B7 Classic - A very different Avon?

Series 4 – A Very Different Avon?
by J.M. Galloway

Since the fourth series of Blake’s 7 was first transmitted in the autumn of 1981, it has been the subject of much controversy amongst fans. Viewing figures (on first transmission) for series four were consistently lower on average than they had been for series three – the mean average for series three was 9.45 million viewers per episode; in series four the mean average fell to 8.49 million per episode. The series’ opener, Rescue, achieved just 7.8 million viewers on first transmission, compared to the 10 million viewers Terminal, the final episode of series three, attracted.

As all fans know, the final series with Vere Lorrimer at the helm as producer, and minus Cally, Zen and the Liberator had a totally different feel to its predecessors. Most of the changes were obvious – the crew had a new ship, the converted freighter Scorpio, a new flight computer, Slave, and a planetary base on Xenon. Cally was replaced by Soolin. Were there, however, other changes beyond new sets, new costumes and new characters that were perhaps just as significant?

One potentially important change that has often been debated lies in the character of Avon. For example, it’s often been suggested that the Avon of series four became increasingly unbalanced as the episodes progressed, that he may, or may not, have suffered from some kind of mental disorder as B7 passed into its final phase.

But how true is it really that the Avon of series four was a very different man to the Avon viewers were first introduced to in Spacefall…? A fourth series episode-by-episode analysis of Avon’s activities and behaviour might help to answer the question.

It could be argued, with some merit, that season four of Blake’s 7 actually begins with Terminal, the last episode of the third series. With Blake and Jenna replaced by Tarrant and Dayna, much of series three was a series of unconnected adventures, with episodes such as Sarcophagus not even featuring a token Federation presence. Whilst the crew remained fugitives, and some attempt at resistance was mounted (notably in Volcano), the crusading feeling of Blake’s tenure was largely absent in series three. Opposition to the Federation became more about circumstance and necessity than about rebel idealism.

Terminal, then, was in a way atypical of the third series. Suddenly Blake was once again a central theme. Avon was on his way to find his erstwhile sparring partner, and he wasn’t going to let anyone stand in his way. Avon’s motivations are ambiguous: was he truly searching for Blake, or was he simply lured by promises of wealth? Avon to “Blake” on Terminal: “…are you going to tell me about this discovery that is going to make us rich and invincible?”

The viewers are left to decide for themselves what has really taken Avon to Terminal, but what is clear is Avon’s utter determination to achieve his goal. Not only does Avon insist in taking Liberator directly through the cloud of unknown particles against Zen’s recommendation, he goes so far as to threaten Tarrant with a gun, prompting Cally to say to the pilot afterwards, “You were lucky. He meant it. He was going to kill you.”

The viewer had seen hints of obsessive behaviour in Avon once before, during Rumours Of Death, when it was quite clear that he was prepared to go to almost any lengths in his sudden quest for vengeance. Terminal, however, sees Avon acting with reckless disregard for not only his ship and crew’s safety, but his own.

Is this really the same man who decided in Breakdown that he would rather abandon Liberator and take his chances on XK72 than allow Blake to keep threatening his (Avon’s) safety by behaving irresponsibly? (Avon to Blake: “Staying with you requires a degree of stupidity of which I no longer feel capable.”) Has the Avon of Terminal, who is prepared to risk himself, his crew and his ship, started to evolve into something different? Is he really motivated purely by greed (the alleged wonderful discovery Blake has made), or by a sudden, selfless desire to find and rescue Blake himself?

Either way, Terminal is a disaster for Avon, and for the crew. Avon is thoroughly duped by Servalan and informed that Blake is dead. Liberator and Zen are destroyed and the crew are stranded on the artificial planet.

The story resumes in Rescue, the fourth series opener. The crew are still stranded, and within a very short time Cally is dead, killed by the detonation of the explosives left behind by Servalan. Ultimately, the crew are rescued – only to face further peril on Xenon at Dorian’s hands.

With the scene set, the fourth series gets properly under way with Power, the end of which sees Dorian’s companion Soolin join the former crew of Liberator. Traitor sees Avon suddenly concerned by Federation expansion. Why is he suddenly so concerned by what the Federation are doing? Yes, he is a fugitive with (we assume) a large price on his head, but this rarely seemed to worry him in series three. Of course, the situation has changed – instead of the mighty Liberator, Avon has a dilapidated freighter and a static base. Note that Vila, early in Traitor, says to Avon: “I always thought your idea of having a combat base was crazy.”

It seems that there has been some off-screen discussion about taking a proactive stance against the Federation. Why? Is Avon merely trying to protect himself (in which case, there are better ways for a single man with four followers in tow than actively declaring war on a large, militaristic empire), or is he suddenly, inexplicably concerned with the idealism of fighting the Federation? The Avon of the preceding three series is a self-interested survivor, a man who does not take unnecessary risks – unless driven by something, as he was in Rumours… and Terminal. Perhaps the seeds of the “Avon as mad” theory are sown in Traitor, when Avon shows, for the very first time, signs of genuinely adopting Blake’s crusade… for its own sake. It is left to Vila to suggest that they should simply run, an idea that the Avon of the first and second series would surely have agreed with wholeheartedly, but the new, proactive Avon says, “I won't run. We have to find out what it is they're doing. Why the old colonies are being conquered so easily. Then perhaps we could do something about it.”

It’s very hard to see the cynical, self-interested Avon who clashed so frequently with Blake suggesting “…perhaps we could do something about it” – the Avon of Breakdown, Horizon and many other episodes, would surely have been far ahead of Vila in the stampede to simply get as far away from danger as possible, while leaving Helotrix to fall. Rushing straight to the planet itself is clearly a very un-Avonlike thing to do. As Vila says to Avon, as Scorpio orbits Helotrix: “Blake would have been proud of you, you know.”

There’s a footnote to Traitor. Once the crew are reunited on Scorpio, Tarrant and Dayna reveal that Servalan (who was presumed killed in Liberator’s destruction) is still alive. Avon’s reaction is predictable, but it is the most extreme the viewer has seen in his love/hate relationship with the Federation’s former President. Chillingly, he says: “I didn't want her to die like that anyway. I need ... to kill her myself.”

To the viewer, it immediately feels as if Avon’s ambiguity towards Servalan has transformed into something much more uncomplicated. She is no longer the fascinating enemy he enjoys playing tactical games with. She is now a very definite candidate for elimination, recalling Avon’s cold, clinical vendetta against the people he believed responsible for the death of Anna Grant. Servalan is no longer merely an irritating, potentially dangerous thorn in his side – the disaster that was Terminal is clearly weighing on his mind. We do not know if Avon feels any guilt for the loss of Liberator, Zen and Cally, but he clearly blames Servalan for it. The “love” has gone from the love/hate relationship.

Stardrive is less about fighting the Federation than fighting for survival. Avon’s pursuit of the asteroid in the opening scenes causes consternation amongst the crew. Clearly, they feel he is being reckless, but Avon shouts them down, pointing out that they need the selsium ore from Altern Five to keep Scorpio operational. There is sense in this, of course. Avon’s decision is not irrational, but he is suddenly a more obvious and domineering leader than he has been in the past. Avon is clearly in charge, and the others do as they’re told, albeit reluctantly. Gone are the flight deck discussions of Liberator days. Avon’s word is now law – what he says goes. Again, this is indicative of change. Avon always wanted Liberator, but he didn’t want the responsibility of leadership, and he clearly despised Blake’s love of the leader role. Avon resented taking orders – but nor did he appear to enjoy giving them. In the third series the crew were roughly something of a democracy, with Avon and Tarrant occasionally vying for top position. In series four, apparently going against character, Avon has become the crew’s undisputed leader.

The true infamy of Stardrive, however, lies in its final scenes. Pursued by three Federation ships, Scorpio lumbers away from Caspar, facing destruction as soon as its pursuers come within strike range. Doctor Plaxton volunteers to install the photonic drive, and is still doing so when the Federation ships finally open fire on Scorpio. For B7 fans, what happens next is contentious, at best. At thirty seconds to impact, Avon begins to programme in the main circuit drive, meaning that the photonic drive will “fire as soon as she makes the final connection” (Dayna). At six seconds to impact, the drive “fires”, killing Doctor Plaxton and propelling Scorpio and its crew to safety.

Even if unpalatable, Avon’s decision is sound in the given time frame. He gambles that there will not be enough time between Plaxton finishing connecting the drive and the impact of the first bolt for the drive to be programmed and for Plaxton to escape. And, apparently, he is correct. Once events have played out, it transpires that there was just a six-second margin. If the drive could be programmed and activated in six seconds, then Avon’s instinct for survival condemned Plaxton to death unnecessarily. If it could not… well, he succeeded in saving himself, his ship and his crew.

The decision to condemn the scientist to death is a harsh one, but not uncharacteristic of pre-fourth series Avon. He has always been, as previously noted, a self-interested survivor first and foremost. What adds an unpleasant edge to Plaxton’s death is not Avon’s fatal decision itself, but his reaction afterwards. Clearly angry and unhappy, Dayna asks him, “What about Doctor Plaxton?” Avon’s reaction is cold. He simply says, “Who?”

It is Avon’s reaction that causes controversy. He could, without becoming uncharacteristically emotional, have said “I/we had no choice” or something similar. Instead, Doctor Plaxton is dismissed, symbolically reduced to nothing by Avon’s words, just as she was physically reduced to nothing by his decision to programme the drive in advance. Is this inappropriate black humour, reflecting the sarcastic sense of humour Avon has always been noted for, or is it something far more sinister? Avon has been dispassionate about many things, but his reaction to Plaxton’s death is colder, harsher, far more cruel. This is not the dark humour of “I don't care if their whole planet turns into a mushroom” (Mission To Destiny) but the deliberate dismissal of a non-hostile human being who has helped him. He makes a pragmatic (if ruthless) decision, then – but his subsequent reaction is far colder and more callous than the viewer is used to seeing from Avon.

Where has the quiet compassion Avon displays in, say, Deliverance or Sarcophagus gone? His reaction is uncharacteristic in the power of its heartlessness, and from a script-writing point of view is deeply unsympathetic to Avon himself. We are used to his survival instinct, to him being the anti-hero to Blake or Tarrant’s hero, but at the end of Stardrive we see him totally stripped of the hint of empathy that elevates him from stock character material to something far more interesting. Is this a calculated decision by the series’ producers to indicate that Avon is changing, evolving into something darker and more driven?

Animals is not a great platform for Avon. At the beginning of the episode he is reduced to sitting impotently on Xenon barking at Tarrant to abandon Dayna and return to the base, and once back on the ship, although we se a fragment of his old wit in the exchange about the “glycolene ballast channels”, he is kept firmly as a secondary character throughout. He agrees to the rescue of Dayna not through altruism, but because if she is captured by the Federation he fears Xenon will be compromised as a safe base. The attitude, though hardly commendable, is not atypical of what we expect from Avon, and there is no particular character development in any direction for him in Animals. If there is any significance to Animals as far as the “did Avon change in series four” debate goes, then it only lies in the theme of attempting to recruit experts (in this case Justin) to further the theme of a hands-on anti-Federation campaign.

This theme is returned to in Headhunter. The expert Avon wants to recruit this time is Muller, a cyberneticist trained by Orac’s creator Ensor. Tarrant and Vila are sent to obtain Muller while Avon stays on Xenon with Vena, Muller’s “lady”. When Muller’s death is revealed to her, Avon very quickly loses patience with her reaction and displays very little compassion towards her. Death in general, it seems, does not bother him – but losing a potentially valuable asset does. Once again, this is not particularly out of character: Avon has never been seen to openly “do” ordinary human emotion particularly well. Yet, when Tarrant and Vila are stranded on Scorpio, Avon’s exchange with Orac is telling. In a rather odd tone he says, “Oh, you'll have to do better than that, Orac, if you expect me to kill them” before ordering Orac to restore the teleport. When the computer advises against it, having already said that to do so could put the base at risk, Avon inexplicably loses his temper with the machine.

As the resident computer expert, Avon has never particularly anthropomorphised the computers. He has always been quick to point out that they are machines, not sentient beings. Avon losing control to the point of shouting is something new to the viewer, and in Headhunter the phenomenon is doubly incongruous, given that it is Orac – a computer – that is the cause and focus of his anger. The episode is paradoxical – at one moment Avon is irritated by Vena’s emotional reaction to the news of Muller’s death, the next he is so concerned for Vila and Tarrant that he is shouting at Orac. Again, we see the recklessness that cost Avon the Liberator – this time he is prepared to risk the safety of the base against Orac’s advice, just as he was prepared in Terminal to risk the safety of Liberator against Zen’s advice. Neither appears to be something the survival-orientated Avon of earlier episodes would have done.

Even more bizarrely, later, when Muller/the android starts to crush the life out of Vena, it is Avon, not Tarrant or anyone else, who disregards his own safety to be first to attempt to rush (unsuccessfully) to her aid. The crew escape from the rampaging android and split into two groups. Avon chooses to leave Vila on his own to disappear – apparently deciding in the middle of the chaos that what he really needs to do is go and change his clothes. Whether this interpretation of events is by accident or design, the end result is the same, and the viewer is left to wonder if a man who decides to go and change outfits in the middle of utter pandemonium is thinking entirely rationally.

Headhunter ends with Avon once again angry – this time with Tarrant for destroying the android – and once again taking his fury out on Orac. Whilst Avon may have had a point about the android’s destruction, he displays a worrying lack of control over his emotions that hasn’t, historically, been part of his character. The crew, and notably Blake, have infuriated Avon in the past, but his reaction to it has always been more one of supercilious disdain. Avon’s tolerance to what he perceives as stupidity seems to be dropping, just as his own recklessness seems to be increasing.

In Assassin, it may be paranoia or just experience that leads Avon to assume that Servalan has hired Cancer to kill the crew. His assumption, however, is correct. What’s strange is what he decides to do next. Scorpio goes to Domo on Orac’s advice, but it is Avon who voluntarily places himself in danger by deliberately getting himself captured by the pirates. This seems to be the sort of thing Blake or Tarrant would willingly (and heroically) do, but it doesn’t seem in character for Avon. Does it not occur to him that the pirates might take his teleport bracelet? Apparently not. Does he trust the crew to rescue him if he gets into trouble? Apparently so. Tarrant makes it quite clear to the viewer that the plan was Avon’s idea – no-one has forced him into it. If Assassin had taken place in the third series, it’s surely a near-certainty that Tarrant would have been the one deliberately captured on Domo, not Avon.

However reckless and uncharacteristic Avon’s decision, he remains honourable – when Nebrox reminds him “You promised!” he cancels his request for immediate teleport in favour of calling for back-up to enable the rescue of the old man.

Neither Avon nor Tarrant shine in Assassin. There is a brief return to the macho squabbling seen before in Sarcophagus, and it is left to Soolin to work out what’s actually happening. Once again, Avon’s temper doesn’t appear to be on a particularly tight rein, as he rounds on the (admittedly irritating) Piri.

The fourth series now over halfway through, Games sees the crew in pursuit of feldon crystals on Mecron Two. The crystals can provide unlimited energy, and are very valuable. Tarrant wants them to use, Vila wants them because they’re worth a fortune. Avon’s reasons remain ambiguous, but it transpires he has been manoeuvring behind the backs of the rest of the crew; he has been in contact with (and threatening to blackmail) a man called Gerren. In many ways, Avon is very much more like his old, larcenous and money-loving self in Games. He is not crusading directly against the Federation, and although he displays intensity, he gets through the episode without actually losing his temper. Naturally enough, although Games doesn’t end in disaster, the crew fail to gain anything at the end of it.

Sand focuses on Tarrant (and Servalan), much as Animals focused on Dayna, and once again Avon is reduced to a secondary character. He spends the episode on Scorpio, being variously affronted by Orac’s protestations of undying love and irritated with his fellow crew members. Cally’s death is referred to, though Avon’s reaction is low-key. He does, once again, lose his temper when Soolin objects to his plan to take Scorpio closer to Virn: “This is not just a rescue mission for poor gallant Tarrant!” What Avon thinks about Tarrant’s brief dalliance with Servalan is never revealed.

With the end of the series in sight, the theme of “crew as criminals” rather than rebels is continued with Gold. Keiller’s a criminal and he knows Avon of old. The crew are tempted into helping steal a cargo of gold, an activity that somehow seems to echo Avon and Vila’s activities in Gambit. There is no suggestion that the gold will be used to fund fighting the Federation. Avon and Soolin have a rare opportunity to work together, and they appear to do so well. The heist eventually goes ahead, and Avon and Vila have a rare Gambit-esque moment together as they decide on the price of their haul.

Gold is the second and final time Avon and Servalan meet in the fourth series. The exchange is reminiscent of Deathwatch (sans kiss), and although Avon makes threats, he seems to have forgotten the cold wrath he showed at the end of Traitor. They make the agreed transaction and part, Avon returning to Scorpio, Servalan leaving Keiller’s corpse in her wake.

The final scene of Gold, like the final scene of Stardrive, is the cause of much controversy and debate amongst B7 fans. Federation politics and expansion conspire against the crew of Scorpio – Servalan will unexpectedly profit from the black gold, and the money the crew has acquired is abruptly rendered utterly worthless. As Soolin bitterly points out, “We risked our lives to make Servalan rich.”

Avon’s subsequent reaction is both typical and atypical. The irony of the situation appeals to him, just as the viewer knew it would. Avon, after all, is the man who walked away smiling from watching the destruction of the Liberator. A reaction is surely expected, but when it comes, it seems out of all proportion to the situation. Avon laughs. He does not just smile, or chuckle wryly; as the worthless banknotes thrown at him by Soolin flutter around him, he laughs uncontrollably. It’s an uncomfortable moment for the viewer who knows and thinks they understand Avon. The over-reaction that closes the episode is pointed and maniacal, and very far removed from the controlled, sardonic Avon of the preceding three series.

Orbit opens with Avon in a baiting, strangely buoyant mood; he spars verbally with Tarrant and goads Vila about his refusal to volunteer to go down to Malodaar. Avon tells the others he’s sending Tarrant to the planet’s surface because he suspects a Federation trap (“Why do you think I'm sending Tarrant?”) – yet this is the same man who voluntarily teleported down to Domo himself in Assassin under similar circumstances. His unwillingness to go to Malodaar is as characteristic as his willingness to go to Domo was uncharacteristic. There seems to be no consistency in his behaviour. In Orbit, Avon’s interested in whatever Egrorian may have to offer, but he’s too wily to risk going down to Malodaar himself. His plan to stay on Scorpio in safety is ruined by Egrorian’s insistence that he (and Vila), not Tarrant, goes down to the planet.

To Avon, Egrorian says, “Natural leaders are rarely encumbered with intelligence. Greed, egotism, animal cunning, and viciousness are the important attributes. Qualities I detect in you in admirably full measure”. He goes on to offer Avon “mastery of the galaxy” via the tachyon funnel he has developed. Avon (quite rightly) fears a double-cross. Vila accuses him of thinking of Servalan, to which he responds with a vehement, “She is never far from my thoughts,” hinting that perhaps Terminal and Traitor as not as far behind him as Gold seemed to imply.

The trade of the fake Orac for the tachyon funnel goes ahead, and Avon and Vila return to Egrorian’s shuttle, intending to dock with Scorpio. However, Avon was right: Egrorian has double-crossed them, and Orbit moves into its shocking final phase. The booby-trapped shuttle cannot reach the velocity required to escape Malodaar’s orbit, and time starts to tick away as Avon and Vila try everything possible to remedy their worsening situation. They decide to jettison whatever they can to lighten the shuttle’s load, but after discarding just about everything possible, Orac informs them they still need to shed another seventy kilos to achieve escape velocity.

With time running out, it is Orac who tells Avon that Vila weighs seventy-three kilos. Avon is returned to the same dilemma he faced at the end of Stardrive: take the only option available to save himself and kill someone else – or die. But Vila is not Doctor Plaxton, he is not the expendable “expert of the week”. Vila has been Avon’s companion since Spacefall at the beginning of B7’s first season. In Dawn of the Gods, Avon was willing to save himself and let the others die, but in a passive sense. In Stardrive, and in Orbit, Avon’s role is active. He deliberately condemns someone else to death to save himself, rather than allowing them to die while he was saving himself. In Orbit, Avon not only decides to save himself at Vila’s expense, but he quite deliberately arms himself and hunts the other man through the shuttle.

Is Avon’s choice uncharacteristic? Probably not. It is an unsympathetic choice, but it doesn’t exceed the bounds of “Avon as survivor”. Were there other possibilities Avon could explore before taking the decision to hunt Vila down? The viewer isn’t given that information. Orbit, perhaps more than any other episode, underscores how unique Avon is in the B7 pantheon. Would Blake have decided to jettison Vila? No. Would Tarrant? No. It is only Avon who would make that decision and abide by it – it does not occur to him to adopt Tarrant’s mantra from Dawn… “We all go together!”

Egrorian’s “speck of neutron material” is discovered and jettisoned and Vila is saved. But the damage is done – Vila now knows for certain that Avon is quite capable of killing him. The viewer has known since at least Dawn… that Avon is capable of attempting to save himself first, and since Stardrive that he will allow someone else to die to save himself, but finally, as B7 nears its conclusion, the true extent of his ruthlessness is revealed. Has he always been so ruthless in the pursuit of his own safety? If he has, then his reckless disregard for his own safety in episodes such as Terminal and Assassin, for example, makes even less sense.

The fourth series’ penultimate episode, Warlord, sees an abrupt return to the rebel struggle against the Federation. Avon is attempting to forge a rebel alliance. A summit is being held on Xenon. Suddenly, the viewer is back to Traitor, and Avon’s Blake-esque desire to directly oppose the Federation. Like everything else in series four, the attempt is doomed. Avon’s alliance is betrayed, and Tarrant’s infatuation with Zeeona ends in tragedy.

Warlord is significant to the debate about changes to Avon’s character not because of his behaviour during the episode (he is not particularly reckless, angry or callous at any point) but because of the episode’s central theme. Setting up a rebel alliance is Blake’s territory, not Avon’s. Avon is a criminal: he is neither a diplomat nor a heroic rebel leader – Boorva accurately describes him as an outlaw.

Where does the idea for an organised rebel alliance spring from? There has been no discussion of such a thing in previous episodes. There may have been an intention to oppose the Federation in some way (for instance, by using Muller’s talents, or Egrorian’s tachyon funnel) but Warlord comes from nowhere, and it is hard to accurately identify Avon’s motivation: does he merely wish to be safe, does he wish to emulate Blake, does he wish to revenge himself on Servalan by destroying the Federation? Nothing is clear. There is simply an alliance out of nowhere, and sudden talk of an antitoxin for Pylene-50, which hasn’t been mentioned since Traitor.

Perhaps Warlord makes more sense in hindsight, for it is directly followed by Blake, the final episode, which opens with the intentional destruction by Avon et al of the Xenon base complex. The base is no longer considered safe due to Zukan’s betrayal in Warlord. Despite everything, Avon is still determined to form a rebel alliance, and he’s looking for a figurehead to replace Zukan – but he has someone in mind, someone who is “…strongly identified with rebels, you see, and very popular with rabbles.” He continues, “They will follow him, and he will fight to the last drop of their blood.”

Echoing Terminal, Blake sees Avon looking for the eponymous hero. Tarrant sounds a note of caution, “The last time you went after Blake, it was a trap”, but Avon is not to be dissuaded. Unaware of the tragedy that awaits them, the crew head for Gauda Prime, which wishes to drop its “open planet” status and return to Federation rule. Avon states that he knew Blake was alive and well before he first contacted Zukan, and that he would have left Blake to his fate if “things had gone according to plan”.

Significantly, Avon says of Gauda Prime: “It is the day of the bounty hunter. Thieves, killers, mercenaries, psychopaths, are as unwelcome now as the farmers once were.” The focus moves relentlessly from Vila (thieves), to Dayna then Soolin (killers), on to Tarrant (mercenaries) and then on to Avon himself (psychopaths). It’s a visual trick, a cue to the viewer, reminding them of the background and status of each the crew. All the descriptions are accurate: Vila is a thief, Tarrant is a mercenary, and so on, and yet, over the years a theory has grown up that Avon’s line actually disproves that he is (or may fear himself to be) a psychopath. The theory is open to challenge, just as the line itself is open to individual interpretation.

Scorpio is attacked as it approaches Gauda Prime, and is forced to head for a crash landing. Avon teleports Vila, Soolin and Dayna to the surface while Tarrant wrestles to control the ship. Strangely, Avon – who was ready to kill Vila to save himself in Orbit – is oddly reluctant to abandon Tarrant to his fate. Eventually, when he can see no other option, and with Tarrant’s heroic “There's no point in both of us dying!” ringing in his ears, Avon (carrying Orac) teleports off the doomed ship.

It’s a fatal mistake. Tarrant survives the crash (thus proving that Avon could have done, too), but is now separated from his companions and is picked up by Blake. On his own, with no prior-association with Blake to aid his judgement, Tarrant unwittingly puts into train the final, deadly events of the episode. Bolting away from Blake, he rejoins his companions, and the stage is set for the finale.

Klyn (played by Paul Darrow’s wife, Janet Lees Price) tries to raise the alarm, and Avon shoots her out of hand. Blake arrives, and Avon is told by Tarrant, “He sold us, Avon. All of us. Even you.”

Avon appears disorientated, not knowing whether to believe Tarrant or trust in Blake, but it isn’t until Blake fails to explain, and compounds this mistake by ignoring the command to stand still that Avon fires on him.

Blake is killed, rapidly followed by Dayna, Vila, Soolin and Tarrant. Avon, still armed, is left standing in the centre of the carnage, rapidly surrounded by Federation troopers. He raises his gun and smiles – as he did after Liberator’s destruction.

Blake’s death: a tragic misunderstanding, or the vengeful act of a madman?

So, having reviewed the episodes in question, has the character of Avon developed in a new direction during the fourth series, or is he exactly the same Avon of the preceding three?

Arguably, he’s not. His behaviour is inconsistent throughout the final series – at times he is uncharacteristically reckless (Terminal, Headhunter, Assassin) while returning to type in other episodes (for example, trying to send Tarrant to Malodaar instead of risking his own safety in Orbit). He appears to have lost some of the cool control he was famous for; indeed, his anger is often so extreme he resorts to shouting (Headhunter, Assassin, Sand) instead of simply becoming more controlled and more sarcastic as he had in the past. At the same time, another transformation takes place: in series four, Avon is suddenly a very clear and very autocratic leader, giving direct orders and expecting them to be obeyed. He is also unusually lacking in empathy, even for Avon, in episodes such as Stardrive and Orbit.

The Avon of earlier series was an intelligent, sardonic, rational man with a penchant for acquiring wealth, and a healthy respect for his own skin. He was not a rebel sympathiser, but a reluctant and inadvertent follower dragged protesting in Blake’s wake. He was a man of wit and irony, a controlled man who was capable of great emotion, but who wasn’t ruled by emotion. He did not scheme to overthrow the Federation (Traitor, Warlord, Blake), but opposed it only when necessary to his own safety and survival. With the exception of Rumours…, he did not demonstrate any hint of reckless obsession (Terminal, Headhunter). He did not threaten his crew (Terminal), nor did he rush recklessly into danger (Terminal, Headhunter, Assassin). He did not lose his temper (Headhunter, Assassin, Sand).

Did Avon change in series four? Reviewing all the evidence, the answer – surely – has to be yes.

Why did Avon change in series four? That remains open to debate.
· Posted by Travisina on 15 January 2014 9900 Reads ·