This is the "other" SCI-FI series. If you're a fan of space voyage shows, such as Star Trek, Babylon 5, Farscape, Battlestar Galactica, and Andromeda, then Blake's 7 should not be overlooked!
The Liberator is a beautiful ship, and it soars through space with a crew of fugitive heroes .... Captain Blake and his crew of seven.
Blake's 7 is one of the Top 10 Science Fiction TV series of all time. So why haven't you heard of it? It was a low-budget production of BBC1 in 1978, and got shifted to the back of the BBC library. The UK got it. Here in the US, we didn't. In the 90s, I discovered it on VHS tapes and fell in love with it. Now it's on DVD and even easier to enjoy. Here's a little bit about this sci-fi gem:
Terry Nation, who got his start writing for Dr. Who (and created the Daleks), wrote the Blake's 7 series as the first real complete sci-fi story arc for TV. That means it was a 4 year story with a beginning, middle and end. It ran from January 1978 to December 1981. It was not episodic (like Star Trek and Stargate); it had a larger story to tell with multiple characters coming in and and going out. A bit more like Deep Space 9, Farscape or Babylon 5, but Blake's 7 was written years before J. Michael Straczynski penned the first Babylon 5 episode.
The show is story driven, and the characters are dynamic. The effects are often inconsistent (it was 1978, after all), but that never mattered. The writing is brilliant and the stories hold you to the screen, hanging on every interaction, dialog, and space battle. All well written. That helps forgive the sometimes odd looking monster or dated solar flare, space portal or explosion blast.
Not all the effects are démodé. The ships are fantastic! Blake's ship, the Liberator, is a three-engine behemoth, especially well designed and looks impressive when battling its opponents. See the link below for some pics. This is not CGI, folks, it's a real model built and flown on a green screen, just as the first Star Wars (A New Hope) was filmed.
(clicking image will take you offsite to purchase this print)
The story surrounds a crew of political renegades, who escaped from a prison ship and found the Liberator, an alien ship with extraordinary capabilities. They take this new ship and start their quest to help the freedom fighters in the galaxy against the Terran Federation. Throughout the years, several characters are killed, and new crew members replace them. As I said, the story is continuous, not episodic. Anyone can die, just as in a movie. Don't assume the main characters are always going to save the day and live to appear on next week's show. That's the appeal here: anything can happen.
The writing stresses human conflict, and morals are often in question. Don't expect your captain and crew to always do the "right thing." The show moves in a way few other space shows travel, it takes casualties and moves forward.
A main character named Avon reminds me a bit of Spock on Star Trek. He's smarter than the rest, less emotional and able to make hard decisions. Often he has his own agenda, but ultimately he saves the ship. He annoys the crew on a number of occasions. We rely on him as an anchor during emotional times. I also like Orac, a super computer they eventually acquire, who helps in his own dry way. They also have a female telepath on their side, and a host of fun weaponry.
Supreme Commander Servalan, the female villain and President of the Terran Federation does remind me a bit of Joan Collins' Alexis character in Dynasty, but that just makes it more fun. She's both elegant evil.
The sets may be cheap, but they did a lot with the small budget allotted them. Occasionally, a few of the locations do look impressive. Somehow they managed to pull off some incredible planet locations, and borrowed or built some interesting buildings. The atmosphere and structures on many of the alien planets managed to achieve the right effect. Some of the walls were clearly made been styrofoam, and a crew member, Gan, was crushed by a wall that surely weighed less than a foam pillow, but.... we loved it. Most of the sets served their purpose well.
If you enjoy watching the classic science fiction movies of the past (the original War of the Worlds, This Island Earth, etc.), and you are not bothered that the effects are secondary to the writing, then Blake is for you.
Also check out at Top2040: Top 20 Sci-Fi TV Shows
You can get all 52 episodes in a box set on DVD from UK shops online, but it's Region 2. That isn't a problem for most people these days, as most players now play all regions. We hope for a US version of Blake's 7 sometime this year or next ... but I wouldn't wait. If I were you, I'd just ordered the UK versions and start enjoying the series. If you're a sci-fi fan, you'll love it! Blake's 7 is a gripping space adventure.
The Blake's 7 website: www.blakes7.com for more info.