The Way Back is an excellent episode to launch Blake’s 7 with. It tells the viewer everything they need to know about our main character Blake, and entices them to want to learn more about this man, what motivates him and asks one of the most important questions in drama, what’s going to happen next? The viewer wants to find out and we are intrigue, as well as disgusted, by the trumped up story about Blake, which while we all know is totally false and untrue, we want to see how Blake deals with the accusations. We are on Blake’s side in his fight and we want to see him succeed. When Blake’s legal counsel finally comes to the realization that what Blake’s been telling him all along is true, that he’s been set up, the viewer roots for Blake. We are so drawn into the story that we sit with eager anticipation – we hope that his lawyer discovers the truth before it’s too late; before Blake is sent away to prison on Cygnus Alpha. But just as we think Blake will be saved from his fate, it’s dashed at the last moment when Blake’s lawyer is seen lying dead on the ground. We’re angry, and we’re saddened; we wish “if only”. All of these emotions are stirred up in the viewer thanks to the excellent script written by series creator Terry Nation. Nation spins a tale that draws the viewer in to the action, and it’s a tale that keeps us glued to the television screen. This is a prime example of quality script writing and surely proof enough to show that Nation knew what would keep the viewer entertained and wanting to come back for more.
The acting throughout is solid from the supporting players right up to the main characters. Special mention must go to Gareth Thomas as Blake who gives a solid and realistic portrayal of man who is being set up for crimes that he didn’t commit. He is very believable in his scenes during Blake’s trial and again when the character is being tortured during his confinement.
We also get an early glimpse at the characters of Vila and Jenna. Michael Keating is excellent as Vila and in the few scenes he does have in this episode it’s quite evident why the producers cast him in the part. But special mention must go to Sally Knyvette as Jenna who plays a much harder version of her character in this episode compared to the version seen in later episodes. Knyvette imbues the character with a toughness that is not overt or over the top, but you can definitely tell she is no femme fatale or damsel in distress. Jenna is definitely a strong woman who has had to fend for herself all her life. She is strong, knows what she wants, and can be forceful if the occasion calls for her to be.
Overall, The Way Back is an outstanding episode and gets the series off to a resounding start.
Review by Bob Furnell