Tuesday, 18 March 2008
Graeme’s Retro Classics! ‘Blake’s 7’ (Season One)
The BBC TV show ‘Blake’s 7’ ran from 1978 to 1981 (thanks Wikipedia!), four seasons in all. As a child, I probably only saw a few episodes from the last two seasons but ‘Blake’s 7’ is so great that I’m going right back to the very beginning…
‘Blake’s 7’ recounts the tale of Roj Blake and his crew of renegades and criminals, fleeing justice (of a repressive Federation) in a stolen alien spacecraft of unknown origin. The first season mainly deals with the crew’s attempts to determine the capabilities of their new vessel, ‘The Liberator’, as well as their initial attempts to strike back at the Federation. Relationships between the crew are given time to develop and the villains of the piece are introduced. While there is a lot of scene setting that takes place; individual stories still have room to shine with action, intrigue and plenty of impressive looking spaceships (that somehow looked a lot more impressive when I was five or six years old…)
As child watching ‘Blake’s 7’ I never really saw past the laser guns, spacecraft and talking computers. Nothing wrong with that, that’s what being a child (and watching sci-fi on TV) is all about! The last few days though have seen me watching Season One and realising that there is a lot more to ‘Blake’s 7’ than I originally thought. It’s so dark for a start, the first ever episode opens with revelations of a population kept docile through Federation administered drugs and a crowd of protesters are gunned down by security forces. For your money, you also get scenes of torture but this is torture ‘nineteen seventies TV’ style so it’s nothing to get too scared by. Having a ‘rebel’ crew consisting of thieves, smugglers and murderers also turns things upside down in terms of who you’re supposed to root for. Do you go with the oppressive regime (that is fighting to maintain law and order) or do you side with a bunch of criminals (who want to bring down said oppressive regime but for differing and ulterior motives)? It’s a real grey area that isn’t helped by the fact that the crew of the Liberator seems to fight amongst themselves almost as much as they do the Federation. The dynamic between Blake and Avon is particularly compelling, as they are two strong characters with very clear (and differing) ideas of what they want and how to get it. As the more self serving of the two, Avon’s character stands out and it is interesting to see how he develops over the course of the season.
Whichever side you choose (and I’m guessing you’ll make the same choice as me!), ‘Blake’s 7’ offers a ‘Robin Hood in space’ slice of sci-fi where plot and character development more than make up for the ‘card-boardy’ feel of some of the scenery. My favourite episodes, for Season One, were ‘The Avalon Project’ and ‘The Web’. I’ve got no idea if ‘Blake’s 7’ is being repeated on TV anywhere but I think it’s well worth your time if it is!