This review ended up taking a long time to finish, partly because I had a fair amount to say and partly because I got really busy this week. Nonetheless! I recently purchased the ebook of Liberation, by Fiona Moore and Alan Stevens. The bottom line is I thought they had some interesting specific observations, but I was unconvinced by some of their more overarching claims about the series.
GAN: CREEPY MURDERER Y/N
I am not invested in Gan one way or the other, so I was somewhat open to the idea that a close reading would reveal he was in fact a "sex killer." However, I was not really impressed by M&S's argument. I think they draw very strong conclusions from very little evidence (granted, so does a lot of Blake's 7 analysis, but this was especially notable). I also think they set themselves too hard a task: rather than suggesting that the evidence shows Gan may in fact be dangerous without the limiter, they commit themselves to arguing that Gan is a murderer, that his violence has a specifically sexual component, AND that this subtext was consciously intended by Terry Nation.
Their main evidence, drawing on Gan’s behavior in certain episodes, is:
1) Gan’s behavior in “Time Squad.” M&S assume that when Gan says the limiter prevents him from killing means that he can’t kill in certain circumstances, given that he says he can’t kill in “Time Squad” but seems to have killed people earlier in “Cygnus Alpha.” Thus, they assume that the limiter is only meant to prevent Gan from killing while sexually aroused, as it only activates when he is around Jenna. And assume that Gan went into the capsule “as bait in a trap for Jenna; when she comes looking for him, the guardians will attack her, and he will get a vicarious thrill.” They also argue that Gan’s limiter acts up near the end because he (Gan) is aroused by watching the guardian menace Jenna. Now, they note at the beginning of the review for “Time Squad” that the episode is badly directed, so I personally wouldn’t put a lot of stock in arguments based on Gan’s fight scenes/blocking/whatever. (Actually, a reinterpretation of Blake’s 7 based solely on what people actually do in fight scenes might be hilarious.)
2) In “The Web,” Gan does not physically grab Cally until Jenna notes that she isn’t Cally. Likewise, in “Project Avalon” Gan only attacks Avalon when Jenna notes that Avalon has been brainwashed. Thus, they suggest, he can only attack women who he knows are being mind-controlled by larger forces. I’m not sure why this should be the conclusion, rather than that simply he had no reason to attack them until he knew for sure that they were not themselves.
3) In “Seek-Locate-Destroy,” Gan leaves Cally alone with the hostages, and doesn’t say anything about her when everyone realizes she’s gone. I don’t see how this suggests he is a sex killer: if he is aroused by violence against women, why would he endanger her in a situation where he can’t watch, given that they previously argued that he deliberately endangered Jenna so he could watch? Additionally, they argue in “Cygnus Alpha” that he was able to kill the guard after seeing Kara killed – but why wasn’t he aroused watching Kara die, then? Especially considering he was (textually) sexually interested in Kara? They seem to assume he wasn’t aroused because he could kill, which is circular. I just don’t see anything in the episode to indicate Gan is being malicious, or that he’s happy about what happened to Cally. (Avon and Jenna are the ones who are callous about Cally being left behind!)
4) In “Duel,” Gan thinks his limiter isn’t working right when he sees Sinofar and Giroc disappear. They cite this as a continuing pattern of linking Gan’s limiter with his interactions with women. Now, for once it’s plausible that Gan is indeed sexually intrigued by Sinofar, but it seems the more straightforward conclusion is Gan sees something that should be impossible, and assumes the limiter must be messing with his mind.
5) In “Breakdown,” they claim that the way Gan behaves in this episode reveals his true nature. However, they provide little support for this contention. They say Gan’s “true personality” can be seen in the scenes “where the limiter cuts out completely.” I just rewatched the episode today and looked at the transcript, and I can’t find anything indicating that the limiter just straight-up stops working. Maybe I missed something, but I don’t think I did. Instead, we see a lot of indications that the limiter is malfunctioning somehow, which could cause Gan to become violent even though that is not part of his genuine nature. M&S also miscite Kayn’s dialogue—they say that Kayn “assumes Gan to be a psychopath without knowing anything about him” except the limiter, suggesting that the Federation only uses limiters in “the most dangerous cases.” But the whole point of that scene is that Kayn supports the Federation, so 1) he assumes their punishments are just and 2) all of Blake’s crew are dangerous criminals.
They claim that the writers gave up on the Gan subtext after season 1. Perhaps the fact that there don’t appear to be any hints of this storyline in season 2 ought to suggest it’s not a good interpretation, given that we have no in-text reason to think that anything about Gan’s limiter changed between the two series? One of the major problems with M&S’s claim is they seem very confident that Nation intended for Gan to be a sex killer but the issue was dropped, without any apparent real-world confirmation that this was so and based on overinterpreted/badly interpreted textual evidence. The authors say that “Boucher and Maloney, although they do not dispute that the Gan subtext is present in the first season, maintain that it was never actively articulated to them as such,” which honestly to me sounds like B. and M. tried to tell them no. My other major problem with their argument that this subtext was intentional is that I find it very hard to believe that Nation (or Boucher-editing-Nation or whatever writerly construct) was able to consistently, deliberately, and subtly drop hints about Gan’s condition when he/they could barely be bothered to remember that Cally was telepathic.
(The kind of limiter they suggest would also be baffflingly specific. I don’t know why the Federation wouldn’t want to prevent him from killing in general, rather than just while aroused. But the Federation is actually pretty into overly-complicated mind control techniques, so I guess that’s exactly what they would do.)
Their argument that Travis is sadistic is more obvious and by implication shows the weakness of the Gan-is-a-sex-killer case. Because their argument for Travis is just that he enjoys watching people in pain, which is true. They also carefully note Avon's tendency to hit women after making out with them, which would seem to be to indicate a more straightforward problem with women and violence.
My main problem with their Gan argument was not even its implications for Gan's character, but that it seems to be the main reason that they bizarrely claim "Pressure Point" is a poor episode on par with "Horizon" or "Hostage." They seem to be upset that the storyline fails to resolve the storyline with Gan that probably did not actually exist. They also seem to assume that Nation comparing Gan to Lenny from Of Mice and Men indicates that Gan's storyline was meant to resolve in the same way, which is imo not a legitimate conclusion.
(Also, I laughed at their criticism that “it is usual … for a main character’s swansong episode to focus heavily on that character.” That is not the Blake’s 7 way!)
The most infuriating bit is when they say the episode is not without “redeeming features,” like the good characterization of the regulars, the guests, and the villains, and the way it advances Blake’s character arc. Oh, you mean the overarching plot for the central character which directly dealt with the main themes of the program went off well? Hmmmm.
(Their other main criticism is the plot holes, which yes, but every B7 episode's got plot holes so I don't count that. They, rightly, gave "Star One" a good review even though the plot holes surrounding Control are even more glaring in that episode.)
Actually there were a lot I liked. I thought their analysis of the way the Federation works and how the stand-alone plots tie into the greater themes of the series was quite interesting. They also do a fair job pointing out/untangling the many plot holes. I liked their claim in "Duel" that Sinofar is the maiden and Giroc is the crone, but the mother is missing, indicating that their people are unable to reproduce themselves. I also liked their claim that in "Cygnus Alpha," the drugs are actually mints, which is as they note appropriate since the drugs are part of the charade anyway. There were a lot of little things like that that I enjoyed about the book. Also the line that Meegat "is waiting for a man to come along and fire off a rocket full of genetic material." This section is a lot shorter than the other one because I am an inherently negative person and also just had less to say.
PRODUCTION DETAILS I WAS AMUSED/INFURIATED BY
I haven't read Blake's 7: The Inside Story, so I don't know if any of this is already explicated in that book. It was all new to me, though!
In an early script of "Time Squad" Blake says "the ship is a democracy: they talk it over, argue about it, and then do it his way." Which is true, more or less, but I don't think Blake would ever actually say that, and I don't think he even consciously thinks of his leadership that way.
Apparently a possible Robert Holmes script for season three, “Sweetly Dreaming … Slowly Dying,” fell through, and got replaced with “Moloch.” What the fuck?!?
Boucher wrote a “General Notes and Baffle Gab Glossary” as a guide to the writers, which I would dearly like to see.
I think everyone knows that “Animals” was originally written for Cally, but I hadn’t heard before that it got quite this bad: “in the revised first draft, Dayna’s name (spelled ‘Deyna’) has been crossed out and Soolin’s written over the top, and Cally’s struck out and Dayna’s name (again misspelled) written in.”
And lastly, a cut conversation from "Traitor." I think this dialogue is sort of awkward but I think it's interesting that Avon says straight-up he thinks Blake is dead.
Avon: Vila is not at his best hanging around. He’s an action man.
Vila: I’ll tell you what kind of man I am, Avon—I’m a running man, the way you used to be before you caught terminal Blakitis.
Soolin: I suppose it isn’t possible that you and Blake do have something in common after all?
Avon: No, it isn’t. We’re different in every possible way.
Soolin: For instance
Avon: For instance I survived, he didn’t.
So anyway! Those were my many thoughts. I am basically glad I bought this book, but then the ebook was only $6.