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. Continue reading
Story: 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
Story: 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
Story: 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
Story: 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
Story: Actor Paul Darrow, best known to SF fans for his four-year stint as the amoral Kerr Avon from the BBC’s Blake”s 7, discusses his childhood, his early decision to become an actor, how his stage name came about (he reasons that “Paul Birkby” isn’t a name that would’ve kept him working), the many twists and turns of his career both before and after Blake’s 7, and of course, knowing who’s likely to be reading, spends quite a bit of time on his most famous role, deconstructing the character and even offering an episode-by-episode breakdown of his own analysis of the stories and his memories of making them.
Review: If there’s anything I’ve gleaned from listening to and watching some fairly recent interviews with Paul Darrow, it is that this guy who is remembered as one of British television’s quintessential badasses of the 1970s and 80s is, naturally, a soft-spoken gentleman with both a great deal of pride in his career, and a great sense of self-effacing humor. These traits are even more to the fore when Darrow puts his own story on paper. He comes across as one of the most pragmatic of actors – he freely admits that he’s taken some roles to set his bank overdraft right (!), and has put everything on hold for other roles (including Avon). Amusingly enough, much of “You’re Him, Aren’t You?” is a glorious exercise in name-dropping, with Darrow telling stories of his experiences with such luminaries as John Hurt, Ian McShane, Patrick McGoohan, and every Doctor Who except William Hartnell and Christopher Eccleston. Darrow admits that he wouldn’t mind piloting the TARDIS himself (Russell T. Davies, please take note, as I’d love to see Paul in a guest-starring role on the new show), and even has a fairly reasonable theory about the longevity of Doctor Who vs. Blake’s seemingly frozen-in-amber-and-never-to-be-continued state. Continue reading