Rewatching Blake’s 7

Season 1 – Episodes 1-4

Blake’s 7 is a British Science Fiction show originally broadcast between 1978 and 1981.  I’m too young to remember it the first time around and although I know I saw some episodes, I wasn’t old enough to know what was going on.  I watched the whole series a few years ago on DVD with my brother and loved it.  I found it on YouTube again recently and started again from the beginning.

I have to say that I’ve been blown away by the first four episodes.   It was created by Terry Nation (who created the Daleks for Doctor Who).  The central premise surrounds Roj Blake, a political dissident who is part of a major rebellion against the harsh regime of the Terran Federation.  He is captured and brainwashed into selling out his compatriots then, missing his memories in a Doug Quaid sort of way he is dumped in a fake life in a dome city on Earth.

A new uprising begins and Blake is convinced to join and regain his lost memories.  Just as this happens the Police arrive and kill all the rebels.  Blake is captured and, rather than execute him as a traitor and make a martyr of him, he is framed to destroy his reputation and shipped off to a prison planet called Cygnus Alpha.

En route he is able to escape with some others and take control of a highly sophisticated spaceship called Liberator, which he then uses to launch an assault on the Federation.  The 7 of the title refers to his crew, an eclectic mix of outlaws, murderers, thieves and outcasts and the ship’s computer, Zen.

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Left to right, Vila, Cally, Blake, Jenna, Avon, Gan

 

The first series reached upwards of ten million viewers in the UK and was broadcast mostly around 7pm in the evening.

In terms of story structure, it’s really powerful stuff and remarkably dark given its time slot.  The first episode features a massacre of political activists (on screen), the framing of Blake for crimes against children and a show trial after which he is sentenced to exile on the prison planet and the murder of two lawyers attempting to clear his name.  In episode 2, Blake leads a mutiny aboard the ship transporting them to the prison planet and this is put down by the ship’s second in command, Raiker, rounding up prisoners and executing them (again, on screen), shooting one more after Blake surrenders just for good measure. In episode 3, a cult leader (Brian Blessed in fine form) attempts to take control of the Liberator and is transported into deep space where he explodes!  In episode 4, the Liberator is overrun by murderous “guardians” (who surely inspired Barbara Bellini on Red Dwarf) while Blake and his crew blow up a Federation communications base, presumably with plenty of collateral damage that is not mentioned.

The show had an incredibly low budget by today’s standards (see Vila and his picnic coolbox running around whatever factory or quarry they were using for location shooting).  Certainly the first episode has camera work that reminds me of films I made at school a few years back.  The special effects will undoubtedly turn off younger viewers these days which is such a shame as there is so much to love about what is going on, especially in the first few episodes that I have just watched, not least the brilliant Paul Darrow as Avon.  His self-interest and rampant sarcasm make him the perfect foil for the idealistic Blake.  Throw in a great theme tune and a beautiful spaceship in the Liberator and you have a great start to a series.  The main villains of the piece, Servalan and Travis haven’t even been introduced yet.

There has been talk over the past few years of a reboot in the making, although this has come to nothing.  It would be great to see this updated for a new audience.  I know this would be sacrilege for many, but a great story like this deserves another run in some form.

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Vila and his coolbox
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