Story: When his government-enforced brainwashing begins to wear off, former resistance leader Roj Blake is convicted for a crime he didn’t commit and sentenced to life on a penal planet called Cygnus Alpha. During the prison ship voyage, Blake meets several other prisoners with no love for the totalitarian Federation: expert computer hacker Avon, hard-bitten smuggler Jenna, good-hearted (but, alas, also weak-hearted) thief Vila, and a gentle giant named Gan who is prevented from using deadly force by a violence-inhibiting brain implant (also courtesy of the Federation legal system). Combining their talents, Blake and the others turn the tables on their captors, seizing control of the prison ship, but their hijacking attempt doesn’t last long. Still en route to Cygnus Alpha, the ship encounters a larger craft of unknown alien origins, and the prison ship skipper loses several men trying to board and salvage the alien vessel. He then decides to use Blake and the other prisoners instead, but they survive the initial onslaught of the alien ship’s auto-defense systems, undock from the prison ship, and make a run for it. Though Avon and Jenna are skeptical, Blake insists on using their new vehicle – dubbed the Liberator – to go to Cygnus Alpha and free more of the prisoners.
Review: A light-speed adaptation of the first three episodes of the BBC’s cult TV classic Blake’s 7, “Blake’s 7: Their First Adventure” rockets through three hour-long scripts with all the literary verve of an early Doctor Who novelization by Terrance Dicks. (That is to say, little if anything is added to the existing text of the scripts.) In fact, the Doctor Who novelization comparison is apt since, for some baffling reason, the trio of Trevor Hoyle’s Blake’s 7 novelizations seem to have been aimed squarely at a younger audience. This element of the show’s marketing has always fascinated me – die-cast toys, puzzle-filled annuals, a comic book, and now these books…all of it seemed to assume that Blake’s 7 was being aimed at the same age group as Doctor Who. As a result, “Their First Adventure” seems a bit watered down, with some of the early episodes’ extreme violence (or at least suggestions of violence) excised or curiously reduced in impact.
Trevor Hoyle wrote three novelizations during the life span of the series. In addition to “Their First Adventure”, he adapted three more of Terry Nation’s first season scripts into the book “Project Avalon”, and performed what was easily his most drastic alteration of content and tone in “Scorpio Attack”, an amalgamation of three or four early fourth-season scripts.
Year: 1979 / reprinted 1988
Author: Trevor Hoyle