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Current Poll

Who is your Favourite Guest Rebel?

Avalon - (Project Avalon)
Avalon - (Project Avalon)
21% [26 Votes]

Selma - (Horizon)
Selma - (Horizon)
4% [5 Votes]

Tyce - (Bounty)
Tyce - (Bounty)
14% [17 Votes]

Norm One - (Redemption)
Norm One - (Redemption)
2% [2 Votes]

Bek - (Shadow)
Bek - (Shadow)
7% [8 Votes]

Kasabi - (Pressure Point)
Kasabi - (Pressure Point)
17% [20 Votes]

Hal Mellanby - (Aftermath)
Hal Mellanby - (Aftermath)
16% [19 Votes]

Hunda - (Traitor)
Hunda - (Traitor)
6% [7 Votes]

Deva - (Blake)
Deva - (Blake)
8% [10 Votes]

6% [7 Votes]

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Started: 09 July 2016

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Fourth Grade Ignorant
I thought I would start this thread, because as I think I mentioned, I have been rewatching the series from the beginning after a break of a few years, and also listening to all the Big Finish plays.

One of the things I have been struck by this time around, is how very unpleasant the rest of the crew is towards Vila. While I can accept that he would be an annoying person to live and work with, I've been forced to come to the nasty conclusion that his crewmates look down on Vila and treat him with contempt because of his Delta Grade background. The Big Finish stories do pick up on this, when Vila appears to briefly turn against his companions, but these plays too are guilty of presenting Vila as a stereotypical drunken, shiftless Delta Grade. If we assume that Jenna, Blake, Avon and later Tarrant are all Alpha Grades, and that Gan is a Beta or Gamma Grade, we have one poor bum at the bottom of the social pile with several superior ones bossing him, bullying him, and generally treating him like dirt. If Vila whines and complains and plays the fool, you can hardly blame him: it's almost an inbred defence mechanism. So much for the great revolution: like Baldrick in the Black Adder, Vila is the Oppressed Mass in person, and yet Blake scarcely seems to give his viewpoint a second thought. Even Gan, who is generally friendly with him, is not averse to having a go at Vila from the time to time, and Cally, Dayna and Soolin, who come from outside the Federation social system, seem to follow the lead of the others.

There's an uneasy tension with this character all the way through, because the writers never quite seem to know where they stand with Vila. Sometimes he's portrayed as a genius who's hiding his intelligence, sometimes as a complete idiot. He can be unbelievably stupid at times, and yet, he is clearly an extremely intelligent autodidact with an advanced technical knowledge in his field. This ambivalence is also confused by the fact that Vila constantly plays to the stereotype of the useless Delta Grade, sometimes deliberately to get out of things, and sometimes as an unconscious reflex when interacting with people higher up the social and educational scale.

I am inclined to think that Vila has an anxiety disorder, probably not helped by his personal history. You could imagine him being beaten up in prison or by rival gangs as an adolescent, and he clearly self-medicates with alcohol and has panic attacks when under extreme stress. There may be an element of OCD as well: knowing absolutely everything about every kind of lock as a kind of protection against being caught. But the class thing really gets me. As he says to Tarrant, later on, "All my life, for as long as I can remember, there have been people like you." It's pretty sad to think that this is true of most of the rest of the crew as well.
trevor travis
Not sure if Vila needs our sympathy. Hes quite a smart cookie. I dont think hes as daft and as low down in society as he makes out.
Vila impresses me as a classic example of high intelligence, low wisdom. He's smart enough to figure out how to sneak over to Space City, but not wise enough to stop and consider whether this is a good idea.

There have been many a fanfic, and maybe even an audio adventure or two that suggests that Vila, while born into the Delta Grades, was smart enough to test out, but chose not to, knowing what life would be like for a Delta working among Betas or Gammas.

As for the rest of the crew, keep in mind two things: The Federation is a caste system, and Vila oft deserves scorn (re the Space City escapade above).

I agree that the writers don't know what to do with Vila, but that can be said of every character not named Blake or Avon. Some see Vila as comic relief, some as a foil, some as a plot device for tense escapes, and some ignore him. To me, Vila appears darker in the first four episodes. He was still comic relief, but also had a dangerous side. I miss that Vila.
Blake is pretty awful to anyone who doesnt support him and there is no evidence that Avon respects any of the crew and he's ruder to Gan than he is to Vila. Tarrant bullies him outright and is held to task for this by Avon and Cally. Dayna and Soolin are contemptuous more because he is sleezy around them rather than low status. They slag Avon off in same way ( after all you are the alpha male) Avon at least acknowledges his usefulness - good thieves are hard to find!

One of the ironies of Blake's crusade is surely that he wants to free the people but hasn't really much experience of them - unlike Avon who one feels is at home everywhere.

Vila is also capable of defending himself as we see in Blake and verbally gives as good as he gets with Avon. If he was just bullied all the time and down trodden the impact of Orbit would be much reduced.
Just because I can't sing doesn't mean I won't.
JustBrad wrote:

Vila impresses me as a classic example of high intelligence, low wisdom.

That seems to me a fair assessment. He certainly does some very silly things, typically in moments of stress, like throwing down his gun during the revolt on the London. Maybe this is why he got caught and ended up going to Cygnus Alpha!

I also agree with you that the Federation is a caste system, and that this informs the crew's behaviour, but I think that was the point that I was trying to make: that the Liberator crew carries this demeaning caste system holus bolus into their interactions amongst themselves, and that, in the context of what they are trying to achieve, this can only be seen as shocking. This goes for Vila himself as much as the Alpha Grade crew members. He's a bit of a chameleon. You are quite right when you say he was darker in the first few episodes (and I miss that Vila too), but think of the setting: he was on a prison ship, surrounded by criminals, and he probably knew he had to appear tough to hold his own. Once he got absorbed into Blake's group of primarily Alpha grade criminals, he again chooses to blend into the wallpaper. I just find it interesting that he chooses to do this by playing the whining Delta amongst all those higher grade citizens.

And the really bizarre thing? Those gradings were no doubt stripped from every single one of them at the time of their convictions. Given that, it's fascinating how entrenched the behaviour is.

This is an interesting thread, drangq - thanks for starting it.
There's two separate (but connected) issues here - one is Vila, but the other is the grading system in general. It's started me thinking about how and why grading started in the first place - was it instigated by the Federation, to impose order in a post-apocalyptic society? Did it arise out of a class system, based on wealth and status? Was it decided at birth (Vila: "I chose the wrong parents") or by exam results (Vila saying that he could have been a captain, but chose not to - sorry, can't find verbatim quote).
Either way, I think you're right about him being a chameleon - it's a good survival mechanism, and served him well - right up to the bitter end...
Twitter: @TravisinaB7
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There's no point being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes
I always saw the grading system like in Brave New World based on occupation- possibly through a breeding programme with those whose birth defied the programme examined and given the chance to move up. Given that Blake was an engineer and Avon a computer tec they seem more likely to have been born into the Beta class . Or perhaps Blake rebelled against his Alpha privilege. If Avon was Beta ( or even Delta) it would explain the fraud. I always imagined Gan was a Gamma - sort of the blue collar strata with security guards and maintenance coming from the grade but he could have been the agricultural labouring branch of the Deltas ( alongside cleaners, factory workers, etc) with Betas owning shops, managing businesses etc. So which grade to we reckon for Servalan and Travis? ( Travis 1 definitely seems Alpha with his received English pronounciation whereas Travis 2 could well be Delta made good. ) And was the cloning system on Auron a grading system absolutely on the lines of Brave New World or something else?
Just because I can't sing doesn't mean I won't.
Travisina wrote:

This is an interesting thread, drangq - thanks for starting it.
There's two separate (but connected) issues here - one is Vila, but the other is the grading system in general. It's started me thinking about how and why grading started in the first place - was it instigated by the Federation, to impose order in a post-apocalyptic society? Did it arise out of a class system, based on wealth and status? Was it decided at birth (Vila: "I chose the wrong parents"Wink or by exam results (Vila saying that he could have been a captain, but chose not to - sorry, can't find verbatim quote).

I think that the reason I linked the two issues together is that, were it not for Vila's character, we would be much less aware of the grading system's existence.

When Vila said he chose the wrong parents, he probably summed the situation up perfectly. I am sure that there would have been a way for very bright children to change grading (though I take Vila's claim that he could have been a space captain with a grain of salt, because I can't think of anybody less temperamentally suited to such a joCool, but Delta grade parents probably equated to limited opportunities and a bad start in life. (This is one of the reasons why I find the Big Finish story where his father turns out to be a Federation official so annoying. What is wrong with giving him Delta Grade parents?) If his parents were petty criminals, he would no doubt have grown up with no other option. And there is another thing about Vila, which is that he is fundamentally lazy, and will always take the easy way out. To perform in exams, to jump a grade or two, would mean hard work, and success would be followed by a job in which he would be expected to pull his weight. Stealing is easier, and among his own kind his wizard local-picking skills must have earned him a certain respect. Put him with a bunch of Alphas, however, and he must feel inadequate, an ingrained response that would be even worse given that I am sure he knows he's probably quite as intelligent as Blake and Jenna (if not Avon)--just uneducated and, as BradPaula says, lacking in wisdom (and, dare I say it, common sense).
I just saw your post pop up after I posted mine, AnnieW. Yes, I am sure Terry Nation lifted the grading system wholesale from Aldous Huxley, and what didn't come from Brave New World came from 1984.

Jenna is described by Servalan in The Keeper as "a superior grade citizen of the Federation..her IQ is very high". I think that the reason everyone assumes Blake and Avon are Alphas is that there is such an air of arrogance about them. I could not see Blake as a Beta; though I have occasionally wondered whether Avon might have been a Beta, and chafing under the fact that he was aware he was better than that. This would explain the bank fraud, and it would also explain why in the first couple of seasons, Avon is constantly in friction with Blake--and then invariably defers to him. He's arrogant about his own intelligence, but he also appears to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder where Blake is concerned. There is a direct comparison available in the behaviour of Coser, the Beta Grade technician who invents Imipak in Weapon.

Deltas I see as the labouring classes, the so-called "service grades", the sort of drugged out individuals we see wandering around in the first episode. I can't see Gan as a labourer; he might be a foreman, or some kind of clerical worker, or even, as AnnieW suggests, a farmer on a colony planet. Gamma or Beta, depending on what he did.
President Solvite
As I recall Vila states Blake is an Alpha, is it not stated in Shadow by Vila as a justification of him getting to go with Blake in negotiations with the Terra Nostra? (might be another episode) line goes something like'.. "he's a privileged type, those Alphas he wont last 5 minutes amongst the service grades where I come from.."

Regards Grades I believe there is stratification within the grades. Servalan is an Alpha but I think some Alphas are much higher than others.. Blake being an 'average Alpha' but persons in the security and justice departments probably would carry greater weight in society. This is the impression I get from the Way Back anyway.

Avon definitely has a chip on his shoulder re Blake.. Resentment of their relative positions in society plus the fact that in all likelihood Blake is not a criminal like the others (unless you buy into Blake is a Terrorist concept, and even then that's debatable)

I think Gan was a higher Delta or lowly Gamma, he did have some leadership potential but certainly amongst the 'blue collar' grades of the Federation in any case.
It's hard to gauge Gan's intelligence, as the limiter may affect some of his behaviour, but he does seem reasonably resourceful and switched onto me. And yes, I'd forgotten about Vila saying Blake was an Alpha; you're quite right, President Solvite. I too, have wondered about the possible existence of an executive grade above the Alphas--a sort of "Double Alpha", consisting of high up officials like Servalan and their close families.
The Elite
Brad - could you assign characters to grades? The seven obviously but also service and Travis the feds and characters like Kane, Bellfriar, Tynus, Provine, Keiler.

And could you also also give me your views of how Auron's use clones and whether these are graded as well?

Many thanks!
Annie ( obviously you don't HAVE to - be nice though! Xx)
Just because I can't sing doesn't mean I won't.
President Solvite
I am not Brad! But I hope you don't mind me sharing my thoughts!

Servalan, The President, All Council Members, (Federation Rank of General or above) Puppeteers

Blake & Jenna? (Federation Ranks Major or above eg. Travis)
Dr Bellfriar

Maybe Avon but he could easily be a miserable Beta Pfft

Avon, Coser (Federation Rank from Lieutenant up to Capt.)

Gamma (Federation Rank Section Leader or similar)
Gan, Arco, Sellman?

Delta (Standard Trooper)

Below Deltas we have Bond Slaves, but maybe thats only on the Frontier.

In my view Auron is outside the Federation and doesn't employ a Grading System.

I'm interested in your meaning behind the question on how Auron's use clones AnnieW..

How they relate to grading or why have them at all? Or something else?

Re Federation Ranks although they equate to various grades the Federation Military look after their own and a Section Leader can order or overule an Alpha Grade to comply when conditions warrant or when ordered by someone of a the 'Elite' group.
Angry Angel
Going back to the original point, I notice that Cally is the only character who doesn't routinely treat Vila like someone inferior - she's annoyed when he does stupid things, but reasonably so. Since she didn't grow up in the same class system, it makes it even more obvious that the reaction to other grades is very built in.
Thank you Madame President. That's very useful. I want to get it clear in my mind in case I want to use it in fic writing!

About Auron, it has always puzzled me what use there would be in breeding identical people who were telepathic unless it was to do with creating an efficient working group or to breed people with specific talents or aptitudes eg mathematicians, musicians, artists or to ensure that your society was made up of high intelligence groups. But why GROUPS? why that route? The Federation use clones to make copies of themselves for security reasons ( The President) or in traps( Blakes) but Auron is an isolated society.

I care part time for identical twins and they often find life very difficult and struggle to maintain separate identities so I am fascinated how Cally copes with being a clone And telepathic and yet has a different personality to say Zelda.
Just because I can't sing doesn't mean I won't.
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