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|Blake's 7 character|
|First appearance||The Way Back|
|Portrayed by||Michael Keating|
Vila Restal is a fictional character from the British science fiction television series Blake's 7, played by Michael Keating. The only character to appear in all 52 episodes of the series, Vila was particularly known for his humorous lines and his banter with Kerr Avon.
In the new audio series, Vila is played by Dean Harris; however Michael Keating returned to the role for the story When Vila Met Gan. Michael Keating has reprised his role as "Vila" in several volumes of the Liberator Chronicles (a series of enhanced audiobooks released by Big Finish in a licence deal with B7 Enterprises) and the series of Full Cast audio dramas produced by the same company, released from January 2014.
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A native of Earth and a member of the lowly Delta grade criminal underclass (similar to the classes established in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World), Vila is a petty thief who meets Blake in the detention cell awaiting transport to Cygnus Alpha. Whilst Blake is asleep, Vila was picking Blake's pockets.
Vila later participates in a prisoner mutiny aboard the transport ship London. He remains on the London when Blake, Avon and Jenna escape in the Liberator, finally leaving the penal planet Cygnus Alpha with Blake.
Vila is more intelligent than his Delta grade rating suggests, claiming to have bought that designation to avoid being drafted as a spaceship captain. Vila is a talented thief who can break into the most sophisticated security systems. This ability makes him useful to Blake's crew; in the episode City At the Edge of the World, Avon tells Del Tarrant that "...we can find a pilot anywhere, but a talented thief is rare."
Vila is often lazy and cowardly, preferring to evade danger. He claims he wants "...to live forever, or die trying." Actor Michael Keating described the character as "...a survivor", doing what was necessary to stay alive and not caring as much about the ideals of Blake or the ambitions of Avon. Vila is a poor fighter - his confusion costs the rebels the battle in Spacefall, and he is momentarily shocked after stabbing a fanatical monk in Cygnus Alpha.
Vila greatly enjoys drinking and gambling, making the Liberator crew keep him away from situations where his vices could compromise the mission (Shadow, Killer, Gambit). However, he demonstrates courage and resourcefulness when needed, choosing to join with Blake instead of staying on Cygnus Alpha, grabbing Orac before being teleported off the Liberator in Terminal and re-entering the Terminal complex to save Tarrant (Rescue). He demonstrates immense skill and heroism in City at the Edge of the World, where he develops a short-lived but intense romance with Kerril, a female gunfighter.
Vila admires Blake, but possibly his closest friend is Gan, whose honesty he trusts. His relationship with Avon is considered by many fans to be a highlight of the series[who?]. It is a mixture of respect and loathing. They share a common cynicism and focus on material success as demonstrated in Gambit. They clearly respect each other's skills and work together effectively (Killer). They often sparred over Avon's ruthlessness and Vila's cowardice. In Spacefall, Vila suggests killing Avon, anticipating that Avon would scheme to have other prisoners thrown out of an airlock. During the fourth series episode Orbit, Avon tries to throw Vila out of the airlock of a spaceship that cannot reach its escape velocity. Although another solution is found and they survived the ordeal, the incident created a cooling of their relationship.
Vila is fond of attractive women; during Cally's first episode, he calls out to her "Don't shoot, pretty lady!" He sometimes engages in playful, and sometimes more serious, bantering with Cally, Dayna and Soolin. While Cally treated Vila's jokes as playful remarks from a friend, both Dayna and Soolin considered him to be quite lecherous. The rest of the crew are aware of this; during the episode "Headhunter", Vila remarks that he was a "...perfect gentleman" to Muller's female partner, to which Tarrant replied "That's what bothered us." However, Vila was capable of genuine affection and concern for his female friends; despite his lecherous comments and flirtations with her at the outset, his relationship with Kerril developed quickly into love, with Vila offering to sacrifice himself so that Kerril would escape. Similarly, during the episode Sand he was shown to be very upset with Soolin when she mentions Cally's death.
Along with rest of the Scorpio crew, Vila is gunned down during the final shoot-out on Gauda Prime. He is presumed to have died, although there has been much speculation that he pretended to fall to avoid getting killed. In the non-canonical novel "Afterlife" by Tony Attwood, this is what happened and Vila stays with Avon to continue their adventures—although bitterly resentful of Avon's killing of Blake.
The character was twice considered for removal from the series, according to the DVD commentaries of script editor Chris Boucher and producer David Maloney. Terry Nation originally wanted Vila to be killed in Pressure Point but was overruled by the other producers. Later, it was briefly suggested killing off Vila and Jenna in 'Star One'; he remained because a survey showed Vila to be the series' second most popular character.
In an interview with Tony Attwood, Keating said that he was watching the series with his daughter when she said, "Daddy, you're stupid!" Keating related this to Boucher, inspiring the latter to write City at the Edge of the World in which Vila becomes a hero.
During the production of Orbit, while Avon looks for Vila to throw from the airlock, Keating was filmed hiding, shaking and in tears. These few seconds were not broadcast because the director considered the scene "...too real". Following this episode, Vila becomes very wary of Avon's motives.
- "Blake's 7 - The Classic Full Cast Audio Series - News - Big Finish". Bigfinish.com. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
- Tony Attwood; et al. (1994). Blake's 7: The Programme Guide. London, England: Virgin Publishing Ltd. p. 224.