37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2004
Many fans of Blakes 7 consider Season Two to be the weakest. I cannot agree with that assessment. It is by far and away the most self-confident and unified of the four. Building on the strengths of Season One, Season Two provides us with a much bigger picture, as we are shown considerably more of the workings and machinations of the Terran Federation than we were in Season One. One gets a genuine feeling of its size and strength and the hopelessness of Blake's cause is thrown into sharp relief, especially in the episode "Power Point", which ends with the series' first significant death. The arc plot (still a relatively new concept in 1979) concerning the search for Star One provides a solid backbone to the season, something missing from the water-testing first season and the slightly directionless and meandering third season. Character development is on the increase here and the arguments between Blake and Avon represent some of the best scenes in the series' history ("Star One" springs readily to mind). The Avon/Villa double-act is also given its first real outing here, notably in the episodes "Killer" (one of the season hilights) and the wonderfully bizarre "Gambit". On the downside, the female leads get slightly less to do than in the previous season, and one can understand why Sally Knyvette decided to relinquish the role of Jenna at the end, although Jan Chappell's Cally remains suitably intriguing and alien. All in all, my favourite Blakes 7 season, despite a couple of weak episodes, and one that deserves to be remembered much more fondly than it is.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2006
After the gripping first series Blakes 7 moves forward with tremendous energy into new exploits. One of the first things noticeable is the new series has been written by various individuals. This is no longer purely Terry Nation's work and you wonder whether the quality might suffer. Happily the storytelling is as good as ever and since the budget was presumably larger the sets look more impressive. There are more models and less use of public works, quarries etc. The cast also has a fine wardrobe and this adds to the less Spartan mood of this series. Despite the new look some aspects of the series still remain the same. The high-risk lifestyle is still there as expected. The arguments between the crew are still there and if anything are now worse. One change in the series is the character Travis now has a different actor. Like many I don't like the new Travis as much as the old. The original was stocky and menacing, occasionally showing his temper he gave the aura of being dangerous. The new one is tall and always seems to be jumping around, constantly losing his temper. It seems to me that the new Travis might have been better cast as a crewmember for Blake's outfit.
The imaginative writing continues with episodes like `Shadow' at the intriguing Space City with SCI-FI entering the world of drugs. A B grade technicians invention in `Weapon' has tantalising possibilities as Blake's crew ride their luck for all its worth. This series is the first to have fatalities of main characters, a characteristic that continues to the end if I'm not mistaken. Avon in particular uses his blaster regularly as combat is a regular feature of the series. My favourite episode is `Gambit' which is such a classic it should be shown at Christmas. I remember this episode from when I was still at school and for me it's the jewel in the crown of the second series. At the other end of the spectrum although I did quite like some of `Voice from the past' the part where Travis is revealed, now potentially able to control the enormously potent Liberator and Orac, then tells the crew to teleport him is for me a low point in credibility. Travis would hardly trust his archenemies to teleport him into space or a nearby sun. This is a minor glitch and a trait of the Blake's 7 series, sacrificing a little realism but making an intriguing show. Avon is a character I particularly like in this series. He wants the Liberator for himself and seems to be constantly on the verge of going alone. In `Horizon' he ends up being the last man standing and you almost wonder whether he will take off with the ship and its treasures with Orac. His relationship with Blake is strained and he treats Vila like a monkey. Vila is another fine character; always worried about his personal safety this comical character finds the lifestyle terrifying running around with his box of tricks amid the explosions. All in all a fine series that solidly builds upon the super platform of the original series. Originality and intrigue on a grand scale Blake's 7 delivers yet again.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 12 August 2004
The story-driven second season of Blake's 7 was perhaps its most successful, and probably the most satisfying of the series. From the resolution in 'Redemption' of Orac's prediction at the end of the first season that a ship looking suspiciously like the Liberator would be destroyed to the apocalyptic cliff hanger with which 'Star One' finishes, the storylines are gripping and the pace remorseless througout.
Aside from the satisfying character development and the insights we are offered into the machinations of the B7 universe, many episodes (I would say 'all', but I will try and retain some objectivity) are gems in their own right. 'Shadow' focuses on Our Heroes interactions with the decidedly dubious Terra Nostra, with much hand-wringing as to the legitimacy of their own actions. Avon proves he is neither stupid nor expendable in 'Horizon', but can't help himself from bailing out the rest of the crew, whilst 'Pressure Point' sees the death of the first crew member and leaves the rest of the crew to reflect on whether Blake's leadership qualities are the consequence of altruism or egotism ('We did it! We did it! I did it!'). The court martial of 'Travis Mark 2' in 'Trial' is an opportunity for Brian Croucher to take centre stage and deliver a bravura performance, whilst 'Countdown', as the name suggests is a planet-hopping race against time which nevertheless allows for some interesting (or 'fascinating', as Orac would say) character development for Avon which is revisited in Series 3's 'Rumours of Death'. The supporting cast continue to put in outstanding performances, with 'Killer's Dr. Bellfriar being one of many season highlights.
Whilst the sight of Travis wrapped in toilet roll in 'Voice from the Past' may have jarred some contemporary viewers' sensibilities, nothing could have possibly prepared them for what was to follow in the next episode. Steady your nerves with a Betazade and prepare yourself for 'Gambit's head-on collision between Louis XIV costuming, 'Hamlet', 'Cabaret', speed chess, soup-spitting, a cat on loan from 'Dr. No', and an armful of strontium grenades. 'Gambit' also features the first and, lamentably, only appearance from the true star of the series, Jarriere. Impressively tonsured and ample of nose, you'll be hanging on his every word. Disappointingly, rumours of the remaster containing the legendary lost 'penguin' footage appear to have been misleading.
Buy without hesitation, and treasure this set as the masterpiece it is.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2005
BLAKES 7 is a series that violently polarises opinion. Either you're going to see it as camp nonsense with cheap sets, effects and dated costumes (glam-rock in space, perhaps?), or you'll fall in love with the characters and be fascinated by the underlying political, psychological and moral themes that underscore the continuing battle between rebel leader Blake and the oppressive Galactic Federation.
Naturally, as a fan I fall into the latter category, but it doesn't stop me noticing things like the cheapest-looking alien battle fleet in the history of TV, Servalan wearing what appears to be chicken-wire, as well as lycra-clad aliens. Now, in many ways, the shinier, glossier series 2 is an improvement over the slightly more drab look of series 1; it becomes more colourful and more interesting visually. However, it also means that when a costume fails, or a design doesn't quite come off, it's even more noticeable.
This isn't to say that the design is terrible, indeed in several episodes the visuals are impressive for a show which had such a shockingly low-budget. For example, THE KEEPER may not be the best episode of series 2, but its costumes and sets look wonderful. Kudos too, for the outrageous look of the episode GAMBIT, where the deliberately high level of camp is surely a reason why this episode has aged so well and remains a fan favourite, even with its embarrassingly low-tech computer chess game!
Anyway, I come to praise this series not to bury it. Series 2, may be silly in parts, but with the advent of episodes written by deeply wonderful script editor Chris Boucher, the scripts achieve a depth and intelligence only hinted at in series 1. SHADOW, WEAPON, TRIAL and STAR ONE are magnificent episodes, because each character is given a psychological depth and motivation which transforms the show into something rather less like STAR TREK with no money, but more like one of those marvellous BBC costume dramas like I,CLAUDIUS or BY THE SWORD DIVIDED.
Again this only serves to highlight those episodes which fail to deliver the attention to detail and clear-thinking that Boucher provides. VOICE FROM THE PAST, for example, and HOSTAGE are televisual monstrosities. Either they were written in a tearing hurry, or the show was desperate for episodes to fill up the series quota. In any case these are not segments to show to your friends if you want to convince them of BLAKES 7's integrity! I often suspect that some of the show's detractors only ever saw these episodes, and assumed that the whole show followed their lead.
On the other hand the Robert Holmes scripted episodes GAMBIT and KILLER are of a quality that makes one's heart sing for joy. Both, it has to be noted, are helped by their casts of excellent actors like Ronald Lacey, Dennis Carey and Paul Daneman. Holmes' great contribution to the show was his further development of the Avon/Vila relationship - an odd couple that entertain every bit as much as Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau!
Generally speaking the extras are OK, but it remains a vast disappointment that a "Making of..." featurette remains absent. Most long-time BLAKE fans will be as keen as I am to see interviews with Gareth Thomas and Paul Darrow. However, the appearance of Chris Boucher on the commentaries is something of a compensation for these oversights.
The picture quality is mostly excellent, though many of the filmed sequences still look exceptionally grainy (see especially the location shots on HORIZON and THE KEEPER). One imagines(with one's lack of technical expertise in this field) that this is an unavoidable consequence of the filming techniques of the time.
Overall then, an enjoyable package, but could be better. The lack of extras (compared to say, the excellent features found on most of the BBC DR WHO discs) only serves to make the dedicated fan hungrier for more in future releases.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2004
Blakes 7 made my childhood and still is one of my favorite series of all time.At last we have re-mastered prints of all series 2 to watch in all it's glory.Blake still on the run from the evil Servalan and the Federation in the awesome Liberator.With Avon,Cally,Villa etc , this series steps up a gear and see's the crew fight back.This time the DVD has more extras and the promised Documentry held over from the series 1 issue.This is a must buy for me and many fans , as this is still a cult show.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2014
Series 1 & 2 are probably the most similar 2 series of B7 and not just because they share the same title sequence (which many have said is the best one the series got covering themes so well in such a short set of images). They both deal with Blake's crusade to strike back at the Federation.
Having established themselves as a threat in series 1, Blake is now looking to an end game. he aims to get planets behind him "Horizon", make grand alliances "Voice from the Past" and destroy the heart of the Federation itself.
Blake is more fallible and the cracks in his armour show now. He frequently makes decisions and plans things, without telling the crew & the tension between him and Avon heats up. Both Gareth Thomas & Paul Darrow make the most of the opportunities given and show us a relationship between 2 men who don't exactly like each other but need each other and maybe have a grudging (very grudging in Avon's case) respect for each other. Gareth Thomas marvellously plays a scene where Blake realises Avon might actually hate him. When he asks if Avon wants to tell him about lost love Anna in "Countdown" it also suggests Blake thinks they have a greater friendship than they really do.
Terry Nation only writes 3 episodes for this second run as the show is opened up to new writers. In "Redemption" the Liberator's orginal owners capture the ship and aim to kill the crew who only have Orac to rely on for help. "Pressure Point" sees a strong adventure where Blake attacks central control on Earth. Pressure point is notable for killing off the 1st regular Gan. This is so well known by now I don't count it as a spoiler. Interestingly the fact that it is only Avon who can make Blake see things are not what they seem when they break in.
His 3rd story the taut "Countdown" places Avon with a mortal enemy his dead lover's brother who wants him dead blaming him for her death. They must work together to defuse a bomb.
Most important new writer is Chris Boucher who is the script editor. his 1st 2 stories "Shadow" where Blake plans a deal with crime syndicate the terra nostra and "Weapon" where a deadly weapon marks most of the crew for a delayed death are good but nothing special but by "Trial" a show trial is staged so Servalan can get rid of Travis to save her own skin while Blake tries to deal with his guilt over Gan's death & the smash ending "Star One", you'll see why some think he wrote even better episodes than Terry Nation!
Robert Holmes is a familiar name and serves up 2 good 'uns. "Killer" is a horror movie on budget as a deadly plague threatens a planet while Avon and Vila are stealing equipment & the fantastic "Gambit" (*1) where the pair try to break the bank at a casino while the others chase a lead makes them a great double act.
Allan Prior offers a mixed bag of tales "Horizon" where a colonial federation outpost captures some of the crew, "Hostage" gives a bit of Blake's backstory as Travis holds his beloved cousin Inga in exchange for the Liberator and "the Keeper" where a planet of goth/viking types may hold the location of Star One. All have great ideas but I think the scripting's a bit weak. Hostage is probably the best.
Roger Parkes (perhaps best known for wrting an episode of The Prisoner-McGoohan version, I think his one was "A Change of Mind") wrote one episode "Voice from the Past" and it has good ideas like Blake under mind control acting against most of the crew and the possiblity of an alliance. Some of it doesn't work e.g. the returning character Venn Glynd from the 1st ever episode is revealed to have been a good guy all along but nothing in his previous appearance even hints this could be the case. I'm sure it was unavoidable but recasting the role doesn't help. To be fair this would have been less of a problem to those watching on 1st broacast who may not even have clearly remembered what Venn Glynd looked like by then. It's an interesting episode but both his later scripts are better.
After Pressure Point there is a loose story arc as Blake then seeks to find another control centre Star One where he believes he can destroy the federation for good.
Apart form the 2 leads all the cast get some good moments. Unfortunately for David Jackson most of his are in his last story "Pressure Point" which features him more strongly than the rest.
Vila as well as the developing relationship with Avon, gets to go off drinking, stand up to Travis for a moment before finally giving in and work out what Avon's old friend is up to in "Killer."
Cally is used more now for her telepathy than her freedom fighting skills. Contrary to her 1st appearance she can now read the minds of other species or at least does so in Horizon. Jan Cahppell does all this credibly and gets the odd good line such as when Vila slopes off for fun in "Shadow" and offers her a present "A necklace Vila, made from your teeth!"
Jenna is diluted in a number of stories in season 2 and is not helped by her costumes. some look like evenings dresses and one like she's changed for a ballet lesson! Together with scenes where she just waits to be told what to do by Blake are a waste of her former strong character. The few stories where she's used properly serve to show just what a waste this was.
Servalan remains a good character whether she's bitching with Councillor Joban, ordering Travis' legal advocate to see he is sentenced to death or flirting with a man she finds disgusting in Gambit.
Travis suffers from inconsistent development, it changes from one story to the next whether he's working with Servalan or not. Also now by having him still haplessly pursue Blake he's become Wile Coyote to Blake's Road Runner. You can almost see him popping down to the Acme store for in inflatable Liberator!
Perhaps had he been allowed to directly kill Gan in "Pressure Point" it might have re-established him as a threat? And also the re-casting doesn't help. the 1st few stories were written for Stephen Greif's more considered approach to the role but by "Trial" Brian Croucher is beginning to create his own version of the character. And by "Gambit" his world weary take on the role is working very well.
Orac is clearly a computer the writers like more than Zen because you can do more with him.
Some of the show's best touches are the humour, plenty of one liners especially for Avon
e.g. Vila "I'm entitled to my opinion"
Avon: "Where you go wrong is assuming that the rest of us are entitled to it"
And there are clever moments like where a Travis replacement in Hostage tries almost the same tactics Travis used in series 1's "Duel", only to find that Servalan isn't going to overlook failure as she did with the eyepatch man!
There are some lapses in logic e.g. how does Travis leaving the same time as the Liberator get to Del 10 in Gambit and Goth in the Keeper not only quicker than the Liberator but quick enough to have been there some time when the gang arrive?
Costumes mostly by June Hudson get a bit way out but in the extras June gives a detailed intervew about her choices.
There are some archive interviews in the extras too including Gareth Thomas on swap Shop showing he knows a thing or 2 about real space travel and keeping tight lipped about not returning for series 3!
He's also in a further one together with Jacqueline Pearce talking affectionately about the show and its fans.
There are some other bits too including Ballad of Travis 2 making a bizarre pop video of some clips of Croucher and a look at Mutoids and Orac. These are clip based too so no explanation why from series 2 onward some Mutoids wear Dick Emery style wigs!
Best as expected, are the commentaries with Brian croucher telling us "Big Tel" Nation wanted to bump off a regular character and Producer David Maloney wondering telling David Jackson he was being canned near a great drop was wise.
Series 2 is less consistent than series 1 but has more varied stories. Not as varied as series 3 but more variety than series 1. Extras could be better but if you've enjoyed 1 you will want 2.
(*1) There were letters at the time to the Radio Times calling it the best episode yet.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2012
Series 2 makes a strong case to be the best of the four. Arguably it brings to an end the story-arc which commenced in "The Way Back" in a way unexpected - but typical of a sci-fi series that challenged the normal way of doing things.
Of course there are some oddities. 70's sci fi requires a suspension of disbelief with most effects (aliens in Star One anyone?) but the moon discs in `Shadow' abuse the privilege. And `Voice from the Past' is a seriously misguided attempt to focus on political intriguing within the Federation (delivery flawed but not intention). And no-one seems to have told Robert Holmes he was writing for Blake in `Killer' - not Dr Who.
But think what we get for the last time.
A decent story arc that allows for a running theme but not one shoved down our throats (are you taking notes Mr Moffatt?) The Federation portrayed as complex with moral ambiguity as opposed to "bad". Doubt as to the righteousness of the cause and certainly the execution. And the end of Avon as a genuinely interesting anti-hero.
The Liberator "origin" story kicks of the series and is an episode of two parts - the exceptional first bit where there is a crescendo towards the takeover, and the second silly bit where there is a lot of running around a power station.
Shadow and Warlord are interesting. The idea that a force for order ultimately controls crime is very 1984. Horizon is under-rated and again we see an ambiguity in the motives of the Federation that gets lost in series 3 and 4. Pressure Point and Trial set the scene for the series conclusion and the "corridor" conversations of Bercol and Rontane add a layer of depth to the politics of the Federation which will be replaced after this series by Servalan cutting her hair shorter and growing her nails longer.
The series ends with Star One - unquestionably the finest that Blakes Seven produced - from the motivation of Avon to Cally's plaintive "are we fanatics?" along with Servalan at Space Command - seizing power through fear re Star One? Because she fears being ousted? Because she is a power fanatic? Then there is the supreme irony of the crew of the Liberator effectively sacrificing themselves to defend the Federation coupled with Space Command racing to the Liberator's aid. The cliff-hanger ending - whilst annoying at the time is with hindsight very fitting. Blakes Seven will be back and it will have some good episodes - not least Sarcophagus, Terminal and Blake. But it won't be consistently the same again in its subtlety, purpose and depth.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A five disc dvd set containing all thirteen episodes of the second season of the bbc science fiction show Blake's 7. The discs are housed in a fold out box, which fits into a slipcase cover when folded up.
All episodes run for fifty minutes [approx.] There are four to each of the first four discs, and one on the fifth. Which also has extras.
The season picks up from the cliffhanger ending to the first one. And whilst it might work as a jumping on point, you're still better off starting with that.
Some changes came to this season. Regular computer voice over artist Peter Tuddenham took over the voice of Orac, as the original actor wasn't available. Same goes for Blake's arch enemy Travis, who is recast as actor Brian Croucher. He takes a little bit of getting used to, but does manage to make the part his own.
Show creator Terry Nation wrote less of the episodes than he did in season one. And the show also did something that is commonplace today, but pretty much unheard of back of then. A story arc. Blake sets out to bring down the Federation by destroying their central computer control base, the loss of which will cripple the Federation irrevocably.
But the quest turns out to be more complex than expected, and some high prices will have to be paid. By the end of the season, the crew of the Liberator will never be the same again.
Full credit to the show producers who wanted to make sure the audience didn't think Blake and his crew were invincible. Those who saw this season at the time will never forget it as a result. Whilst the season does have some episodes that feel like they were written by those not familiar with science fiction, the main ones in the story arc are superb. And there are some scripts from veteran Doctor Who writer Robert Holmes. A very skilled tv scriptwriter who brings that talent to this show with great results.
It also plays with some interesting moral concepts. Is Blake a freedom fighter or a terrorist? The issue is discussed in the season finale, and lets the viewer draw their own conclusions. Which is good writing.
Unfortunately Jenna and Cally do get rather overlooked in getting a share of the action, and are usually left minding the Liberator. But that's the only real complaint about an otherwise excellent season. Which ends on a stunning cliffhanger episode.
The only language and subtitles options on the disc are in English for both.
There are some excellent cgi main menus.
Three episodes have commentaries from various cast members, and/or the script editor Chris Boucher plus producer David Maloney.
Extras on disc five are somewhat patchy but not without merit:
Episode synopses: Single text page descriptions of each.
Introducing orac: A short clip of him from a third season episode.
The mutoids: Dialogue about the federation troopers of that name played over clips and images of them.
A trailer for the third season, which can be watched in either widescreen or pan and scan.
The ballad of Travis II: a fan written song about the character, played over clips of him.
Multi coloured swapshop: nineteen minutes of footage of Gareth Thomas [Blake] and Jacqueline Pearce [Servalan] being interviewed on the bbc Saturday morning show back in 1979.
Scene today: an eleven minute clip of the duo being interviewed on another bbc show back in 1991, when the show was first released on video.
Saturday superstore: a five minute long clip from another bbc one Saturday morning show, this from 1983, of visual effects man Mat Irvine showing how some of the effects on Blake's seven were done.
Mat's models: a twelve minute long interview with Mat Irvine, recorded in 1991.
Model world: a bbc show from 1980. This episode ran for eight minutes, and shows more of Mat Irvine's work.
June Hudson's costume collection: a seventeen minute long interview with the costume designer from the first one and a half seasons of the show.
A decent enough box set for an excellent season of a classic show. It belongs in all cult tv fan's collections.
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Series two of Blakes Seven arguably topped the first season, becoming even grittier and shocking than the earlier stories. Most shocking at the time was the death of Liberator crew member Gan in the episode "Pressure point". Rarely before did a programme kill off a regular character in such an unexpected fashion. This episode could have been the starting point for the Blakes Seven legend. It would prove to be a groundbreaking move as many more stars of the show would be killed off (even Blake himself!) in future episodes. Every episode is a grim tale of double crosses, disappointment and uneasy alliances, and that`s just the "heroes" of the show!
It is debatable if the overall stories are as cohesive as the first series, as Blakes Seven creator Terry Nation wrote all of series one himself while outside writers (including distinguished Doctor Who ex-script editor Robert Holmes and Blakes Seven script editor Chris Boucher) contributed to series two. The first episode begins where the last ended with Orac`s prediction of the Liberator`s destruction. A thread (albiet non-continuous) developes in "Pressure point" where Blake starts his quest to find "Star one", the secret computer headquarters of the Federation. The rebels go through the rest of the series, continuing their search on-and-off until they reach their destination in the final episode "Star one", which culminates in a space battle with the alien Andromedans and an excellent cliffhanger for series three.
Overall series two is highly enjoyable, looking slighty more expensive than the first and the development of the Orac character, the hunt for "Star one" and the continual decent of Blake into a fanatical rebel, instead of series one`s idealist freedom fighter, all make for good drama with some sparkling scripts. Brian Croucher`s portrayal of Travis is unfortunately dwarfed by Stephen Grief`s definitive characterization from the first series, but all the other regulars effortlessly recreate their original characters. Roll on series three and four.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 February 2008
Excellent follow up to the first series. I missed a lot of these first time around (night school for my apprenticeship at the time and no videos/dvds back then) so it filled in gaps in my "Blake" Knowledge. As others have said this series was more glossy than the first, some lovely costumes for the girls and the glamorous Servalan. Favourite stories are the series opener with The Liberator returned home, Gambit with speed chess baddie Klute, Star One the last of series 2 that ends on a mighty cliffhanger (also good is the sparring between the Liberator Crew esp Avon and Villa) imagine having to wait a whole year to find out what happens next. Good job I am yet to start on the series 3 box set.
There are some good extras on the dvd too, Mat Irvines Models and past interviews with cast members. Well worth a look. Although the effects may not stand up, the plots and acting do make you think, something modern telly seldom does these days.