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Countdown

And maybe we’ll come back to Earth, who can tell?

Sue: Terry ****ing Nation! No, wait. I liked Terry’s last episode. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.

It’s all kicking off on the planet Albian…

Sue: This is a good start. Not only are there large explosions, they’ve paid for some extras to run around as well. Ouch! That must have hurt!

CountdownMajor Provine reminds us of several people all at once. Sadly, none of them are Paul Shelley.

Sue: He’s an Elf from The Lord of the Rings.

Me: It’s Matthew Parris.

Sue: Who?

Me: No, wait, it’s Mark Heap.

Sue: Who?

Me: Or maybe an evil Spock. But without the beard.

Sue: No, he’s definitely Sheldon’s dad.

Me: Who?

The Federation have armed a device that spells doom for the planet’s inhabitants.

Sue: That’s probably the best action sequence I’ve seen in Blake’s 7 so far. Just when I thought the programme was incapable of exciting me any more, it comes up with that.

Rebels have entered the Federation base.

Sue: He’s famous.

It’s Tom Chadbon as the mercenary Del Grant.

CountdownMe: “Bye bye, Duggan!” Does that ring any bells, Sue?

Sue: Oh yes. He likes to punch things.

Unfortunately, Del didn’t arrive in time to stop the countdown.

Del: I won you a battle, but I lost you a war.

Sue: Well, that was a great start. I can’t complain about that. Terry’s back in charge and everything suddenly makes sense again.

The Liberator is in orbit around Albian.

Blake: Population?

Avon: Approximately six million.

Sue: You won’t meet more than six of them.

Cally and Jenna locate the best place to teleport their comrades.

Sue: What do Jenna and Cally actually do these days besides sit at that bloody desk? Are they glorified secretaries now? I can’t remember the last time Jenna left the ship.

Blake wants Vila to accompany him to Albian.

Avon: Doesn’t it make you feel good to be wanted?

CountdownVila: I’ve been a wanted man all my life. What I need now is to be unwanted.

Sue: (singing) Don’t you want me, baby? Don’t you want me, ahhh-ahhh-ahhhh!

Me: Please, don’t.

Sue: They remind me of The Human League a bit. They’ve got two girls who do **** all for a start.

When they arrive on Albian, Avon suggests that they proceed with caution.

Avon: It would be stupid to be shot up by our own allies.

Vila: Not only stupid, painful.

Sue sighs.

Me: What’s wrong?

Sue: Vila is a walking punchline again.

Me: I thought you’d warmed to Vila?

Sue: He’s one-dimensional. He’s only exists to crack jokes and act daft.

Me: That’s why I love him.

Sue: I need to see more depth from him. I want to take Vila seriously, but I can’t.

Our heroes discover a rocket silo with a retractable roof.

Sue: They’ve actually spent some money on this. I’m impressed.

Major Provine slaps a female rebel named Ralli into next week.

CountdownSue: Has anyone ever been slapped into unconsciousness like that in real life? Or does it only ever happen on television? I can’t imagine anyone slapping me hard enough to knock me out like that. Although I bet there are plenty of people who’d like to try.

Me: Maybe she hit her head on the polystyrene cabinet as fell over.

Sue: It looked a bit pathetic to me.

The countdown reaches 585.

Sue: Is this episode taking place in real-time, like 24?

Me: I think so. I’ve never seen this episode before.

It dawned on me recently that the reason I don’t have any childhood memories of Series 2 is because I was living in New Zealand at the time.

Sue: But you’ve had these DVDs for ages.

Me: Erm, yes, well… I, erm…

Sue tries to convert the countdown into minutes and seconds, but that’s abandoned as soon as the characters start talking about the effects of a Solium bomb.

Avon: You could wipe out a whole population and still leave the buildings and the installations intact. In less than a day there is no trace of any radiation.

Sue: Terry Nation doesn’t understand how radiation works.

Me: I wouldn’t like to say. I’m no expert when it comes to radiation.

Sue: Neither is Terry Nation. Trust me, it’s bollocks.

Someone will probably tell us that it’s feasible in the comments below, but Sue remains unconvinced. Then again, she thinks snogging your first cousin’s face off is a bit weird, so what does she know?

CountdownSue: Anyway, they should stop all this idle chit-chat and they should concentrate on disarming the bomb. There isn’t enough urgency in this scene.

Major Provine throttles another rebel.

Sue: I’m surprised he didn’t slap him to death.

Me: Are you still going on about that slap?

Sue: It makes no sense to me. And you can’t say they did it to make the programme less violent, because there’s plenty of gratuitous violence in this episode already.

Me: I can’t believe that you want to see a woman punched instead of slapped. It’s a bit of a turnaround.

Sue: He’s the bad guy. I expect that sort of thing from the bad guy.

When a rebel named Arrian catches Provine trying to escape in a rocket, the major bargains for his life.

Arrian: You think I could live, knowing I’d helped a man who’d murdered an entire world? No, Provine, you’re not going anywhere.

Sue: Good for him. I thought he was going to go along with it for sure, so that was a nice twist. And I finally know who the bad guy reminds me of.

Me: Who?

CountdownSue: Derek Nimmo.

Vila has cracked the Federation’s safe.

Me: See! Vila is important!

The safe explodes.

Sue: Everything that Vila says and does should be accompanied by a parping trombone.

The safe contains coded data cards.

Blake: I want all that stuff run through Orac.

Sue: Just put Orac in charge of everything. The episodes would only be ten minutes long, but that’s all right.

A semiconscious Ralli crawls into the room.

Sue: It must have been one hell of a slap, that’s all I’m saying.

Blake is still searching for Control (see Pressure Point) – and he believes that Provine knows where it is.

Sue: So they actually have a plan now? A proper plan? OK, I can get behind that. They managed to keep it quiet, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

As luck would have it, Avon and Del Grant are old enemies.

CountdownSue: This is a very tense scene. I’ve never seen Avon look so uptight.

Orac has traced the Solium bomb to one of Albian’s frozen poles. Avon and Del volunteer to teleport over there and disarm it.

Blake: (to Del Grant) If anything happens to Avon, I will come looking for you.

Sue: Aww. Blake really loves Avon. That’s Blake’s best quality, you know.

Before they teleport, Avon gives Del a gun.

Sue: What are they going to shoot when they get there? Polar bears?

The mismatched pair teleport into the polar installation.

Sue: Someone has blu-tacked a calculator to the wall to make the place look more futuristic, and they’re just about getting away with it. I like this episode. It’s quite tense. Plus it’s very easy to follow; the mission is straightforward and it actually makes sense. Come on, Terry, please don’t **** it up.

Avon and Del search for the installation’s central heating system.

Sue: That’s right. Make yourselves comfortable before you disarm the bomb. There’s no rush.

The bomb is encased in ice.

Avon: Get a space heater started.

Sue: That doesn’t make any sense because we aren’t in space.

Blake offers to teleport a few rebels off Albian if everything goes asparagus shaped.

Sue: Get Lesley Judd to knock up some more bracelets. And surely there must be some children they can save with the bracelets they have in the time they have left. They could have saved dozens of people by now.

The ice is melting, and Sue mistakes the sound of dripping water for Dudley Simpson banging away on the bongos. Bless her.

Del: The main roof beam’s cracked… resting on the ice. If it melts any more, it’ll cave in.

Sue: Quick, turn a Space Fridge on!

Avon and Del remove the bomb from the ice.

Sue: Oh look, it’s Orac’s twin brother.

CountdownDel guides Avon through the wire-cutting stage of the procedure.

Del: Right next. No, no, wait! I’m opposite you now. Left is the next in sequence. Your left.

Sue: Just say, “Cut the green wire”, you idiot!

Del: Hadn’t we better turn the heaters off?

Avon: It depends which you prefer: being crushed or frozen to death?

Sue: You aren’t staying the night! Get a bloody move on!

Vila realises that Provine is in the rocket silo. He asks Ralli for directions.

Ralli: The junction off corridor eleven A, fifty-one B.

Vila: Eleven A, fifty-one B…

It isn’t long before Vila becomes hopelessly lost.

Vila: Five A, eleven one B…

Sue: This is me shopping in Ikea. I can actually relate to Vila in this scene.

Avon and Del get to work on the bomb.

Avon: Waste any more time and you won’t get any older. Give me the extractor. Now.

Sue: Relations between these two are so frosty, I’m surprised that anything is melting.

CountdownAvon tells Del everything he wants to know about Anna Grant.

Sue: Now that’s an episode I want to see. Poor Avon. And what a wonderful performance from Paul Darrow. It’s good, this.

Avon: I need to hold this flap back. Get your hand in here.

Sue: You know, if I was the sort of person who noticed sexual tension in scenes where it doesn’t exist, I’d have a field day with this.

She didn’t actually say that. She had a field day with it.

Me: Look, Vila is doing important stuff again!

Sue: He’s just running up and down a corridor. Any fool could do that.

Provine corners Blake in the rocket silo.

Sue: They should make this bad guy the new Travis. He’s scary and he gets things done. He’d be a brilliant arch-nemesis.

Vila arrives at the rocket silo as a gun goes off.

CountdownSue: For a second there, I thought Blake was dead. That was cleverly done. It’s the oldest trick in the book, but it still fooled me.

Blake interrogates the dying major.

Blake: Where is Control, Provine?

Provine: Star One. It’s called Star One now.

Sue: You’ve been to Star One, haven’t you, Neil?

Me: That’s impossible. No one knows where Star One is. No one at all!

Sue: It was a convention in a hotel in Stockton. You made me take you there in the car. And I had to pick you up again. Twice. It’s just off the A19.

Me: Star One becomes very important later on.

Sue: At least they’re actually aiming for something, I suppose. It makes for a nice change of pace. And they shouldn’t have killed Derek Nimmo. He was proper scary.

Back at the pole, Avon prepares to drill into the bomb’s trigger mechanism.

CountdownSue: The holes have already been drilled. This must be the second take and they ran out of plastic tubing.

Me: Maybe the drill is so fast it distorts time?

Sue: Or maybe the director is rubbish. What do you think?

Avon inserts a rod into the first chamber.

Sue KER-PLUNK!

A second rod is slotted into place, but then Del runs off to take shelter from some ice water that’s raining down on him.

Sue: What worries him the most: keeping himself dry or saving the entire planet? Because I know what I’d be concentrating on right now. He was much better in Doctor Who. Oh dear, the ceiling is coming down. It’s quite exciting, this.

Del and the bomb are trapped behind a fallen girder.

Avon: I think I can still get at it. I’m going to have to crawl in over you.

Sue: Just reach over and pick it up. The direction is completely at odds with the script, here.

Del tells Avon that he should leave him there to die.

CountdownSue: Tell you what, why don’t you chat about this AFTER YOU’VE DISARMED THE SODDING BOMB! ARGH!

Avon stops the countdown with a second to spare.

Sue: They should have stopped the countdown at 7, to remind us that this programme is called Blake’s 7. Or maybe 6 would be more appropriate… Or is it 5 now? I can’t remember.

Del: Why did you help me?

Avon: Perhaps because Anna was your sister.

Sue: Isn’t Avon lovely? I thought the other guy was Anna’s husband, so Avon isn’t a home-wrecker after all, which is nice. Unless he was Anna’s brother and her husband; it is Blake’s 7.

She’s joking. I think.

Later, on the Liberator, Del and Avon bid each other farewell.

Sue: He should come back later in the series. He’ll always have that bracelet, so you never know.

Before Del leaves, Avon shakes his hand.

Sue: Aww, that was sweet. I love Avon even more now.

CountdownBlake asks Avon to explain his relationship with Anna.

Avon: You wouldn’t understand.

Sue: She isn’t related to you.

Cue credits.

The Score:

Sue: I really enjoyed that. It feels like we’re back on track again. I can’t believe I’m saying this but Terry Nation definitely writes the best episodes of Blake’s 7. The direction was bit rubbish – yet again – but the stunts were great. And Avon was fabulous. Oh, and Star One sounds exciting, too. Is Star One the title of the next episode?

8/10

Before we go, here’s an extra special treat from 1979:

Next Time:

Warning: Glen’s trailers may include minor spoilers for the next episode.

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34 comments

  • Visit site
    April 8, 2014 5:01 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Chris Allen

    “I need to see more depth from him. I want to take Vila seriously, but I can’t.”

    One upcoming episode in particular ought to do that. If not, there’s just no hope.

    “No one knows where Star One is. No one at all!”

    Maybe they should change the name of that particular convention? Might boost attendances.

    Provine always struck me as a wee bit bit too informative right at the end. Still, it allows the search to continue.

    • Visit site
      April 8, 2014 5:17 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Dave Sanders

      I thought the Star One convention was disbanded years ago. I imagine the official explanation would be that climate control in the hotel broke down.

  • Visit site
    April 8, 2014 5:02 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Dave Sanders

    Which sounds more meaninglessly stupid – Allan Prior’s ‘time units’ or Terry Nation’s ‘space hours’? Discuss.

  • Visit site
    April 8, 2014 5:14 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Dave Sanders

    Maybe Solium is a newly-created artificial element with a very short half-life? If Americium was created in nuclear test labs in the States, then this being B7, Solium was invented in Solihull.

  • Visit site
    April 8, 2014 5:25 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Silent Hunter

    I’ve always thought that Avon should have just stuck the drill bit in that final hole.

    • Visit site
      April 9, 2014 10:58 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Jane

      (Invoking my inner Sue)

      He should’ve stuck *something* in some hole…

  • Visit site
    April 8, 2014 5:33 pmPosted 3 years ago
    San

    “They should make this bad guy the new Travis. He’s scary and he gets things done. He’d be a brilliant arch-nemesis.”

    Quoted for truth. Really had “the cold cruel eyes of a killer” (as Bernard Black remarked of a child once).

    Commentary cracked me up in several places. Solid eppy, glad it was liked.

    Thanks for the extra!

  • Visit site
    April 8, 2014 7:00 pmPosted 3 years ago
    executrix

    Depending on whose past, they could have called this Voice from the Past and the next one VftP Part II.

    This is sort of a landmark in TV show construction–it requires a lot of reassessment of Avon, and just *why* he keeps saying he doesn’t care about anyone else–yet it’s fairly far along in the show to move in a new direction.

  • Visit site
    April 8, 2014 7:11 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Mark Mark

    I seem to be completely at odds with Sue all the time now. I found this episode arse-achingly dull. A flimsy story spread very thinly over 50 long minutes. Not even any ‘City of Death’ comedic overacting from Tom Chadbon. Plus the countdown tick didn’t tie up with the digits changing and Avon & the other bloke had very little sense of urgency when diasarming the bomb, seeming to be more interested in hurling insults at each other.

    Yawn !

    The other thing that I feel about Blake’s 7 is that there seems to be no overarching story arc, it’s just a load of episodes one after the other. The boys (as Sue pointed out) teleport down to a planet, get into a bit of trouble, run around a bit and teleport back.

    Oh, one other moan whilst I’m on my soapbox – in the previous episode, Travis made a big deal of needing to know the word ‘teleport’, yet in this episode, they were teleported using two phrases, one of which was “take him up”. Great continuity there !! Right, I’ll shut up now…

    • Visit site
      April 8, 2014 7:23 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Dave Sanders

      Or point eight three of a space hour.

    • Visit site
      April 8, 2014 7:33 pmPosted 3 years ago
      wyngatecarpenter

      “there seems to be no overarching story arc, it’s just a load of episodes one after the other.”

      That’s the 70s – we didn’t have story arcs as such back then. But actually this episode is part of a story arc (maybe part of two story arcs…)

      “in the previous episode, Travis made a big deal of needing to know the word ‘teleport’, yet in this episode, they were teleported using two phrases, one of which was “take him up”.”

      Yep! I’m not sure they ever said “teleport” as a command, it was always “bring me up” or something. But then agai it was Vila told Travis this in a panic, and Vila usually gets things wrong.
      Anyway cotinuity wasn’t a big thing back then -it’s almost as if they didn’t expect people to be watching it and picking it apart 35 years.

    • Visit site
      April 9, 2014 3:50 pmPosted 3 years ago
      jsd

      I have to agree with you Mark. And I especially like the phrase “arse-achingly dull”. It was a nice attempt to give Avon some backstory but the whole countdown plot was totally boring.

  • Visit site
    April 8, 2014 7:21 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Marcus Sheppard

    “Me: I thought you’d warmed to Vila?

    Sue: He’s one-dimensional. He’s only exists to crack jokes and act daft.”

    Thanks for asking. I’ll cancel the jelly and helium balloons.

  • Visit site
    April 8, 2014 7:41 pmPosted 3 years ago
    wyngatecarpenter

    I think this episode is pretty good so I’m glad Sue rated it. I got a bit carried away the first time I watched it , during the same marathon session as Hostage, and also put it in my top 5. It’s not quite that good , but I still like it, other than Nation’s usual cardboard supporting characters and flat dialogue. But if there’s one thing that Nation likes it’s a bomb counting down, so he couldn’t really cock up this premise. I get the feeling that perhaps he’s rewritten some old war movie. On the other hand there’s a definite nod to the neutron bomb which was a controversial subject at the time, as it could kill people while leaving buildings standing.

  • Visit site
    April 8, 2014 7:46 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Rob

    Love this eppy and glad Sue did too 🙂 So many great guest actors in B7 and Paul Shelly’s Provine could have been a great recurring character.

    Also quite wonderful to see that ‘Ask Aspel’ clip again after all these years though mr Darrow was telling creative porkies about the ‘expensive’ Liberator set…Rodger Murray Leach constructed most of it out of trays from the BBC canteen 🙂

  • April 8, 2014 7:54 pmPosted 3 years ago
    encyclops

    One of the best entries yet. The interplay between the reporting of dialogue and the italic commentary is brilliant. And I quite like this episode too. I’m not sure it’s true that Nation wrote the best Blake’s 7 episodes, but he definitely wrote some of them. He wrote some of the worst, too, is all.

    The thing with Servalan’s name doesn’t bother me at all. Even on the Earth we inhabit, people mispronounce each other’s names all the time.

    • Visit site
      April 8, 2014 10:34 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Geoff

      What is this unhealthy fixation Ask Aspel has with needing to state the exact geographic location of each child posing a question? Would Paul Darrow have refused to answer if they didn’t supply that information:

      “so Paul, David Greenland age 6 wants to know if Zen and Orac argue in real life”

      “Tell me where David Greenland lives or you can f&@k off!” really?

      • Visit site
        April 9, 2014 10:16 amPosted 3 years ago
        Robert Dick

        It’s so the viewing kids can tell for definite it’s their question being asked.

      • Visit site
        April 9, 2014 2:14 pmPosted 3 years ago
        Ann worrall

        Wow I am sooo enjoying this blog. Highlight of the week. I thought countdown was a great episode and the mushy stuff nicely underplayed by paul darrow. Thank you Neil and Sue

  • Visit site
    April 8, 2014 10:01 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Sally M

    Provine was great, yes – and I always had a soft spot for Ralli, the librarianish rebel 🙂

    Voice from the Past is next? One of my guilty pleasures, but oh dear…

  • Visit site
    April 8, 2014 10:47 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Katie C

    Thank you for the extra, I think my ex husband sent in one of the questions to Paul Darrow, all this time and I never knew…

  • April 8, 2014 11:29 pmPosted 3 years ago
    encyclops

    That video was indeed a treat. I must admit I’ve never fancied Avon (at that age I was more interested in a couple of the characters we haven’t met yet), but Paul Darrow as Paul Darrow is quite sexy, isn’t he?

    • Visit site
      April 9, 2014 2:15 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Ann worrall

      Ooh yes!!

  • Visit site
    April 9, 2014 9:00 pmPosted 3 years ago
    hperson

    What a charming Aspell clip – thank you. Paul Darrow had such a beguiling childlike way (and huge eyes).
    I love Countdown, so I’m very glad Sue didn’t diss it. I’m wondering whether she will ever break out the nines and tens.. Lets see what she makes of Star One.

    • Visit site
      June 9, 2014 6:03 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Fiona

      How did I miss the Ask Aspel? I remember that show. Isn’t it funny how Paul lies about the cost of the show and how he says its as solid as the Ask Aspel set…Michael Aspel can only just keep his face straight and you can hear Paul giggling.

      And doesnt he have astonishing eyes? At one moment they look beguiling and child-like, as you say, Bambi eyes, and then suddenly very dark and intense. Watching that clip gave me a better understanding of him playing Avon, because it’s almost scary how different he is.

  • Visit site
    April 9, 2014 10:42 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Frankymole

    Space Heater: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_heater

    I recall a few of these (or maybe they were hot air balloon burners?) shooting out jets of blue flame in a vain attempt to heat a college sports hall where we were doing exams in December of the space year mumble-mumble…

  • Visit site
    April 9, 2014 10:47 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Frankymole

    “Unless he was Anna’s brother and her husband; it is Blake’s 7.”

    It’s like ‘Game of Thrones’ only with more incest…

  • Visit site
    April 12, 2014 11:49 amPosted 3 years ago
    Ratbag

    Space heaters are definitely a Real Thing. They’re for heating, er, spaces. My dad used to work for a plant hire firm that rented them out.

  • Visit site
    April 12, 2014 4:22 pmPosted 3 years ago
    The Grouchybeast

    I’m genuinely surprised Sue’s never heard of a space heater. I’m not surprised how many people were ready to correct her, though. 🙂

    On the other hand, I’d be willing to believe that Terry Nation had never heard of a space heater, either, and it was just the ‘add space to everything’ reflex in action.

    > She didn’t actually say that. She had a field day with it.

    Ahahahaa. I thought she might.

    > Sue: The holes have already been drilled.

    I’m fairly sure they just wouldn’t let the actors actually drill anything with a real sharp drill bit. See: the outtake where Paul Darrow almost shoots his own face off with a prop gun.

    > Avon: You wouldn’t understand.
    >
    > Sue: She isn’t related to you.

    Genuine LOL, to the point where the cat gave me a look and went to sleep somewhere else. (Probably for the best, as I don’t think her sleeping on top of the printer is a good thing in the long term.)

    > here’s an extra special treat from 1979

    Oh, God. Paul Darrow is so ridiculously gorgeous. Somehow I forget, and then I see him again and he says something in that amazing chocolatey voice and SERIOUSLY. Gorgeous.

    8/10! Awesome rating! Now, on to the VftP commentary. I hope Sue is willing to be kind to poor Brian Croucher…

    • Visit site
      May 13, 2014 4:25 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Fiona

      As for lines about flaps and getting hands in and so on, did Sue miss Avon:”If we enlarge these holes, and then insert a rod…”
      Because I was laughing myself nearly to death.

      I really loved this episode…the whole Avon backstory was wonderful.
      and Provine was great! Shouldn’t have killed him! He and Travis would make a great pair. I think Brian Croucher made a great Travis once I was used to the change. Love his East End gangster accent, good contrast with all those RADA guys.

  • Visit site
    June 10, 2014 10:03 pmPosted 3 years ago
    dora

    Hi Fi, I always thought that as well. Loved Tom Chadbon as Duggan, he was the typical PI so unlike Magnum. He does reprise his role as Grant in the audio adventures the Armageddon Storm and he just did another one. I liked the remark about Blake s relations being the object of his affections, it was cold but I liked it anyone. Avon s right, he wouldn t have understood. Sue s funny though, voicing everything we re thinking; especially the bomb looking like Orac s brother!! I cracked the hell up!!! This is great stuff. I hope Paul does read this blog thing, it really does have its moments. Nothing like making people laugh, great gift that. He s got it. I m at my most funny when I m serious so I m told.

  • Visit site
    June 10, 2014 11:32 pmPosted 3 years ago
    dora

    Just saw Ask Aspel, thank you for that great treat. I must say I d rather hear leather creaking than Provine s trousers swishing. Oil can flashbacks no!!!!!! Paul kind of looked a bit nervous for a minute or two. His deer eyes were all over the place. He would ve been a really good lawyer, no female juror would be able to concentrate on the case with him around. I know I wouldn t. I heard he likes Terry Pratchett as well as Asimov. He s really brilliant is Paul, another uxb bites the dust. Loved that. Used to watch Danger UXB as a kid, if was cool.That smile is worth a thousand Blakes and that voice is worth a thousand Servalans.

    • Visit site
      June 11, 2014 1:14 amPosted 3 years ago
      executrix

      His is indeed a face that launched a thousand ships.

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