Conditioning, Brain Washing, Memory Blocking and Occasonally Brain Prints

(Reprinted from AltaZine #2) Judith Proctor

(This probably rambles a bit as I was ill when I originally wrote it, maybe someday I'll revise it properly)

These are strong staples of much fan fiction. I've probbaly used all of them myself on more than one occasion. How different are they? How probable are they? What do we mean by them?

Memory erasure is a given in Blake's 7. Blake had his memory of his time with the Freedom Party suppressed false memories inserted to replace the missing time. The children Blake was accused of molesting were also given false memories. Alteration of memory is not the same as alteration of basic personality. Blake after he recanted was permenantly under the influence of suppressent drugs (it's quite possible that he recieved a higher dose than was normal for an Alpha in his line of work). Once he was free of the drugs, he rapidly began to show signs of questioning things. That fact that it was Ravella the resister he was questioning and doubting is irrelevent. She was the person telling him to do things, she was the authority figure at that point and he doesn't take everything she tells him for granted. But he is receptive to new ideas. He doesn't reject what Bran Foster tells himout of hand, neither does he instantly accept it. He says he needs time to think about it. In short, he exhibits the traits that probably led him to become a rebel originally. Foster says that here is little left of he man he once knew, but then he's dealing with a man who no longer remembers him or anything of he history they shared together. Blake is having to rediscover from scratch the things that once made him so determined to fight the system.

It would be interesting to speculate what made him a rebel the first time around, because I suspect that he second time, his motives are more personal. Certainly he is motivated by the injustices of the system, the drugging of large numbers of people, he lack of freedom etc, but this time, the system acted against him personally. Before he'd had a chance to recall his past, he was being exiled on charges of abusing children.

Blake recalled more of his memory as time went by, but it seems to have been a gradual process and often triggered by specific events. He said that he started recalling things after witnessing the second massarce. I often wonder if he ever remembered everything. When writing fiction, I often assume that he didn't as it can make for some very interesting story possibilities. Fan stories seem to be full of Avon angst, but I find myself more drawn to Blake angst of recent, and I find his missing/blocked memories to be an extremely fertile ground for story possibilities (and filks).

"I Can't Remember" by Judith Proctor
Tune: the hymn "My song is love unknown"

My song is times unknown,
Who did I use to be?
How can I face myself, if I am never free?
Oh who was I,
That for my sake,
My friends should follow me and die?

Who were my family?
Who did I leave behind?
The people that I knew are burried in my mind.
Oh who am I?
Did they love me -
The family I condemned to die?

Tell me who I betrayed?
I cannot tell their names,
Yet once one I told them all, condemned them to such pains.
Oh who am I,
That I don't know,
The people I betrayed to die.

The question of whether he knew Avon pre-series is of course one that has been addressed by many writers, Melody Clarke's novels probably being the best known (The Last Best Hop -gen, The Long Way Back-slash) The fact that both Avon and Blake worked on the teleport project gives possibilities even if they probably worked on different parts of it. If they did know each other, then either Avon kept very quiet about it (and although I've read one very good story on this theme, by and large, I don't think it matches events on screen) or else his memory was altered too. This one seems to me to have some possibilities. Why did the Federation think that Avon's bank fraud was possibily politically motivated? Why was Bartholomew (the top agent) assigned to him? Why was somebody watching him before the fraud even took place?

Let's assume that Avon was previously associated with Blake, that they were either good frineds (or lovers if you're writing slash). They met in the course of their work and became close. Then Blake was arrested. Rather than execute Blake, it was decided more effective to have him recant. I have no doubt that many of his followers were executed - it is probably that Blake was forced into giving away their names. One more cross for him to bear when his memory returned. What then should they do with Avon? I don't think Avon had strong political motivations and this may have been realised. He was also a very useful person and they wanted his abilities. They settled for minimum damage. They blocked a few key memories, returned him to hs work, but kept him under observation. Several years later, he started acting in a way that made them suspicious (trial runs for the bank fraud, working late a lot, trying to change job - something like that). A top agent was promptly assigned to he case and seduced Avon to gain furter information. The fear was that they had been wrong in their original assessment of him as non-political and that he had simply bided his time to allay suspiction before trying to embezzle large sums of money to aid the rebellion, or to undermine the Federation banking system and create economic chaos.

Brain washing/conditioning

I wish I could find out more about present day use of brain-washing/conditioning/indoctrination, but my encyclopaedia is remarkably unhelpful. It is certainly possible to modify a person's bahaviour, the question is how far it is possible to go, and how much it is dependent on the co-operation of the person concerned. It may be impossible to condition somebody to do soemthing totally against their own nature? So, for instance, a story where Avon was conditioned to kill Blake the next time he saw him (possibly by Servalan at Termial) would fall outside the bounds of what is possible. Besides, I hate such stories because they deny personal responsibility. "It wasn't his fault, he was conditioned." However, a story in which Servalan tried to increase Avon's mistrust in everyone might be more likely to succeed becaus Avon isn't terribly trusting by nature.

The clear cut examples we have of conditioning in the series are only a few in number.

Dayna was conditioned by Sevalan to hate Justin. I've always loathed this scene becaus it was far to quick and easy (although I'm told some of this was lost to editing). However, let's try and approach it from an intelligent angle and see if we gain anything new. Let's assume that Dayna can't be conditioned to hate someone she loves (it can't be that easy after all, Vila said they couldn't condition him to stop stealing). yet Dayna ends up acting as if she hated Justin. Rather than blame bad scripting, let's assume the far moe intereting possibility that Dayna did in fact hate Justin. Dayna was very young when she first met Justin. According to the episode, it had to have been around six years ago because of the relative timing of his research and the Andromedan war. That makes Dayna pretty young at the time. Either there was nothing more than puppy love to the affair, or else we have a pretty clear case of child abuse against Justin. (Did Hal Mellanby know what was going on?) I don't claim to know much about child abuse, but the relationship can be a complex one. Is it possile that Dayna both loved and hated Justin? If their relationship is seen in that light, then Servalan's manipulation of her emotions becomes a touch more credible.

Blake's speech denying the Freedom Party:

Avalon said of the interrogation machines that she knew enough about them to know that she would eventually tell them everything she knew, and I think Blake was aware of that too. However, telling under torture/brain scans is not the same as getting up and making a speech. Could Blake have been conditioned ito making that speech? There are a fair range of possibilities.

1. He didn't actually make it at all, it was a computer simulation. This is possible, after all, Blake doesn't remember making it. I don't think it's that likely though. They would probably have taken steps to make sure that people knew it was Blake, possibly had people present to witness him making the speech etc.

2. An android. Possible, but very expensive.

3. A combination of drugs, torture and mental techniques overcame his resistance and he made the speech.

4. I rather like this one, and I bet someone will hate me for it <grin>. If you can't be conditioned to do something totally alien to your nature, perhaps Blake had given up. Maybe seeing the deaths of his followers had convinced him on some level that it was hopeless, that he couldn't win. Maybe he saw that speech as saving lives, as being the only route left for people to go. After all, we're told it was a very convincing speech. Maybe <evil grin> losing his memory was the best thing that could have happened to Blake. Without the memory of those past failures, he was able to face the future with renewed strength and determination.

Brain Prints

The only time that these crop up is with respect to Lurgan and Docholli. It would appear that it it possible to record a person's entire memory in a fairly small space. (The brainprint was kept on a small indentation on the back of the Goth ruler's amulet) The memory could then be erased and the brain print could be destroyed if so desired. If is obvious that the brain print could be used to restore the memory as Lurgan would have had no reason to keep his brain print otherwise. Persumably he was hanging onto it as insurace in case they caught up with him and did erase his memory. (Although it might have made better sense for him and Docholli to have kept each other's prints). How did Blake expect to read the brain print? This is a fascinating question and one that gives rise to lots of other questions (which I may discuss some other time) Could a brain print be mapped onto another brain? Brain prints seem to have been largely ignored in fan fic which is a shame because they lead to some lovely possibilities of people not being who they seem. The only one I know of is 'Identity Crisis' in Forbidden Star (Gemini won a Stiffie award for it) - that story stuck to the assumption that a brain print can only be mapped onto a brain that has the same structure as the one it came from. Looking at it realistically, what Gemini proposed is likely to be impssible as even the brains of genetically identical individuals would probably develop differently. - I tell a lie, I've just recalled another story. xBryn Lantry uses something similar in Derelicts - she doesn't call it a brain print per se, but she does have Blake giving the clone all of his memories (at the cost of the clone's own memories) and a braint print seems the obvious way to do it. - But then again, we know remarkably little about how memory is stored. Maybe infrmation could be recorded in such a way that it coud be played back ito the brain of any individual.

Could the brain be set to a totally clean state so that new memories caould be laid into it? What conbination of electrical, chemical and other stimuli could be used to destroy memory? Will it really be possible in the future to place information directly into the brain? Is there really any difference between the implantation of a single false memory and the removal/replacement of the entire memory, or are we talking about totally different things. It might be possible today to make a young child recall details of an assault that never happened through a combination of trauma and suggestion.

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Last changed on 09th of December 1997