The final series of Blake's 7 contains, fittingly, seven of the best episodes of TV SF ever made. With the exception of Animals, which is slightly below par, these are supported by five eminently watchable episodes - Rescue, Traitor, Games, Gold and Warlord.
At the time of broadcast, this series held the UK gripped to its seats -- more than one person in every five in the whole of Britain watched the final episode. During the '90s, though, it suffered an unfair reputation as being low-budget space opera that did not compare with American offerings such as Star Trek the Next Generation and Babylon 5. Both of these series were milestones in television science-fiction, and millions of viewers enjoyed them and continue to enjoy them. However, Blake's 7 was actually _better_ than either of them in terms of its script and acting, with vastly more memorable dialogue. Naturally, the earlier Blake's 7 had weaker visuals than either of the later series -- just as these now compare unfavourably with more recent offerings such as Voyager, Lexx and Farscape. But this is the inevitable fate of all television SF - to be visually superseded by the next generation of effects.
I recently rewatched this boxed set, and, as an experiment, asked a 23 year old who had grown up with all the assumptions of the '90s to watch it with me. From a sceptical beginning, he was absolutely astonished by how good it was.
First, the visuals are nowhere near as bad they are reputed to be. The modelling of the ship Scorpio was excellent, and the use of real-world landscapes for most of the action means there are few visual gaffes. There are some issues with the special effects and the space backgrounds, but these are short sequences and don't distract greatly from the overall effect.
Second, the stunts are extremely good. The fighting is largely restrained, but all the more convincing for it. Blake's 7 was never meant to be a hand to hand combat adventure, but some of the combat is extremely well done.
Third, the characterisation is without equal. One occasionally hears the accusation that Paul Darrow overacts -- this is a surprising claim: the Avon character he presents is entirely convincing. This crucial scene in 'Orbit' which brings to a head the long tensions between Avon and Vila is drama at the highest level. Avon in more restrained form ('If you didn't want the answer, why did you ask the question?', at the end of 'Power') is hugely memorable and eminently quoteable.
Fourth, the range of the series is extremely broad. No two of the episodes are alike, ranging from espionage ('Traitor') to psionics ('Power') to engineering ('Stardrive')to a hard-core problem in Newton's laws of motion ('Orbit'). The Tanith Lee-scripted episode, 'Sand', broke new ground, while 'Headhunter' brings an effective twist to the Frankenstein motif.
Finally, the series is ruthlessly written. Probably the real reason that Blake's 7 enjoyed such a bad reputation is the way it finished: no other SF series before or since ended with the deaths of all the major characters. For years there were rumours that the series would revive, and the final assault would turn out to have been stun guns. But, in ending as it did, it remained true to the bleak, '1984' atmosphere of the very first series.
If you are already a fan, you will enjoy this boxed set. If you've never watched it, then all I can say is that you will _not_ be disappointed.
I've just finished watching series 4 and am left again with that hollow feeling that no doubt everyone feels after watching the last episode. But that is why this is the best series ever. No other show dared to end on such an unfulfilling note and it is hard to see one doing so in the future.
People find fault with this series for a number of reasons, some well-founded but others are just misconceived.
Paul Darrow's over-acting? He's been doing it in every series and if he didn't then Avon simply wouldn't be himself. The character of Avon continues to develop and change in this last series, which is one of the reasons this is such a great show. Forever a cold-hearted pragmatist, Avon finds himself adopting a leadership role in Series 4 which he never really wanted but nevertheless feels compelled to take - what else is he going to do? Criticism has been levelled at Series 3 (in a great review on DVD times, I think? anyway) on the grounds that in the absence of Blake, the remaining crew just wander about relatively aimlessly and Avon, not a natural leader, is left without a real agenda. But I thought that was exactly the point and why series 3 is so interesting - Avon is forced into situations and associations for which he never planned and you get to see him struggle to find a purpose in the absence of Blake's 'simple-minded certainties'. After being so badly swindled in TERMINAL, it is clear that Avon is now hell bent on striking back in whatever way he can. So most episodes in Series 4 develop along the lines of Avon seeking to enlist the aid of various experts and specialists to get him the weapons/capabilities needed to fight the resurgent Federation - and finding himself double-crossed every step of the way. Avon as leader is unable to sit back and coolly evaluate the mistakes of others, and finds himself making errors in the heat of the situation - he becomes increasingly fallible. When combined with the stress of staying alive, Cally's death (ultimately his fault) and the loss of the Liberator, Avon becomes increasingly paranoid and reckless - to the point of shooting Blake in a moment of poignant misunderstanding to end the series.
Slave makes for a nice change from the efficient Zen and precocious Orac. His last words to Tarrant in the wreckage of Scorpio are another of the many memorable moments in the last episode. On that point, Stephen Pacey as Tarrant just gets better and better, and the scenes between him and Blake in the final episode are great.
Soolin and Dayna are strong, progressive female characters and Soolin shows herself to be perhaps the most canny of the group on a number of occasions.
Jacqueline Pearce, by Series 4, has perfected her role as Servalan (or Sleer) to the point where every motion, glance, expression and note in her speech is perfect. Witness her last appearance in Warlord - her smug self-assurance and treachery are mixed perfectly with sensuality and open manipulation - surely one of the best characters ever.
Series 4 does have some weaker episodes - but so did all the others and I always find something enjoyable in them. Stardrive and Power are probably the worst ones here and have several hilarious moments.
The effects have kept on improving and the direction and production are great as well - camera angles, frames and contrasts are very well thought out and when combined with the great stuff coming out of the BBC radiophonic workshop (I love the Xenon base background noise and the Zondor Brave New World horror scenes - 'you are loved' - great stuff) this is truly artful scifi.
Well I've had my rant - don't be put off by any bad reviews, enjoy series 4 and stick it through to the end - as a whole the entire Blakes 7 canon is unmatched.
Finally we can complete the set with this release of the final series of "Blakes Seven" on DVD. It has been a pretty slow process, with the four compilations being released over more than two years and the bonus material has hardly been worth waiting for, none of the previous three has contained the much touted "Making of "Blakes Seven"" documentary. Perhaps we`ll get it this time. The programmes themselves have more than made up for any shortcomings by being as good as they ever were. Yes, there wasn`t much money but the ideas and scripts are sparkling and are very easy to get caught up in. Series four could be the best of the lot. Episode for episode, the stories are all very strong and there is a loose theme of Blake`s crew rebuilding after the destruction of the Liberator and trying to find allies in the fight against the Federation. In particular the episodes "Headhunter", "Assasin", "Gold" and "Blake" aren`t just amongst the best of "Blakes Seven", but within the whole sci-fi genre as a whole and stand up to repeated viewing. The whole series was always dark but this is darker still, with even the "good guys" killing without remorse and plenty of double crossing in the plots. My only complaint, although a small one, is the voice of Slave. I can`t stand the quasi-Dickens humbleness, especially after the excellent voice of the emotionless Zen. I don`t mind anything else, even the early 80`s Toyah wigs which crop up a few times or the hideous mole on Egrorion`s face in "Orbit". No review of this series would be complete without mentioning the ending. Although the trailer included on the Series Three DVD pretty much gives it away, I won`t. If you`ve seen it, you know about it and if you haven`t, I don`t want to spoil it. However, I will say that it is, in my opinion, the best ending to a TV seies ever. It was a big chance to take even in 1981 and it is brilliantly realistic, memorable and very much in the style of everything that has gone before. There are always calls to bring the show back but I think they should leave it the way it is, with a perfect ending. Whether watched on it`s own or after the preceding episodes, the final episode never loses any of it`s power. This is not just classic science-fiction but classic television, the likes of which will probably never be seen again. Buy it.
The 4th and final season of Blake's 7 picks up where season 3 left off with their ship The Liberator destroyed and the crew stranded on the planet Terminal. No Cally and Zen, but 2 new characters, Soolin and new computer Slave and a new ship, Scorpio. Having never seen Blake's 7 in it's entrirety since it was first on tv way back in the late 70's early 80's and although i have seen the odd video and repeat here and there i was a bit apprehensive of watching the series as a whole but i am glad i stuck with it as this and the past 3 season boxsets have brought back a lot of fond memories and apart from the odd poor episode here and there, most shows do have them, it's been very very enjoyable and a lot of fun and while the BBC do make the odd gem it'd be nice to see them make a british scifi show as imaginative as this was. The show ends with one of the most shocking endings ever seen on a tv show as Avon finally finds Blake, now working as a bounty hunter and the rest is tv history.
I thought this would be bad, you know, never go back because its never as good as you remember. But this is the exception to the rule. Yes the special effects are rubbish, and the fight scenes are a little laughable but to be honest, they were in the eighties. Blummin brilliant.
Happy memories for the grown ups and my 13 year old is a real fan now. We have watched all 4 series and enjoyed them all. Speaking is in English but the cover info is in dutch. Just need to turn off the dutch subtitles when you watch it.