Crippled above the planet Straxis, the Liberator all but shuts down to effect automatic repairs. When Federation pursuit ships appear to finish the job, Orac links up to Zen and assumes control of the Liberator, directing the ship to dive into the atmosphere of Straxis and crash into the ocean, opening select external doors and flooding parts of the ship to submerge it in the sea, out of sight. Blake, Vila and Cally teleport to land, where they find another resistance cell suffering heavy losses as a result of Blake and Avon’s interference in the insurrection on the other side of the planet. This cell’s leader is more fanatical than methodical, but he has good reason to be paranoid: robotic Federation drones, small as insects, infect their targets with a neurotoxin that, in nearly every case, causes a very unpleasant death – and Vila is the latest to be stung. Underwater, Avon and Jenna have to deal with more Federation drones, crab-like salvage robots scouting out the Liberator. Worse yet, Orac has yet to surrender its control over Zen and the Liberator…and is working to its own agenda, which it won’t divulge even to Avon.
Cast: Gareth Thomas (Blake), Paul Darrow (Avon), Michael Keating (Vila), Jan Chappell (Cally), Sally Knyvette (Jenna), Alistair Lock (Zen/Orac), Sara Powell (Dr. Cara Petrus), Tim Treloar (Bru Renderson)
LogBook entry and review by Earl Green
Review: A tense continuation of the prior adventure, Drones doesn’t just strip Blake, Avon, and company of nearly every advantage they’ve enjoyed in their fight for freedom thus far, but it drops them into the midst of a more desperate, immediate fight, with a mentally unstable ally whose disdain for their inability to help is a life-or-death liability. Keeping up the traditions of the TV series, a trope crops up that we’ll just call Bad Stuff Happens To Vila – he’s kind of the Miles O’Brien before Miles O’Brien – because, of course, if any member of the Liberator crew is going to suffer a bite from an insect bearing a cyberpunk venom that Orac can defuse by remote control, it’s Vila. Interestingly, Blake is spending much of the episode facing down a more extreme resistance leader, a bit of foreshadowing of Blake’s own mental state by the time he makes his exit from the series (Star One, Warship). Orac’s storyline restores some mystery and menace to the snarky little box of lights that had been ramped up early in the second season (Shadow) and then quickly tamped down again, and in the meantime, though it’s really more of a feature of the script than a bug, Avon really is unusually solicitous of his shipmates’ welfare, including the aforementioned box of lights.