Daily Archives: August 14th, 2011

Blake’s 7: my education begins

Because I have finished the Discovery of Bujold, I have decided to move on to the next franchise people have been raving at me about: Blake’s 7.  This is a slightly different case from the Vorkosigan stories, though. For a start, it’s a TV show. For another, there are 4 seasons, not 14 novels… although there are 13 episodes in each season. And finally, it’s a TV show that came out of the BBC in 1978.

That year ought to give the non-Blake’s fans an idea of the costuming. Its origin in the BBC ought to tell you something about the budget and prop design.

I have watched the first two episodes now. When I announced this, certain people went TOTALLY gushy and fangirly and went wild at the idea that I might blog about this. So this is my response. I’m not sure I’ll write about every episode, and I’m not sure I’ll even watch all of them – apparently the format settles down after four or so eps, and I might find that gets boring (also my source of these discs is BigPondMovies, which is shutting down its service of actually sending discs in a fortnight, and iTunes doesn’t appear to have the show… so I don’t know how I’ll get them, now). Nonetheless, herewith find Alex’s Ruminations on Blake’s 7 (inc spoilers).

Going in, I had absolutely no idea what the show was about. I vaguely believed it was SF, because of Tansy’s unreasoning love for it, but that was all. So once I got over the hilarious costumes, and the fact that Blake is totally not good-looking, I was flabbergasted to discover that this was a political dystopia, with memory suppression and violent security forces and the mass murder of dissidents in the first 30 minutes or so. Seriously blown away. And then, to have the main character falsely accused and found guilty of child molestation, and his lawyer disposed when he got too nosy, while still in the first episode? That sort of thing doesn’t even happen in Spooks, let alone any other show today.

The first episode, perhaps needless to say, really impressed me. I liked that they didn’t make Blake remember everything immediately, I liked that the lawyer had to work for the information… it certainly starts out as a very tough show. With appalling fashion and terrible props, but you know – whatever. I couldn’t really pick up the character names in this ep, aside from Blake, so when various people started mooning over the favourite characters I was at a loss.

The second episode continues to punch as hard if not harder. Onboard the prison ship, probably bound for Cygnus Alpha but maybe about to be spaced to save the prison ship time and money, the prisoners hatch a plan to take over the ship – helped by having the world’s second-best hacker on board (who’s the first? The guy who caught him…). This plan is being cooked up while the crew are being distracted by a space battle around them, the protagonists of which are quite unknown. And for a while it looks like the prisoners might actually take the ship, until Raiker – the very very evil 2IC who would quite like to have the only female prisoner as his concubine for the duration – forces Blake, Avon, and Jenna to surrender by steadily shooting his way though the other prisoners. So in this, the second episode, we have several prisoners shot in cold blood, a young and eager prisoner dying when the crawlway is filled with foam after the hull is breached, the only woman look like she’s about to be made into a sex slave… and that’s maybe halfway through? I’m sitting there thinking, how the heck did this make four seasons? Surely it’s a mini-series! Or surely it jumps the shark and Tansy et al were either brainwashed or haven’t watched it in ages.

The rest of the second episode is taken up with the crew trying to salvage a probably derelict alien ship, which sends three of their crew mad or dead, at which point they send in Blake, Jenna, and Avon to check it out. They avoid en-maddening thanks to Blake, and make off with the ship – killing Raiker in the process (hooray!). They are apparently now going to follow the prison ship, rescue the other prisoners, and then Stick It To The Man.

One thing that really impressed me was the amount of time spent on the crew. It shows that they are not monsters (with the exception of Raiker): the young kid studying to get off the prison ship, the commander struggling to do the best he can with a pretty awful situation – they’re humanised, but not to the detriment of the prisoners’ characterisation. That’s a pretty impressive achievement.

I have to watch the third episode. I still can’t get over the fashion, although I am steadily developing those convenient blinkers that allow you to watch old Dr Who without being phased by bad SFX. I’m not yet sure whether I’ll turn into the fully fledged Blake’s tragic, but I can at least understand how that happens.