SERIES D: SCORPIO ATTACK NOVELISATION
Three official Blake's 7 novelisations were published during the original four year run of the show, all written by Trevor Hoyle. The first novel was simply called Blake's 7 and adapted the first four episodes from Series A. The second novel, Project Avalon, covered all five Travis episodes from Series A. There was a significant gap before the third novelisation was published and no episodes were adapted from either Series B or Series C. A few days after Stardrive was broadcast in October 1981 on BBC1, BBC Books published Scorpio Attack which adapted Rescue, Traitor and Stardrive.
Whereas Hoyle's first two novelisations attempted to form a cohesive whole, Scorpio Attack has a very episodic structure. This is a shame because there was an opportunity to present a single ongoing narrative focusing on the crew's acquisition of Scorpio and their subsequent attempts to improve it. Rescue and Power were closely linked on screen and Stardrive follows on thematically with the crew making improvements to their new ship. Unfortunately the decision was made to drop Power in favour of Traitor, an episode which stands out like a sore thumb both on-screen and in print.
Another missed opportunity is the lack of explanation as to why the crew are stranded on Terminal. The novelisation was released to tie-in with the new series so a full adaptation of Terminal was never on the cards, but opening with the destruction of the Liberator would have provided a more dramatic hook. Not only would this have provided context for the crew's current predicament, it would also have given Cally a slightly more substantial role in proceedings. Having said that, her death is effectively described by Hoyle.
A fiery tongue leapt skywards and the ground heaved like something in pain. The explosion seemed to erupt inside Vila's head, and in all the noise and confusion he heard, softly yet distinctly, that familiar telepathic voice at the still epicentre of the raging firestorm spewing from the shaft:
As the tremulous rumble of explosions died away, so her faint despairing cries faded into silence.
Scorpio Attack is more faithful to its source material than Hoyle's first two adaptations but it was written before the episodes had been completed. Hoyle worked from the camera scripts so there are a number of interesting deviations from what we saw on screen. Dorian is described as 'tall, ruggedly handsome, with black glossy hair,' while Slave is 'nothing more impressive than a panel of tiny multicoloured winking lights set into the bulkhead.' Hoyle details Dorian's progressive ageing during the journey from Terminal to Xenon with streaks of grey appearing in his hair and lines forming on his face. The creature in the basement and the properties of Dorian's underground cavern are described in vivid detail and give us a clearer idea of Chris Boucher's original vision.
For Traitor, Hoyle describes Quute and the General as Colonel Blimp type figures - older, fatter, pompous and stereotypically British - much closer to Robert Holmes' original intention. The scenes on Helotrix are also more effective because the novel restores the original setting of a bombed out city. When we're first introduced to Avandir, he is sitting on a toilet in the remains of a 'sanitary cubicle'! When it comes to Stardrive, Hoyle sticks closer to James Follett's original concept of the Space Rats as ugly, grimy and smelly brutes, with vivid descriptions of yellow teeth and dirty fingernails.
The highlights of the novelisation are a number of increasingly violent and gruesome death scenes. This is how Hoyle describes Dorian's final moments:
Soolin stared as the handsome face disintegrated, the flesh wrinkling and yellowing, and had to turn away, unable to bear the final moments. She didn't see the red-crazed eyeballs turn to mushy pulp, nor the suppurating sores burst, nor the head become a scaly black ball, fissured with deep cracks.
Hoyle's description of Dr Plaxton's death is even more gruesome:
Inches away from the tube, Dr Plaxton saw her hands turn black and shrivel. Then she saw nothing more as the brilliant light melted her eyeballs. She tried to open her mouth to scream but her face didn't exist any more. Her head became a charred knob, like a shrunken pygmy's, and soon there was nothing left except a heap of ashes.
With moments like these, it's hard not to enjoy this final Blake's 7 novelisation. Generally speaking, Hoyle does a solid job of adapting the episodes and Scorpio Attack is an entertaining and undemanding read. And the book gave us our name so it can't be all bad!