Orac (Blake's 7)
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|Blake's 7 character|
Orac, at Concussion, the 2006 Eastercon
Derek Farr (First appearance)Peter Tuddenham
Orac is a highly advanced supercomputer developed by the scientist Ensor, brought aboard the Liberator by Blake and the others at the end of the first series. Ensor was a particularly irascible character and Orac, as his creation, inherited some of his character traits. Orac is extremely terse and short-tempered and frequently talks down to the humans. Rather than a personality or character, Orac is an ego and often refuses to answer questions he deems too simple (Stardrive). Avon often lamented that Orac was too valuable to dump. Orac is activated by a "key", which is removed by the crew to shut him up if he prattles on too much.
This egotistical attitude, and the potential absence of the key at any given time prevented the sloppy plot device of "Orac to the rescue of every problem".
There is evidence that Orac was still functional in the "off" mode, as his response to activation would be one of impatience, "What is it now?" indicating that he was performing other self-preoccupied activities.
Orac has the ability to communicate with all other computers that carry tarriel cells—the basic component of all computer systems, designed by Ensor at a young age. He is therefore able to provide the Liberator crew with priceless knowledge. Through calculation of probability, Orac can also predict the future as seen in the series 1 cliffhanger episode (also called "Orac") in which he makes a prediction apparently showing the Liberator being destroyed. However in episode 1 of series 2 (Redemption) it is a sister ship, identical to Liberator, which is destroyed. Orac admits, somewhat smugly, that this is what he had predicted. Orac is also able to use his limitless information to derive effective strategies or deduce critical information.
All these systems and abilities combined make Orac an extremely valuable and sought after prize for the Federation. Initially, his creator was planning to sell him to the Federation paid for in part with medical aid for his heart condition. Servalan offered 100 million credits for Orac—an amount that astonished Travis and Blake, although Servalan and Ensor both believed Orac was worth ten times that much. However, Servalan, knowing that Ensor would die without help, sabotaged the returning shuttle, killing both Ensor's son and the medic. She then attempted to steal Orac, only to be stopped by Blake. Unfortunately, Ensor died before he could be brought aboard the Liberator for surgery.
Orac quickly proved his worth when Liberator was re-taken shortly after this by her builders, 'The System'. Even their advanced technology proved no match for Orac, which within hours had completely (and quite possibly lethally) compromised The System itself, as well as deleting their backdoor access into Liberator's computer Zen. He would prove his worth again and again, helping devise strategies for penetrating Federation facilities or producing critical information for the crew. Perhaps his greatest service to humanity was when he hacked into the Federation master command strategic computers in the episode 'Star One', alerting Servalan from outside the Galaxy to the invasion force from Andromeda and mobilizing the Federation. It was never explained how "tarriel" compatible systems were to be found on the non-Federation Liberator, or the master control of 'The System'.
Orac's systems are multi-dimensional; he projects a carrier beam through the same dimension that allows telepaths to transfer thoughts. It is through the hijacking of this beam that an unnamed psychic-being attempted to invade the physical plane. It was defeated through Cally's telepathy boosted by proximity to telepathic plants called Moondiscs. To prevent any future incursion by the being, Avon fitted a bomb to Orac that would detonate if his power fluctuated outside of his normal parameters.
This is not the last time that he endangered the crew. Orac had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. His desire to study a black hole was so great that he took control of the Liberator and steered it far too close. He states that gaps in his knowledge are "intolerable" and castigates the crew for their lack of interest in the more fascinating aspects of the Universe. This behaviour was contrasted in "Headhunter", when Orac kept insisting that he must be deactivated to avoid being forcefully merged with Muller's android. Muller had also been a student of Ensor, so the technologies were similar, and the Android was also fitted with a 'circuit influencer' giving it access to non-computer devices beyond Orac's control. Orac kept insisting that such a 'union' with the Android would lead to the extermination of humanity or technological slavery. It was never clear if Orac's genuine concern was for humanity or for self-preservation.
Orac, on one occasion, had a Federation computer perform routine design work for him, leading Avon to comment that one of Orac's more human-like qualities is that "It does not like to work." Orac is able to reduce his dimensions and mass to what can be carried in a hand via The Theory of Matter Reduction (also called Controlled Atomic Implosion), which enabled Avon and Vila to sneak him into a casino and win massive stakes at the computer-controlled tables.
Orac was damaged during the destruction of the underground facilities on Terminal ("Rescue"). Repairing him proved beyond even Avon's abilities (without the appropriate tools) but Dorian, who had studied with Ensor, was able to get him operating again. In Tony Attwod's noncanonical "Afterlife", Ensor is shown to have made a twin of Orac for his own use—called Caro. Orac was able to sense the presence of Caro, but unable to read its system.
Orac was not present during the final shootout on Gauda Prime in Blake. This makes him the only character of the Seven whose survival is a certainty.
- Gorski, David. "Respectful Insolence". ScienceBlogs. Retrieved 19 April 2013.