BLAKE’S 7 WATCHTHROUGH: Episode 4 – Time Squad

WELCOME to our Blake’s 7 blog. We continue our watch-through of this classic science fiction series with episode 4. Hold on to your temporal stabilisers – it’s time for episode 4: Time Squad!

We left Blake and his newly installed crew at the end of episode 3 (Cygnus Alpha) vowing to return to Earth and bring down the government. Sometime between then and this fourth installment their intentions seemed to have dimmed a little. Perhaps the reality of piltoing their salvaged super spaceship Liberator started to hit home as they clipped asteroids and dinged the ship’s livery on space debris going by at time-distort ten. And anyway, surely somebody has miscounted. Aside from the epononymous freedom fighter we’ve got cold genuis Avon, feisty smuggler Jenna, gentle giant Gan, pick-pocket Vila and snazzy ship computer Zen. I don’t know if you need to get your fingers out and count but that makes six. Where’s the seventh member of Blake’s 7? By the end of the episode rebellious curly haired cutie Cally will have joined the crew. Ah, but we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves.

My partner Dominique and I settle down to watch what must be the only episode of this series I know off by heart. I can recite entire passages of dialogue. Though I won’t do that. Because I like you. But how did I come to know this episode so excruciatingly well? I’m afraid it goes back to when I was fourteen years old and had just discovered this show thanks to a run of repeats on cable channel UK Gold. Blake’s 7 is the ideal show for a rebellious teenager to latch onto. Just as Seinfeld was once seen as the anti-Friends, so Blake’s 7 is the antithesis of that other great space opera Star Trek. In Blake’s 7 nobody gets on, nobody has a laugh and an awful lot of innocent people get killed. There’s seldom a happy ending and everyone walks around wearing a face like their pants are on a bit too tight (Cally and Avon’s definitley are). These were the days of the tape cassette walkman (I’ve aged myself now!) when I was frequently dragged along on family outings. Of course looking back they were good fun days out but when you’re 14 years old you’re dragged practiclly everywhere because the only place that you really want to be is in your bedroom enjoying a good, erm, book. So I got out the tape recorder hit play on the video player (because I taped every episode like every good obcessive should) and transferred one or two episodes to cassette for me to listen to on one of those aforementioned outings. Time Sqaud was one of the episodes I chose to commit to cassette, and consequentially ruined it for myself to this very day. Make no mistake dear reader, the episode we’re watching today is a chore. I could cheat terribly and write this up from memory but as Dominique is with me and experiencing these episodes in order for the very first time, I must dive in and put on a smile as plastic as a teleport bracelet.

I have a personal downer on Time Squad but don’t let that deter you, it’s one of the better episodes from the first season and, as mentioned above, introduces the all-important seventh member of the crew.

After learning the intricacies of non automatic flight, the crew encounter a small spaceship emitting a distress signal. Blake, being the good egg he is, teleports over to the tiny little craft thanks to some super fine sums from Avon, one wrong digit and Blake, bouffant and all, will disperse in the vacuum of space. Luckily, for all concerned he and Jenna survive long enough to realise there isn’t much air in the abandoned capsule. If that wasn’t bad enough the company on board is terrible. With just four comotose uglies for company, it’s down to Avon to fly the craft into Liberator through the open docking bay door. It’s sweaty palms all round as the less than genial genuis attempts this tricky mounuvre. Fortunatey all goes swimmingly well, Blake lives to bully his crew another day. Don’t look now, but someone nearly smiled.

Her name is Cally

Zen doesn’t have much data on the capsule or it’s crew who are in suspended animation. As this strand of the episode slips into subplot territory, Gan and Jenna are left the mind the ‘B’ plot while Blake, Avon and Vila teleport down to a planet containing an important Federation communication facility. Quite why a Federaion communication facility should look like a power station in the West Country can only be put down to a quirky design aesthetic. When you’ve conquered, plundered and enslaved half the galaxy you can obviously afford a little decadence. You can almost imagine two unctious spandex-glad designers in their glass fronted dome as they pitch to the cruel, thin lipped developers; “we’ve designed a communication hub in a mock twentieth century Hinkley Point style. Here you can see enormus wafts of smoke coming out of these chimneys – just for that genuine period effect of course. And here we have genuine faux mesh link gates with matching perimiter fencing to keep out all those pesky freedom fighters.” Bad day for the spandex-clad designers, then because this place is about as secure as an open tea chest, as we find out when Blake meets Cally and duly blows the whole place sky high. It’s one up for the freedom fighters then but safety is not assured until the ‘B’ plot is resolved.

Whilst Blake and the boys dither about before bumping into red PVC clad Cally (did I mention this show appeals to teenagers?) Jenna and Gan have four freshly defrosted homicidal maniacs to deal with. Honestly you float around the galaxy for millenea and then try to murder the very people who thawed you out. That’s grattitude for you. Thankfully after a couple of fatal accidents, the threat is nutralised and everybody is teleported back to safety before the retro comms centre goes kaboom.

Trying to kill the kind folks who rescued you from a deep frozen state seems a tad ungrateful to us

We continue to get to know the characters in this episode. After trying to defend Jenna from one of their murderous guests we learn that Gan has got an implant in his skull to stop him from killing people. In one of the more effective moments from this episode we also learn how he came to be on his way to the prison planet Cygnus Alpha in the first place. Our not so gentle giant Gan once killed a security guard after witnessing the brutal murder of his wife, at the hands of that same guard. It’s an interesting character develop and Dominique is sufficiently intruiged. We hope to hear more about Gan’s limiter in future episodes, especially as we’re not sure if Blake is aware that his hired muscle lacks, well, muscle.

Cally’s got something interesting about her too. There’s a kind of mystical quality about her, which Dominique instantly latches onto. This is a relief because so far I’m not convinced she’s all that enamoured with any of the characters. But Cally has got a bit of cache’ for the dyed in the wool sci-fi fan because, unlike the others, she’s not an Earthling. She hails from a neutral planet called Auron where everybody lives in peace and appeases the Federation by not getting involved in critiscing the administration for any attrocities that may occur on their doorstep (sort of like 1930’s Switzerland). Interestungly everybody on Auron is telepathic, which must be a real bugger if you like telling jokes (you can literally hear the punch line coming). Cally isn’t the joke telling type, unfortenately, because she is one of the few Aurons prepared to take a stand and the last of a group of freedom fighters sent to destroy the communication hub.In addition to her intersting origins, she can project also her thoughts into the minds of others. You just know that’s going to come in handy in later episodes.

Avon has yet to find ‘the ship’s laundry room

So the defrosted dudes die, the retro comms hub goes boom and everbody flies off in the Liberator. Except everybody is far from happy. Hasn’t Blake just learnt his lesson about the questionable wisdom in bringing aliens on board? Oblivious Blake just continues blithely on, ignoring the almost audible scowl being fired in his direction by a clearly jelous Jenna. There’s a new darling on the flight deck, but will the sparks fly? We’ll have to come back soon for episode five to find out.

This watch-through actually took place a litle while ago and prepared for publishing shortly after, however it has not been published until now. A new entry in this blog will posted every Sunday evening starting on 17th January, so don’t forget to come back next week to see what we made of episode 5: The Web

All entries in NoScriptForLife.com’s Blake’s 7 Watch-through blog can be found HERE

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‘All written content copyright Martin Gregory. 2021

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