Thursday, July 5, 2012

Discuss: Blake's 7

Karen: I discovered Blake's 7 in my mid-late teens, around the same time I began listening to 'college radio' and hearing this strange music called punk. Both were different, subversive, and very cool. Any love for this British sci-fi show from the late 70s/early 80s?


William Preston said...

When did they start showing it in the US? I can't recall if my PBS network showed it when I was still in high school or after I'd gone off to college (in which case I would have watched in in the summers). I know I watched all of the early episodes, then somewhat lost interest when Blake departed; whenever the seams of a show appear, as when they can't fill a character hole, it's hard for me to keep seeing a show as having its own reality.

The show does fall somewhat into the What Else Did We Have? category. At least it took itself seriously, unlike Buck Rogers or some such thing.

david_b said...

I watched some bits of Blake when PBS ran it in the late 70s, early 80s. Like Star Maidens, it seemed to have some 'euro-trashy' feel to it, riding the international syndication boat after Space:1999's successful example.

With the exploding post-Star Wars sci-fi fanbase growing on these shores, it seemed to me that BBC tried to capture some existing Doctor Who aura (thanks mostly to Terry Nation..), copying a lot of old renegade movie plots, much like our 'Galactica' did.

I don't recall overall it having much of a fanbase reaction here as the Whovians enjoyed, but it was a worthwhile show.

Anonymous said...

One thing I loved about Blake’s 7 was the design. Bearing in mind that this was a sci-fi series made by a public broadcasting corporation in the 1970’s, you would expect it to have roughly the production values of a Nigerian remake of the Matrix, which in terms of special effects it did. But I liked the design of the Liberator, the laser guns and especially the teleporting effect which was really simple but effective.

I also liked the music which was big & stirring. A friend of mine went up the aisle to the theme tune – now there was a game organist. He even managed the bit on the end.

Also, at the time, Servalan was a tremendous baddie, somewhere between the White Witch in Narnia and Margaret Thatcher. Some would say that’s a thin gap! What was really distinctive about her was the shaved head. In the 70’s you never saw a woman with a shaved head, unless she was a recovering cancer sufferer, so her appearances was quite eye-popping.

Blake’s 7 had a strange genesis. It originated much like the Simpsons i.e. Terry Nation went to pitch one thing and ended up making up something else on the spot and found to his tremendous surprise that it got commissioned.

More unique was the fourth series. They had decided to end the series, so fully written it out, including blowing up the Liberator. The Head of BBC Programming, sitting at home, decided he’d better have a look at Blake’s 7 as it was the final episode. He liked it so much he rang the BBC during the broadcast and told the continuity department to announce over the end credits that there would be a fourth series, much to surprise of everyone watching it.

One other thing: while I wouldn’t accuse it of gritty realism, imagine a version of Star Trek where Kirk disappears, leaving Spock to captain the Enterprise for 2 series, where any of the principals (Chekov, Sulu, Ohura, Scotty, Bones etc) could be killed and most of them eventually are, and where Spock finally finds Kirk, and, believing him to be a traitor, executes him. I mean, it just wouldn’t happen, would it?


Steve Does Comics said...

I loved Blake's 7. It had cheap sets, ropey acting, clumsy fight sequences, leaden pacing and wobbly spaceships but it also had a cynicism to it you couldn't help love.

You also had to love the fact that, when Blake left, they had a character take charge of the gang who didn't seem much better than the bad guys they were fighting.

It's a wonderfully pessimistic portrayal of the future and therefore wonderfully representative of 1970s British TV sci-fi.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve – do you also reckon it’s the Anti-Star-Trek? I find it interesting that where Star Trek took place in a world where a (surprisingly multicultural but ideologically American) crew boldly went where no man had gone before, spreading human and (Roddenberry’s) very humanIST world view around the universe, Blake’s 7 seemed to exist in a world where all human values had been crushed, any concept of a bright future had imploded and the most constructive thing anyone could do was fly round blowing things up and killing people.

Whereas the crew of the Enterprise were all highly trained space adventurers, Blake’s 7, with the exception of Blake himself, were just criminals & thieves who happened to escape with him.


Steve Does Comics said...

Hi to you too, Richard. :)

I think it's 100% the anti-Star Trek. After all, the good guys in Star Trek are the Federation and the bad guys in Blake's 7 are the Federation.

I've always felt that Star Trek was the product of a country brimming with confidence, one that saw itself as the nation that had saved the world in WW2 and was now the world's policeman. Whereas Blake's 7 was the product of a land that had seen its cities bombed, its economy bankrupted and its Empire collapse and therefore had a subconsciously bleaker view of the world and its place in it.

Maybe in Star Trek, the Federation represents America's increasing global hegemony, while, in Blake's 7, the Federation represents the outside world, with Blake and his gang symbolising an increasingly marginalised and powerless Britain striving against forces of change and history it can't possibly overcome.

Chris said...

Richard makes some great comments.

The Liberator - I've said this before, one of the best designs ever. And then they blow it up??!!

Servalan - fantastic baddie. And we all know our heroes are only as good as the bad guys they face.

Theme tune - a classic.

But nobody has mentioned the REAL star of the show...Avon. He made the series! In every episode you never knew just what he might do next. Brilliant character.

david_b said...

Anti-Trek..? Not too hard to understand.

Star Wars was all about the rebellion/outlaws as heroes, the oppressive empire as villains. It was just the popular style to emulate following SW, like Galactica did.

Despite shortcomings, it was one of the better shows to come out, since it did stick to its format. It didn't try to be Trek, like the 2nd years of both 1999 and Buck Rogers did.

nude0007 said...

my memory must be more vague about this than I thought. I really liked it, which is odd because I don't like too much politics and intrigue. I really thought they would do a sequel or 'nother season.

Unknown said...

I only ever saw scattered episodes when it was on PBS in the early 80's. At first I was put off by the continued employment of the Dr. Who special effects team. After sticking with it a bit, I started noticing how interesting it was from a narrative standpoint.

I've still never really followed it. I think this blog might inspire me to start watching it from the beginning.

Is this series ripe for a Dr. Who-style revival? Might be great if the same production team handled it.

James Chatterton

Karen said...

James, I have only vague memories of the actual episodes, but like you, I now feel the need to watch some! it looks like plenty of episodes are online.

As a Star Trek fan, I felt almost like a traitor watching Blake's 7, with its pessimistic (nihilistic?) attitude. But it was a very entertaining show. I can't help but think it was an influence on later shows, like Farscape. Thankfully it had fewer Muppets.

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