You didn’t think I wouldn’t take notice of this bit of news, did you? Even if I had, I would have had little choice, as readers deluged me with various news reports about this.
Yes, it would appear that there might very well be a new Blakes 7 series. Of course, I’ll believe it when I see it. Only two scripts have been ordered, and there isn’t even a cast and crew assembled yet. There have been attempts to resurrect this series before, and they have all fallen through. We’ll see.
I suspect that most of my non-U.K. readers have no clue where the inspiration for the name of this blog or the pseudonym under which I have been blogging for the last three years or so and under which I used to post to Usenet and various other discussion groups for several years before that. The inspiration, of course, was the original version of Blakes 7, which ran from 1978 to 1981 and followed the exploits of Roj Blake and his band of rebels making up the crew of the Liberator (at least for the first three seasons) as they fought a fascistic Galactic Federation. The show was notable for its low budget sets and special effects, of the same sort as (and probably recycled from) Doctor Who sets of the same era. But, like the best Doctor Who episodes, the stories were so good that it was fairly easy to overlook the cheesiness of the costumes, effects, and sets. The stories were dark; the morals were ambiguous; and Blake sometimes bordered on obsession to the point where he didn’t always make the most rational decisions. Orac, of course, was the Tarial cell-powered supercomputer with the arrogant, ascerbic personality of its creator Ensor, a device that the crew “inherited” at the end of the first series. Consistent with the look of the show, it resembled nothing so much as a clear plastic box with multicolored blinking lights, which is what, in fact, it was.
The show began with Roj Blake, apparently a simple worker in one of Earth’s domed cities. He’s contacted by dissidents, who take him to meet their leader, and learns that he was once an influential dissident himself. The government had wiped his memory after he had been captured and forced into making a false confession. While Blake is at the dissidents’ hideout, the Federation raids it and starts killing dissidents indiscrimately. Blake manages to escape, but his old memories return and he starts looking into his past. To prevent him from becoming a threat again, the government arrests him on trumped up charges of child molestation and then ships him off to a penal colony. On the ship to the colony, he meets up with what would become his crew, a motley collection of outlaws and smugglers who were also being sent to the penal colony, including Vila Restal, a cunning but rather cowardly thief; Jenna Stannis, a savvy smuggler; Olag Gan, a very large and strong man who had been convicted of murdering a Federation guard; and Kerr Avon, a computer genius who had attempted to defraud the Federation banking system. Kerr Avon, by the way, is the most fascinating character in the series. At first seemingly utterly amoral, over the course o the show it becomes clear that he does have a form of a moral code. He follows Blake, even though constantly at odds with him because of his moral certitude. The two characters complement each other; with Avon being the voice of reason and Blake being the voice of conscience. Avon never quite figures out why following Blake means so much to him. In any event, this motley band manages to escape before the prison ship reaches the penal colony via an alien ship (later christened the Liberator) that the prison ship’s captain had attempted to claim for salvage.
I first discovered Blakes 7 when it aired on Cleveland public TV during my residency in the early 1990s. By then, the show had become a cult classic, but in my neck of the woods it was being shown at 6 AM on Saturday. My VCR allowed me to become totally hooked. Sadly, the show is not available on DVD in the U.S., but that didn’t stop me from collecting all four series over the years from Amazon.co.uk and ripping all the episodes to video on my computer.
Looking at any “reimagining” of Blakes 7, I can’t help but wonder several things. First, what will the new Orac look like? Will I have to update my blog? (I actually rather like the kitschy retro look.) More importantly, who would be cast to play the major characters? Some suggestions:
- Roj Blake: Difficult. I could default to Derek Riddell, who plays him in the audio adventures, but I think it would be cool if they cast a bit against type. Philip Glenister, perhaps?
- Kerr Avon: John Simm. After seeing him in Life On Mars and as the Master on Doctor Who, I think he could really do this part justice, with the proper measures of cold calculation and cunning, utter ruthlessness, but with a sort of a moral center that’s just not immediately obvious.
- Vila Restal: I’m torn on this one. Vila was always a bit of comedy relief. He was a skilled thief, cunning and able to break into just about any facility, but cowardly and greedy, possessing a love of drink. Granted, he could show flashes of bravery from time to time, but usually only under extreme duress. In a “reimagining” I’m wondering if it would be good to make his character less of a buffoon, but I can’t decide who would be good for this role.
- Servalan (the cunning and beautiful leader of the Terran Federation): I can’t make up my mind here, but the actress cast in the audio adventures, Daniela Nardini, looks promising.
- Space Commander Travis (Servalan’s henchman, who has a particular hatred of Blake and wants revenge): James Marsters.
Of course, this leaves the question of who would be cast as the voice of Orac. Sadly, the original actor who did it, Peter Tuddenham, died last year. This one, I think I’ll leave to my readers: Who would be the best to do the voice of Orac? Should the producers do a Starbuck and cast a woman? Should they leave well enough alone and find someone who can do just the right combination of arrogant and petulant? What say you?