Broadcast: Tuesday 20th March, 1979: 7.20pm-8.10pm, BBC 1
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: George Spenton-Foster
"That your new muscle, Servalan? Looks like a powder puff." Travis
Ratings continued to suffer due to competition from Charlie’s Angels. Gambit was watched by 6.6 million viewers.
Gambit was written by Robert Holmes, his second script for the series. It was commissioned in June 1978. The working title for was Doc Holliday and it was originally to have been co-written with another writer with the initials J.B. The script was ultimately written solely by Holmes who delivered the completed script on Monday 25 August, 1978.
Gambit was originally to have been Episode 7 in the running order with Vere Lorrimer as director.
Doc Holiday became Doc Holli (in Nation’s draft scripts for Countdown) and then Docholli in Gambit itself.
Holmes script specified that the Klute’s chess matches should be based on the Karpov-Korchnoi games (1978).
SCRIPT: The Rink is an ill-lighted alley of some squalor that runs between the tawdry saloons & brothels. Scattered in the alley are streamers and confetti – the debris of Mardi Gras.
The Croupier was originally called Vurzek and didn’t have a French accent.
SCRIPT: Krantor wears an elaborate silver wig... His pudgy hands sparkle with rings. He is an epicene figure but his face has a vulpine cruelty.
The original script had Orac reducing to just half its present size rather than an eighth.
George Spenton-Foster directed Gambit, having already overseen production of Weapon & Pressure Point. This was his final work with the BBC, having worked with them since the 1950’s.
Episodes of Blake’s 7 were recorded in pairs, with a block of filming followed by two studio sessions. Gambit was made ‘side-by-side’ with Voice from the Past.
Filming began on Tuesday 21 November at the Royal Festival Hall underpass as the South Bank in London. The location was dressed with tinsel and decorations to suggest the Mardi Gras atmosphere of Freedom City. This film work was part of a block of filming for six episodes between mid-Nov & mid-Dec 1978.
The Liberator teleport scenes were recorded during a three day session primarily devoted to Voice from the Past. This meant that the stock Liberator sets didn’t need to be erected for the main studio recording session on Gambit.
Studio recording on Gambit took place in TC6 from Tues 13 to Weds 14 November 1978.
Director Spenton Foster had worked with John Leeson (Toise) the previous year on Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation. John Leeson provided the voice of K9 in Doctor Who and associated spin-offs.
The legendary Sylvia Coleridge was cast as the Croupier. Spenton-Foster had previously cast her in Survivors.
CSO was used to show Servalan’s image in Krantor’s mirror.
Electronic graphics were used to show the Klute’s chess games.
The Klute was played by Deep Roy who had previously appeared in The Web. He’d be back again…
The extras at Freedom City were dressed in a variety of stock outfits including Arabs, Pierrots, Cavaliers & Nuns.
Barbara Kidd designed a striking red dress for Jacqueline Pearce, a departure from Servalan's usual white attire.
Jacqueline Pearce: "I wore a red costume in Gambit. It was what the director George Spenton-Foster wanted. I'm still not sure why. It was supposed to be an episode outside of all the others, set in Freedom City. There, different rules applied, so she was allowed to go into red. David Maloney wasn't very happy with Gambit because George was outrageous and stirred things up, you know, he was a bit of an outsider, he wanted to do things that were different and daring, so I suspect that's one of the reasons why he wasn't invited back to direct for season three".
Peter Tuddenham was credited for the first time with playing the voice of Orac, as Zen didn’t appear in this episode.
Miniature filming was carried out for an establishing shot of Freedom City which would have opened the episode. The model was built by Mat Irvine but sadly never made it into the final episode. The episode was found to be seriously over-running and a number of trims needed to be made. Other trims included Vila ‘admiring’ Cally & Jenna’s outfits & telling them Docholli is too old to appreciate them. A scene was removed of Vila informing Blake that Freedom City had the galaxy’s biggest morgue. The scene of Jenna and Cally being thrown out by the bouncer lost Jenna’s line: “Up your knot!” Another cut was Avon ordering ‘another Knackernicker Delight’ – which we later see him spit out.
Spenton Foster decided to use a completely electronic score so Dudely Simpson was not used. The score was composed by Elizabeth Parker from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
RADIO TIMES: The search for Docholli, the man with the secret of Star One, brings Blake to Freedom City, which has the richest casino in the galaxy and the biggest morgue...
Krantor - Aubrey Woods
Docholli - Denis Carey
Chenie - Nicolette Roeg
Croupier - Sylvia Coleridge
Cevedic - Paul Grist
Toise - John Leeson
Jarriere - Harry Jones
Zee - Michael Halsey
Klute - Deep Roy
Production Assistant - Michael Brayshaw
Production Unit Manager - Sheelagh Rees
Film Cameraman - Max Samett
Film Recordist - John Gatland
Film Editor - Sheila S. Tomlinson
Series Videotape Editors - Sam Upton (Uncredited), Malcolm Banthorpe (Uncredited)
Visual Effects Designer - Mat Irvine, Peter Pegrum, Andy Lazell
Electronic Effects - A.J. Mitchell
Studio Lighting - Brian Clemett
Studio Sound - Clive Gifford
Special Sound - Elizabeth Parker
Costume Designer - Barbara Kidd
Make Up Artist - Ann Ailes
Music By - Uncredited
Title Music By - Dudley Simpson
Series Created By - Terry Nation