Tell Me About "Blake's 7" -- Spoilers Welcome

I’ve just discovered that a nearby branch of the library has over two dozen Blake’s 7 video tapes. I started with volumes 1 and 2 last week, episodes 1-4, and I plan on working my way through the rest of them, as much in order as I can manage.

So, what can you tell me about the show and what should I know? I found a website on the program and I’ve noticed that people come and go. I’ve also watched a few episodes piecemeal on PBS, but I haven’t really had the chance to get into it. I’m particularly curious about what the story behind Zen is. Right now, I’m enjoying playing with the idea that he’s a training ship.

In this crowd, I know there are fans, so come on, fill me in!

CJ

I really wouldn’t call myself a fan, I’m a victim.
Watched it religously as a kid and it nourished countless childhood games. I was glued to Matt Irving’s (sp) appearance on Swap Shop explaining how they’s faked the Liberator exploding (spoiler there - you asked for it) with three washing-up bottles and a air-freshener. I was pissed-off when my younger brother astutely pointed out that Paul Dacre is in the latest Bond flick and I hadn’t noticed. But then, I was jealous that he got given the Dinka toy of the Liberator.
Anyway, the other year the BBC simultaneously re-ran both part of Blake’s 7 and the whole of Genesis of the Daleks from Doctor Who. And it turned out that, in retrospect, one of these Terry Nation pieces was the quite good, though camp, piece of SF and the other was the horrible bit of ropey plot executed with terrible SFX. Guess which was Blake’s 7. I really don’t want to see the rest.

Oooooooh Blake’s Seven!!! Be still my beating heart!!!
What a treat you have in store for you!!
This was one of the high points of my late teenage years. Don’t think I missed a single episode. Heh, used to have Orac wavs as startup & shutdown on my PC :slight_smile:
The series ran from 1977 to 1982 on the BBC and was the brainchild IIRC of Terry Nation, hopefully familiar to you from Doctor Who.
Wonderfully low budgets contrasted with excellent plots and dialogue (mostly).
You can probably do best by simply googling on “Blake’s Seven”, tho’ good sites seems to be this one for episode synopses, that should get you straight continuity wise and let you place each episode in the scheme of things or here for sound bites and screen grabs.

Points of note :
Avon’s ever increasing shoulderpads
4 series of 13 episode each.
After the end of series 2, Blake disappears and Avon takes over as leader;Blake only ever appears in two more episodes including the very last one.
Avon’s Shoulderpads
Servalan the evil Ruler of the Federation traipsing around hostile environments in evening wear.
Orac the insufferably arrogant AI appears at the end of season one in a cliff-hanger that leads to the discvery of where the Liberator comes from in the continuing episode next season.
They lose the Liberator at the end of series 3 but but by a remarkable stroke of good luck quickly find the only other ship in the universe with teleport technology.
The only characters to be in the series from beginning to end apart from Blake are Avon and Vila. Vila is the only character to be in every single episode.

Been too long since I’ve seen it to give you any kind of coherent account but the basis is the evil federation oppressing the masses. Roj Blake is accused of shit he didn’t do yada yada and gets sent of to a penal colony, en route to which by a Handy Coincidence they come across the Most Powerful Spaceship Ever Known floating dead in the water and steal it.
Much wondeful tension between the idealistic Blake and the cynical and self-centered Avon in their ongoing guerilla action, and the Best ending to a SF series I have ever seen EVER.

Important note - please please please don’t watch the final episode until you have watched every other episode you can find.

I’m afraid Zen isn’t a training ship. The origin of the Liberator and Zen will become apparent in due course.

You’d be well advised to stick with it - Blake’s 7 is fantastic. If you can see past the dodgy scenery and effects (bear in mind it was made in the late 70s on a BBC budget) then you’re in for a very enjoyable 52 episodes (well, most of them are enjoyable. I’ll happily admit that a few of them are fairly rubbish The general standard, however, is fairly high. honest :slight_smile: ).

I’ve seen all the episodes. It was an interesting show, though of fluctuating quality. Characters did come and go (only one – Vila – was there from beginning to end) and some of the additions were not all that good (Slave, Soo-lin, etc.). OTOH, Gan was better off dropped.

The nice thing about the show was the pessimistic overtone. It was hard to win; all you could achieve are small, temporary victories.

The best episodes featured Servalan (while she wore white). The worst tended to feature Travis (the second version), who spent his entire time screaming.

Favorite character was Avon, if only for his immortal line “I’m not stupid; I’m not expendable; and I’m not going.”

And, the final episode was . . … .


A truck ending. Everyone got wiped out by the Federation (there is a remote possibility that Avon got out alive – the camera went to black, then you heard a shot – but it seems unlikely

Avon was the best! He had lots of great lines, all delivered in that superior tone.

Vila: I’ve got this shocking pain right behind the eyes.
Avon: Have you considered amputation?

Shrinker: Why should I trust you?
Avon: Because I have the gun!

Servalan: Go to hell, Avon.
Avon: Probably.

Vila: What did I do to deserve this?
Avon: How long a list would you like?

Avon was wonderful. Just wonderful. ::sigh:: I must check and see if our library has any of the videos. I’ve got the very first one but that’s all.

My God, I can’t believe there are other folks out there who remember this show. It is truly the epitome of the “so bad it’s good” genre. I hope the originator of this thread enjoys the heck out of it - especially show-stealing, cynical Avon. Loved him.

Avon quickly cemented himself as the only one with brains by the little habit of always going through the transporter with gun drawn and ready.

Wildly fluctuating quality, and I’m amazed to find myself using the phrase in seriousness, but the show did the proverbial shark-jump when they decided that Servalan had to turn up still alive.

The ending was definitely memorable, though.

CJ: to understand the original appeal, it ought to be added that Servalan was central to the adolescent fantasies of boys all over the UK. In a recent interview I saw, Jacqueline Pearce told how she had a letter from a young man who wanted her to visit and chastise him “after 10.30pm, because his parents would be asleep”. She paused and added, “And do you know? They were.”

Blakes 7 was an attempt by Terry Nation to make a a bit of a more grown up Doctor Who. Hence the bit more complicated plots and ambivalency between good 'n evil. Blakes 7 consisted of criminals, but the authorities were evil. So who were the good guys?

Unfortunately, the ropey sets, primitive special effects and touch’n’go acting, that makes for all part of the fun in Doctor Who, just doesn’t work when you’re supposed to be being adult about things.

From what I can remember Blakes 7 started out promising, and slide downhill from then on. When Blake himself left, and I don’t remember any plausible reason being given from this, I think the actor just decided not to sign up for the next series, it all went to pot. The point of Blake was he was supposed to be the good guy, and Avon was the one who could go either way. Once it was just left to Avon, it all just got too confusing.

BBC recently did a one-off drama, called “Cruise of the Gods” that was a complete send-up of Blakes 7 and the obsessive fans these programmes tend to collect. It was very cleverly done.

My favorite exchange (paraphrased):

Avon shoots gun out of enemy’s hand.

Blake: Good shot!

Avon: It was a terrible shot. I was aiming for his head.

Blake’s Seven addict checking in … it’s definitely worth watching. Definitely. OK, cheap special effects, daft costumes, wobbly model shots, some bad performances … against that, some very good performances, and some seriously clever script writing.

For me, the key thing about it was the exploration of the moral ambiguities involved. It all seems quite straightforward, the Federation is a corrupt military dictatorship, Blake is a heroic freedom fighter … except, Blake is, quite often, shown as utterly ruthless in the pursuit of his goals (so much so that even Avon is appalled), and, every so often, you run into Federation loyalists who have a valid point.

The series was good at addressing moral themes on this level - even in the fourth and final season, which was, admittedly, pretty dire for the most part, there’s still a sense of the scriptwriters trying to deal with some quite complex issues. (Take a look at, for example, Series D, episode 5, “Animals”, for instance, and look beyond the very dodgy dialogue and the bad makeup, at the dilemma affecting the main character.)

And when it was good, the writing on Blake’s Seven really sparkled … Avon’s sardonic one-liners are only one part of it. And let’s not forget the two episodes guest-written by Tanith Lee, in particular “Sarcophagus” (Series C, episode 9), which is surely one of the best pieces of SF the BBC has ever produced.

In summary: keep watching, cj, there are treats in store. Personally, I am waiting with bated breath for the DVD releases … they’ve finally settled on a release date for Series A in region 2, and my anticipation is building.

My vote would go to the time Avon pushed Blake out of danger (roughly).

Blake You saved my life!
Avon Pure reflex. I wasn’t thinking. It won’t happen again.

Not that Avon got the last word in all those exchanges. IIRC :-

Avon: In the unlikely event that we live through this, I’m finished. Staying with you requires a degree of stupidity of which I no longer feel capable.
Blake: Now you’re just being modest.

What always intrigued me about the show was it’s depiction of the Federation as a psuedo-democracy. Free elections (where all the candidates were pre-approved by the authorities); “impartial” AI trial judges (programmed of course to find people guilty); dirty tricks campaigns to smear the opposition; etc. It seems the British are even more cynical about democracy than we in the US.

Man, it’s been easily fifteen years since I’ve seen an episode of Blakes 7 and I can still hear that cool, cheesy, overwrought Moog synthesizer music they played in the background.

Thanks, everyone. I have now met Servalan, and I can see why teenage boys fantasized about her. Being a straight woman, I’ll stick to Blake, thank you. Avon’s a bit too arrogant for me. I’ve seen the odd episode on PBS, and it always looked intriguing.

I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for years; I even had a friend who was doing her Masters thesis on Doctor Who. I rather like the wit and the ambiguity. I figure the not-so-special effects aren’t that much worse than those on the original Star Trek.

Any other advice out there?
CJ

Another long-time B7 fan checking in. I really can’t add that much to what everyone else has said, but here’s my take.

Overall, the show is very good but very inconsistant. There are some absolutely excellent episodes and some absolutely excreable episodes. Unfortunately they are all mixed together so you can’t simply avoid one season and get just the good ones.

The cast/characters are very good (well, we’ll ignore Soolin… :slight_smile: ) and do a very good job. The sets/special effects are high-end 1970’s BBC quality, which means they are laughable now, though some of the designs are actually quite interesting.

The appeal of the show to me is that it was the first science fiction series (that I can think of) where the crew does not get along with each other. All of the main characters are criminals and fugitives who are together out of necessity, not loyalty, and it shows. There is one episode containing the line “Vila weighs 100 kilos…” which illustrates this extremely well. (The line out of context really isn’t a spoiler btw, but you will recognize the scene when you see it.)

There is also a great moral ambiguity about the characters. Avon is extremely cold, calculating and out for himself. Vila is a coward and a thief, though there is a scene where he implies that his personality is an act designed to keep him out of the front lines. Tarrant is arrogant and concited. And Blake is almost monomaniacal in his quest to destroy the Federation. In one episode he is about to destroy a Federation facility. Another character points out that if he does he will not just hurt the Federation, he will also hurt millions of people who depend on the facility. He brushes off the objection and proceeds with his plan.

My personal favorite episode is “Rumors of Death”, a third-season Avon episode that I think is one of the best episodes of any SF series anywhere.

The company BFS was supposed to be releasing the entire series of Blake’s 7 on DVD in the US but it has since dropped off their release list and there is no release date at this time. Too bad. I was looking forward to seeing it again.

Even Soolin had her moments, though not very many of them (there’s that bit in “Headhunter” where she’s carrying the “possessed” Orac around the base; Orac is babbling away about how he can fulfil all her desires, and Soolin mutters something under her breath along the lines of “You wouldn’t know where to start.”) I think she could have been good if the scripts in the final season had been better.

Jacqueline Pearce just gets more and more outrageous as the series progresses; by all accounts, she is something of a character. I think she started out in Hammer horror films; she played the title role in The Reptile, that much I know. Actually, most of the Blake’s Seven cast have had pretty successful careers, some of them in the theatre more than television … Josette Simon (Dayna, in the third and fourth seasons) was awarded an MBE a couple of years back for her services to Shakesperean drama or something.

There has been some wrangling over the DVD release of the show, but a fairly solid release date for the first season seems to have been agreed … with luck, US releases will follow in due course.