Now, some of you may have noticed that on the Coming Soon page and on the Facebook group we mentioned some time ago that we were going to start covering Blake’s 7 in order, from the beginning, as we do with Doctor Who. Remember? Never mind…
To bring those of you who don’t know much about it (is there anyone?) up to speed, series creator Terry Nation pitched Blake’s 7 to the BBC as “The Dirty Dozen in space”, a reference to the 1967 film in which a disparate and disorganised group of convicts are sent on a suicide mission during World War II. This film’s influence shows in the nature of the majority of Blake’s followers; Avon, Vila, Gan and Jenna are escaped convicts, as well as its inspiration from the legend of Robin Hood. It follows a small band of outlaws, under a figurehead leader, leading a rebellion against a tyrannical regime. If Blake and his crew represent Robin Hood and his (Not So) Merry Men, then the Federation forces, personified in the obsessive, psychopathic Space Commander Travis and his superior, the beautiful but ruthless Supreme Commander Servalan, represent Guy of Gisbourne and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
First broadcast on BBC1 in January 1978, Blake’s 7 is set in the “third century of the second calendar”, it follows the exploits of revolutionary Roj Blake as he leads his band of rebels against the forces of the totalitarian Terran Federation which rules the Earth and many of the planets of the galaxy. The Federation controls its citizens using mass surveillance, brainwashing and pacification with drugged food, water and air. Sentenced to deportation to a penal colony on a remote planet, Blake escapes with the help of his fellow prisoners and gains control of the Liberator, an alien spacecraft far in advance of anything the Federation possesses. The craft has superior speed and weaponry and a teleport system that allows crew members to be transported to the surface of a planet without having to land the ship. Blake and his crew then attempt to disrupt and damage the Federation.
The show also drew inspiration from the classic British dystopian novels Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and When the Sleeper Wakes by H. G. Wells. This is most evident in the nature of the Federation, whose methods of dealing with Blake in the first episode, The Way Back, including brainwashing and show trials. Authoritarian dystopias are common in Terry Nation’s work, as are the depiction of post-apocalyptic societies, as seen in several of his Doctor Who serials, for example, The Daleks, Death to the Daleks and The Android Invasion) and also in Survivors, the series he created before Blake’s 7. Post-apocalyptic societies are featured in several B7 episodes including Duel, Deliverance, City at the Edge of the World and Terminal. Although not explicitly stated in the series, some publicity material for the series refers to the Federation as having risen from the ashes of a nuclear holocaust on Earth.
That should give you a rough idea of what we’re watching – although for anyone who does know the series, you won’t be surprised to find that the words “space” and “opera” may crop up on more than one occasion… So this edition of theTimeVault podcast kicks us off with episodes 1 and 2 of Series 1.
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