinks he is. Servalan and her officers take him seriously from the start (although on closer acquaintance, she finds him "both decorative and resourceful", Servalan is always appreciative of a likely lad). He quickly identifies the menace in Sarcophagus, but when he confronts her, he does not have the mental equipment to fight her and must concede leadership to Avon, who does. Blake would probably have inspired him to higher aspirations and more worthwhile ends than the pragmatic Avon can.

Casting: Very good. Youthful with plenty of elan.

Weapons specialist. The youngest member of the crew, she has no criminal record, but as the daughter of an exiled ex-revolutionary she has inherited his opposition to the Federation. She and her father are living an isolated life on Saron very much like Miranda and Prospero in The Tempest, when Avon happens upon them. Indeed, she greets him in very similar fashion to Miranda ("Oh brave new world that hath such creatures in it!") by planting a kiss on him and telling him he is very beautiful. She has received a good education and helps her father with his profession of designing defence systems. However, Servalan's murder of Mellanby propels her out of their refuge and into the universe of Liberator and the Federation with a personal feud to prosecute.

Tall, lithe and strong, she has a penchant for risky confrontation ("Without danger there's no pleasure"), preferring primitive weapons like the bow or unarmed combat to more mundane methods of attack/defence. Her martial prowess is considerable; in the battle to regain Liberator, Avon and Tarrant watch with amused admiration as she disposes barehanded of the vile Klegg. When Jarvik defeats Tarrant and demands that the rest of the crew hand over their teleport bracelets, she insists he must take hers from her. The ensuing scuffle gives Avon and Tarrant time to get the antiquated landing module off the ground before Servalan can obliterate everything on the surface of Kairos. Her defeat of Gun-Sar, aided by the kinetic powers of two of the Seska, totally disrupts the succession of leadership among the Hommiks, bringing about the possibility for a complete change in their society (Power).

Like Avon, she takes a pride in manufacturing gadgets, weapons in her case (City at the Edge of the World), and often conceals explosives on her person (Ultraworld). Servalan has taken a powerful dislike to her and she is the first person to be lined up for execution in The Harvest of Kairos. Fortunately, Avon intervenes with a characteristic deception.

Casting: Excellent, particularly fine voice. A very physical portrayal of a young adventuress.

Gun fighter and mercenary. She joins the crew after the death of her associate Dorian. "You give your allegiance easily?" asks Avon rather warily. "I don't give my allegiance at all" comes the reply "I sell my skills". These skills are formidable, she must be the only person to outdraw Belkov's computer game security system (Games).

Soolin is the most acid of the crew's ladies. Composed, cool and independent, she has quite a lot in common with Avon, including a determination never to show any sentiment. Her approach to problems is pragmatic, she shows no interest in ethical considerations (Vila: "You're not going to kill an unarmed prisoner?" Soolin: "When did you get religion" - Assassin) and is prompt to act when she sees the necessity. She conceals Orac from Muller's robot, preventing a catastrophic union that would enslave mankind (Headhunter). She also detects Piri's masquerade (Assassin) in time to save Avon from a nasty death.

As told by Dorian, her history is turbulent: to avenge her murdered family, she took service with the killers, learned their trade, then killed them all. Although she is introduced as Dorian's companion, she shows him no affection and receives his greeting kiss with indifference, which might explain his readiness to feed her to his creature along with the others (Rescue). The trouble is, just as we are beginning to get to know her she gets killed.

Casting: Very good, nicely sardonic approach.

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Frances Teagle