Doctor Who & Blake’s 7–Non-Existent Crossovers (Sixth Doctor)

Doctor Who has been on (and off) the air since 1963, with a myriad of adventures showing the Doctor and his companions traveling to endless corners of the universe.

(Daily Doctor Who #204)

But do you know where they haven’t traveled? Into my other favorite science fiction media properties, that’s where!

But what if they had? What if somehow, this had been possible? What stories would it have been cool to see the Doctor interacting with?

In this series of posts, we’re going to make some suggestions. Thirteen suggestions, in fact…one for each Doctor. The idea is to find something for each that, even if there was no real way for to have happened, was at least remotely possible from a time-frame point of view. So, no meetings between the Third Doctor and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, for example.

We have covered the First Doctor, the Second, the Third , the Fourth, and the Fifth Doctor. So you know whose turn it is now, right? So, this world of complete fantasy fan-fiction is proud to present…

Doctor Who

and…

Blake’s 7

Blake’s 7 was a popular British science fiction series that was created by Terry Nation and ran for four series, from 1978 to 1981. It told the story of a distant future where an evil and oppressive Federation ruled the galaxy through a combination of terror, coercion, and drugs. Roj Blake (Gareth Thomas) is a idealistic revolutionary who is framed and sent to die on a prison planet. But a set of remarkable events en route result in him leading a band of convicts in taking over a highly advanced derelict spaceship which comes to be known as the Liberator, and using its advanced technology to strike back against the Federation.

Blake’s team (which usually didn’t actually amount to seven people) were a dysfunctional lot, made up of murderers, smugglers, and thieves, who for the most part were not as committed to the cause in the same way Blake himself was. A recurring enemy throughout the series was Servalan (Jacqueline Pearce), a ruthless Federation leader with an unending lust for power.

After two seasons, Gareth Thomas left the show and Blake was written out as having disappeared in the midst of battle that his crew found themselves in defending the Federation worlds from an invading army from another galaxy. Leaving the show at the same time and in the same way one of this main co-stars, Jenna Stannis, a smuggler and pilot played by Sally Knyvette. The Liberator, and the series, was now headed by one of his crew–Kerr Avon (Paul Darrow), an ingenious computer programmer and a ruthless pragmatist who only followed Blake because it seemed the best way to survive, and in the hopes of one day having the Liberator as his own. Though Jenna never reappeared, Blake returned to the series twice after that–once as an illusion, and finally for the dramatic and shocking final episode.

In that story, Avon had finally found his former leader again on the outlying planet Gauda Prime, but due to their inability to be direct and clear with one another, Avon ended up shooting and killing Blake. Federation troops then attacked and the entire cast (except Avon) appeared to be shot dead, although it was a bit uncertain. Apparently, this was done so that if the show was renewed for a fifth year, any cast changes could easily be explained as those characters not surviving the shootout. Only Blake was unambiguously dead, which was apparently a requirement Gareth Thomas had for returning.

By this point in the series, the Liberator had long been destroyed. Avon’s most valuable piece of equipment was Orac, a sentient super-computer (voiced by Peter Tuddenham) that had the ability to take over any other computer system. And the only other character to still be around from the beginning of the show as Vila (Michael Keating) a skilled but cowardly thief, who might have been the first to die in the massacre on Gauda Prime.

Now, Blake’s 7 ended in 1981, which was the same year that Tom Baker stopped playing the Fourth Doctor. However, we are going to set our cross-over story later than that, in 1985, during the first full season of Sixth Doctor Colin Baker. The reason for this is that year involved both Paul Darrow and Jacqueline Pearce as guest stars (Darrow in Timelash, Pearce in The Two Doctors), so it seems a bit obvious. In fact, out of all of these crossovers, it feels like this is the one that could have theoretically happened.

During this season, Doctor Who episodes were 45 minutes long. I am imagining this story as a three-parter, taking the place I suppose of Timelash and making The Two Doctors an episode shorter. It was a hard story for me to crack (which is why this is coming over three months after my last crossover post) but I have finally done it–though it lengthy. I have largely ignored Blake himself, as the character was dead by the end of the series and actor Gareth Thomas was obviously wanting to distance himself from the part. But I did want to include Jenna, a character I liked but who never got a strong conclusion to her story. But in addressing Jenna, I was confronted with some of the great unanswered questions of the show: how did Blake and Jenna escape the Liberator at the start of Season Three, and why did they never return? I started my take on it with a looooong prologue to address this question, but eventually truncated it down to what you see below.

Doctor Who: The Zenith Battalion

Part One

The Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) land on the damaged space ship Liberator, in the wake of a devastating intergalactic battle.  Life support is failing, and the only person on board is revolutionary and former smuggler Jenna Stannis (Sally Knyvette).  The rest of the crew has abandoned ship, and Jenna has managed to cobble together a last escape pod for her injured leader, Blake, and then sent him on his way.

The Doctor notices strange readings from nearby space, which is what brought the TARDIS to this time frame.  The readings are from the wreckage of enemy ships, from the Andromeda galaxy—their ships are leaking a strange radiation. The trio return to the TARDIS to use its systems to neutralize the radiation, but the energy reacts with the TARDIS systems and causes it to violently dematerialize. 

The group recover from the turbulence and the Doctor forces a landing on the planet Gauda Prime, seven years later.  The Doctor and the women find they are on the edge of a large military and scientific base.  The TARDIS is still be affected by the radiation, and they cannot try to take off again until they understand it better. 

Accessing a computer, Jenna learns that Blake is apparently dead, and that Gauda Prime is the last known location of both Blake and his successor Avon.  She also learns that until recently, Gauda Prime was not part of the Federation (the oppressive government that rules most of the galaxy), but was recently forced into it when valuable mineral deposits were discovered underground. A big part of the military base is devoted to processing these minerals as they are brought up from the mines. This is all part of something mysterious which is code-named “Operation Zenith”.

Privately, the Doctor confides to Peri that he is worried—this is a general point in history when civilization took a great leap backwards, with trade and interplanetary relations abruptly devolving—a phenomenon he is aware of, but has never understood.  The coincidence of being stuck at this time and place is unnerving.

Vila Restal (Michael Keating), formerly part of the same crew as Jenna, is living as a laborer in the town outside the base.  He receives an audio signal from the unseen Avon (Paul Darrow) instructing him to find Jenna.  Vila is astounded, long believing Jenna to be dead.

Vila finds Jenna and the others just as the Doctor is about enter the base to try to find out what is going on.  Vila takes them to the apartment of Pela, a low-level technician who works in the base, with whom Vila is in a romantic relationship. Pela tells them that the base is going through a level of chaos due to series of unexplained computer failures.  Both she and Vila are part of growing resistance movement led by man named Garridan, whom Vila describes as being like Blake at his worst, except without the charisma.

Following Avon’s ongoing instructions (whom Vila keeps secret—only Pela knows he is in contact with him), Vila takes the group toward a meeting with Garridan, on the outskirts of the base.  As they are approaching, they are almost discovered by the ruthless Federation leader Servalan, a long-term nemesis to Blake, Avon and the crew.  In order to protect the others, the Doctor purposely reveals himself, blustering his way into Servalan’s good graces by proving he is a brilliant scientist.  She immediately puts him to work to repair the base’s computer systems.

The Doctor is confused to find that he is working on a single, advanced component called “Orac”.  Servalan says that Orac was cannibalized in order to create the base’s computer systems—if the Doctor can repair Orac, they will be able to take full control of the base and Operation Zenith again.  She gives him access to recorded logs of the man who took Orac apart.  This turns out to be Avon, whom the Doctor does not know, but was obviously working under duress. 

The Doctor’s guard is unexpectedly called away by an alert, and then the Doctor is astounded when the recording of Avon begins to speak directly to him.  Avon claims to be elsewhere on the base, and able to control the recording.  He teaches the Doctor how to make an earpiece similar to Vila’s, so he can continue to communicate as he leads the Doctor to him, in the base’s computer core.

Not knowing the Doctor is at large, Servalan is still attempting to contain the base’s problems. 

Of particular concern is a Central Lab, the heart of Operation Zenith. There, there is a mysterious containment chamber that is evidently breaking down.  Senior Technician Drakels implores Servalan to abort the project, but she refuses.  She threatens him to finish his work, which is to find a way to control what is inside of the Chamber before it’s too late.

While they are speaking, the chamber’s systems begin to fail and two technicians are suddenly murdered by something inside of it.  Servalan orders a contingent of guards to surround the chamber, weapons drawn.  The barrier is reinstated, but another failure is inevitable, and all the technicians will likely die if Drakels does not complete his work.

Meanwhile, Jenna, Vila, Peri and Pela meet with Garridan and the other revolutionaries.  They have decided to take advantage of the chaos to mount an attack on the base, scheduled to begin in one hour.  Vila is reluctant to get involved, but with Avon buzzing in his ear that the attack should go forward, Vila agrees to help.

As the Doctor continues to follow Avon’s directions to get to him, Avon shares some of his backstory, with flashbacks to the events following the last episode of Blake’s 7.  These show Avon being captured by the Federation and tasked to “upgrade” the special artificial intelligence Orac (voiced by Peter Tuddehnam), so that it will be subservient to the Federation.  Avon accomplished this, but in a way that made him essential to the process.  At this point, the audience sees that the Avon is physically in a catatonic state, but is now grafted into the base’s computer systems through a complex bio-mechanical process—in essence, he is Orac now.

Part Two

Avon refuses to tell the Doctor what Operation Zenith is all about, which frustrates the Doctor. He disobeys Avon’s instructions and heads to the lab.  Avon argues with him and even controls an automated door in order to block the Doctor’s path.  The Doctor is too clever though, and overrides Avon’s control, continuing forward.

As the rebels position themselves for the attack, Avon urgently contacts Vila, telling him he must come inside immediately–the Doctor’s stubbornness is jeopardizing his plan and he needs his help immediately.  Though fearful for his life, Vila “breaks rank”, and Peri goes with him when she realizes it has to do with the Doctor.  Vila tries to leave Pela behind (believing it to be safer) but when she learns he’s gone, she follows as well.

The Doctor arrives at the Central Lab, where the containment chamber is breaking down. Avon urges the Doctor to leave—he needs the Doctor to come to him now or all his plans are for nothing, but the Doctor does not listen.  Suddenly, the system fails and the chamber starts to be destroyed from the inside out.  It collapses, and dozens mutated soldiers, enraged and powerful, spring out, attacking everyone.  The guards attempts to fire back, but they are quickly overwhelmed, and the Doctor is nearly attacked.

More of Servalan’s soldiers arrive, and help the Doctor, Drakels and other scientists to get away from the mutants and to get out of the lab before bulkheads come down and seal it off.  A new temporary lab is set up outside and Drakels continues his work. 

Elsewhere, Vila and Peri make their way toward the Doctor’s location, but are caught off guard when the rebel attack begins.  Emergency bulkheads are closed off in response, and Peri helps Vila from being caught underneath one.  In the chaos, Vila’s earpiece is damaged and he can no longer talk to Avon.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is outraged—it’s obvious that Servalan has been using the intergalactic radiation to run experiments to develop a new breed of soldier–the so-called Zenith Battalion, whose power, ferocity and aggression will be more than a match for any other force. And this first Battalion are just the prototype.  The operation was set up on Gauda Prime because the natural mineral deposits are essential for the shielding against the radiation, as well as the equipment Servalan is creating to broadcast the signal that will allow her to control the Battalion…if only Drakels can identify the correct frequency.

Servalan demands the Doctor return to fixing Orac, but the Doctor demands more information.  Servalan explains that their enemy is Avon, the most dangerous man in the galaxy.  He is physically hardwired into the base’s computer core, and his mind coordinates the computations needed for Operation Zenith.

However, lately he has been “misbehaving”. The Doctor demands to see Avon (Avon, still secretly talking with the Doctor, laughs at this change in the Doctor’s agenda).  Servalan counters that Avon has sealed the computer core off, but the Doctor is sure he can overcome that problem.  Servalan sends one of her senior officers—Commander Lintilla—and a squad of soldiers to “keep the Doctor safe”.

On her own, Pela is captured by Federation soldiers.  She convinces them to take her to Servalan—she has information she is sure the Federation commander will want to know.

Vila and Peri find to the Doctor and his escort, but the soldiers attempt to kill them.  The Doctor intervenes, and knowing his value to Servalan, Lintilla does not harm him.  This allows Peri and Vila to get away with their lives—but first the Doctor cleverly manages to slip his earpiece to her, intending to use it to communicate with her later.

The battle continues.  In many places, the Federation outnumber the rebels and gun them down mercilessly.  But, thanks to Jenna’s quick thinking and fighting ability, Garridan’s group breaks through, and begin to make their way to the Central Lab where they intend to destroy the entire facility.

The Doctor finally reaches the computer core, and tricks Lintilla and the soldiers to getting locked outside.  Inside, the Doctor finally comes face to face with Avon, who still speaks to him electronically, through the earpiece.  The Doctor realizes he is also talking to Orac, electronically merged with Avon.

Avon explains that for years he has been ostensibly helping Servalan use Orac’s abilities to access other Federation computers, as well as make Operation Zenith possible, helping her secure her control of the Federation.  But in reality, he’s been preparing a counterattack, which will involve the broadcasting equipment Servalan is making to control the Battalion. 

But to do this, Avon needs to be separated from Orac again, and for this, he needs the Doctor’s help.  The Doctor agrees only if he can first neutralize the so-called Zenith radiation which has caused the mutations and prevented the TARDIS from leaving.  Avon agrees to this, but this means operating controls in the Central Lab.  Using the earpiece the Doctor gave Peri, Avon direct her and Vila to go there.

At the same time, Servalan orders her soldiers to draw the remaining rebels to the Central Lab, where she plans to release the Battlion, who should finish the work of killing of them.  Drakels objects, but Servalan demands that he figure out how to control the mutants or his team will inevitably be killed.

Servalan also orders Commander Lintilla to flood the computer core with a massive electromagnetic charge.  This will run the risk of shorting out the entire computer system, but Servalan no longer cares:  Avon must be stopped.

Just then, Pela is brought to her by some guards.  Servalan has no interest in her and prepares to kill her, but Pela bargains for her life with a information she believes Servalan will want to know:  the fact that Avon is alive and communicating with Vila. Servalan laughs.

At the Central Lab, Vila and Peri arrive, just ahead of the rebels. Garridan and Jenna lead the rebels in a gunfight with the guards.  Just then, Drakels finally identifies the frequency to control the Battalion, and slips out to bring it to Servalan.  From her office, Servalan drops the shields, releasing the mutants who begin to attack everyone indiscriminately.  Peri desperately tries to stay hidden, but one of them sees her and starts to approach her. 

Meanwhile, outside of the computer core, Lintilla activates the electromagnetic charge, causing Avon to writhe in agony…

Part Three

Peri desperately tries to fight back against an attacking mutant, but it seems certain she is doomed, until Jenna intervenes and saves her. 

Meanwhile, The Doctor frantically works to separate Avon from the computer core again, setting him free of the torture that Lintilla is inflicting.  He succeeds, and Avon is grateful, but worried about Orac.  If Orac is destroyed, then all his plans are for nothing.  Together, Avon and the Doctor manage to buffer Orac from the charge, saving his systems.

Drakels finds Servalan, bringing to her the data needed to control the mutants.  She gives him access to a computer and orders him to prepare the necessary control signal.

Near the Central Lab, Garridan, Jenna, Vila and Peri have regrouped as the Battalion continue to overwhelm everyone.  The Doctor signals to Peri that she must go back into the inner lab and reconfiguring certain instruments.  However, Garridan insists on destroying the lab, and charges in with explosives before the others can react. Two mutants follow and mortally wound Garridan, but he is able to set off the explosives and destroy the lab.

The Doctor is distraught—without the equipment in the lab, he has no way to neutralize the radiation.  But just then Avon detects what the Drakels is doing, and the Doctor sees that this is another chance—if he can reach the transmitter, he can use it to neutralize the radiation.  Avon instructs for Peri, Vila and Jenna make their way to computer control. 

The Doctor realizes that if Drakels succeeds in activating the control signal, it will burn out the transmitter and thwart his plans.  Avon re-directs Vila and Peri to Servalan’s office, where Drakels is working, while Jenna brings the last rebels with her to confront Lintilla. 

Vila and Peri arrive at Servalan’s office, and to stop Drakels from activating the signal, Peri shoots and destroys his console.  But then, Servalan enters, with Pela as a hostage. 

Meanwhile, Jenna fights Lintilla and his soldiers, which allows the Doctor to get away from the computer core.  Before he goes, he feeds Orac an ancient Gallifreyan logic problem that occupies his circuits, preventing him from fulfilling Avon’s command which will bring down the Federation.  The Doctor is worried about the magnitude of what Avon wants to do, and refuses to release Orac while the radiation is still a threat.

In Servalan’s office, Pela’s captivity gives Drakels time to transfer his work into a portable transmitter, so he can continue to configure the signal as he and Servalan are on the run.  Before Servalan and Drakels leave, Servalan attempts to kill Vila, but Pela breaks free and dies instead.  Vila collapses in tears over the dying Pela, while Peri reports to the Doctor what has happened.  He insists that she must stop that signal from being activated, so Peri chases after Servalan. 

Avon helps Jenna by killing the last of the soldiers that she is fighting, including Commander Lintilla.  The two of them return to computer core and Orac..

Drakels and Servalan pause as they realize some of the Battalion are approaching them.  Drakels urgently tries to punch in the commands into his portable unit, but Peri runs in and tackles him to the ground.  The Battalion arrive, and desperate to save herself Servalan sacrifices Drakels and runs for her life.  Drakels is killed, while Peri grabs hold of his control unit and hides.  The Doctor then arrives, and helps Peri get away from the mutants.  He takes the control unit and gets to work reprograms its signal. 

Avon tells Jenna his plan to shut down the Federation forever, if he can only free Orac from the Doctor’s logic trap.  Jenna is suspicious…that will be devastating for many people.  Avon urges her that it is something they must do.  Indeed, it will be the fulfillment of the work that they started with Blake all those years ago.  Jenna comments that Avon is sounding like a “believer”, but Avon assures her that it is simply a matter of survival. 

Servalan attempts to get to an emergency ship so she can get away from the planet, but finds herself cornered by some of the Battalion

Meanwhile, other mutants find the Doctor, but her finishes his work in the nick of time, and activates the transmitter to emit a signal which neutralizes the radiation. 

The Battalion collapses, saving both Peri and Servalan.

Orac detects what the Doctor has done, and Avon realizes he can use this process to complete what he and Orac have been planning. 

With Jenna’s help, Avon uses the Doctor’s work to allow Orac to “leave” Guada Prime. Suddenly free of all restraints, Orac’s presence multiples from computer to computer, ship to ship, planet to planet, and in an instant he has spread himself across the Federation. 

The Doctor realizes what is happening, but can’t do anything to stop Avon.  On Avon’s order, Orac overloads the computers across the Federation, all at once, destroying much of the galactic infrastructure.  Worlds are suddenly cut off from one another, left to fend for themselves.  For his part, the Doctor cannot believe the enormity of what Avon has done, even if he now understands why the galaxy took such a huge step backwards. 

Servalan realizes what has happened, and is devastated at the loss of her power base.  Almost in a trance, she grabs a gun and wanders through the complex. 

She comes across Avon and Jenna, taking them by surprise.  She and Avon are about to shoot each other when suddenly Servalan is shot and killed by Vila, having taken revenge for Pela’s death.

Later, the Doctor and Peri find Avon, Jenna and Vila at Vila’s home.  The Doctor confronts Avon about what he has done, but Avon is unrepentant—the Federation was too big to fight.  For better or worse, he’s given the galaxy a new chance to find a way forward.

(Incidentally, my idea that Jenna was rescued by the Doctor from the Liberator and then skipped over the next few years creates a continuity problem.  According to Blake’s 7, in the time after Avon and the others returned to the Liberator, there were reports on Jenna’s progress that may have been from Jenna herself—that she was on a hospital ship and that she was safe on a cargo ship to a neutral world.  In the world of my story, the theory is that those messages were actually from Blake, attempting to let the Liberator know of his progress while keeping his exact whereabouts a secret in case the messages were being monitored.  This idea could be brought up in a conversation at this point in the story).

The Doctor offers to bring the former Liberator crew to another world if they like, but they decline—none of them have anywhere to go, and now have nothing to do but try to make sense out of life again.  The Doctor and Peri leave, while Avon, Jenna and Vila share a drink to the memory of their former and fallen comrades, and are left to ponder what is ahead.

Cue the theme music!

Next up: The Seventh Doctor guest stars in one the mainstays of American science fiction television!

3 thoughts on “Doctor Who & Blake’s 7–Non-Existent Crossovers (Sixth Doctor)

  1. The 6th Doctor in particular for a Dr. Who/Blake’s 7 crossover is most intriguing. Avon in essence becoming Orac is also quite fittingly creative. Thanks again for all your crossovers.

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