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Vila: a darker character?
Spaceship Dispatcher
The first and most important thing to say here is that, Vila being one of my favourite characters and Michael Keating being definitely my favourite Blake's 7 cast member, this is a pro-Vila argument and not a criticism of the way he was written or acted; Blake and Avon are praised for being complex characters with inky depths of darkness in their relative persona that border on villainy, yet Vila is often marginalised in this regard as a coward or a fool or a drunkard or a hapless innocent. I'm not satisfied that he is any of these things, and the first angle that I wish to tackle this from is that of his inactive complicity in the dubious attitudes of other characters with regard to gender politics...

I'm reading Blake's 7: A Critical Guide at the moment, and one interesting observation on the episode Space Fall got me thinking about the character of Vila and his personal darker side. The ease with which he befriends Doran in the series three episode Moloch, with that character in harmony with the themes of the episode having a dubious attitude towards the independence of women, has been commented upon as out of character. While there is already a thread for discussing this in relation to writer Ben Steed, there is actually a counter argument in regard to the character of Vila and interestingly one set up by Terry Nation himself. There is no suggestion anywhere that Vila would directly condone an act of sexual violence, and certainly in my opinion would not commit one, but consider this exchange with Jenna while on the London; she has just been struck by Raiker for refusing his advances...

Jenna - That one's going to enjoy giving us a hard time!
Vila - ...and you've improved his mood no end; why couldn't you be nice to him?
Jenna - He's not my type.
Vila - You can't afford to be choosy now.


Vila regards that Jenna submitting to Raiker was an option; that submission to such an act was dependent upon circumstances and not whether it was morally acceptable, and he viewed her rejection of the approach as an action that had disadvantaged the greater good of the whole body of prisoners and should at least have been considered. It throws light on a darker side to the character, that his attitude to male dominance is at the very least permissive. His lack of outrage at Raiker, and in fact his negativity is directed at Jenna, suggests something more about his social background and experiences before the events of The Way Back; it certainly adds complexity and even a sinister edge to the character.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
JustBrad
Not sure that Vila making friends with Doran is indicative of a darker Vila, that's just survival skill (make friends with the meanest and craziest that no one else will dare cross), note his expression when Doran talks about his 'women trouble.'

Other than that I agree with you. Not to say that VILA was VILAnous, but he was a lot more complex in the earlier episodes than he was later on. Here are some intriguing quotes.

I've had my head adjusted by some of the best in the business. But it just won't stay adjusted.

He (Gan) was straightforward, wasn't always expecting to be cheated and double-crossed -- not like us. He trusted people

Avon: Ah, but ... We need that crystal. Blake takes risks to help other people.... One day that great big bleeding heart of his will get us all killed.
Vila: Unless somebody ditches him first.

VILA Well, it certainly looks as though Blake's left us, doesn't it?
AVON That is the only reasonable assumption that we can make.
VILA So we've got to look out for ourselves now.
AVON Exactly.
VILA Blake can't complain really.

Alas, this darker Vila was replaced by comic relief drunk Vila shortly thereafter.
Edited by JustBrad on 21 November 2015 20:12:14
 
BradPaula
Interesting thread, SD. I've always maintained Vila is a very multi-layered character and his persona of being a stupid drunk is just a smoke screen to keep him safe in an unsafe Federation. And we do get glimpses from time to time in the series that there is more to Vila than meets the eye.

I have to agree with you. Of all the main characters, I think Vila is my favorite, and much of that has to do with the incredible acting skills of Michael Keating. Any Big Finish disc with Vila in it is a favorite of mine. It's a joy to hear such a natural actor doing his thing.
Zil: Oneness must resist the Host.
 
Travisina
Vila definitely starts out with a dark streak. He's quite creepy in The Way Back where he talks about having his head adjusted. And then in Spacefall, Vila's very quick to suggest killing Avon. So it's there from the outset, but becomes less and less pronounced - either due to his development as a character, or because the writers decided to focus on his other attributes. Or both.

As for his attitude to women...
Was he seriously suggesting to Jenna that she capitulate to Raiker's demands? Possibly, if he was also seriously suggesting killing Avon. But in both cases, I think it's Vila's survival instincts that are driving him at that point, rather than an innate belief in 'male dominance'.

As for Moloch... please don't get me started on Moloch - there is so much I hate about that ep! But restricting my gritted teeth to focus solely on Vila and Doran:
It's Doran who befriends Vila, rather than vice versa - Vila just seems to go along with it. Possibly because it's an easy option, and it must be quite pleasant to have someone being nice to him for a change. But Vila is quite uncomfortable when Doran says he doesn't like women, and very uncomfortable when Doran goes even further and actually procures a woman for him. Suppose it hadn't been Servalan - suppose that had been poor Poola (who by that stage had probably been raped by any number of Grose's 'men' ) - I'd like to think that Vila's instinct would be to help her, not take further advantage.
Twitter: @TravisinaB7
Tumblr: tumblr
There's no point being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes
 
JustBrad
Travisina wrote:


Was he seriously suggesting to Jenna that she capitulate to Raiker's demands?


Was he suggesting she victimize herself? I very much doubt it, but he may have recognized that Jenna was street smart and could be clever enough to manipulate Raiker to her own advantage. His failing was in misreading her character.
 
Travisina
JustBrad wrote:
...he may have recognized that Jenna could be clever enough to manipulate Raiker to her own advantage.

That's a thought.
At this point, Vila and Jenna have known each other longer than the others (I have various scenes and scenarios in my head that take place in the holding cell prior to Blake's arrival - not to mention having read some excellent fan fics on the subject). They're certainly comfortable enough with each other to have several snidey exchanges, despite the vast difference in their grades.
Twitter: @TravisinaB7
Tumblr: tumblr
There's no point being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes
 
BradPaula
JustBrad wrote:

Travisina wrote:


Was he seriously suggesting to Jenna that she capitulate to Raiker's demands?


Was he suggesting she victimize herself? I very much doubt it, but he may have recognized that Jenna was street smart and could be clever enough to manipulate Raiker to her own advantage. His failing was in misreading her character.


I think that Vila thought if Jenna agreed to Raiker's demands, the crew would be spared his wrath and that meant Vila would be spared Raiker's wrath. Vila is always taking care of number one, whether it hurts/bothers someone else in the bargain does not seem to bother him.
Zil: Oneness must resist the Host.
 
Anniew
Yes I'm afraid, Travisina, I'm with Paula there - one of the reasons I find Avon's actions in Orbit understandable if not acceptable. Though Vila is also written to be the charming, cheeky chappy as well and that side of him is genuinely engaging.
Just because I can't sing doesn't mean I won't.
 
trevor travis
Vila, while being the most 'normal' crewmember, has a bit of a dark side to him throughout.

He doesn't like to take a life face-to-face, but he will suggest murder to others or indeed press the button for the neutron blasters.

Remember, as a Delta grade, Vila has already had quite a journey to make it through to "The Way Back" in one piece.

He has very keen survival instincts, as keen as Avon. He just has a very different approach.
 
Anniew
He escaped from a prison colony aged 14 and has survived since then. Dark indeed. ( Unless it's a drunken boast and then not so much!)
Just because I can't sing doesn't mean I won't.
 
trevor travis
Anniew wrote:He escaped from a prison colony aged 14 and has survived since then. Dark indeed.


Oh my, imagine if the only way Vila could survive aged 14 was to offer certain services himself? Shock

SD, this is a dark thread you've started!
 
Travisina
trevor travis wrote:

Anniew wrote:He escaped from a prison colony aged 14 and has survived since then. Dark indeed.


Oh my, imagine if the only way Vila could survive aged 14 was to offer certain services himself? Shock

TT, you have a very dark mind!
I actually think that by then he's a skilled thief (which is why he was in juvenile detention in the first place) - a kind of Artful Dodger type, who survives by stealing for himself, and also on commission.
Twitter: @TravisinaB7
Tumblr: tumblr
There's no point being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes
 
trevor travis
Travisina wrote:TT, you have a very dark mind!


Probably, it would explain why I chuckle throughout "Moloch" Wink
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
trevor travis wrote:

Anniew wrote:He escaped from a prison colony aged 14 and has survived since then. Dark indeed.

Oh my, imagine if the only way Vila could survive aged 14 was to offer certain services himself? Shock

Even if not a victim himself, who knows what abuses Vila may have witnessed that could have desensitised him to sexual violence?

SD, this is a dark thread you've started!

Well, things have been a bit quiet for a while!
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Travisina
Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:
Even if not a victim himself, who knows what abuses Vila may have witnessed that could have desensitised him to sexual violence?

Good grief, where is this thread going?
I don't think Vila is desensitised to any sort of violence, sexual or otherwise. On the contrary, he's very sensitised, especially if he's on the receiving end. "I hate personal violence, especially when I'm the person."
It's not just his own self-preservation; the look of horror on his face in Cygnus Alpha when he sees the bloody knife says it all.

He's attracted to attractive women, but accepts with a certain amount of resignation that they aren't reciprocally attracted to him. I just can't imagine him being violent towards them. However, if you're really looking for sexual violence, Avon's your man. Not Vila. Good grief!
Twitter: @TravisinaB7
Tumblr: tumblr
There's no point being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes
 
trevor travis
This exchange is interesting:

VILA Just our luck to get this mission.
TARRANT It was our turn.
VILA If Avon rates this Muller as such a genius why didn't he come for the man himself?
TARRANT He probably just wanted to get you away from the base, to avoid more bother over Muller's lady.
VILA I was a perfect gentleman towards her.
TARRANT That's what bothered us.


I wonder exactly what Vila was up to....
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Travisina wrote:

...I just can't imagine him being violent towards them...

Agreed, but the discussion is not really about Vila's own actions but rather his apathy towards and acceptance of the behaviour and attitudes in others.

However, the dialogue quoted by TT from Headhunter does throw new light even on that supposition.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Travisina
trevor travis wrote:

This exchange is interesting:

VILA Just our luck to get this mission.
TARRANT It was our turn.
VILA If Avon rates this Muller as such a genius why didn't he come for the man himself?
TARRANT He probably just wanted to get you away from the base, to avoid more bother over Muller's lady.
VILA I was a perfect gentleman towards her.
TARRANT That's what bothered us.


I wonder exactly what Vila was up to....

Being a perfect gentleman, they both said so!

Maybe he was being overtly polite, while unable to take his eyes off her low-cut... er... attributes?
Twitter: @TravisinaB7
Tumblr: tumblr
There's no point being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes
 
Travisina
Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:
...his apathy towards and acceptance of the behaviour and attitudes in others.


VILA: All my life, for as long as I can remember, there's been people like you.
TARRANT: And I thought I was unique.
VILA: You're not even unusual, Tarrant.


Maybe his acceptance of the behaviour of others is because he feels he has no choice? Someone who has been bullied their entire life is going to think twice before standing up against those who dominate him.
Twitter: @TravisinaB7
Tumblr: tumblr
There's no point being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Travisina wrote:

Maybe his acceptance of the behaviour of others is because he feels he has no choice? Someone who has been bullied their entire life is going to think twice before standing up against those who dominate him.

An explanation that may fit the argument with Tarrant that you quote, but not the suggestion that he makes to Jenna; he implies that the end, keeping Raiker happy, justifies the means of Jenna selling herself. As has been quoted already Vila says that he hates violence when directed at himself, but his acceptance of violence where he is not directly involved comes across as a different standard.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
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