Kerr Avon and Oliver Sampson
(First posted to the Blake's 7 mailing list on Sat, 15 Jun 1996)
I speak of Kerr Avon and Oliver Sampson.
Hey, you knew this was inevitable, didn't you?
Don't read any further unless you've seen both Blake's 7 and VR.5. This contains spoilers for both, and I reckon they're good enough you ought to see them without being spoiled.
Oliver and Avon have a lot in common. They're both witty, clever, cold, efficient, cynical, tragic, caring, brooding Englishmen. (Well, Avon may not be English, but he has the accent anyway.)
They've both been betrayed, and find it hard to trust.
Avon's betrayals have been more personal, have hurt him greatly. Oliver built up his shell more as a result of his profession as a spy; it wasn't really until Abernathy betrayed him that he was cut by it on a personal level. But both of them have tried to be inhuman and uncaring so as to be able to cope with the uncertainties of their lives, and both of them have encountered people who got through that armour in spite of themselves.
If you compare Avon + Blake with Oliver + Abernathy, you get some contrasts. Avon trusted Blake despite himself, and when he thought Blake had betrayed him, he killed Blake. But it turned out that Blake hadn't betrayed him after all. Oliver had trusted Abernathy all his life, only to be betrayed by him in the end. But Oliver couldn't kill Abernathy, Abernathy was killed by someone else.
They've both had the woman they love die in their arms, after finding her after years of thinking she was dead.
But, tragic as it is, Oliver's tale is less devastating. Alex left Oliver to think she was dead, because she was saving others' lives. She died in his arms because someone else killed her.
Avon found Anna, only to find she had been lying all this time, she had been spying on him, had betrayed him, had faked her own death in order to keep on working for the Federation. Avon himself killed her, because she tried to kill him, because she thought he would kill her once he figured it out. "How do you hurt a man who has nothing? Give him back something broken." (Donaldson)
I think Oliver had more ideals than Avon. Despite Oliver's comments that "There is no truth," he still worked with the Committee because he felt they were doing more good than harm, worked as a spy because he was trying to help people. (Alex's comment "I thought I was helping people. I learned that from you." points this out.) He is cynical, but not to the same extent as Avon.
Avon professes to have no ideals at all, declares that all idealists are fools, that self-interest is his only principle. And then contradicts himself by his actions.
Interestingly, the motivations of both of them are murky and hard to determine. Oliver's motivations are obscured because of the added factor that Oliver has orders to follow, and therefore could be doing things he doesn't personally care about. Avon obscures his own motives by pointing out reasons why what he does isn't altruistic.
Avon's wit is more acidic than Oliver's. There's also more of it.
Who would I rather work with?
Avon - but then he's a computer programmer.
Take to a party?
Be stuck on an overloaded shuttle with? Oliver.
Save the life of?
Avon. Because he needs it more.