Customer Review

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BLAKES 7 series 2 - even more sublime, even more ridiculous, 18 Jan 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Blake's 7 - Series 2 [DVD] [1978] (DVD)
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.
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