Roj Blake overcomes the mental conditioning of the corrupt
Federation. He learns that he was once a freedom fighter,
and that his family paid the ultimate price for his crimes.
Sentenced to a penal planet on trumped-up charges, Blake allies
himself with an unlikely band of convicts. Taking possession
of an abandoned but highly advanced alien spaceship, the Liberator,
they begin to fight back...
DVD release of this classic BBC space opera has been long
awaited, in more ways than one - the release date had been
put back considerably since the original announcement. Now,
at last, we can enjoy Blake's 7 in crystal clarity
- well, as much clarity as the videotaped interiors and 16mm
location filming will allow.
a distinct flavour of Doctor Who to this series, which
is hardly surprising when you consider the number of Who
alumni who worked on the show. The creator and writer, Terry
Nation, is of course the man who brought us the Daleks. His
hand can be seen in the creation of the teleport bracelet,
a useful device for driving the plot forward by being lost,
broken, stolen, etc, very much like the TARDIS' fluid link
in the very first Dalek story, or the time ring in Genesis
of the Daleks. The threat of radiation sickness, another
Nation standby, also rears its head in the episode Orac.
Who writer Chris Boucher undertakes the script-editing
chores, injecting a welcome dose of cynicism into characters
such as the Computer Operator (Nigel Lambert) in The Way
Back, pilot Artix (Norman Tipton) in Space Fall
and, of course, the regular characters of Avon (Paul Darrow)
and Vila (Michael Keating).
Former Who director David Maloney steps up as producer,
while other familiar names, including Michael E. Briant, Pennant
Roberts and Douglas Camfield, take the helm as directors of
the individual episodes.
Most conspicuously of all, composer Dudley Simpson (bless
'im) provides incidental music that is virtually indistinguishable
from his work on that other popular BBC science fiction show.
production values are slightly higher than those of contemporary
(i.e. late 1970s) Doctor Who. Even so, with the notable
exception of the impressive Liberator flight deck and
model design, many of the sets and effects look rather shoddy
by today's standards.
the look of the series is not really what we're here for:
it's the writing and acting that make Blake's 7. Some
of the plots may be hackneyed (this is Terry Nation, after
all) but much of the dialogue and many of the characters are
excellent, especially the self-satisfied Avon, the cowardly
Vila, the supercilious ship's computer Zen (voiced by Peter
Tuddenham) and the recurring villains, the sensual Supreme
Commander Servalan (Jacqueline Pearce) and the brutal Space
Commander Travis (Stephen Greif), both of whom are introduced
in Seek-Locate-Destroy. Even during the weaker episodes,
you're never far from a snappy bit of dialogue, such as "I
plan to live forever - or die trying," (Vila in Time Squad)
and "Staying with you requires a degree of stupidity of which
I no longer feel capable" (Avon in Breakdown).
the subject of characters, it was only as I watched Series
One this time around that I realised how much of a debt Gene
Roddenberry's Andromeda owes to this show. The crew composition
is markedly similar, particularly the dynamic that exists
between Blake/Hunt and Avon/Tyr. Like Blake (Gareth Thomas),
Dylan Hunt is an idealist who wants to change the political
structure of the known universe, though he wants to re-establish
a benign regime rather than topple a corrupt one. He teams
up with a bunch of reformed (well, slightly reformed!) criminals
in order to achieve that goal.
Avon, Tyr Anasazi is a callous pragmatist, who repeatedly
pours scorn on Hunt's idealism and, it seems, would happily
let him fall victim to those ideals in order to take possession
of his awesome spaceship. When it comes to the crunch, however,
Avon/Tyr respects Blake/Hunt and actually upholds his ideals.
and ex-smuggler Beka has obvious similarities to Jenna (Sally
Kynvette), while the craven Harper is akin to Vila. Andromeda,
the ship's vocal artificial intelligence, is analogous to
Zen, while Rev Bem, an honourable person who is a victim of
his own violent tendencies, is Gan (David Jackson). By an
amazing coincidence, neither Gan nor Rev makes it to the end
of their respective second season. Finally Trance, the alien
with paranormal powers, is Cally (Jan Chappell) with a bit
of Orac thrown in for good measure.
isn't much in the way of special features in this collection
- but at this price, who's complaining? There are commentaries
for Space Fall (recorded by Michael Keating, Sally
Kynvette and David Maloney), Seek-Locate-Destroy (by
Stephen Greif, Michael Keating and Jacqueline Pearce) and
Project Avalon (by Stephen Greif, Sally Kynvette and
Jacqueline Pearce). It's a shame that none of the more major
performers, such as Thomas or Darrow, could have been hired
to provide comments. There are also a handful of deleted scenes
and bloopers, character profiles (comprising clips from the
series), and an excerpt from Blue Peter showing how
to make a teleport bracelet - one of the programme's less
naff-looking projects. Each disc begins with a CGI opening
sequence, though I could have done without the "Brian May"-style
riff at the end!
is a technical issue with this box set, in that a dodgy layer
transition halfway through each disc can cause the playback
to freeze. This even affects Disc 5, even though this volume
only contains Orac and the extras, and thus didn't
really need a layer change. The fault only registers on certain
models of DVD player, including the Pioneer DV-646, 656 and
717 (but not the 565), and the Toshiba SD-100 and 300. If
you're lucky (Panasonic E30, HS2 and Sony DVP-NS700 and DVP-NS305
users rejoice) you won't even notice the problem. If you reach
the 29th minute of Space Fall without seizing up, then
you should be OK. If not, knock a few points off my mark out
of ten, because it will spoil your enjoyment.
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