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'Blake's 7' - the TV Series
The series Blake's 7 was created by Terry Nation, who was also responsible for the creation of the Daleks in Doctor Who. The show was hugely popular during its first showing on BBC One, getting viewing figures of around 11 million at its peak. Running from 1978 until 1981, there were four series comprising a total of 52 episodes.
The universe is all but controlled by the tyrannical Federation who manipulate, abuse and conquer all who stand in their way. Small groups of rebels continually try to thwart the Federation's attempts at gaining more power by attacking them. One such rebel is Roj Blake, who has huge backing and who, the rebels believe, is the man to lead the mass fightback. The Federation, on learning this, get to Blake first and brainwash him into renouncing his vows. His followers disband. We join the series as Blake starts to get his memory back and step by step he gains a ship, a crew and the contacts to put up a real fight against the Federation.
Roj Blake is the eponymous lead in the show and appeared in the whole of the first two series, before getting lost along with Jenna Stanis (see below) following the Intergalactic War. In the first episode, 'The Way Back', he regains his memory after his brainwashing, but is framed for crimes he did not commit and sent to the prison planet Cygnus Alpha. He meets with other members of his crew, and breaks out of the prison ship. Blake would later reappear at the end of series three and again at the close of series four in the episode 'Blake', which would ironically see him getting killed off by Avon. His final words are 'Oh, Avon!'.
Jenna Stanis is a cargo smuggler who meets Blake and Avon on the prison ship. She escapes with the others and becomes an integral part of Blake's crew before she also disappears at the close of series two. Jenna is presented very much as the romantic interest for Blake and this is apparent throughout the first two series. We learn from Blake in the final episode that Jenna died via an explosion and took several Federation guards with her.
Kerr Avon is the anti-hero of the series, who becomes the lead character following Blake's departure. A computer expert, he meets with the others on the prison ship and reluctantly agrees to help them escape, as he realises he cannot get off the ship without them. Very independent and always out for himself, Avon was hugely popular due to his uncharacteristic stance as a hero figure. Avon trusts nobody, and has been betrayed by friends and lovers in the past. Ironically, he kills Blake at the close of the series believing - wrongly - that his closest friend has betrayed him.
Vila Restal is a cowardly thief and safe-cracker. The most comical of the characters, like Avon he does not want to be a hero. Vila's finest moment comes in the episode 'City On The Edge of Forever', where he falls in love and saves a planet's population from the merciless hands of Bayban the Butcher. We are led to believe he is killed in the final episode from a single gunshot.
Olag Gan is another member of the prison ship clan who is rescued by Blake and his crew. He is the strongest of the group and the most fearsome looking, but ironically he has a limiter implant in his head that means he cannot kill. The friendliest of the group, he is the first crew member to meet his end, via a collapsed roof, following an unsuccessful attempt by Blake and the others to destroy the Federation control complex. His final words are, 'I am not worth dying for.'
Cally is a telepath from the planet Auron. A rebel who is rescued by Blake and the others in the episode 'Time Squad'. She is friendly to everyone, and always speaks up for people when they are threatened - mostly Vila. She is killed at the start of series four, following a trap set by Servalan. Her final words are, rather inexplicably, 'Blake!'.
Dayna Mellanby is a weapons expert whose father is killed by Servalan. She joins the crew in the episode 'Aftermath', and goes on to be a useful ally. She has quite a close friendship with Tarrant, which is presented in a romantic fashion. Her finest moment comes in one of the least regarded episodes - series four's 'Animals'. She too is killed by a single gun shot in the series grand finale.
Del Tarrant is an ex-Federation space pilot who joins Avon and company in the episode 'Power Play'. He presents himself as something of a bully boy, and always seems in conflict with Avon over who makes the decisions. He is romantically linked in the series with Dayna, Servalan and various others. He, too, dies in the final episode.
Soolin is a gunslinger who has no qualms about killing anybody who stands in her way, especially the men who killed her parents. She is presented as a very tough figure, but at the same time she is in possession of very feminine qualities. She joins the crew in series four's 'Rescue', and is also killed in the final episode.
Servalan is the Supreme Commander and one-time President of the Space Federation. The series revolves around her innumerable attempts at gaining more power and killing Blake and his crew. She becomes romantically linked with Tarrant and more strongly with Avon as the series progresses. Her debut comes in series one, in 'Seek, Locate, Destroy', and her final appearance is in series four's 'Warlord'. It has always been an annoyance to fans that Servalan did not make an appearance in the final episode, because she became as popular as Avon despite being the stereotypical enemy.
Travis is Federation captain who has been scarred for life by Blake. His sole purpose for living is to destroy Blake and his crew. He has had extensive restructuring to his face following Blake's attack on him, but has left it incomplete to remind him of how much Blake has ruined his life. He first appears in 'Seek, Locate, Destroy', and is killed in the series two finale. His final words are a rather uninspired 'Aaaaarrgh!'.
ORAC is a supercomputer with a personality, who continually saves the crew. He is taken from his dead creator Ensor in a series one episode which bears his name.
ZEN is the main computer on Blake's original ship, the Liberator, who is destroyed due to a deteriorating fungus that is eating through the ship in the series three finale, 'Terminus'. His final words are 'I have failed you'.
SLAVE is the main computer on the Liberator's successor - Scorpio - which is also destroyed in the series four finale. His final words are 'I am sorry'.
Scripts, Finales and Future
Blake's 7 was, and is, brilliant: not least because the series writers did not go the easy way and let Blake and his crew win. The pessimistic view added credibility and made the - at times over the top - creatures, situations and adventures into unmissable viewing. The series also seemed to thrive on adversity, such as having a lower budget even than Doctor Who, main lead cast members leaving half way through the run, and series finales that looked all but impossible to resolve plausibly.
The series is a classic of its time, and although it has dated in many ways, it is still hugely enjoyable - if only for the witty one-liners uttered by Paul Darrow's cynical portrayal of Avon. The series was well-known for being a grown-up science fiction series, as opposed to its nearest rival, Doctor Who, which was, and still is, seen mainly as a children's programme. The content of the series reflected this with deaths aplenty, including the drastic step of killing off the lead characters when they asked to leave the series1. The series was also well known for its series finales, which were never mediocre. In the series one finale it was revealed that the Liberator would be destroyed; series two ended with the Liberator about to enter battle to save the universe; series three ended with the crew abandoned on an uninhabited planet and - most shockingly - watching on a monitor as the Liberator exploded in space; series four saw the grand finale when the new ship crashed, Avon found his old friend Blake only to kill him, falsely believing he had turned him in to the Federation, the rest of the crew were murdered by Federation guards, and we were left with Avon standing over the body of his friend, gun in hand, surrounded by Federation soldiers. In the final shot Avon looks to the camera, raises his weapon and smiles. The closing credits come up, and gun fire is heard.
Ironically, the writer of that episode (Chris Boucher) had intended the series to continue for a fifth run, stating that he had an idea for the next episode in the new series that would resolve the problems. Speculation is rife among the fan base that this would be based on the premise that the crew weren't shot dead, but merely stunned; and that the Blake killed by Avon was in fact a clone, as featured in the series two episode 'Weapon'. Although, for various reasons, the series did not continue, it has been revived in radio form via two (to date) plays for BBC Radio 4 set in the time-line of series four but before the episode 'Blake'. There is also talk of a feature film being made, set years after the events in the final episode: but as with many things to do with the future of Blake's 7, that is just talk.
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