I was a teenager in the eighties, and a card carrying science fiction geek. I fondly remember browsing the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction and reading Asimov’s Foundation series. It had only been a couple of years since the life event changing film Star Wars had been released and, apparently, the BBC were looking at how they could capitalise on the burgeoning need for Sci Fi action adventure.
Terry Nation came up with the idea of the magnificent seven in space, and from that Blake’s 7 was born.
The premise was simple; a band of criminals led by the freedom fighter wrongfully convicted of a crime, Roj Blake, flying through the galaxy and restoring freedom one planet at a time, from the evil Federation.
What I found odd was that, despite the low budget and wobbly sets, there was something quite endearing in the story; the fact that Blake, Vila, Gan, Jenna, Avon and Cally along with the liberator’s computer Gan were trying to make a difference. It is by no means an original premise, Star Wars was about a rebellion, and as previously mentioned, the story had been lifted from the Magnificent Seven. However, in addition there was the travelling in an invincible ship between worlds, a la Star Trek that ensured that the story would always bring them somewhere else.
It was a little odd, but I can remember, pleasing to the eye that the main baddie was not some tall mask wearing warrior dressed in black, but rather a very glamorous woman called Servalan; cold, calculating and with the quintessential South Kensington accent, clearly meeting the needs of the intended teen male audience!
Blake’s 7 ran between 1978 and 1981 and has the rather dubious honour of having one of the worst final episodes ever. Many fans, including myself found it utterly ludicrous that all the main characters could be killed, at the same time, and by troopers who, previously, couldn’t hit the side of a barn. It was a simple and harsh way of tying up loose ends.
If you’ve never watched it, give it a try and you’ll realise that shows like Firefly and Dark Matter, owe a great deal to this quirky British show.