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on 26 April 2017
great fun watching these xmas day, I think the first 3 were the best
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on 10 May 2017
Really good to see Blake again. Can't wait to get series 2. Well packaged and DVD indexing to individual episodes
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on 22 December 2003
The Blake's 7 production budget may have been modest by today's standards and its special effects memorable rather than impressive, but Terry Nation's second most famous brainchild had it where it counted. Almost 30 years on, the series' characters, dialogue, storyline and sheer inventiveness still impress.
Very much an ensemble piece rather than a vehicle for one or two actors, Blake's 7 gripped its contemporary audiences and continues to enthrall today. Rather more than a simple struggle between the forces of good and evil, the series -- for example --sees a refreshingly self-aware Roj Blake question whether his actions are that of the terrorist or the revolutionary, and is on occasion harrassed as much as he is assisted by his crew; characters die or disappear with daring regularity, and it is a testament to the verve of the show and the vigour of its underlying themes that it outlasted the departure of its eponymous protagonist for a further two seasons whilst its fandom continues to thrive, with hundreds of fanzines having been consigned to print, and regular conventions still drawing healthy numbers of delegates. Fans of Babylon 5 will also find much to enjoy in the series (as, apparently, did its creator, J. Michael Straczynski)
Blake's 7 explodes on to the screen with a brace of gripping opening episodes which stand up as a wonderful piece of self-contained drama in their own right, and continued to develop with a pleasing consistency, due in no small part to the fact that Nation penned all thirteen episodes of the first season himself.
There are, of course, a few gripes: the series' female characters are not as strong as they could have been, with Cally diminishing from diamond-hard freedom fighter in Series 1 ('may you die alone and silent') to administering first-aid and matronly advice to the crew.
That said, there are so many things to take pleasure from in Blake's 7, that no brief account of its many facets could possibly do it justice. Instead, why not just sit back and enjoy the strong storyline, fascinating characters (the archly camp Servalan, sardonic Avon, single-minded Travis, and wonderfully irascible Orac), sparkling dialogue and thoughtful design: the beautiful design of the Liberator (inside and out), the chunky teleport bracelet and 'curling tong' handgun, the memorable design of the Federation Troopers' uniforms, all complemented by the rousing opening credits and rich incidental music of Dudley Simpson. Wonderful entertainment, and a set of DVDs you will return to more often than you might expect.
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It's a cliché of TV's endlessly recycled "I remember 1978" and similar anti-nostalgia shows that Blake's 7 was a typically British cheap production that doesn't stand the test of time.
But a generation after the original release, it's time for a revaluation. Far from being an embarrassment, Blake's 7 is a jewel, embodying the very best of British production values from the golden age of the BBC's output.
I'm watching episode 6: "Seek-Locate-Destroy" as I write this review.
What springs out?
First, conflict. Conflict among the crew of the Liberator, conflict between Servalan and her Federation bosses, and with Travis, and with her own men.
Second, taut dialogue. Irony, biting sarcasm, political intrigue, diplomacy, tact, anger, disdain.
Third, characterisation. Even quite minor characters are fully realised, and the new major characters Servalan and Travis establish their own identities memorably and immediately.
Fourth, plot. "Seek-Locate-Destroy" is really a minor, in-between episode, sandwiched between the speculative SF "The Web" and the whodunnit "Mission to Destiny". But its own story is powerfully drawn, tense and engaging.
Fifth, modelling. The models of the space station and the Liberator are highly detailed and entirely convincing.
Finally, politics. Sinister, manipulative and fully realised.
What about the famous shortcomings - the special effects and use of quarries and powerstations to represent alien landscapes? In retrospect, these are nowhere near as bad as they seemed to be seen through the eyes of the 80s and 90s. To be fair, the opening credits are very weak by modern standards. In other episodes some of the space voyages use the same graphic technology, which is disappointing. On the other hand, the more usual 'white spacecraft against a black background' is very powerful indeed. The powerstations and quarries - unless you are watching for them - are a strength rather than a weakness, conjuring up the grimly totalitarian society of the Federation.
The rather sneering attitude to Blake's 7 - including Amazon's own review, which describes the series as 'dated' - says more about shifts in fashion than about the quality of the production. Blake's 7 was a late 70's, early 80's show. In the 90's, it was customary to look on that entire period as being a low point (except for punk). But we now look back on the 90's in rather the same way.
Taking everything together, of all the SF series that I have seen, including American greats Babylon 5 and Star Trek (original, TNG, Voyager, Enterprise and DS9), it is Blake's 7 which best stands the best of time for me, and which seems as fresh and original as it did when I first saw it back in 1978.
* * *
As a DVD to own and cherish, Blake's 7 series I is really something rather special. Every episode is different - an Orwellian nightmare of show trials, a prison break (failed), a sinister religion on a barren world, an 'enemy within' story, a psionics story, espionage-counter-espionage, a murder mystery, a medical emergency, and a desperate race to obtain a super-computer. The final series cliff-hanger is absolutely perfect, and will leave you rushing to get series 2 (unless you already know what happens, and even then...).
It also offers the delightful Blue Peter 'make a teleport bracelet' guide, as well as other goodies.
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on 17 August 2005
Blake's 7 has to be one of the best science fiction TV series produced in any country. It was created to be the anti-Star Trek, with Trek's idyllic Federation mutated into an oppressive dictatorship. Even the famous delta logo has been inverted in this dark version of the future.
Series 1 has an odd start, as we are introduced to ex-resistance fighter Roj Blake (the unusual names are a delight in this series), who has had his mind wiped and turned into the model citizen. Having been pulled back into the resistance, and caught again, the series begins to change tone as Blake meets Jenna Stanis (a smuggler), Olag Gan (a murderer), Vila Restel (a thief), and Kerr Avon (who tried to de-fraud the banking system).
Finding themselves in control of a powerful alien spacecraft (I won't go into how - see for yourselves!) called the Liberator, the new crew set off to strike back at the Federation. With the additions of Cally, and computer Orac in later episodes, the crew is complete - Blake's 7.
What sets this series apart is not so much the storylines (which aren't the most inspired ever), but some wonderful scripting (particularly for cynical Avon and cowardly Vila), interplay between the main characters, and a willingness to remain true to its dark character. The heroes don't always win, and in the end, we realise they can't ever defeat the evil Federation.
The only trouble is, when you've got this, you'll need to set course for Series 2, standard by ten...
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I love Blake's 7 - the show that has never dated - as it was behind the times when it was first made!
Yep, whilst the Yanks were getting into Star Wars - with all its fancy effects and exploitative marketing - we had Blake's 7 - a show whose best effect was outed on a Blue Peter show; a plastic hairdryer made into a three dimensional intergalactic space craft, all via the magic of the BBC special effects department.
But so what? What is wrong with living within your means, a concept we are belatedly beginning to grasp. If you can't afford the latest high-tech electronic wizardry why be ridiculed for making do with whatever mother left behind in the kitchen, or bedroom? Whatever happened to genuine British ingenuity and invention? Granted, some of the space craft may have looked a bit blue tack and stringy, but they did the trick for teenage boys, their own minds filling in the gaps that economics neglected. And yet the legacy of Blake's 7s special effects remains, to the detriment of the programme as a whole. For years I have had to suffer abuse for my liking Blake's 7 - the main motivation for my writing this appreciation of the show. "How can you like that programme, it is so naff," is a line I have heard many a time, by cultural crustaceans, whose idea of entertainment is a night in with German industrial goth rockers Rammstein or a holiday in Cambodia, with or without the Dead Kennedys as company. Oh how I used to laugh, as the abuse continued, happy and content in the knowledge that I was indulging in sci-fi snobbery - the Yanks can keep their flash Star Wars, what with their fetishist Fed trooper body armour, for we had the real gothic horror of Servalan's outfits.
Before continuing with my defence of Blake's 7, the pride of Britain, I should briefly explain what it was, just in case younger readers are unsure of its rightful place in UK TV history.
The show is set in the "third century of the third calendar" and was based around Roj Blake's (Gareth Thomas) fight for freedom and justice, given his false conviction for child molestation - the case against him being set up by the evil minds who controlled the Earth's Federation; the totalitarian regime that ruled earth and its surrounding areas. Condemned to live on the prison planet Cygnus Alpha - think Australia without the Foster's, Kylie Minogue or the cricket - our hero determines to fight back against the evil regime and escapes from the spacecraft taking him to Cygnus, but not before meeting fellow internees: Kerr Avon, played by the sexy Paul Darrow, and the mischievous Vila Restal, expertly portrayed by Michael Keating. Of course, one should not forget the eye candy of Jenna Stannis (Sally Knyvette) and the muscle bound Gan (David Jackson) - characters that would make up the `seven', later to include the urban terrorist Cally (Jan Chappell) and uber-computer Zen (Peter Tuddenham).
Perhaps the star of the show, however, was the spacecraft they just happened across in outer space - the Liberator. Okay, it may have only been a model, but the ship looked fantastic - all imposing lines and classical shapes. The BBC, not renowned for its marketing, until the recent explosion of Dr Who merchandising, even marketed a plastic model of the spacecraft, a welcome change from the more normal Tiger tanks and Spitfires that this writer was assembling.
Anyway, back to the show. Now that they were armed with a plasma bolt firing spacecraft, and personal side-arms that looked like torches with knobs on, our heroes could strike back. Empowered and emboldened, they took the fight to the Federation in a succession of episodes, disrupting their hold on Earth via attacks on their communication and weapon systems. Perturbed by their growing reputation, the Federation assigned the discredited counter terrorist officer, the eye patched Travis, clad in sexy black leather, to hunt them down, controlled as he was by the female dominatrix, Servalan. Ah, Servalan, a momentary pause here as I remember some of her revealing outfits, a major help to me as I passed through adolescence. What a hot babe, to use the language my 12-year-old son would use.
So the scene was set, the `terrorist' Blake, and his merry band of desperadoes, chased across the universe by Travis, Servalan and hordes of black suited troopers, looking for all the world like some escapees from a sex fetishist club get together, although their helmets were real cool looking - imagine a bikers helmet with a green ring around it and you would be spot on.
By way of contrast, the clothes of our lovable `terrorists' were fancy dan; think Elton John '70s cast-offs, with jump-suits, colourful trousers and exotic textures being de rigueur. By series four a subtle change had occurred, as Avon, in particular, was made to look like a cross between a member of Iron Maiden and an extra in a glam rock band - albeit without the spandex or the codpiece, much to the disappointment of his legion of female fans.
And that, pretty much, was what sustained the series over 52 episodes, spread between 1978-1981. What I have not described, however, was the main reason for the shows success, the genuine and believable characterisation that grew between the interaction of the stars, especially that of anti-hero, Avon, Vila and the moralistic Blake. Although the enemy was the vicious and officious Federation, at times it felt like the crew of the Liberator were tearing themselves apart, with disputes amongst them frequent and damaging. In short, classic, engaging, sci-fi.
I should add that Blake left the show after series two, although he did make a return in the final episode, being shot in the stomach by his arch enemy - Avon, not Servalan, who thought he had betrayed him. Cue blood sprays from his belly and intense staring at the camera as Avon, his crew members being shot down in slow motion, realises the game is up. Smiling, gun in hand, he turns to face the viewer in close up and laughs, as the screen goes black. All the viewer is left with is sounds of gunshots as Federation troopers discharge their guns into his falling body.
At least, that is what we are supposed to think...

Given the ambiguity of the ending, fan fiction has endlessly debated the possibility of Avon being alive after all, that the entire crew were `stunned' and not dead. Indeed, I have read countless news stories about an impending new big budget film to be made, with Avon in the lead role.
Even in his autobiography, the funny and illuminating You're Him, Aren't You?: An Autobiography (Blakes Seven Big Finish) Paul Darrow keeps our hopes alive, by confirming he would love to play Avon in a Hollywood style movie. If nothing else I guess it would help with his pension fund.
Sadly, however, I feel that this will never be made, the passage of time meaning many people today are unaware of the celluloid brilliance of Blake's 7.
They are missing out.
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on 26 April 2015
Just as good as we remembered from our youth lol
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on 2 March 2004
Whether or not you like this cheap 1970's space opera pretty much depends on whether or not the characters and scripts appeal to you. If you are after high budget production values and dazzling special effects then go elsewhere.
If however, you're looking for something a bit different, a bit less straightforward than what you might expect from a telefantasy show then this might be for you. It is blessed with flawed, interesting characters struggling in a fictional future dominated by a repressive fascist regime. It also seems at times fairly near the knuckle since the heroes (whilst ostensibly fighting for "freedom") attack the evil galactic super power with the kind of approach favoured by the kind of people we might call terrorists.
Created by Terry Nation (best known for being the man behind the Daleks in DR WHO) this show is resolutely downbeat, refusing the path of easy solutions to the problems posed in this Orwellian scenario.
The titular "7" are a group of criminals who are brought together by Roj Blake - a political dissident leader who dreams of overthrowing the corrupt Federation. They find an abandoned alen space craft (the Liberator) and use it to wreak havoc and destruction on the Federation's power bases.
In a sense BLAKES 7 is an inversion of Gene Rodenberry's optimistic vision of the future in STAR TREK. Interestingly, the logo used by TREK's United Federation of Planets is almost identical to that used by the Federation in BLAKES 7 - except that the arrow here is pointing right, instead of up.
Unlike the cordial atmosphere of inter racial and inter species co-operation on board the U.S.S.Enterprise, the crew of the Liberator are often verbally (occasionally physically) at each other's throats. The vituperative put-down line is a stock in trade of this series. The lion's share of the tension between the 7 in series 1, is provided by the contrast between the idealistic rebel leader Blake, and the cynical computer expert Avon whose stated philosophy is: "wealth is the only reality, and the only way to obtain wealth is to take it away from somebody else".
The characters are memorable because they are not only skillfully written, but beautifully acted. All the regulars shine, and the well-judged performances often transcend the poor sets and somewhat risible effects that were the result of severe under-budgeting by the BBC, as well as shocking time restrictions when it came to production. It's no use pretending the effects work doesn't matter, because it does. Having said that, some of the model work is pretty good (if poorly lit) and on occasion impressive. But ultimately one doesn't tend to come away from the show singing praises to the visuals!
But there is an intelligence and wit about the writing which pays handsome dividends to the receptive viewer. There is also a certain atmosphere to proceedings, which is admirably enhanced by Dudley Simpson's incidental music and stirring theme tune.
The villains are great too - the seductive Servalan (played with camp relish by Jacqueline Pearce) is head of the Federation's security services, and aided in her quest to rid the galaxy of Blake by the vengeful Travis (Stephen Grief, clad in tight black leather whilst managing to maintain an icy stature).
I've been a fan of this series since the first episode was transmitted in 1978, so I was delighted that it was to be brought out on DVD. The picture quality is mostly excellent, only marred when poor lighting of a scene or grainy film prints are unavoidably visible.
The episodes of series 1 are a mixed bunch, but on the whole quite entertaining (the best was yet to come in the 2nd,3rd and 4th series). The opening segment THE WAY BACK is totally unrepresentative of what the series was to become; but is an interesting (if dated) look at a corrupt,repressive future society. Recommended are SPACEFALL, CYGNUS ALPHA, SEEK-LOCATE-DESTROY, DUEL, PROJECT AVALON and DELIVERANCE. I also have a fondness for MISSION TO DESTINY, (again unrepresentative of the direction the series would eventually take) as it's a rather nice little Christie-style murder mystery.
The extras are variable, including a lovely clip from a contemporary edition of BLUE PETER with Lesley Judd showing you how to make a Liberator teleport bracelet - sure to get the nostalgic juices flowing. Also some out-takes, a deleted scene or two, and 3 episodes with audio commentaries from cast members are available. The commentaries are a little disappointing, but producer David Maloney's intelligent contribution leads me to hope that when Series 2 is released we'll have more from him. Too much time on PROJECT AVALON's commentary, for example, is wasted with Stephen Grief arguing with Sally Knyvette and Jacqueline Pearce over whether a mutoid is played by Glynis Barber or not.
Some kind of documentary style featurette would have made all the difference here, and the lack of interviews with Gareth Thomas and Paul Darrow is sad.
Nevertheless, this is essential if you are a committed Blake-o-phile, and worth checking out if you like thoughtful space opera, as well as the kind of intelligent, inventive TV of this period, and can accept the paucity of the budgets. (The monsters in BLAKES 7 aren't a patch on their peers in '70s episodes of DR WHO!)
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on 6 March 2004
I've waited for this to come out on DVD for a long time - the series always has been one of my favourites. The scripts and characters easily overcome the obvious budget limits.
This gets a single star as sadly the discs have a fault which on some DVD players causes playback to freeze at the DVD's "layer change" which, is right in the middle of each disc's second episode. If only they'd put four episodes per disc with the layer change between episodes! Hopefuly the BBC will get enough complaints to make them do a re-issue of fixed discs to those affected, which includes me with my Pioneer DV-717 player. No news as yet though.
Without the fault I'd have given this five stars!
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on 23 April 2006
Blake`s 7 was an awesome British sci-fi series, which was first shown in the UK the same night Star Wars premiered in London ( 2nd Jan 1978 ). Created by Terry Nation , father of the Daleks from Dr Who , it follows a band of outlaws who continually try to thwart the plans of a futuristic totalitarian government , the Federation.

The real magic of the show , which resulted in a cult following and a viewing figure of about 10 million for the final episode ( a lot back then ) , is its diverse , yet beautifully and wittingly scripted characters. The sniping relationships mixed with subtle humour , the way out and over the top costumes and wobbly , yet lovingly crafted and original sets and spaceship models made the show unmissable. Both good and bad guys alike are flawed. And no-one is really safe , neutron blaster in hand or not. The show was forever being replaced with new blood. This sugar and spice approach gives it a wonderfully rich flavour , which keeps you coming back for more. And like a fine wine it just gets better with age , tasting just as good today as it did back then. This is a real sci-fi delicacy that any fan of the genre should try at least once.

The DVDs in this boxset , unfold to reveal a lovingly crafted set of images with a nice background. This luscious creativity continues , as you play the first disc. The CGI opening scene , and the style of menu on each one , really get you in the mood for the viewing pleasure that lies ahead.

Both the sound and image quality on each disc are superb. The commentaries are nice and long and very enjoyable. For anyone who remembers the show with fondness , this boxset will surely take pride of place in thier DVD collection.
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