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Babylon 5: Signs And Portents

Babylon 5: Signs And PortentsOrder this bookStory: A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the pilot movie and first season of Babylon 5, with lengthy interviews with cast members, behind-the-scenes crew and series creator J. Michael Straczynski.

Review: This is the first volume of Del Rey’s series of books covering the making of Babylon 5, season by season. It’s a nice little series of brief pieces on the making of each episode, with lots of insight from the actors, JMS, and various directors, though much of this information can be found with a little bit of hunting on the Lurker’s Guide To Babylon 5 web site – and sooner or later, the book’s behind-the-scenes stories will probably wind up there anyway. Continue reading

The Making of Terry Nation’s Blake’s 7

The Making of Terry Nation's Blake's 7Order this bookStory: Noted SF historian (and Doctor Who scholar) Adrian Rigelsford traces the brief but eventful history of the BBC’s other serious SFTV staple, Blake’s 7, from Terry Nation’s original (and somewhat hastily-conceived) pitch for the show through the production of the final episode. Brief episode synopses and cast lists follow a detailed examination of each season’s most momentous production events, and a special section at the end of the book focuses on merchandise and fandom. Features a foreword by series creator Terry Nation, who died two years later.

Review: It’s hard to compare with Sheelagh Wells and Joe Nazarro’s “Blake’s 7: The Inside Story”, but Adrian Rigelsford manages to come up with a nice companion volume to that nearly-definitive book. Wells and Nazarro leaned heavily on interviews with cast and crew, and many an unpublished photograph; in Rigelsford’s case, he had access to the BBC’s archives, loaded with photos, filming and studio filming recording dates, and all sorts of obscure facts that only a fan could love. While most of the photos are those that have been seen many times before, they’re sometimes presented as a spot-color background to the text, and most of the time they don’t cause any legibility problems (most) of the time). Continue reading

Liberation: Unofficial Unauthorised Guide to Blake’s 7

Liberation: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Blake's 7Order this bookStory: The authors guide us through a fairly scholarly episode-by-episode analysis of the BBC science fiction series Blake’s 7 (1978-1981), examining the evolution of scripts, challenges encountered in the production process, and the copious subtext bestowed upon the show’s 52 episodes by the cast. Special attention is given to the show’s relevance to sociopolitical issues contemporary with the original broadcast dates, and re-examining those themes in a more current context.

Review: When I was in my senior year of high school, I had a lovely English/lit teacher who took us through a selection of terribly influential – and, for an American public school, terribly subversive and dark – 20th century literature: “1984”, “Lord Of The Flies”, “Brave New World”, Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead”…great stuff. And yet, God love her, she almost blew the whole thing by overanalyzing everything. I’m not saying that no author has ever referenced the Holy Trinity by invoking the number three in literature, but I’d argue that nobody bothered to deliberately reference that as often as my teacher talked about it. Continue reading

Blake’s 7: The Programme Guide

Blake's 7: The Programme GuideOrder this bookStory: Tony Attwood provides a concise, episode-by-episode breakdown of the BBC’s most underrated (and underbudgeted) science fiction series, Blake’s 7 (1978-1981). In addition to the customary cast listings and plot synopses, there are also brief interviews with cast members Paul Darrow, Michael Keating and Peter Tuddenham, script editor Chris Boucher and producer Vere Lorrimer. The late Terry Nation, creator of the series, also wrote the book’s original 1982 foreword about the genesis of his ideas.

Review: Still the only BBC-endorsed official guide to Blake’s 7, The Programme Guide is handy not only for its chronicle of the show’s 52 produced episodes, but its very brief interviews with the show’s cast and crew. Continue reading

Blake’s 7: The Inside Story

Blake's 7: The Inside StoryOrder this bookStory: Blake’s 7 has always been shrouded in mystery, and as with Star Trek, we no longer have access to the creator’s mind to find out what he was thinking – so the authors tracked down all of the actors, many of the directors, and many of the other creative personnel responsible for the show’s memorable stories and occasionally less than memorable special effects. Co-author Sheelagh Wells was Blake’s 7’s makeup designer for the second, third and fourth years of its four-year run, and also spent much of her off-screen time before and after the series with star Gareth (Blake) Thomas, so she has many personal insights to the show’s history.

Review: This long-overdue look behind the scenes of my favorite science fiction series was a must-buy item for me, and though the import price was a bit steep, it was a very worthwhile purchase. Continue reading