B7 Classic: Relationships by M.G. HARRIS

Relationships by M.G. HARRIS

One aspect of B7 which occurred to me upon reviewing the episodes in my late twenties (as opposed to early teens), is the amazing lack of romance and sexual intrigue on board the Liberator and Scorpio. After all, we are asked to believe that six youngish, fairly attractive and interesting individuals are thrown together, share life threatening adventures, danger and triumph and never seduce each other. In real life this wouldn't happen.

There would be messy, complicated affairs, people would probably leave because of them and the dynamics of the crew would probably be incompatible with the long running drama of the series. The target audience (the so-called 'kidults') of the series is a major consideration here and this almost certainly determines the decision not to allow any of the crew members to become involved with each other.

Nevertheless, there are tensions and subtextual suggestions of romance which are certainly enough to keep older viewers interested. Likewise, we can also argue that there are a number of sound dramatic reasons why most potential relationships between the 'regulars' never get off the ground.

The girl- and boy-next-door...
Of all the potential romances on board the Liberator, it might be argued that the most predictable and potentially sustainable is hardly even addressed. This is that between Tarrant and Dayna, B7's most readily likeable and least complex characters.

After all, it is presumably upon meeting the tall and dashing Tarrant in Powerplay that Dayna's initial attraction to Avon vanishes overnight, with no sign of her following up on the 'curiosity' of which she spoke on her home planet. Tarrant and Dayna obviously have an affinity for each other and appear comfortable in each other’s company, to the extent witnessed in Ultraworld where they are able to playfully pretend to be in the early stages of sex with no obvious embarrassment at the time or later.

The prospect of mutual involvement would not appear to have raised any serious dramatic difficulties for the characters of Tarrant and Dayna. Moreover, a crew which included them as a couple would not have been destabilised significantly in the way that might have been the case if, say, Avon had become involved with a crew member.

Why then did they not become involved? Although in many ways Tarrant and Dayna seem natural lovers, they lack the on-screen chemistry apparent between some other potential couples.

Our glorious leader...
Tarrant and Dayna would seem right for each other, not least because they find each other as equals on board the Liberator. There is a clear if unspoken ranking of all the crew and neither Dayna nor Tarrant ever truly outranks the other, whatever Tarrant may think.

The relationship between Jenna and Blake lacks this fundamental equality and Jenna's clear affection for Blake may be interpreted as incorporating a kind of hero worship. Blake himself never seems to be aware of what we all take to be Jenna's obvious feelings for him, to the point that he appears not to notice her pique at his kissing of his cousin in Hostage. The character of Blake undoubtedly suffers from the 'man in the white hat' syndrome which in his case is more sharply characterised as a 'hero of the revolution' syndrome... such men being rarely noted as great lovers, being generally pursued more than they pursue. Alternatively in such cases, a consort materialises who satisfies an important part of the revolutionary myth and thereby couples such as the odious Nicolai and Elena Ceaucescu or Mao Zedong and Jian Qin are created. Jenna could never have been this, because her revolutionary credentials would have been too tainted by her greedy criminal past. If Blake had been a more ruthless seeker of power, he could have found a way to fabricate a more politically correct past for Jenna, but in fact he probably couldn't have cared less since there is hardly even a hint that he is interested in her or any other woman.

Avon the Sex God
There can be little doubt that it is Avon's sexual magnetism which makes him the focus of much of the serious romantic attention in the series. However, for all the attention he receives from females, he himself would appear to have little time for them, which in itself is rather intriguing.

There appear to be three stages of Avon as far as romance goes.
The first stage, his youth and the years involving Anna, we can only guess at. There are, however, clues which suggest that during this stage he was 'normal' to the extent that he did allow himself to become involved with Anna. It is interesting that when Anna meets Avon again in Rumours of Death, the idea that there may already be another woman in his life does not seem strange to her although it seems impossible to us. This suggests that the Avon that Anna knew was not the totally cold, almost asexual creature that he is in the first two series.

The second stage of Avon is the phase in which he is mourning his lost (but presumed faithful) lover. In this stage, a relationship involving Avon is quite unheard of and during this time he is consistent in his total lack of response to any woman, except for the occasional Spock-like raising of the eyebrow. There can be little doubt that Avon truly believed himself to be in love with Anna, as witnessed by his comment to her brother Del in Countdown that he would have given his own life to save hers. Whether Anna loved him is more difficult to ascertain. Initially, she almost certainly did not.

This leads to the intriguing notion that Avon only loved her because she broke down his reserve by first seducing, then professing to fall in love with him, all under the instructions of her Federation paymasters. His own feelings, however profound, would then fall under suspicion when it is later revealed that Anna's own were probably counterfeit. Perhaps he would never have loved anyone if Anna hadn't been foisted upon him.

Whatever happened with Anna obviously affected Avon deeply, but any effect can probably be said to be negligible in comparison with what takes place after the revelations of Rumours of Death. Anna's 'real' rather than imagined death ushers in the third stage of Avon, during which his attitude towards women alters quite disturbingly. Up to this point Avon has appeared not to notice or care about his potential attractiveness and has treated any women who do appear to be genuinely taken with him, such as the (presumably!) virginal Meegat and similarly, Dayna, with restraint, humour and kindness.

After Rumours, Avon would appear to become thoroughly manipulative of his sexual charisma. Women such as Pella and Servalan are treated to this side of him, which we must assume has lain dormant since his affair with Anna, or else represents a new development in his character. In the second and third of these stages, then, it might be argued that Avon is in no state to become romantically involved with any of the supposed candidates. True, his fragile emotional state might make for a highly charged and tense love affair but the huge character change that would be required for Avon to sustain any such relationship would have to be dramatically unlikely at best.

Alien love?
There are at least three textual references to a potential liaison between Cally and Avon; firstly in Voice From the Past when the mesmerised Blake convinces Vila that his two crewmates are mutually involved (and Vila doesn't actually take too much convincing); secondly in Children of Auron when Cally sarcastically asks if they thought that she had remained aboard the Liberator for the sake of "affection for him", with a pointed glance at a thoroughly nonplussed Avon; and thirdly during Sarcophagus which actually assumes the existence of a 'deeper' (if unconsummated) friendship between Avon and Cally.

All other references are purely subtextual, played out in the looks exchanged between the two, the casual and flirtatious reproaches which Cally sometimes casts in Avon's direction and in the tacit assumption on the part of the crew upon occasions, such as Tarrant's in Harvest of Kairos and Servalan's in Powerplay that Something Might Be Going On. What is interesting is that in nearly all cases it is actually Cally who is guilty of expressing interest (either through irony or in the way her gaze often flickers from his eyes to his lips when they are alone) and not Avon at all, whom one would be hard pressed to discover in the act of demonstrating anything but a slight fondness for Cally and that only on rare occasions.

So, if all the interest stems from Cally and not Avon it isn't difficult to see why the relationship never goes further than a platonic friendship. From her point of view he may be attractive, but also morally reprehensible, emotionally crippled and incapable of expressing even a fraction of the quality of emotional exchange which Cally would expect of a lover. Added to which his own lack of enthusiasm would almost certainly be enough for Cally to keep any burgeoning passion in check. There is, in my opinion, only one point at which it might be even remotely dramatically plausible for Avon and Cally to initiate a physical relationship - at the end of Sarcophagus. They miss that opportunity, for whatever reason, and their relationship from that stage is tepid at best. This is almost a shame, since the idea that Avon and Cally might find mutual solace in each other through love is an appealing one, even if highly unlikely.

Woman needs man...
Between Avon and Servalan there is unquestionable mutual attraction and fascination. This is first expressed in Aftermath, where Servalan appears to discover the lurking charms of her chief enemy's right hand man. Why had she not noticed before?

My guess would be that the leather-bound Travis was possibly at some stage more to Servalan than a mere lackey and that even though she may have regarded any relationship with Travis as purely recreational or even part of her manipulation of him, he may have effectively drawn the fire that she later directs towards Avon, Jarvik and eventually Tarrant. As she gets to know Avon better, what began as a merely convenient and temporary seduction develops into something more complicated.

Although they spend very little time in each other's company and are never again as relaxed as they are during that brief interlude in the Mellanby residence, something does appear to evolve between them during subsequent encounters. It is in Deathwatch that we realise the extent to which Avon and Servalan have come to acknowledge the existence of some 'special' relationship, which allows Avon to visit her secretly and privately, without any apparent fear on behalf of either for their lives, even though Avon is armed. Avon even goes to the point of reminding her of the brutal reality of their relationship, when he tells her how she ought to be reacting to him as her enemy. Is this because he is alarmed at the totally inappropriate complacency with which she treats him, implying a suggestion of intrigue? If he does feel anything for her it is sure to be confused with feelings of guilt (betrayal of Anna, Blake and himself), hate (for Servalan's part in Anna's deception) and fear (that he might be placing himself in mortal danger by allowing himself to become too fascinated). If Avon were a more moral person he might even feel repelled by her moral degeneracy but in fact I doubt whether, in Avon's case, this is a consideration.

Their embrace as they part in Deathwatch suggests that at the very least they share feelings of desire and lust. For Avon, I suggest that this is in fact the limit of any interest he has for Servalan.

For Servalan, there may be more.
After all, the only thing she really has against Avon is that he is, for the time being, a political enemy. She does not have any of the personal grudges against him as he might against her. Moreover, there would appear to be a sad dearth of men in the Empire who can stand up to Servalan and dominate her, which she apparently finds exciting. This is witnessed by her approval of Jarvik's treatment of her in Harvest of Kairos, her tacit approval of Avon's manner in Aftermath and the fact that her first lover, Don Keller, was almost certainly her senior by many years.

Avon might well have been the most interesting and eligible male to cross her path for years, who she might then legitimately regard as a potential mate worthy of her status. Whether or not a woman such as Servalan could ever bring herself to share power is another question. Her true intentions towards Avon will depend then on to what extent she understands herself. If she is able to admit to herself that she has become a cold-hearted and ruthless tyrant unable to trust or share anything, then she will realise that there can be no possible future for herself with Avon or any man.

If, on the other hand, as people usually are, she is more forgiving of herself and believes that under the right circumstances she could rule with a beloved and trusted mate at her side, then she will probably entertain fantasies in which Avon, with a few 'minor' concessions, becomes that man.

Added May 2014:
When I originally wrote this article, I concluded by saying that by refraining from making the series delve into a bunch of sexual relationships, Blake’s 7 avoided becoming something like ST-TNG in its Little House On The Holodeck era. But since then we’ve seen action-thriller sci-fi series that manage to incorporate authentic adult relationships without becoming soapish – in fact arguably using these relationships to reinforce the drama. New Battlestar Galactica springs to mind.

Now that I’m a professional writer I know firsthand that series readers tend to come for the story and stay for the characters. Characters were always the strength of Blake’s 7. I’m therefore revising my opinion. Perhaps after all, this was a missed opportunity!

Writer MG Harris is the author of the internationally best-selling young adult thrillers,The Joshua Files. She is currently working with Jamie Anderson on Gemini Force One, Gerry Anderson's final project. She wrote the story Cold Revolution for Big Finish's Blake's 7 Anthology.

MG Harris has been a B7 fan since the age of 12, when she joined Horizon and sent in submissions to the club newsletters and zines. This article won her an honourable mention in the club's Relationships Competition in Newsletter #32.

· Posted by Travisina on 02 June 2014 5217 Reads ·