Blake’s 7°C

11 Feb

You may remember that I decided to make a temperature blanket this year. It’s going pretty well, so far, although the temperature has been stubbornly sticking between 6 and 10 degrees centigrade most days, meaning that my blanket is largely midnight blue. It’s a good job I like midnight blue.

Here is a picture of it up to 9th February:

20200209_2150136100735773373079379.jpg

Or if you prefer it in graphic format:

temp chart

(Never let it be said that I do things by halves.)

One thing I didn’t foresee, when I started this project, was that it would fling me back into the arms of an old friend. I thought I would do a lot of listening to audiobooks while I crocheted (and indeed I am working my way through The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby), but I didn’t expect to be watching a lot (and I do mean a lot) of 1970s sci-fi.

The old friend in question is Blake’s 7, a  sci fi show that first aired before I was born. I am partial to a bit of ‘cult TV’, as it’s known, and I’m not put off by it being very old. I am an ancient historian, after all.

B7-Logo1

Copyright BBC

I first got into Blake’s 7 at university, when someone lent me it on video (and I accidentally left the video in the VCR in the common room, and someone taped over part of it – a trauma the current generation of students will never experience). I honestly don’t remember why I decided to watch it again this year, for something to do while I work on the blanket, but I am enjoying my choice hugely, and as there is no one in my life who has the least appreciation of it, I am going to fangirl about it to you, instead. (There must be someone out there among my readership who has at least heard of it, right?)

The trouble with Blake’s 7 is that in order to appreciate it, you have to be able to see past:

  • Terrible special effects (Not just in retrospect – terrible for the time, too. The SFX budget was allegedly £50 per episode.)
  • Silly costumes (And some very nice ones, too. But some very silly.)
  • Mannered 1970s acting by the main cast.
  • Not terribly good acting by most of the guest characters.

Now, I can forgive all of that. As I said, I like old TV and the lack of CGI doesn’t bother me. My favourite film is from the 1970s, complete with stagey acting and OTT costumes. I also like the theatre, where you often just have to imagine the background, or at least fill in the blanks.

But I fully understand that many people (most people?) can’t overlook all of that, so I don’t feel that I can be too enthusiastic in my recommendation of Blake’s 7. And that’s a shame, because once you get past all the obvious drawbacks, it’s a gripping sci-fi series with memorable characters that tackles thought-provoking issues with deftness and wit.

Blake’s 7 is kind of like Star Trek, if the Federation was evil, Captain Kirk was a domineering monomaniac (ok, not a big stretch) and Mr Spock was an opportunistic, self-interested antihero who hated Kirk’s guts. It’s a very British kind of space opera: dystopian, wearily cynical, where even the goodies are baddies. And it’s all the better for it.

What really makes Blake’s 7 is the writing, and in particular the characterisation. There are far too many witty exchanges for me to start quoting any of them here – I would just get carried away, and this post would become several hundred words longer than it should be. But if you do want to see what I’m talking about, check out this YouTube video.

The person who gets all the best lines in that video, and in Blake’s 7 as a whole, is Kerr Avon. He’s the self-interested second-in-command that I mentioned before. He’s a genius computer hacker who escapes from the same prison ship as Blake. One of the things that riles Avon is that no one actually put Blake in command after they escaped – Blake just decided he was the leader of this little band of criminals who were thrown together by circumstances. Avon is the only one who is not happy to go along with this little arrangement, although go along with it he does – until his time comes.

avonandservalan

Servalan has Avon at a bit of a disadvantage.

Its probably a failing in my character that I find arrogance attractive (which Avon has in spades), but I’m hardly alone in my partiality; Avon soon became the most popular character in the programme, much more popular than the sanctimonious and increasingly fanatical Blake. The interplay between them is one of the most interesting aspects of the show. They kind of trust each other – most of the time. And they kind of like each other – sometimes. But Avon also despises Blake and all that he stands for, and Blake looks down on Avon’s pragmatism.

Blake’s 7 also has an excellent villain, the ever elegant Servalan, who strides around giving deadly orders in an evening dress and heels. She’s no idealist, like Blake, and she doesn’t even suffer from Avon’s occasional scruples. She lets nothing and no one stand in the way of her power. She and Avon have a lot in common, despite being on opposite sides, which makes for an interesting dynamic; Avon gets an awful lot closer to her than he probably should, seeing as they’re trying to kill each other. At one point, when Avon sneaks off to see Servalan, he tells the rest of the crew he’s going to visit “a sick friend”, which is rather apt 😆 (Sorry, I wasn’t going to do quotes, but I couldn’t resist.)

Anyway, I’m currently halfway through the second series (of four) and I’ve yet to get tired of it. There are certainly duds, but even the weak episodes have some great lines. If you feel like trying it out, the entire programme is currently available on YouTube, and here are a few of my favourite episodes that you might want to sample:

  • Mission to Destiny (A great standalone murder mystery on a spaceship.)
  • Space Fall (Very near the beginning, just as things get going.)
  • Pressure Point (It all starts to get a bit serious for the gang.)
  • Countdown (Talk about tense! The clue’s in the name.)

Do be warned, though, in case you get hooked, that Blake’s 7 has one of the most memorable endings of any series. And as you can imagine, it’s not a happy one. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

If you have heard of Blake’s 7, or even seen it (someone must have!), feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

2 Responses to “Blake’s 7°C”

  1. Sarah V A Kuklewicz at 11:53 am #

    I should probably find an excuse to re-watch this myself – thank you for the tip that it is now all on YouTube! I’ll hold back on commenting more until I have at least begun the re-watch, as my memories of it are very positive, but also rather fuzzy.
    Congratulations on the crochet project too. It is looking good!

    • Karen Murdarasi at 8:44 pm #

      I watched Children of Auron the other day, which is the episode with the striking asymmetric black dress. Do you remember I had a ball dress that was similar and we used to call it the Servalan dress?

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