Rumours of Death
We Don’t Need No Federation…
Avon is languishing in a prison cell.
Sue: Is this a flashback?
A Federation lackey pays Avon a visit.
Sue: Oh look, Gary is in this episode. And that door could do with some WD-40.
Avon: Your name wouldn’t be Shrinker, by any chance, would it?
Shrinker: You’ve heard of me?
Avon: I knew if I held out, you would show up eventually.
Sue: I get it now. Avon wanted to be arrested so he could find his ex-girlfriend’s killer. That’s clever. And Avon really suits his stubble, even if he does look like a hungover mechanic.
Shrinker removes something from his pocket.
Shrinker: Do you know what this is?
Sue: It looks like a pen. Does he want Avon’s autograph?
When Tarrant and Dayna teleported into the cell to rescue Avon, Sue actually cheered.
Shrinker: (incredulous) You’re Blake’s people…
Sue: Avon won’t like that! This is what happens when you don’t change the name of the programme. Even the bad guys don’t know who they’re fighting any more.
Avon was tortured for five days but he never gave them his real name.
Sue: And no one working there picked up on the fact that he looks like one of the universe’s most wanted criminals? That doesn’t seem very likely – Avon’s famous!
Dayna aims her gun at Shrinker’s head.
Avon: No! Don’t kill him. I waited for him!
Sue: What a brilliant way to start the episode. Absolutely brilliant.
Avon takes Shrinker back to the Liberator.
Shrinker: What are you going to do with me?
Dayna: He’s going to kill you.
Sue: The irony is that Anna probably isn’t even dead. That will be the twist, I bet.
The crew give Shrinker a taste of his own medicine.
Sue: Tarrant enjoyed that a bit too much. He loves a bit of bullying before lunch. I bet he was a prefect at school.
Meanwhile, on planet Earth…
Sue: Nice house. I don’t know what it’s doing in a Sci-Fi show, but it’s very nice.
A woman named Sula doesn’t agree.
Sula: A grotesque anachronism, like its owner. We could have built two cities for what it cost to reconstruct that absurdity.
Sue: That’s one way of getting around the ridiculous location, I suppose.
Sula turns out to be a rebel who has married her way to the top so she can strike at the Federation from within.
Sue: So is she the female version of Blake? She’s doing a much better job of overthrowing the Federation than Blake ever did. Blake only ever wanted to marry his cousin, and how would that have helped?
The house and its grounds are continually monitored by Section Leader Forres and Major Grenlee.
Sue: They look like they should be playing jazz in those uniforms. And this one’s eyebrows need a good plucking.
Sue doesn’t recognise the actor playing Forres.
Me: It’s David Haig.
Sue: You say that like it supposed to mean something.
Me: He’s been in loads of things. It’s David bloody Haig!
While it’s true that David Haig has been in loads of things – and written loads of things – he’ll always be Steve Fleming to me:
Sue: I like the way that David whatever-his-name-is would rather be at home with his feet up than dealing with this shit. It’s a very smart and cynical script.
Back on the Liberator, Avon is preparing to teleport somewhere with Shrinker.
Sue: They haven’t even tied him up. I bet he does a runner as soon as they land.
Vila: Concentrate. He’s more dangerous than he looks.
Sue: Yeah, you tell him, Vila.
Am I living in a parallel universe all of a sudden?
Avon and Shrinker teleport to a cave with no exit. When Avon flicks a switch, a wall is illuminated with a portrait of a woman.
Sue: Who’s that supposed to be? Did Avon paint that himself? Has Avon gone mad?
Avon has a flashback. A flashback to Anna Grant.
Sue: I knew it! She isn’t really dead! At least they didn’t drag that out too much. Ooh, this is really interesting now.
This flashback takes place from Avon’s point of view. In bed.
Sue: Just think. Avon is completely naked in this scene.
And then I sigh, only louder.
Sue: I’m not being funny or anything, but Avon could do a lot better than her.
Back on Earth, the President is preparing for a very special dinner party.
Sue: Oh no! I knew they were in Servalan’s house, but I thought she was flying around in her giant space crocodile, so I didn’t think she’d actually be in this episode. She turns up in Blake’s 7 far too much. They should use her more sparingly. Having said that, at least she looks like she belongs here. It’s basically The West Wing meets Downton Abbey now. With space ships.
Everything is going well until we reach the episode’s inevitable “shit fight scene” where Sula’s men make short work of the Federation’s security forces. The final salvo more than makes up for it, though.
Sue: She just shot a Federation trooper in the arse!
Back in his cave, Avon extracts the truth from Shrinker.
Shrinker: Bartholomew was running you!
Sue: What a brilliant scene. Although it is a bit of a coincidence that Avon finds out about this on the very same day that it’s all kicking off with Anna and Servalan back on Earth. But what the hell. It’s great.
This episode reminds Sue of something else.
Sue: It’s just like 24. You’ve got Avon doing a Jack Bauer to extract the information he needs from the bad bugger; you’ve got terrorists running around trying to kill the President; you’ve got someone who’s not really dead turning up out of the blue; and you’ve got these two morons monitoring the whole thing in CTU. If CTU was equipped with an antique fireplace, that is.
I don’t know what she’s talking about.
Avon leaves Shrinker with a stark choice: suicide or starvation. (And we’re betting that Shrinker loves his food.)
Avon: It’s a better deal than you gave any of your victims.
Sue: Good for you, Avon.
Me: Bit cruel, though, don’t you think?
Sue: He should suffer for his crimes.
Me: Remind me never to torture any of your ex-boyfriends to death.
Sula’s right-hand man pretends to be a Federation trooper when Major Grenlee contacts him on the radio he confiscated earlier.
Grenlee (voice over): At the double, Squad Leader. Out.
Sula: Perfect. Get to your positions! And good luck.
Sue: She said that before the other guy could switch his radio off. The bloke on the other end should be saying, “Hang on… Who are you with? Who said that? Is that a terrorist?”
Sula’s army advance on the stately home.
Sue: Blake never even tried to pull something like this off. She should join the crew – they might actually get something done for a change, although Cally won’t be very happy if Avon’s ex moves in with them.
Forres and Grenlee cheer as the rebels approach, unaware of the chaos to come.
Sue: Typical CTU. This always happens. It’s quite funny, though.
A battle rages for control of Servalan’s house.
Sue: How do they know who’s who? Most of them will be killed by friendly fire. They all look the same to me!
Grenlee and Forres are shot, which takes Sue completely by surprise.
Sue: Oh no! They killed The Likely Lads! That’s a bit grim. I really liked them.
The rebels make a beeline for Servalan’s office.
Me: This scene reminds me of that bit in Babylon 5 where the resistance turn up to arrest the insane President.
Sue: Really? It reminds me of The Shining.
To be fair, they are breaking down Servalan’s door with an axe. And when Servalan is finally captured, she’s given a smack.
Sue: Not showing it makes it seem even worse.
Avon wants to interrogate Servalan, even if it means blowing the top of her head off.
Sue: Wouldn’t it be great if he actually did it, instead of just talking about it.
Orac persuades Avon to postpone his suicide mission until dusk.
Dayna: Why not full dark?
Sue: It’s easier to film at dusk.
Sula discusses her next move with her right-hand man, Hob.
Hob: We didn’t fight to put you behind that desk, Sula.
Sue: So is her name Anna or Sula? Maybe she isn’t Anna after all. She could be Anna’s twin sister. This is Blake’s 7 we’re talking about.
Sula has been keeping herself busy.
Sula: It was my planning that got us here. Without me, you and your men would still be skulking around the wastelands.
Sue: We should have watched Sula’s 7 instead. She’s organised a rebellion. All Avon’s done is collect a few rocks. She’s brilliant.
Avon has another flashback to a postcoital Anna Grant.
Sue: Is he looking at her through her fallopian tube?
And then Avon imagines Anna imprisoned in a prison cell.
Sue: I bet Anna turns out to be Bartholomew. And I bet Avon has to kill her at the end. Please tell me that doesn’t happen, Neil. That would be awful.
I shrug my shoulders.
Sue: Whatever happens, this will be a game-changer for Avon. He’s agonised over this for years. He must be at breaking point. He’ll never be the same again.
When Tarrant helps the gang take out some guards, he takes a bow.
Sue: **** off, Tarrant. He still thinks he’s in a matinée performance of The Pirates of Penzance.
Avon and Tarrant storm the surveillance room, guns drawn, ready for anything.
Sue: It’s just like The Professionals, but without any of the sexual tension between the leads.
Grenlee is on his last legs.
Tarrant: Yes, Major, you’re dying, but that’s what you’re paid for.
Sue: Tarrant, you utter ****. Great line, though.
Servalan has been chained to a wall in the cellar. Avon offers to let her go if she agrees to cooperate with them, but Tarrant thinks the mighty have fallen too far.
Tarrant: I’m talking about the President of the Terran Federation, Ruler of the High Council, Lord of the Inner and Outer Worlds, High Admiral of the Galactic Fleets, Lord General of the Six Armies, and Defender of the Earth.
Sue: You forgot ‘Winner of last year’s intergalactic Come Dine With Me‘.
And then it’s time for one of Blake’s 7’s most famous – and enigmatic – moments.
Avon: Have you murdered your way to the wall of an underground room?
Servalan: It’s an old wall, Avon, it waits. I hope you don’t die before you reach it.
Sue: What a fabulous line.
I’ll ask Sue about this exchange later. I don’t want to interrupt the episode with a debate about metaphorical brickwork. Now is not the time.
Avon jerks Servalan to her feet.
Sue: I think she enjoyed that.
You can cut the sexual tension between Avon and Servalan with a laser probe.
Sue: **** off, Tarrant. You’re just a gooseberry with a perm.
Sula chooses this moment to check on her prisoner.
Sue: Oh no. It’s all going to kick-off now.
Avon: Hello, Anna.
Sula recognises Avon’s voice.
Sue: She didn’t even have to look. Obviously.
Avon can barely look at her.
Sula: I suppose there’s someone else, is that it? Is there someone else, Avon?
Avon: No, no, there’s no one else.
Sue: Unless you count Cally, of course. Are they including friends with benefits?
Avon wants to know who hid her when the Federation came a-knocking.
Sula: My husband. I didn’t love him, he knew that. There was only you.
Me: So Avon was a home wrecker after all.
Sue: Shut up, Neil. This is really good.
And then everything goes tits up and Avon shoots his beloved – and treacherous – ex-girlfriend in cold blood.
Sue: Damn it! I hate it when I’m right.
Avon cradles the dying Anna/Sula/Bart in his arms.
Sue: (singing) We have all the time in the world…
Avon frees Servalan from her bonds.
Sue: He should have shot her in the head. Avon’s just killed the one true love of his life. Murdering Servalan would have taken the edge off.
Vila makes a drunken error and teleports everyone back to the ship before Avon is ready to leave.
Sue: Vila, you dick!
Normal service has been resumed!
Servalan gains the upper-hand, but just as she’s about to send Avon back to the Liberator with a hole in his head, she’s distracted and Avon escapes unharmed.
Sue: It’s almost as if she wanted him to get away. I’m telling you, Neil, it was the way he pulled her up that wall.
Rumours of Avon’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
Avon: Well, slightly exaggerated, anyway.
Sue: Aww. Part of him died. This will probably send him over the edge. He can’t be the same man after this; I bet he loses it completely. Oh look, the episode was directed by a woman. What a surprise.
I didn’t even have to beg.
Sue: I can’t fault it. It was very exciting, the direction was great and the script was excellent. OK, I could see the twists coming a mile off, but it didn’t matter. It just made the inevitable tragedy seem even more inevitable and tragic. And what a fantastic performance from Paul Darrow. I can’t wait to see what he does with Avon next.
Me: So, anyway, that bit with the wall…
Sue: What about it? Besides the lovely brickwork, I mean. Made with London bricks, I think, but don’t quote me on that.
We watch the scene again.
Sue: I think it means you shouldn’t torture yourself to death before you die. Everybody is chained to their own wall in the end, so enjoy yourself before you get there, or you’ll be dead inside before you die. Something like that. Basically: chill the **** out.
Me: I asked our readers on Twitter to share their wall theories with us and –
Sue: Does it really matter, Neil? I’ve already given the episode 10 out of 10. We can stop now.
Me: But Gareth Roberts says the wall represents utter defeat and –
Sue: If you don’t turn this DVD off right now, you’ll be the one chained to a ****ing wall.