I was going to open this here by remarking that Michael Keating’s Vila is the only character to appear on every episode of the series–Avon doesn’t appear until the second episode–but then something rather cool happened.
Yeah, Colin Baker appeared as the villain of the week, and he was clearly having a good time being a baddie.
The situation is basic: the Liberator needs some special crystals to charge its weapons, and Tarrant spoke to a contact who would provide them as long as Vila did the man a favor and open a locked door. Vila doesn’t want to go, but down he goes. And it’s a trick. The crystals left behind are booby-trapped, and Vila is nowhere near them when they blow up. Fortunately, Cally was suspicious enough to get a look around first and see what was up.
The problem is there were no crystals. There was really a master criminal named Bayban the Butcher, and that would be Colin Baker. He’s got a whole crew of men, and his female associate Kerril seems to be keeping an eye on Vila. First, she’s kinda insulting. Later, she’s a lot less so. Heck, Vila gets some in this episode from the more than willing Kerril.
Really, this one is a nice change of pace. Vila is usually just the comic relief who is occasionally asked to open a door or team up with Avon. If anything, it’s odd that this episode showcases Avon as the one leading the way to finding Vila. Sure, he says he doesn’t care–and he probably doesn’t–but it does seem to come down to the fact that Avon at least has a professional respect for Vila’s abilities. And while Tarrant, Cally, and Dayna may all care for Vila as a person, it is Avon who seems most charged to get the thief back.
Meanwhile, Vila is actually proving quite clever. He was charged with opening a door that was said to contain a whole world. Bayban assumed that meant treasure, and the largely silent inhabitants of the nearby city don’t tell him much even when he kills a couple of them. Mostly, he sends his men out to look for answers, and it seems the crew of the Liberator, despite being heavily outnumbered, just keep killing them. That may be the advantage when the current crew consists of a former Federation space office, a woman who is good with any weapons she can get her hands on, and a telepathic resistance fighter, plus Avon.
But really, the episode showed Vila showing what he could do, and when he got to the end, he even figured out the way out of what looked like a trap. It turned out the guy often portrayed as a simpleton, at least compared to people like Avon and Vila, could recognize a forcefield when it appeared, knew how to get around a lot of those things, and eventually got to the end where it turned out the underground complex was really just a hub for a teleportation station to take all the planet’s natives to an Eden-like place. Vila even found some of the crystals the Liberator just had lying around.
But here’s the interesting part. The natives move on to their new world, taking the repentant Kerril with them. Vila is also offered a chance to come along, but he declines. Sure, that’s because they need him on the show, but the implication is the others would have been fine letting him go, but Vila does what he does not out of greed or anything, though he certainly has his moments there. No, he does it to challenge himself, and sticking with Avon and the others certainly allows him to do that.
And Avon is back to saying he doesn’t really care about Vila, a man who gave up love in paradise to stay with the ship.
Huh, maybe Vila believes in more than his own two hands, and he’s never really let on before…