Avon and Vila are betrayed by a baddy and are going to crash. It's up to Orac to come up with a solution... but it's up to Avon if he will go along with it.
If Warlord is the beginning of the end, then the previous episode - Orbit, by Robert Holmes - foreshadows that the end is coming.
It starts when Scorpio! arrives at a planet and Vila doesn't want to go down. He wants to stay behind with his friend Avon.
"You know I like to stick with you Avon... where it's safe."
Egrorian and Pinder are old mannys who laugh like they are silly. Egrorian is the one in charge, he wants Avon to come down to his planet. Avon takes Vila with him. And a gun.
Egrorian is a mad scientist and he wants to show them all! He has an ultimate weapon called a 'Tachyon Funnel' and he wants to swap it for Orac. He is a baddy and he is very horrible to Pinder who is just a poor old manny. Avon agrees to the deal but he is already suspicious and thinking of a plan.
Egrorian is really working with Servalan because he fancies her. He is so horrible that even Servalan is disgusted by him. Tarrant has been finding out how much of a baddy Egrorian is, and he also knows Pinder should be a young manny and not an old manny. Egrorian tells Avon that Pinder was aged by radiation.
Avon and Vila make the swap, but betray Egrorian by giving him a fake Orac. They thought Egrorian would try and betray them and they are right because the shuttle cannot go fast enough to escape the planet. Avon starts throwing things overboard to make them lighter, including the Tachyon Funnel.
Both Avon and Egrorian have been caught by the idea of the Prisoner's Dilemma, which says it is always better to betray than to trust. Except when both sides betray then neither of them wins - here Egrorian doesn't get Orac, and Avon doesn't get the weapon.
Avon and Vila are still in trouble because they are 70 kilos too heavy.
"Dammit! What weighs 70 kilos?" asks Avon. Orac gives him the answer, like Basement Cat whispering in his ear.
"Vila weighs 73 kilos, Avon."
Avon's face in that moment. Then he reaches for the gun.
The music in the background changes, so we all know this is Serious Business.
"Vila, are you here? I need your help." Vila is hiding.
"Vila, I know you're here. Come out." Vila looks very scared.
"Vila, I know how they did it but I need your help. Please help me."
Then Avon finds the heavy thing that is weighing them down. Now he really does know what they did, but Vila will not believe him. Avon has to push it out of the ship himself. But he does, so they escape.
Servalan leaves Egrorian behind, and Pinder kills himself and Egrorian with the same radiation that made him old. They are turned into skeletons.
Nobody wins. Avon and Vila may have escaped, but they are not friends any more because Vila is scared of Avon now.
Would Avon really have killed Vila if he hadn't found the heavy thing? Avon has always been a goody, doing things like staying to solve a mystery when he didn't have to in Mission to Destiny, or taking off his teleport bracelet to stay behind and save the planet in Countdown, and so Blake says he always trusted him in Star One. Vila trusted Avon too.
If Avon killed Vila then he and Orac would escape. But if Avon hadn't killed Vila, they would both have died when the shuttle crashed. He and Vila might have still escaped if they had trusted each other and worked together to throw enough things off the shuttle, but to Avon that was a risk - while if he betrayed Vila then he would certainly survive.
This is another example of the Prisoner's Dilemma within the same story. The logical choice in this situation is to betray, and Avon has always been a logical manny, maybe even longer than he has been a goody. That is why I think Avon would have killed Vila, even though Vila is his friend.
Avon does find the heavy thing though, so he doesn't need to kill Vila. But he does need to move the heavy thing himself, because Vila will not trust him and stays hiding. By not trusting Avon (and rightly so, poor scared Vila) it means that Vila has betrayed Avon in turn - and when both sides betray then nobody wins.
Because this is a story and not a thinking brain experiment, Avon and Vila do escape. What they lose is the trust that Vila had for Avon at the start of the story.
This is an episode that builds up and up and up to the moment when the shuttle with Avon and Vila in it is going down and down and down. Then it becomes very dramatic and quite scary when the Serious Business happens.
The end of the episode is not a tragic ending like Warlord, or a cliffhanger ending like Aftermath, but it is not a happy ending. Avon has betrayed a friend, and shown what he is capable of...