Broadcast: Tuesday 9th January, 1979: 7.20pm-8.100pm, BBC 1
Writer: Terry Nation
Director: Vere Lorrimer
"This is the Twelfth Sector. Astral point seven eight one. Exactly where Orac predicted we would be destroyed." Avon
Planning for Season 2 of Blake’s 7 commenced in the spring of 1978. The first season had been written entirely by creator Terry Nation but for Season 2 script editor Chris Boucher elected to bring new writers into the series. He was also keen to write his own episodes. Nation was contracted to write the first episode of the new series but he was relieved to have a lighter workload for the second series. “I knew the show was going to enlarge. I think I had agreed to write the next one, the beginning as it were, but I wanted the weight off me a little.” Ultimately he would provide three scripts for the second season. The script had to resolve the cliff-hanger which concluded Series 1 and Nation also wanted to resolve the mystery of the Liberator’s origins. Some thought was given to having Orac’s prophecy fulfilled by having the Liberator destroyed but this idea was quickly abandoned.
Production of Series 2 differed from the first series in that a month of pre-filming was done on the first 6 episodes followed by studio recording with ten days being spent on each episode followed by more filming for the next six episodes with episode 13 being handled last. Episodes would be paired up and handled by a single director. Redemption and Killer were the first two episodes to go before the cameras and were directed by Vere Lorrimer who was the only director to return from the first series.
The key location for this episode was Oldbury-on-Severn Nuclear Power Station which had previously been used in Time Squad. This was not a popular venue with the cast and crew particularly Jan Chappell. David Maloney recalls, “We actually worked on top of the core in the power station. Jan was very early to be alerted to be alerted to the problems of radioactivity, and said she didn’t want to do it again, that we shouldn’t film there, and I looked into it and thought, no we shouldn’t. The power station people were delighted to have us film there, because it showed everyone how safe nuclear power was, but in retrospect it could have been dangerous.” In fact Chappell had it written into her final contract that she wouldn’t be required to film in any more nuclear power stations. Paul Darrow related how the cast’s concerns were heightened when a number of explosive charges were set off during the chase scenes near the climax of the episode. “I remember Michael Keating telling me that he was walking across with one of the technicians, as Vere had set off an explosion. The man went white and turned to Michael and said, ‘I hope that was your lot, because if it wasn’t, we’re in a lot of trouble!’ That was Vere who loved setting off explosions.” Darrow was knocked off his feet by one of such explosion which can be seen in the episode as transmitted. David Jackson was also aggrieved when he was left behind on the location with the caterers. Jackson had been the only member of the cast willing to eat the food served in the power station. There were a number of stunts required during filming and these were arranged by Frank Maher. A dummy was used for the scene of a guard falling from the high gantry.
Designer Sally Hulke dressed the power station to maintain continuity with the studio sets and to disguise to rather Earthly location. Studio recording ran from Friday 8th through to 10th September. The Liberator flight deck scenes were recorded first and included pyrotechnic effects as the ship came under fire. Lorrimer chose to include the Liberator scenes from Killer in the same studio session. As usual, the sets were then disassembled and placed in storage resulting in constant wear and tear which eventually became apparent on screen.
Ian Scoones had been unhappy with the budget and timing restraints during Season 1 and did not return for the new series. Mat Irvine was joined by Andy Lazell and Peter Pegrum. Extensive model filming was required for this episode including major complicated sequences of Liberator docking with Spaceworld. Mat Irvine recalled special effect recording for Redemption in a feature for Blake’s 7 Poster Magazine in 1994. “FAP (Front Axial Projection) could deal with a moving image. This was mainly used in the opening episode of Season Two when the Liberator returned to her makers. This is where Spaceworld came into the picture, which was meant to be an immense space station, dwarfing the already large Liberator. Practicalities meant that the Spaceworld model was in fact not much larger that the Liberator, but Season Two’s film cameraman, Paul Wheeler first filmed this, on 35mm film stock and performed all the necessary movements tracking both out and back into the Spaceworld model on a camera-dolly. When the film was processed it was then wound onto the spools in the FAP machine and projected over the small Liberator model. Now the view was from a position in front of the Liberator – we were flying with her so to speak – and the movement appears to be arriving or leaving Spaceworld. In reality it’s only the background image that moves, in practice everything is stationary on the model stage and the 16mm camera on the FAP machine itself films everything anew as one image.” Stock footage of aircraft landing lights was used during the sequence of the Liberator docking inside Spaceworld.
Redemption was Peter Tuddenham’s debut as Orac in addition to his continuing role of Zen. Derek Farr had voiced the computer in the Season 1 episode Orac but he declined the opportunity to become a regular on the series. The actor was delighted to be given more to do and relished creating a new character. Tuddenham recalled taking on the part in an interview with TV Zone in 1991. “I listened to the tapes that Derek had done and I very slightly altered it to make Orac a bit more fussy. I saw it as a little man in a bowler hat and umbrella that would be carried even in beautiful summer weather.” The main guest artists for this episode were Sheila Ruskin and Harriet Philpin as Alta One and Alta Two. Philpin had played Bettan in the popular Doctor Who story Genesis of the Daleks while Ruskin would go on to play Consul Kassia in The Keeper of Traken.
The production decided on a new look for the main cast and June Hudson was appointed as costume designer for Redemption and many other episodes of Series 2. “I started off the new look for the second series as David Maloney planned to get rid of the convicts look: the brown and green anoraks. He wanted very ‘Science Fiction’ costumes; bizarre, bright and colourful, in fact, very ‘Hollywood’ to counter the humdrum costumes he’d asked for before. He wanted to move into the surreal world of Fantasy.” Hudson was given a significant budget and she felt that she was designing a new series with little relation to Series 1. The designer used a company called Hardcore Leather. “They could cut leather to fit the body, and make tight fitting garments. It fitted without a wrinkle, but they were so unreliable. I literally had to go down to the shop and stand over them while they made it.” The other major requirement for Redemption were the costumes for guest artists Ruskin and Philpin. “I wanted transparent armour for Sheila Ruskin, which was made by Roger Oldhampstead. The problem was that the armour steamed up on the inside as she got hot, so we had to keep going and spraying it. She wore this armour over a lycra body suit – and that’s where the fashion for them started, dressing ladies in figure-hugging lycra on Blake’s 7.” Sally Knyvette was very happy with her costume in this episode but Jan Chappell was less pleased. “In the second season episode that was filmed in a power station, I was wearing olive green with a white wrap, and I think it was my suggestion that I wore Hush Puppies with this outfit, because I wanted to be able to run, otherwise it would have looked as if I was wearing some strange evening gown. I regretted that decision when I walked past some technicians and they said, “Oh look, here comes Olive Oyl!” I went away and felt rather…silly! I’ve always had a fear that I looked like Olive Oyl anyway!”
The episode was transmitted on 9th January 1979 at 7.20pm on BBC 1. A compilation of Deliverance and Orac was repeated two weeks prior to transmission to refresh viewers’ memory of the cliffhanger ending to Series One. The episodes would now be shown on Tuesday nights rather than Mondays meaning it would now be up against the very popular Charlie’s Angels on ITV. This resulted in a substantial drop in viewing figures. The series was promoted in the Radio Times with a two page interview with Terry Nation.
The episode was released in an edited format on the BBC Video Blake’s 7 – Orac along with the episodes Deliverance and Redemption. The complete unedited episode was released on video in 1991 and 1998. A DVD release followed in 2002 and included computer generated images of the Liberator approaching Spaceworld as a prelude to the menu pages.
RADIO TIMES: Blake and his crew witness a gigantic explosion that destroys their spaceship The Liberator. The event is shown to them by Orac, the super-computer. Orac confirms this prediction but refuses to say when it will happen – but it will happen soon.
Alta One - Sheila Ruskin
Alta One - Harriet Philpin
Slave - Roy Evans
Stunt Co-ordinator - Frank Maher
Production Assistant - Geoffrey Manton
Production Unit Manager - Sheelagh Rees
Film Cameraman - Peter Chapman
Film Recordist - Ian Sansam
Film Editor - Sheila S. Tomlinson
Series Videotape Editors - Sam Upton (Uncredited), Malcolm Banthorpe (Uncredited)
Video tape Editor - Sam Upton
Visual Effects Designer - Mat Irvine, Peter Pegrum
Electronic Effects - A.J. Mitchell
Studio Lighting - Brian Clemett
Studio Sound - Clive Gifford
Special Sound - Richard Yeoman-Clark
Costume Designer - June Hudson
Make Up Artist - Marianne Ford
Music By - Dudley Simpson
Series Created By - Terry Nation