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Birth of a rebellion
on 13 July 2014
A five disc dvd box set containing - in one plastic fold out box contained within a cardboard slip case - all thirteen fifty minute long episodes of the first year of Blake's Seven.
Back in January 1978, this new show hit BBC1 at 7.20pm on a Monday night. And the nation was never the same again.
In the near future, Earth and other worlds are ruled by an organisation called the Federation. Which has some pretty ruthless soldiers. Ordinary worker Roj Blake [Gareth Thomas] who lives in a domed city on Earth, is going about his ordinary life when he finds out it's all a lie. There are rebels out there. He was once one of the most successful. Until the Federation brainwashed him to forget.
Now they have no option but to frame him for heinous crimes, and send him off to a prison planet to live the rest of his life in exile.
Fate offers him, and other prisoners, a chance when an alien spaceship is found. Escaping on board this vessel, which they christen the Liberator, Blake can now take the fight back to the Federation. Even though some of the rest of his new crew might not be quite so enthusiastic about the cause as he is. But the legend of Blake's Seven is about to be born.
But they don't have it all their own way. As a pair of ruthless Federation officers want them stopped...
This comes from an age of cheap visual effects, and does look so much like many Doctor Who stories from the 1970's. Model shots. Cheap sets. Location filming done In quarries. And the occasional visual effect that doesn't quite come off. Since a film called Star Wars was due to come out around the same time, the producers did worry how this would compare to that.
But Blake's seven made an impression on people. One that has never been forgotten. Because it wasn't about the visuals. It was about the characters. Paul Darrow makes an instant impression as coldly logical computer expert Avon. Michael Keating gets the laughs as expert thief and self presever Vila. Sally Knyvette and Jan Chappell never quite get the character development they deserve as pilot Jenna and alien guerrilla fighter Cally, but they do make an impression. As does David Jackson as gentle but very strong giant Gan. Peter Tuddenham provided voice work only for computer Zen. But his was a voice you never forgot as he gave a machine character.
On the Federation side Stephen Greif makes an effective nemesis for Blake as Space Commander Travis. Leather clad soldier with an interesting look and a memorable weapon. But the one everyone remembers is Jacqueline Pearce as the glamorous, well spoken, and incredibly ruthless politican Servalan. There was nothing like her before. That and the quality of the character and the performance means she is still well remembered.
Blake's seven had great character interaction and dialogue and humour with it. It was a superb action adventure series - and a bit more violent than they might allow pre 9pm nowadays. Plus it had moral issues at it's heart. Is Blake a freedom fighter or a terrorist? There's no easy answer to that, which is why they left it up to the viewer.
The season takes four episodes to set everything up, and could possibly do with merging the first two together. As the writer once said. After that the episodes are mostly stand alone. Some are filler - ideas that ran short so the script editor had to flesh them out - but all are very watchable. The final two episodes do form a two part story, that ends on a memorable cliffhanger.
The dvd has the following language and subtitle options:
Being quite an old release, it's a bit sparse on extras.
Three commentaries on various episodes from cast members. Plus one with the producer.
Disc five gives us:
Two out takes, a missing scene, one robot, two flat feet, and a blooper. A fun seven minute long feature, with narration and short interviews, showing some deleted scenes and a few things that didn't quite come off.
Another seven minute long feature comes from bbc children's show Blue Peter. Which always showed you how to make replica things. In this case one of the teleport bracelets seen on the show.
There is a section of episode synopsis. Which are no more than three paragraph summaries of each episodes.
Plus nine character introductions. Which run for two to three minutes, and introduce each character via selected clips. These can be watched individually or all in a row.
The extras have their moments, but the quality of the episodes makes this a five star release anyhow. Quality cult tv, and it should be in the collection of every fan of that.