Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stripping Down... Blake's 7 (i)

Mission of Mercy

Issue: I

Scorpio breaks down en route to Xenon and the crew hide in an asteroid belt to make repairs. Three Federation ships spot the helpless ship and attack, but Tarrant manages to destroy two and damage the third, which returns to Federation security HQ. Upon learning the rebels were responsible, "Commissioner Sleer" prepares to lay a trap. With her mutoids she hijacks a cargo shipment of Ensor's personal effects and seizes control of an indestructible "robotoid" which she programs to kill rebels. She then fakes a space battle to lure Scorpio to aide a civilian ship under attack, but when they reach the civilian ship, the robotoid emerges and chases after Avon and the others. Orac stops the robot by challenging it to solve one of Vila's riddles. Unable to do so, the robotoid self-destructs.

Avon is not yet used to Scorpio's shortcomings and thinks longingly of the Liberator, and Scorpio doesn't possess the ability to travel past time distort 7 suggesting this is shortly after Power - although Servalan (under the name Comissioner Sleer) knows that Avon's crew are using a Scorpio as their new ship, so the earliest it could be set is after Animals and the Stardrive is just playing up.

Servalan (wearing her outfit from Volcano) is based at the Federation Security Headquarters where she has an office, a male secretary and several female mutoids. There is a cargo transport hanger where ships have to gain the Commissioner's permission to travel. The security ships hunt down Scorpio in the belief it is a contraband smuggler and senior officers who fail are taken to "the punishment chamber". Servalan intends to use the robotoid to wipe out every terrorist in the Empire.

Orac does not like riddles as it cannot come up with rational answers to them, and Vila torments Orac with such puzzles because they are the only things he cannot answer. It can 'sense danger'.

Sector Six is not far from Xenon or the Federation and contains a heavy asteroid field and a red planet with a massive gravitational pull.

Scorpio can fire two plasma bolts simultaneously and has a cargo bay hatch on its underside. Slave apparently feels pain when the ship is under stress. The cargo hold is roughly two point four minutes walk from the flight deck.

Adraxa class ships were used for training Federation space pilots several decades ago and it is unusual to find one operational. Federation security ships (identical to the one Servalan uses in the series) can be controlled remotely without a crew.

The 'advanced robotoid' is one of Ensor's first creations which he seemingly decided was rubbish and locked in a crate. The robotoid is a large, stocky machine with a control panel on its front, a claw-like left hand and a laser gun for the right. It repels plasma bolts, has a force field, can 'reverse anti-matter' to repair its body from damage. It has something of a superiority complex, believing that any machine built by Ensor is permitted to survive and is fit to rule the galaxy', and is programmed to self-destruct if it believes it is defective by burning out its own circuits. Servalan is able to program the robotoid to obey its "mistress" and Orac quickly deduces that person's identity. It's possible her crude reprograming ("Smash terrorists!") is what drives the machine crazy.


Soolin: What shooting!
Tarrant: Oh, it was nothing!
Avon: Correct, Tarrant. It was nothing.

Servalan: [ordering the mutoids to kill her own guards] Remove those individuals! I am in no mood to argue.

Tarrant: We can't leave a guy out there to be killed! It's him today... it might be us tomorrow! Any enemy of the Federation must be helped!
Avon: Before you award yourself the Star Fleet Cross for Gallantry...

Dayna: Try a Mellanby special, you monster!

Vila: Nothing can stop it! I'm getting out of here before it vaporises me!

Slave: I am sorry... Don't punish me!
Avon: You'll have to do better, Slave, or you will get a kicking from me!

As the first attempt at a B7 comic strip, this isn't too bad, but it's not too good, either. The fully-painted artwork probably looked brilliant before it was photocopied and printed on toilet paper, and there are some serious blunders with the wrong word balloons going to the wrong people, references to "that cur, Avon" and "Villa", and a few nonsenical bits (Orac derides Slave's prognosis, and then agrees with it or the bit where Orac announces that the robotoid can deflect plasma bolts followed by Tarrant amazed that it can do so). Nevertheless, the regulars are in character bar Vila who's cowardice is ramped up to ridiculous levels, and the dialogue no more outrageous than the type given in Stardrive or Animals. While Servalan's scheme is quite clever, the idea that a computer genius like Ensor built a deranged robot doesn't quite tally.

I daresay anyone reading would have twigged how similar it was to Headhunter, albeit much less interesting.

Autona... Planet of Lies

Issue: II

Scorpio lands on the planet Autona for repairs where they are met by a beautiful woman called Diana, who leads Avon, Vila and Dayna to an underground city of similarly beautiful women ruled by a man called Wogan. Wogan offers the Scorpio crew sanctuary, but Avon distrusts Wogan and the crew leave when Scorpio's repairs are complete. Avon grows suspicious when Vila refuses to drink any wine and shoots him in the face - "Vila" is an android programmed to drug the crew and steal Scorpio for Wogan. Avon returns to Autona and when Wogan comes to inspect the ship, captures him and destroys his android women. With the real Vila aboard, they abandon Wogan on the planet with nothing but his ruined androids for company.

Autona is a remote perimeter planet of the Federation, and twenty years ago was used as a penal colony but has been deserted since "the last war". The undergound city is accessed by hatch in the side of a mountain, is filled with indoor gardens. The whole city is bugged and can replay events in spherical holograms on request.

Wogan was abandoned on Autona by the Federation for punishment when androids he made began to malfunction. He spent his time on the planet perfecting the construction of androids and planned to escape the planet and sell his services to the Federation and even admits after all this time he's gone a bit wierd - his followers are programmed to refer to themselves as "Slaves of the Mighty Wogan".

Sector E12 of Scorpio contains the water supply. Tarrant repairs minor hull breaches with "astro weld tapes".


Wogan: You're not from the Federation... are you?
Avon: The Federation and us have had, er, a disagreement. We avoid contact with them wherever possible.
Wogan: Hah. On the run, eh?

Vila: If Wogan's girls find me attractive, there's nothing I can do about it.

Vila: [to Diana] What is it you like about me? Is it my wit and charm... or just because I'm so handsome?
Wogan: [entering with gun] Neither, my friend. In fact, it's me who wants your body!

Avon: [to Vila] Drink... or I'll blow your brains out.
Tarrant: Avon, have you gone mad? Put down the gun before something happens!
Avon: [shoots Vila] Too late for that.

Vila: What have you done to them?
Diana: The crew have been drugged by the other you. They will feel nothing when they die.

Vila: Flippin' androids! How could I ever fancy a machine?

After a story about Servalan after an unstoppable robot, here we have an isolated scientist building androids who kidnaps one of the crew - no wonder Paul Darrow began writing for Blake's 7 Magazine after the comic strips were so similar to his own Man of Iron. It's practically a Hammer-Horror tale of doppelgangers, mad scientists, drugs and paranoia which is flagged up by having the evil recluse "played" by Vincent Price. The art is brilliant, the plot interesting, the characterization surprisingly adult (Avon quite rightly doesn't trust Vila on a planet of attractive young women, and ), and though there are a few misplaced word balloons (Slave being mistakenly referred to as Orac), this is a story worthy of the TV series... except for the decision to name the villain after a daytime TV host famous for slagging off Blake's 7. It's thus rendered very hard to take it seriously, as scenes of Avon holding a gun to Terry Wogan's head seem as unfunny as the Sixth Doctor fighting the evil time travelling Michael Grade.

An interestingly gothic take on the "rogue specialist on an alien planet" plots of Season 4.


Issue: III

Two Federation officers, Pangal and Castrax, discover "Commissioner Sleer's" true identity and Servalan immediately shoots down their spaceship. Pangal escapes in a life capsule that crashlands on Xenon and is soon attacked by a monster on the surface. Avon rescues him and takes him to the base's medical bay, where as soon as Pangal recovers he attacks Vila and contacts Servalan, offering the Scorpio crew in return for his life. Servalan heads for Xenon, but Vila manages to knock Pangal unconscious with Orac when he holds the others at gunpoint. The crew confront Servalan in orbit but, rather than destroy her, Avon teleports Pangal to her ship - knowing that Tarrant's repairs to the teleport are not complete, so Pangal dies in the process and his corpse arrives on Servalan's ship. The crew then flee in Scorpio, ensuring Servalan does not realize their base is actually on Xenon.

Tarrant thinks Avon is becoming increasingly paranoid about keeping Scorpio ready for an immediate launch, even though the ship regulars regular inspections and maintenance. The drive unit is a portable rocket-shaped unit that has developed at least two faults in it already. A malfunction in the teleport can kill a person in transit (though Pangal seemingly travels without a bracelet). Servalan's ship can be contacted on the "open sixth channel".

Dayna and Soolin are wearing their outfits from the second half of Season 4, while the men all wear their "first half" outfits, apparently putting this story between Headhunter and Assassin.

Xenon's surface is mountainous and covered in tropical plants and fungus. It has at least seven satellites. There is a dragon-like serpent in a nearby swamp with rhino-like horn whose presence none of the crew even mention - and it is not clear if Avon kills it or merely stuns it.

Xenon Base looks very different to how it does on television. The exit is a different, triangular shape, the communications room now has a huge central pillar of controls and monitor screens and on one screen is what appears to be an image of Zen. Orac is used in the medical unit in the exact same way as Headhunter, and can take being used as a blunt object with no apparent damage.


Vila: You must be off your galactic trolley, Avon! He's from the organization trying to locate and destroy us all!
Avon: You always state the obvious, Vila.

Vila: You're leaving him alone in there? A man in a Federation uniform?
Avon: No, Vila, I was looking for a volunteer to stay with him. You're it.

Servalan: You have more lives than a cat, Pangal, but I shall find and kill you, never fear!

Vila: [after clubbing Pangal with Orac] Wow, did I do that?
Soolin: No, Vila, it was Orac.

Tarrant: Why not blow her to pieces? We've got her cold!
Avon: Our triumph comes from her humiliation, not her death.

Servalan: I should have known this was a trap, Avon. Well, you have us in your sights. Make the kill now... if you have any mercy.
Avon: Death, Servalan? That is your trade, not mine.

Yet another remake of Headhunter, this time focussing on a seemingly friendly character attacking them inside their own base. Nevertheless this is a clever, well-plotted tale with Pangal as a totally self-serving bastard who is more like Servalan than she is in this story (a defeatist with a stutter). The running gag of the crew boggling at Avon being merciful ending with him casually murdering Pangal and blaming it on Tarrant is a very entertaining conclusion, even if the writer seems to think Xenon is actually Terminal.

A tense, exciting "bottle" story.

Battle Cruiser

Issue: IV

The crew observe a fleet of Federation ships (three battle cruisers and a freighter) apparently on course to colonize Xenon and Avon decides to attack before they reach their destination. Scorpio manages to destroy two of the battle cruisers but the third manages to ram the planet hopper, forcing them to crash-land on the planet Cignus-3. While Avon, Tarrant and Dayna work to repair Scorpio, Vila and Soolin are left on guard duty. Spotting the frieghter landing on the planet, the duo go to investigate and are immediately captured by the Federation crew. With the teleport out of action, Vila and Soolin are left to rescue themselves and discover the ship isn't going to colonize Xenon, but render it uninhabitable with radiation. Upon learning this, Avon orders Tarrant to open fire on the ship, destroying it - but Avon has repaired the teleport and rescues Vila and Soolin at the last second... much to the surprise of all concerned.

Xenon is one of five planets the Federation consider possible refuges for terrorists and rebels. Federation High Command begin "Operation Five Planets" to use radiation and bacterial agents to leave the five planets uninhabitable for centuries. Battle cruiser computers can identify terrorists from their fingerprints and voice patterns in a few minutes. People still make last wills and testaments.

Commander Haglam has encountered Avon and Vila before on more than one occasion (but Soolin has never heard of him), but he perishes from his injuries in this story.

Scorpio can be "rigged" for silent operations, and the weaponry controls are located in Tarrant's usual position while the main flight controls are at the middle seat in the front console. The collision with the battle cruiser knocks out Scorpio's main generator, life support and teleport systems but Tarrant can make emergency repairs in a couple of hours. The ship can survive a crash landing once Avon's cleared a path with the ship's weaponry (explaining why Scorpio is destroyed pulling a similar trick on Gauda Prime - it didn't clear the landing ground).

Vila can crack a sonic lock, and a thermal intersplice by shielding the refractors for a fraction of a second and interrupting the circuit. Soolin knows many Federation locks are set to explode if tampered with.


Tarrant: I vote we make a run for it.
Avon: This is not a democracy, Tarrant. We attack!

Haglam: The terrorists... lead by Avon! They're cutting us to ribbons! But they won't get away from me! Divert all spare power to the lasers: WE'RE GONNA NAIL THEM!!

Vila: The records say this planet is uninhabited... but what about animals? They never mention those in the records! There could be all kinds of nasties lurking behind bushes.
Soolin: Come on, Vila, I'll hold your hand if you're frightened.

Vila: Just when it looked like we'd got a reprieve, we're sentenced to death again! Makes you wonder if living is all it's cracked up to be...

Vila: Avon's finally killed us... I always knew he would!

Tarrant: You may have saved the five planets, but at what price? Vila and Soolin died for you!
Avon: [activates teleport] Hold your tongue, Tarrant, before you say something you'll regret.

Tarrant: I misjudged you, Avon. You're not as heartless as I thought.
Avon: Don't you believe it, Tarrant.

A refreshing change from Headhunter re-writes, Battle Cruiser is the first to give any real material to Soolin and even Dayna gets her own (albeit dialogue-free) plot thread of being injured in the crash. Tragically, there's too much plot for any characterization and she and Vila spend a lot of the comic explaining things to each other and provide a bit of URST. Avon's scary ruthlessness really makes its presence felt for the first time, but with Scorpio crashing in a forest and Avon trying to kill Vila, it's like an attempt to do the same things as the TV but provide a reassuring happy ending where the status quo is resolved.

A darker turn for the comic strip, and streets away from the material just a few issues ago.


Issue: V

On Xenon, Avon recieves a distress call from a Federation prison ship whose crew have been massacred by escaping prisoners. Intrigued by a strange device aboard the ship, Avon decides to take Scorpio and investigate despite the risks. With some homemade bombs Dayna has built, they are able to destroy two Federation ships come to recapture the prison ship. Teleporting aboard, Avon offers to return the prisoners to their home planet in return for the device, but the prisoners refuse. Avon steals the device and wires it into Scorpio's systems as the prisoners prepare to fire on Scorpio. Avon activates the device which destroys the prison ship utterly, and Scorpio returns to Xenon.

The crew are all wearing their 'first half' costumes this week, putting this story prior to Assassin. Xenon Base closely resembles its televisual equivalent. Dayna's been working on percussion charges for weeks believing "they'd come in handy one day". They resemble old oil drums and Federation crews don't recognize them as weapons until it's too late.

The Matracon is a device capable of "reversing matter" and sending objects to another dimension when it is linked to a communications system (Avon claims it is a radio signal booster, but might be lying). Avon recognizes the device on sight, but has Orac confirm its function anyway. It is held on the flight deck of the prison ship by a tractor-beam circuit. Avon believes this device could make Scorpio invincible, devastate the Federation and "guarantee their survival". It is never seen or referred to again (unless it's what Avon uses in Games to destroy the Orbiter), nor is it explained why the Federation aren't using it themselves...

The prisoners are large, balding humanoids in loincloths who use clubs as weapons. They consider themselves brave warriors whose people have been enslaved by the Federation, honor their ancestors and have a devil figure in their mythology. They are intelligent enough to use some the spaceship's weapons, but don't understand the concept of a computer and have no mercy to non-combatants. They appear to be from the second quadrant of Proxima Gallasta.

"Code Seven" is used when a breakout occurs on a Federation prison ship (ironic, as that's what lead to the original Blake's Seven).

Orac once again refers to Avon as "Master" (as if he's K9 rather than Slave).


Vila: Why don't we just leave them to slaughter the rebels? After all, we don't owe them a thing!

Gudlak: [looking at Avon] The man wears black, he must belong to the Federation.

Gudlak: Kill the intruders! Kill the sons of the devil!
Thug: [weilds club] I hear and obey, Gudlak!
Avon: Kill him, Tarrant.
[Tarrant shoots the thug.]
Avon: Now the preliminaries are over, can we talk business Gudlak? If you are indeed the leader of this rabble?

Avon: I argue with no man! Tarrant - hold him off!

Tarrant: We can't stop them!
Avon: Then say your prayers, Tarrant, there's nothing constructive you can do.

A real downturn in quality, even though the artwork is consistent and the layout of panels interesting. Dayna finally gets something to do, but as ever the comic is more interesting in Avon, Vila and Tarrant. There's nothing of real interest, with another generic space battle (requiring yet more repairs to Scorpio - the bloody thing can't go seemingly one story without being knackered) and Avon suddenly finds a nifty doomsday weapon he then uses on his own side. What the hell is it? Why was it on the prison ship? Why does Avon never use this ever again? Maybe this was supposed to lead to story arc or something, but it never happened and the end result is frankly boring - the pursuit ship fight and the ridiculous primitives evoke Animals far too much, and they're the most original bits of the story.

A pointless, cliched runaround seemingly written to show what an insufferable asshole Avon can be. Avoid.


Issue: VI

A massive discharge of fusion energy is detected on the planet Dral 3, and the Scorpio crew and Commissioner Sleer go to investigate. After a few days, the Scorpio crew encounter an alien girl in a bar whose flesh burns if it is touched by human skin and Avon rescues her from two drunken troopers. The girl, Aanya, explains her people are migrating in an intergalactic spacecraft and their navigations system is damaged. Aanya is searching for starcharts of the Milky Way and Avon agrees to let her use Orac to repair her ship. While there, Servalan's forces arrive to take possession of the alien technology. Aanya programs her ship to take off without her while she attacks Servalan, but Servalan kills her. The Scorpio crew escape and watch as Aanya's ship recommences its journey out of the galaxy.

The crew are in their "second half" outfits, placing it between Assassin and Orbit.

Aanya's people are from a far-off galaxy, and although humanoid their body chemistry means human skin secretions are considered acidic and painful (but this can be cured via surgery in the human). They consider the Milky Way an awful place of deciet and murder, and although they seem peaceful Aanya carries a sword for self-defense. The main sun of their home planet went nova, forcing them to leave and find a new world. There are a million of her people in Sus-An (Suspended Animation) chambers, and her ship is so fast on a planetary surface it must be in water to prevent its huge weight collapsing. It is run by an organic computer resembling a floating atom-shape that communicates by pure energy.

The Federation has an Intelligence Gathering Network based in an underground fortress which scans deep space with dozens of officers scanning frequencies.

Dral 3 is an undistinguished planet where the civilization consists of a space port and a Federation Base. Half the planet is covered in cloudy ocean.


Trooper: Up yours, mate!
Avon: [shoots him] I think not, my uncouth friend.

Aanya: Why does your race always see deciet and hate in everything?
Avon: Because that is the way to survive in this place and in this time.
Aanya: It need not be like that. I sense that you are a loving man. You have known love...
Avon: True. But love dies quickly when it's betrayed. Now leave it...

Vila: Why me, eh? I suppose I have to bring Orac coz I'm expendable...
Avon: Would you prefer to stay on board to fight off an attack?
Vila: Oh. Er, lead on, Avon.

Vila: [holding Orac] I'll stay with old plastic brain. He might want me to hold his hand or something.

Servalan: [of Aanya] I must say I like your taste in women, Avon. She's not Anna Grant, but...

Servalan: It's all over at last, Avon. Won't you miss the thrill and excitement?
Avon: The only thing I'll miss is not killing you, Servalan.

Servalan: The alien bitch, she's betrayed me!

A rather formulaic story with one of the crew falling in love with someone obviously doomed in a competition with Servalan to get their hands on some funky new macguffin - though points for originality as it's Avon who falls in love and the rebels get all the cool stuff for themselves. Aanya's just on the right side of sweet, and her similarity to Cally makes her rapid relationship with Avon almost convincing, even if she does look too much like Delenn from Babylon 5 to be comfortable. The language is more adult than one'd expect in a kid's comic, and the last frame is seemingly done to make Avon as sympathetic as possible after the last three episodes of Season 4 came out and showed him at his absolute worst.

A straightfoward Blake's 7 story with even more cynacism than you'd normally expect.

The Flying Bomb

Issue: VII

In order to carry out repairs following a Federation attack, Scorpio lands on the sinister planet Kantak which is rumored to be haunted. Arriving amidst a giant graveyard of the spaceships drawn there by the planet's unusual magnetic fields, Vila and Tarrant head out to scavenge spare parts from other wrecks. Tarrant is attacked by a hairy monster in the ruins and saved by Avon, while Vila finds canisters of precious Krytomite liquid which he hides aboard Scorpio, intending to sell it and make a fortune. The pursuit ships arrive and attack Scorpio, but when the ships are exposed to Kantak's corrosive atmosphere and then the vacuum of space, they disintegrate (Orac protecting Scorpio from the corrosion). However, the Krytomite canisters breaks down as well and floods Scorpio with toxic gas that overcomes Tarrant, Dayna and Soolin. Vila reveals what he did to Avon, who is furious: Krytomite gas is insanely volatile. Leaving Vila to rescue the others, Avon vents the gas into orbit around Kantak and demonstrates how dangerous Krytomite is by firing a low-grade laser into the gas cloud - triggering a chain reaction that turns Kantak into a black hole.

The crew are once again half-and-half costume wise, putting this between Headhunter and Assassin.

Tarrant uses the freaky Movellan-laser-thing from Stardrive to repair the outside of Scorpio's hull, and also requires a Beta Condensing Panel replacement. Avon and Vila use the rescue suits from Headhunter and Warlord, while Tarrant, Dayna and Soolin are plugged into the survival capsule from Headhunter until given the all-clear by Orac. Vila hides the canisters in cargo section "Kilo" at the heart of Scorpio. Teleport bracelets can counteract magnetic interference.

Kantak is a planet that Vila has heard of, as a planet haunted by monsters and demons, a place no one would go willingly - but has never bothered to learn the facts about the world. There is at least one giant hairy, fanged monster with claws that attacks Tarrant on sight but it's unclear if it's a native or not.

Dayna has heard of the Bermuda Triangle on Earth, though Soolin and Vila haven't.

One of the wrecked spaceships looks disconcertingly like the Liberator.


Vila: [sulking] Why is it always me who's made to look the fool? I'm just as good as Avon any day. And I'm the better crook. [thinks] What am I sitting on?

Considering this was the first strip published in a post-Blake world and all the main characters had been seen gunned down in cold blood, it's forgiveable they went for something comparatively light and straightforward, with the old standbys of repairing Scorpio, some gorilla monsters, a space battle and a completely ridiculous super weapon. But there's still a dark streak in it, like Avon dismissing the lives of the crew over his own which is a plain and simple Unfunny Aneurism Moment whichever way you take it.

A rather forgettable one-off, but with some good characterization for Avon and Vila.

Next: Crossed Wires, Treachery, Prey, Cran Pax Core, Rendezvous, Alliance and Stranded!


Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

..oh STRIPping down. Just got that. Because they're comic strips!

I can't explain it but the majority of latter B7 stories in the show, such as Orbit, Rumours of Death et al, leave me a bit unsatisfied. Yes, there's a good storyline, but it seems a bit padded out to reach 50 minutes and only 2 people in the cast get to do anything.

That's actually why the fairly unpopular Shadow is my fave. The story moves around a lot, has equally strong A- and B-plots, the focus is strongly on the 7 and there's a role for all the cast members. After that Boucher seemed to decide people were more interested in seeing Federation extras wisecracking for ten minutes than the main cast..

I guess the planet full of duplicates could make a good episode, but when you write a short summary like that it's hard to gauge if the story is B-grade or not.

Some very interesting snippets of dialogue. "I think not, my uncouth friend" cracks me right up, and I love the panel of Orac apparently greeting Avon with "Wa-hey!".

Oh, wait, that was my favourite bit - Vila reading the handily left-lying-around manilla folder with "Federation Secret Operation" written on the front.

Youth of Australia said...

..oh STRIPping down. Just got that. Because they're comic strips!
Um. Yes. It's amazing, I guess, the thing you think everyone else will automatically understand instantly...

I can't explain it but the majority of latter B7 stories in the show, such as Orbit, Rumours of Death et al, leave me a bit unsatisfied. Yes, there's a good storyline, but it seems a bit padded out to reach 50 minutes and only 2 people in the cast get to do anything.
Yeah, Orbit annoyed me too in that respect. I kept waiting for Tarrant to go "Fuck this Hustle shit, let's just kill the gaylords and steal their BFG!" and unintentionally ruin Avon's damn fine plan.

But they don't.

They just sit there.

That's actually why the fairly unpopular Shadow is my fave.
I don't mind Shadow, but I would have liked to see some of Space City beyond hearing about it.

After that Boucher seemed to decide people were more interested in seeing Federation extras wisecracking for ten minutes than the main cast..
That wasn't the original intention, remember, and a last-minute padding coz they couldn't bring back Del Grant.

I guess the planet full of duplicates could make a good episode, but when you write a short summary like that it's hard to gauge if the story is B-grade or not.
As a seven page comic strip, it's understandably brief, but you could probably compress Sand down to that without any difficulty.

Some very interesting snippets of dialogue.
Yeah, I go for any that grabs my attention, be it good or bad.

"I think not, my uncouth friend" cracks me right up, and I love the panel of Orac apparently greeting Avon with "Wa-hey!".
And that's one of the saner comics...

Oh, wait, that was my favourite bit - Vila reading the handily left-lying-around manilla folder with "Federation Secret Operation" written on the front.
That's what we call a "TV Comic" moment, like seeing a Quark peering through a door marked SECRET LABORATORY...