Liberator (Blake's 7)

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Liberator
BlakeLiberator.jpg
The Liberator (aka DSV2)
First appearance "Space Fall"
General characteristics
Armaments Neutron blast cannons
Plasma bolts
"seeker" missiles
Defenses Herculanium hull
Force Wall

The spaceship Liberator is a fictional starship featured in the first three seasons of the BBC television series Blake's 7.

Background[edit]

In the TV series, the Liberator was an abandoned spacecraft found drifting near Cygnus Alpha. It was equipped with powerful weapons, force field protection, and a system of "battle computers". The ship was originally built by a race of beings known as "The System". The System referred to the ship as DSV2 ("Deep Space Vehicle 2"), a designation that suggests it was specifically designed for long-range forays outside the territory controlled by The System, and confirming more than one such ship had ever been made. It had at least one sister ship, which was destroyed by Orac in the episode "Redemption" (it is never clarified if the sister ship that Roj Blake encountered was DSV1).

The ship was controlled by an advanced AI computer calling itself Zen. Although it is not at the time clear whether this was the computer's official name, during the episode "Redemption" the System's controllers, (referred to as "Altas"), had boarded the ship and also referred to the computer as Zen.

DSV2 first appeared in the series after it was involved in a space battle, (of which no further details were ever given in the TV series), and it is assumed was abandoned by its crew as a result of severe battle damage, especially as it is later shown that temporary abandonment of the ship is sometimes necessary until the auto-repair systems can restore life support after serious damage.

DSV2 was encountered by the Federation prison ship London. The captain of the London decided to try to salvage the ship, but the first few crew members sent in were killed or disabled by DSV2's automated defence systems. At the suggestion of his second-in-command, the London's captain then ordered the prisoners Roj Blake, Kerr Avon, and Jenna Stannis to enter the ship. Perhaps due to Blake having undergone mind-manipulation at the hands of the Federation, he was able to resist the psychosis-inducing defences and the three succeeded in taking control of the ship and making good their escape.

The name Liberator was then applied to the ship by Zen based on a telepathic suggestion by Jenna. Blake proceeded to use Liberator's superior technical abilities in his bid to attack and defeat the Federation until he disappeared during the battle for Star One. Avon then took over command of the Liberator and continued to harass the Federation until Liberator was destroyed after passing through a cloud of corrosive micro-organisms in the third season final episode, Terminal.

B7 Media audio version[edit]

The B7 Media audio remake of Blake's 7 featured a very different version of the ship, which was rescued from the brink of destruction by Roj Blake and his band of dissidents. This ship's Zen had murdered the previous crew in cold blood, considering them no more than components and then inadvertently impelled the Pilot to take her own life. These events had a considerable subsequent effect on Zen and lead Zen to rebel against The System and pursue its own goals.

In the prequel release The Early Years: Escape Velocity it is made clear that DSV2 is one of a large fleet of similar craft. The DSV class craft are implied to have been built at great speed (so fast a crew could not be trained and humans with suitable skills had to be kidnapped) to engage in battle with an inter-dimensional, aggressive and encroaching foe that pose a threat to The System. This foe is described to be so alien as to barely resemble recognisable spacecraft. In battle, this enemy also appear to be able to match if not better the DSV.

Blake suggests the name The Liberator as the name for the ship.

Systems and equipment[edit]

Control systems[edit]

Liberator was controlled, by and large, by the computer system called "Zen". This computer had master control over all of the ship's functions and acted as a coordinating central point for the crew on board. Zen typically relayed ship status and information from the detector arrays and contained a vast archive of navigational data. Zen was normally voice activated, but it could also gather information via telepathy, although it only used this latter ability after it had read Jenna's mind (when she touched a control console for the first time, as part of its internal defence system). Zen however, could be less than helpful at times and usually gave the "silent treatment" if it disagreed with the crew's commands or attitudes.

If need be, Zen could be overridden on certain functions, however because the Liberator was such a complex ship, without Zen's precise balance, the ship could easily go out of control. Orac had the ability to take over computers with processors called "Tarriel cells" and was able to take control of Zen suggesting Zen used similar devices. Orac was also essential in deleting the System's "root access" to Zen and the Liberator's computers which had been used to retake the Liberator for a short time. Throughout its life, Zen never made reference to itself in the first person until it was failing under the corrosion onslaught in "Terminal" in which its last words were "I have failed you. I am sorry. I ..."

Offensive and defensive systems[edit]

Liberator was armed with three powerful neutron blaster cannons with one cannon mounted at the end of each of the three nacelles. The weapons were so powerful that a radiation flare shield had to be raised before activation to protect the crew and most targets were vaporized with a single hit. The ship could also fire plasma bolts and a salvo of "seeker" missiles which could decimate planet-side ground targets. Liberator's hull was covered with a material called "herculanium" which was impervious to almost all but the heaviest weapon fire. Liberator could easily withstand the assault of several warships before taking serious damage. Herculanium was explained as an alloy, but also referenced as an element.

Using technology on board the Liberator, Avon developed a practical "detector shield" for the ship by the episode "Trial". The shield made Liberator effectively invisible to any sensors save for a close range visual scan, allowing Blake to make a daring attack on the Federation's military headquarters space station causing extensive damage before the defending ships could respond.

By the time of episode "Hostage", The Federation had apparently copied Avon's idea, (at least a limited form), using it to launch a massive attack on the Liberator with upwards of twenty pursuit ships. Liberator was pounded with at least ten plasma bolts in rapid succession, but her superior speed let her break out of their attack pattern and retreat, albeit with severe damage to her defences. The Liberator was also equipped with a defensive "force wall" capability, but its usage resulted in a heavy drain on the energy banks (as did the extensive use of the neutron blasters).

Security system[edit]

Liberator was protected by a telepathic security system which was the first device encountered by Blake, Jenna and Avon before they could take control of the ship. Seen used on the flight deck, the system projected a mental image of someone the target trusted, or loved. In Blake's case, he saw members of his murdered family and friends. In creating the images, the system attempted to lure the target closer to a deadly sphere of energy. Blake remembered that his family was executed and didn't believe what he was seeing. As a result, he blasted the images with his weapon which disabled the security system. Prior to this, the system managed to kill almost all the London crew sent aboard to seize the ship.

Teleport[edit]

The ship was also equipped with a matter teleportation system (similar to a transporter in the Star Trek series), a technology which the Federation was trying to develop on their own without success. Blake indicated that the device sends matter along energy signals similar to radio waves. Little was known about the technology itself.

The teleport system was located in a separate room from the flight deck and consisted of a bay where the person being teleported would stand, and a large control console for setting teleport coordinates and activating the system. The teleport created a shimmering effect on the subject which quickly faded away. Arrival off-ship produced a white glowing field visible only at its periphery that converged into an outline of the subject inside of which the subject materialized before the field would fade away. The process is reversed when teleported to the ship: a field surrounds the subject, the subject fades, the field suddenly expands, and the subject shimmers back into the teleport bay.

Those being teleported had to wear a bracelet device to leave and return to the ship. The bracelets also served as communicators and contained a material called Aquitar (or "something similar" as indicated by Blake and Avon who both claimed to have worked on a Federation project involving Aquitar), which was believed to be necessary for the teleport to function. Although Servalan had captured some of these bracelets, the teleport required the machinery aboard the Liberator to function. Likewise, unworn bracelets will not teleport without being attached to someone. The bracelets were quite fragile and could be crushed by hand.

The teleport signal could be blocked by energy screens and electronic jamming equipment. Usually the signal simply had to be adjusted outside the frequencies of such devices in order to get through.

Although the Liberator had a hangar bay, she carried no shuttle craft and gave no outward appearance of an ability to land, suggesting the teleport as a necessary piece of equipment. However, in the episode "Moloch", Zen declared, "Forward navigation probes report approach speed inconsistent with safe planetfall," as the ship nearly collided with the cloaked meteoroid Sardos.

For the Blake's 7 audio plays, Liberator has a number of shuttle craft which are used to transfer from the ship to surface or to space stations.

Power and drive systems[edit]

Liberator has a continuously recharging antimatter power supply that supposedly would last forever without the need of fuel. However, if the ship operated with every system activated it would drain the power supply down within two hours causing shut down until sufficient power was recharged.

The ship could repair itself when damaged. During such critical repair times, Zen would prioritize the survival of the Liberator over the well-being of the crew, going so far as to deactivate life support in order to reroute power to repair devices. The auto-repair systems themselves would even attack anyone trying to keep them from their work.

Liberator's main drive consisted of a dimensional engine with ultralight speed capability; speeds were always stated in the form "standard by...", followed by the relevant number to multiply the "standard" Liberator speed by. It was never specified in the series what the "standard" speed was. In "Space Fall" when the new crew tell Zen they want a course for Cygnus Alpha, and Zen asks for the speed, Jenna says, "Standard?" to which Blake follows with, "Standard speed".

The Federation used a "time distort" scale, but this term was never a term used by Zen or the Liberator's crew. Cally believed the ship could easily achieve a speed of "standard by 12" and was considered one of the fastest ships in the galaxy. In the episode "Harvest of Kairos", the Liberator scanned a ship resembling a lunar module and, sensing a slightly more advanced ship due to Avon's artificial sopron, declared it to be capable of "Standard by twelve point two zero three", suggesting Liberator's capacity to be slightly below that. In the episode "Hostage", Liberator engaged with a fleet of Federation ships was observed accelerating away at a speed of TD-20. The fastest known Federation pursuit ships of the Starburst class had a known maximum (emergency) speed of TD-10 and the Liberator could easily outrun them. Standard by 6 became the Liberator's standard cruising speed in deep space. Speeds of less than TD-0 were considered sub-light speeds.

It appears that the Time Distort scale was exponential so that 'Standard by 12' equalling TD-20 would have been far in excess of double TD-10.

Crew equipment and amenities[edit]

Personal weapons were also available aboard the ship. A weapons locker on the flight deck contained alien designed laser weapons and recharge equipment. The weapon locker would only allow a character to handle one weapon at a time. If they tried to grab a second while already equipped with one, the handle of the second weapon would become too hot to touch (although once removed from the locker, weapons could be handed to other crew members without this effect occurring). This heat effect also prevented the crew from arming themselves for defense against the ship being seized by The System in "Redemption".

Liberator could function as a self-contained habitat and carried enough food supplies to last one "human" a thousand years, as Avon learned when he was contemplating stealing the ship for himself and going into hiding. The ship also recycled waste with 100% efficiency.

Liberator had at least five cargo holds plus a vast "strongroom" vault containing riches estimated (by Avon) to equal 300 million Federation Credits. Other areas contained a landing bay and hangar, an advanced surgical bay with resuscitation capsules, and a vast wardrobe filled with human-tailored outfits. The ship was also equipped with numerous emergency "life rockets" (aka escape pods); however, many of them had been launched by its previous crew prior to Blake's team taking possession of the ship. The number and positioning of these pods suggests that many had been replaced by the auto-repair system.

Although the crew of six people with help of Zen were able to operate the ship, the full stock of 28 teleport bracelets and the available number of handguns along with the sheer size of the ship suggests the Liberator was intended to carry a much larger crew, but the total capacity remains unknown.

Production design[edit]

The Liberator was, unusually for the time, not designed by a model or special effects unit but by the set designer Roger Murray-Leach, who also designed the interior. Ian Scoones, the special effects supervisor, contracted the building of the models to Space Models in Feltham, Middlesex. Martin Bower then added detail once these were complete. Two models were built: one 3 feet long and one just 20 inches (for long shots).

It has been claimed that Murray-Leach based the general shape of the Liberator's main hull on that of a cordless microphone, adding the three nacelles to disguise its shape. This may have contributed to the common but apparently unfounded rumour in Blake's 7 fandom that the Liberator was originally intended to face the other way, flying with its "engine" section (the business end of the original microphone) facing forward. Another story is that the domes were shaped to be reminiscent of a Persian mosque when the spacecraft was stood on end, thus enhancing its exotic appearance to western audiences.

The green globe that served as the engine in the original production drawing was egg-shaped but was redesigned as a sphere because the power of the internal light that was used to make the engine pulsate would melt the globe if production staff left it on too long (which they often did)[citation needed], and a sphere was faster to reproduce than the egg shape.

Models[edit]

There have been several commercially produced models of the Liberator:

  • Corgi produced three versions (one white, one silver and one blue, though the last was not labelled as Liberator) in 1978. The white version was re-released packaged with a limited edition of the region 2 DVD set of Blake's 7 series three in 2005.
  • Comet Miniatures produced two versions of a plastic assembly kit (white (1988) and transparent (1999)).
  • Titan Find produced an assembly kit in 2005 (14 inches in length) which was made for sale in America and has limited distribution in Europe.