In defence Of: Blake’s 7

By Pete Wilkinson

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The internet is a wonderful and scary place, filled with pundits, critics and commentators who examine the minutiae of everything so we don’t have to. The pop-culture subconscious they generate can form our opinion for us, sometimes with very little input from ourselves. But are all those ‘bad’ films and TV shows really as bad as the internet would have us believe? Are they not at least worth another quick look, before we cast them aside as irredeemable? We decided to bravely step through the office space/time portal for a last quick look at some of the most maligned…

Even if you’re a young whippersnapper and all your favourite sci-fi shows are from the last decade or so, or at least from this century, you still have to give thanks for the 1970’s. Films like Star Wars and Ridley Scott’s Alien, both from the end of that decade, gave us a whole new style of sci-fi: darker, grittier and filled with a less hopeful vision for our future.

Blake's 7 FederationHere in Britain, the BBC already had one hit sci-fi show on its hands with Doctor Who, by then well over a decade old. So it’s probably not surprising that they thought it would be a great time to produce a dystopian sci-fi show to ride the success of films like Star Wars. What’s more, they already had the right man for the job on the payroll. Terry Nation had worked on Doctor Who, and was responsible for the creation of the Daleks. They had the BBC props department with all the tinsel and sticky-backed plastic left over from the last series of Doctor Who, and they had filming time reserved in a damp quarry somewhere in Wales. They were all set.

What resulted from all this was Blake’s 7, a seriously bleak vision of earth’s future, and a pointed lesson in what is (and isn’t) possible with some bubble wrap, gaffer tape and some bits of old wire. In a decade when so much of TV’s output was drawn in brightly coloured crayon, Blake’s 7 took bleak to a whole new level.

Blake's 7It was written brilliantly, and included dialogue filled with technobabble so dense it goes beyond indecipherable and is almost sublime. But it wasn’t humourless. The characters played against each other in wonderful ways, with the hyper cynical Avon adding to the pessimistic atmosphere, and the quirky, cowardly Vila releasing the tension with some awesome quips. And then there is Servalan, a villain so evil that she  accessorises an evening dress with a feather boa and a blaster pistol.

The Liberator
The Liberator

The BBC prop makers did some of their finest work with this series, creating original and imaginative designs for so many things we take for granted in sci-fi today. The ray-guns were perspex rods attached to belts to carry the batteries for them, communicators and teleport devices were rolled together into stylish bracelets, and the ship itself, the Liberator, is one of the most stunning ship designs in all of sci-fi, bar none.

The series has been threatening to reappear for some time, with several companies beginning production talks and then later dropping them, but if there was ever a franchise deserving of a second look, this is the one. We love our complex political landscapes in our shows nowadays, and here’s a great one. We love intelligent, quirky characters filled with wit, and here they are. And we love our shows to have a good pedigree, from trusted writers or production teams. Blake’s 7 really does have it all. It’s high time it came out of Doctor Who’s shadow, and caught some attention of its own.

Read: In Defence Of:
Predator
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Dungeons & Dragons The Movie
Farscape


bright red eyesPete Wilkinson is a wanderer in many worlds, one minute holding back the Shadow in Middle-Earth, and Piloting Starships the next. But not in Middle-Earth, of course. That would be silly.