Monday, 6 January 2014

D5 Animals

EPISODE: D5 Animals
BROADCAST: 26/10/1981
WRITTEN BY: Allan Prior
DIRECTOR: Mary Ridge
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"Why do I get all the dirty jobs?"

Tarrant has used Scorpio to deliver Dayna to Bucol 2 so she can visit one of her old tutors Justin to recruit him to their cause. Scorpio is driven away by Federation pursuit ships and damaged needing to return to Xenon base for repairs. Dayna is ambushed by a number of furry horned beasts but saved by Justin who brings her into his base. He instructs the beast's leader Og to return to his quarters for food and rest. He has been training the animals to work for him using brain implants and genetic restructuring. Dayna is appalled and wonders why he is doing what he is. She tries to communicate with Scorpio but gets no response. Dayna tells Justin they want him to help synthesise the drug they need to resist Pylene 50 but he refuses unless she agrees to stay with him. Servalan's staff give her the report of Scorpio's escape at Time Distort 12 and she sets course for Bucol 2 where it was sighted. Justin tells Dayna he was the head of Federation Research team there. He stayed to finish the work, to create a species that could enter an area of heavy radioactivity of shock troops. He justifies his work in that he's creating a creature that could help recovery work in radioactive zones. On Xenon work is nearing completion on Scorpio. Servalan, in her guise as Commissioner Sleer, orders Federation intelligence member Bor to track down someone who knows what is going on on Bucol 2. He tracks down the blind Ardus and has him sent to Servalan. He refuses to tells her what he knows, but she threatens her family. Ardus recognises her voice as Servalan and divulges what he knows about the genetic work on Bucol 2 before she has him killed and lands on the planet. Dayna goes outside to try to persuade Og to come in for his final adaptations, but he attacks her knocking her over a ledge where she is found by Federation troopers. A repaired Scorpio sets out for Bucol 2 to rescue Dayna. Justin finds Dayna's gun and realises she is missing as Servalan interrogates her. Servalan forces Dayna to go to Justin with a message guaranteeing his safety and work if she can use the animals as she sees fit. When she refuses Servalan starts to brainwash her to hate Justin. Justin returns to his base and in a drunken rage smashes some of his equipment. Dayna is commanded to enter the lab and then admit Servalan. Servalan captures Justin and promises to restore Dayna is he obeys her and gives Servalan his work and the animals. She sends her troops to capture Og as Avon, Soolin and Tarrant teleport down to Bercol 2 and follow the sounds of Og's screams. They find Justin's deserted and wrecked lab and Dayna's abandoned gun. Justin refuses to co-operate until Dayna is restored. While she is worked on Avon tried to contact Dayna but Justin communicates their location to him. Once Dayna is restored Justin starts to co-operate but Avon attacks. Justin is killed helping Dayna escape and Og is shot by Federation guards.

Oh Dear, Allan Prior alert! You'll recall I've not been enamoured with some of his previous episodes (Horizon, Hostage, The Keeper & Volcano) I can't remember being unduly distressed by them but even so....

The background to the episode is a simple one: Avon wants the assistance of a Geneticist to help them replicate a drug. He's been stuck on a backwater planet continuing to carry out some very dodgy experiments started by the Federation war effort which he, now a pacifist, is convinced can be used for peaceful purposes. Servalan finds out about this and decides otherwise.

Actually there's some more good stuff in there: the reason Avon wants him is to help replicate the formula for resisting Pylene 50. Nice link back to the third episode of the series there. Avon's got a distinct plan to: get experts that might help them. Shame he didn't think of that before he electrocuted Doctor Plaxton.


Against that we have a decidedly dodgy relationship between Justin and Dayna. Apparently he was brought in by her Father to tutor Dayna. Ok.... let's ignore how isolated the Mellanbys were and how Hal managed to obtain tutors and get them to and from Saren! But in terms of a teacher/pupil relationship we're into abusing a position of trust/authority already! But he's been on Bucol 2 since 6 years before the fall of the Federation at Star One. That was the point we met Dayna. If we assume she's the same age as the actress who plays her then she was 20 then so you role 6 years back off that and .... oh dear. I'm wondering if they'd really thought this one through properly! Justin now being a licentious drunk doesn't help my view of him at all. She's obviously got reservations about him early on in the episode so her all out over the top grief at Justin's Death is, I'd like to think, Servalan reversing her "I hate Justin" conditioning just a bit too much.

Remember me pointing out how Doctor Plaxton had an extra playing her on location so they didn't have to spring for the cost of paying the named actress to appear other than in the studio. The same is true here except that this time they've constructed little bits of woodland in the studio. It's blindingly obvious twice: Dayna goes over the ledge on location in woodlands near Horley then Justin finds her gun in the studio and again as Dayna throws herself towards the ground on location then falls on his body in the studio.

Soolin watch: no she hardly does anything this week again! Instead Dayna gets teleported down to the planet and a major role for the third week in a row. Soolin shows up right at the end but given the issues with Dayna's age above I wonder if this might have worked better with Soolin instead of Dayna and given her character some more depth & background?

IMDB credits Peter Byrne, chief guest star as Justin, as appearing in 424 episodes of Dixon of Dock Green as Andy Crawford who rose through the ranks from Pc through to DI! He also had a regular role as Derek in several series of Bread.


By far the most recognisable member of the rest of the cast is the great Kevin Stoney briefly playing Ardus. It's a waste he's gone so quickly! He appeared in different roles in three Doctor Who stories: Mavic Chen in the Dalek Masterplan, Tobias Vaughan in The Invasion and Tyrum in Revenge of the Cybermen as well as appearing as Councillor Joban in Blake's 7 episode B8 Hostage. There's two more Doctor Who appearances in the credited cast: Servalan's starship captain is played by William Lindsay who was Zargo in State of Decay while Max Harvey, who appears here as Borr, would later take the part of Cardinal Zorac in Arc of Infinity.


Oooooh, there's some fun to be had with the actors playing the more minor characters too! Jill Goldston, a Mutoid (those women with Servalan are Mutoids?) was in Doctor Who The Masque of Mandragora as a Masquer and State of Decay (again) as a Peasant , both uncredited. One of the Animals, Nick Joseph, will be back in the next episode of Blake's 7 but would end up with three Doctor Whos to his name: The Leisure Hive as Hardin's Aide, Terminus (directed by Mary Ridge) as a Lazar and Mark of the Rani as a Luddite. Ralph Morse has a CV that makes me think why haven't I heard of you before! One of the skiers in the Spy Who Loved Me, the crook in the series 4 Sweeney Title sequence, an astronaut in Moonraker, Stormtrooper/Imperial Comms Officer/Rebel Soldier in Empire Strikes Back, an Aborian in Flash Gordon, a soldier in Superman II, a Foster in Doctor who: Keeper of Traken and a Stormtrooper in Return of the Jedi. That's just confining myself to the things I own on his CV!.

Those naughty boys who wrote Maximum Power deliberately left Animals out of their episode guide. I was starting to think they'd booby trapped my DVD copy of this episode: Disc 2 of series 4 had a glue like smear on the back of it when I got it out the case. You know the sort of thing, like what holds freebies to the front of magazines? I cleaned it off and it played OK for Stardrive but kept stalling during Animals!

Animals was repeated on 02/07/1983. Animals was released on video on 7th July 1992 as part of Blake's 7 tape 22 where it was paired with the previous episode Stardrive and alongside Tape 21 Power & Traitor. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.

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