Looking back at BLAKE'S 7 - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Looking back at BLAKE'S 7

Tom Pheby takes a look back at Terry Nation's dystopian sci-fi series, Blake's 7.

The rumours that Blake's 7 is to be remade are as persistent as a PPI adviser cold calling your home number, but I think its safe to assume that after a series of false starts, it's as far away as it ever was. The BBC may have considered it briefly but I doubt they were ever serious enough to go ahead or commit the necessary cash to remake it. I'm sure it would be a welcome addition during a 'Who less' TV schedule and would delight a whole new generation, although it would take someone with a crystal clear vision, a truck load of ambition and an exceedingly thick skin to attempt it.

Back in 1977 Star Wars (A New Hope) exploded on the big Screen and as a result the clamour for all things Science Fiction grew to insane levels driven an insatiable audience. The Americans came up with Battlestar Galactica (1978) and over here, the BBC hierarchy thought long and hard (probably approximately five minutes) about a series which would satisfy the public's appetite. There was only one man to discuss it with and that man was Terry Nation (who else?). Nation had a proven track record in this genre with Doctor Who and was suitably blessed with the inventive mind to create something unique.

Unlike Galactica which had more than a passing resemblance to Star Wars in just about every way possible, Nation came up with Blake's 7 (also screened in 78), a mixture of Robin Hood meets Dan Dare! Nation described a big brother society, full of disenfranchised citizens, political activists and criminals that had fallen foul of the Federation. The lead character, Roj Blake (played by professional thespian Gareth Thomas), was cast as a wrongly accused and imprisoned dissident. Along with a few other social outcasts, Blake manages to fix and steal a space ship and add to his band of jolly spacemen comprised of the tea dregs of the universe.

Blake's 7 was a huge success - even if crippled by a pitiful budget and a distinctly 'not very special effects' team - and managed to attract millions of viewers during it's run (1978-1981). The first series was written entirely by Nation and it was his inventiveness and superb scripts that managed to transcend the cringeworthy production values. When I think back, they didn't seem that terrible but with advancements in technology and CG, it's easy to spot the washing up liquid bottles covered in Bacofoil and the odd converted whisk. Every expense was spared, it was as if the whole thing was sponsored by both Lidl and Poundland and directed by the worlds most penny pinching miser. But Blake's 7 wasn't judged on its visual inadequacies, it was series of brilliant stories and intriguing characters, such as Avon, Gan, Villa, Jenna and Cally, and we lapped it up like a cat locked in a shed for a month. Later Blake (the Che Guevara of space) launched a vigorous campaign against the Terran Federation from the illegally acquired Liberator until the outbreak of war. 

There were two notable things that resulted in the series demise: Firstly, as the series continued Nation became one of a team of writers, therefore the scripts were lacking his vision and quality. Secondly, Gareth Thomas went AWOL leaving Avon (Paul Darrow) in charge of the renegades, which was reminiscent of when Robbie Williams left Take That and the others plodded on for a bit longer. After all, a show without Blake was not quite what we had signed up for, and to this day I'm still blissfully unaware of the reasons behind the disappearance. Perhaps he hated it and thought he'd become type cast (oh poor me, I'm successful now but I can't get the role of Polonius), or was the star of the longest Panto in the History of the World, maybe we'll never know. One thing was clear, Avon's spell at the helm was uninspiring and I remember feeling a bit cheated by Blake bunking off without a dramatic shoot out or blowing something to smithereens.

Avon supplied all the logic of a silver suited Burton's version of Mr Spock! He was stoically assisted by the on-board computers, Orac and Zen, which sound like the makers of a teenage acne treatment. It ran until 1981, at which point we witnessed Avon locating Blake (who must have finished his spell with The Royal Shakespeare Company) and then his death for being a traitor. That should have been that, but then the rest of the cast were unceremoniously bumped off before the end credits. It was clear from this terribly concocted ending that the BBC lost interest and faith in the show and just wanted rid of it - even though it still had such a loyal following.

At it's best Blake's 7 was a wonderfully constructed idea, but sadly the people that produced it lacked the imagination to make it magnificent. I'd like to see it return though, give it a healthy budget and a quality executive producer - like Russell T Davis. Why not? There's a man who knows a thing or three about resurrecting a defunct Science Fiction series. Perhaps he is ready for another challenge and this would certainly provide the mother of them all. 

Want to be a guest contributor for Warped Factor?
Well we want you!
See our Geeks Wanted page for more details.

Post Top Ad