Blake's 7 #16: Weapon

"The Officer Corps will forgive anything it can understand. Which makes intelligence about the only sin."

IN THIS ONE... Servalan gets her hands on a secret weapon.

REVIEW: Boucher's second script turns its gaze towards the show's villains... and kind of forgets to bring it back to the Liberator. Oh, the Seven are in the episode, but they don't do much until the end, finally undertaking the mission at the half-hour mark and even so. That's not necessarily a mortal sin. Servalan is such a delicious villain, and Boucher is generally very good at crafting her schemes and dynamics with other characters, that I'm quite open to it. But between Blake and crew analyzing the situation and what's happening with the Feds, it means a lot of people talking, and the director evidently has problems with the pacing, because they do so very slowly and deliberately. Given the content of the dialog, sparks should fly, but instead the episode is full of dead air. Or else you're kind of confused about what's happening for far too long.

We do start on the best explosion I've probably ever seen on 70s BBC, and we're introduced to Coser, a scientist who (as it turns out, like I said, the episode is slow to show its cards) has created a terrifying new weapon. Imipak (terrible name) stands for Induced Molecular Instability Projector And Key and can mark you for death with an unstable molecule. You'll then die when the owner decides you die, either by pressing a button or using proximity sensors - a handy deterrent, blackmail device, or assassination method. From what we see, it disintegrates you, but off-screen, thanks. Servalan's plan is quite devious. She apparently manipulated events to make Coser have a breakdown and steal his invention, which she would then get from him while letting the rest of the universe think Blake actually stole it. I love watching her scheme, emasculate Travis, put killer dots (I guess this is the Black Spot from Treasure Island, in science fiction terms) seemingly for the fun of it (but to eliminate witnesses, really), and flirt with subalterns. What a fascinating character.

I also quite like Carnell, a super-psychologist who can plan for almost any situation if he knows who's involved and a strategic genius to boot. He runs circles around even Servalan, his own mistake being that he didn't know Coser would rescue a beautiful slave who then goes on to change the situation. He nevertheless prevents his own death (as a witness or as a failure) by manipulating a young officer into giving him a progress report. In his last message to Servalan, he makes sure to say she's the sexiest officer he knows and makes her smile. He's got her number and now, so do we. His role highlights the idea that everyone has a weakness that can be capitalized on, and hers is vanity. As for Travis, he's still pretty dull despite the change of actor (and accent). A raving vengeance seeker who gets shut down by Servalan at every turn and which she considers almost too expendable for his continued use in the series.

Boucher is doing a lot of intriguing world building in this one. In addition to the "Puppeteers" represented by Carnell, there are Clone Masters who hold the secret of cloning and are clones themselves. They live in vegetable rooms that breathe and grow (though the production can't really do the idea justice) and follow the Rule of Life, which seems at odds with Federation anti-values. Indeed, the clone of Blake they grow for Servalan turns on them to become Adam to the freed slave's Eve. It makes the Federation seem rather responsible that they would leave that technology with specific people lest it be used badly. Perhaps the Federation had a kinder start (when its name seemed to fit better), and only became corrupt later. So it does what good world building should: expand at once back and forward (because Boucher might return to these toys later).

So what to say about Blake and crew? Boucher continues the grayzoning of Blake, as he's making plans without discussing it with the others. Cally may be a favorite - the non-criminal of the bunch - as he's following HER lead in this case. We get the usual witty retorts and insults. The usual consultation with Orac and/or Zen. Three of them get marked for death (Marked for Death would have been a much better title than the generic "Weapon"), but escape. And faux-Blake and Raquel actually defeat the villains. Not a great showing. I WANT to see the villains' side, like, every episode, but here's hoping future episodes are a little more balanced between the two sides.

NOT MY FEDERATION: Cloning and generic modifications are outlawed in the United Federation of Planets...

BUT MIGHT BE MY EMPIRE: ...but the Star Wars Empire once used clones as shock troops. There were wars named after them and everything.

A lot of high collars in this episode, but Coser's in particular looks like it was designed on Gallifrey. Closer to Time Lord fashion is Servalan's big fluffy cloak, which was worn by Mary Tamm's Romana in The Ribos Experiment (this episode's costume designer June Hudson's first Doctor Who). Director George Spenton-Foster has two Doctor Who serials to his name - Image of the Fendhal, which was written by Chris Boucher and also featured Graham Simpson (the young officer here) as a hiker, and The Ribos Operation (just mentioned). Another Who/Boucher connection is Brian Croucher, the new Travis. He played Borg in The Robots of Death. John Bennett (Coser) was Finch in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and Li H'sen Chang in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, under some yellow face make-up. Scott Fredericks (Carnell) was Boaz in Day of the Daleks and Maximillian Stael in (here we go again) Image of the Fendahl. Chris Boucher would use his character of Carnell in his Doctor Who novel Corpse Marker and then in the Kaldor City series, one of the ways the two universes are actually linked.

Let down by its slow pacing and sidelining of the main characters, Weapon nevertheless features some classic scheming from its villains.


Sad to see you weren’t as enthralled as I was with this episode. It’s one of my favorites. Just so different and love the side characters and the Vampire-adjacent costumes. Plus Rashel is one of the most stunningly beautiful guest stars to come out of the 1970s!