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Blake's Seven is an iconic British SF series created by Terry Nation, who had earlier created the Daleks and the After the End drama series Survivors. It ran for four thirteen episode series between 1978 and 1981. The series takes place during the "third century of the new calendar" (fans estimate this as approximately 2700 AD). The series is about the quest of a group of rebels to overthrow the evil and fascistic Federation that controls Earth and most of the known Galaxy. Though it is sometimes referred to as a Space Opera, it tended to the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, particularly after a certain point. The format had elements of Wagon Train to the Stars. It was also lower-budget, and looked it.
It is distinctive in that most of its leading characters are of the Anti-Hero type rather than your usual clean-cut heroes. In fact, Avon, the lead of the latter two seasons, counted as an Anti-Villain. It's often seen as Nation's attempt to subvert Star Trek -- the B7 Federation's logo is the Trek Federation logo rotated through 90 degrees -- and other subversions of what, at the time, were standard Space Opera tropes are common.
Roj Blake (or just "Blake"--in The Verse, people usually used only a single name) had led a rebellion against the Federation which had been put down. Brainwashed, Blake had renounced the rebellion he led and was leading the life of a normal citizen until he was brought out of his brainwashing by a new group of rebels. Again, that putative rebellion was quashed and Blake was framed for crimes he didn't commit (child molestation, though this wasn't mentioned again after the second episode) and sent to a prison planet.
En route to exile, Blake and a group of prisoners managed to escape from captivity and take control of a mysterious, and very advanced, ship which they called the Liberator and resolved to fight back against the Federation. The series then chronicled their attempts, which were usually (and ultimately) unsuccessful, to overthrow the Federation.
Blake was perhaps the only "good" character amongst the Seven but, though he sometimes appeared to be, never had the full authority and respect from the others to be The Captain. The other main characters in the series were: Kerr Avon (Avon), an amoral computer expert who refused to trust anyone -- a real Anti-Hero; Jenna Stannis, a smuggler who was the pilot of the Liberator during the first two series; Vila Restal (Vila), a cowardly thief; Cally, a humanoid telepath with kamikaze tendencies exiled from the planet Auron; and Olag Gan (Gan), a Gentle Giant, but only because he had a limiter fitted to his brain after he killed a man in a rage (admittedly, said man had just raped and killed Gan's girlfriend). Liberator was controlled by a sentient computer known as Zen.
The Federation was represented by an array of troopers, usually outfitted in uniforms of black leather and gas masks. For the first two series, the Seven were pursued by Travis, a psychotic killer (and The Dragon) dispatched to "seek, locate and destroy Blake" by Big Bad Servalan, the impossibly glamorous Supreme Commander (later President) of the Federation.
At the end of the first series, the Seven beat Servalan to find the supercomputer Orac (originally presented as a Weapon of Mass Destruction but downgraded when it was kept on), which was capable of finding information on almost anything but was also programmed with the personality of its creator, an irascible old man.
The second series saw Blake determined to strike at the heart of the Federation by destroying its central computer -- the series had a Story Arc, but often the quest for information about Star One was little more than a MacGuffin. During the quest, Gan was killed and Travis went mad, eventually betraying humanity and allowing the alien Andromedans to attack. The Seven were forced to fight alongside the Federation to stop the invasion. Liberator was heavily damaged in the battle, forcing the crew to abandon ship, meaning some of them were lost (a useful device for the writers to explain away the departure of characters between series).
Despite Gareth Thomas, who played Blake, leaving at the end of the second series, the series retained its title, with Avon now becoming leader of the Seven. Blake was replaced by Del Tarrant (Tarrant), a former Federation officer who'd deserted. Jenna had also gone, being replaced by weapons expert Dayna Mellanby (Dayna). At the end of the season, they appeared to have found Blake again, but had been tricked. Liberator was destroyed and the crew were abandoned on planet Terminal.
This was supposed to be the end of the series (and, indeed, was the last episode written by Nation), but a year later, the BBC brought it back, though without the active involvement of Nation. The crew now had a new ship called the Scorpio and the deceased Cally was replaced by female assassin Soolin.
If anything, the final series was even darker than before, with almost all the Seven's plans failing and ending with the episode "Blake", perhaps the ultimate Downer Ending of any series. Finally finding Blake again, Avon kills him, believing he has betrayed the rebellion (and, more importantly, him) before the rest of the crew are then killed by the Federation with only Avon left standing. Surrounded by Federation troopers, he aims his gun at the camera, smiles and then it cuts to the final credits with gunfire sounds in the background.
Blake's Seven was clearly a strong influence on Farscape, Lexx, and Firefly, as well as having a minor influence on Babylon 5 -- J. Michael Straczynski noted that, in writing all of Season 3, he was doing something that hadn't been attempted in SF TV since Terry Nation wrote all of Season 1 of Blake's Seven. It had a much stronger influence on the sequel series Crusade, which became even more obvious when information began to leak about plot developments that would have occurred had the show not been cancelled.
In 2007, a new audio version was produced with some interesting twists to the story. It can be listened to at the Sci Fi UK website. A couple of scripts have been ordered for a possible TV revival. ...Or possibly not.
Some familiar plots used in the series:
- Enemy Mine and Locked in a Room in "Sand"
- The Caper in several episodes, originally seen in stealing the decoder in "Seek-Locate-Destroy"
- The Con in "Gambit"
- Bottle Episode and Die Hard on an X in "Powerplay"
There's quite a strong element of sexual tension within the show, though much of it is beneath the surface, mainly because it was originally shown in an early evening timeslot. Fans note much subtextual Ho Yay in many of the male relationships. Amongst British SF fandom, Blake/Avon (or Avon/Blake -- the order can be very important to fans) slash fiction is very popular, as is Avon/Tarrant.
- Absent Aliens - Whilst there are forms of life that do not originate from Earth, the show is ambiguous about whether all sentient forms of life originally came from there.
- Not exactly, we encounter a few ambiguously alien species (including Aurons - aka Cally's people who look exactly like humans) and one unambiguously alien species in the Andromedeans (who look nothing like humans). Then there are whoever is living in the Darkling Zone who hates humanity (whoever set off the "B" plot in the story Killer). "Dawn of the Gods" also features a number of aliens (and, surprisingly for Blake's 7, no reuse of costumes from Doctor Who). And the Ultra. And Zil. And the Host. And a whole bunch of others explicitly stated to be aliens.
Vila: Everyone came from Earth originally. That's a well-known fact.
- Accidental Aiming Skills - "I was aiming for his head!"
- Action Girl - Most of the women in the series can handle themselves in a fight, but Dayna, by virtue of youth and sheer variety/depth of combat skill, stands out.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot - While Zen does not have homicidal tendencies, he is frequently reluctant to follow orders given to him, dismissing them as irrelevant waste of time.
- Aliens Made Them Do It: Tarrant and Servalan in "Sand", and attempted unsuccessfully on Tarrant and Dayna in "Ultraworld".
- Amazon Brigade: Travis' mutants, also Our Vampires Are Different as they feed on blood.
- Ambiguously Human - Cally the Auron, whose nature unfortunately changes from season to season; she was initially portrayed and repeatedly described as a very humanoid alien, but later became an artificially enhanced clone from an isolationist human society. Might also be an example of Human Aliens, depending on what you believe.
- Anyone Can Die - And how.
- Anti-Hero - Avon.
- Arm Cannon - Travis's gun hand.
- Artifact Title: A pre-and-post variant thereof; There aren't seven of them until the end of the third episode, when Cally joins. After that, the number usually stays close to seven, but varies... and after the end of series two, it's not Blake's any more.
- Bad Export for You: It's currently not available on DVD in the US, though you might be able to scrounge up some VHS tapes.
- BBC Quarry
- Big Bad - Servalan.
- Boarding Party: The original team is formed when, having lost several of his own men exploring a deserted alien ship, the commander of the prison ship sends a boarding party comprised of prisoners. Not like that's going to go wrong.
- Bolivian Army Cliffhanger: The final episode ended with all the heroes apparently getting shot. Had there been a fifth season it would have been revealed that some if not all had survived, but at that point the show got cancelled.
- Fanon has it that Vila, at least, survived, as when he is 'shot', he falls the wrong way, early - faking being hit, or so the story goes.
- Bond Villain Stupidity - Servalan benefits from a heroic version of this, especially from Tarrant in "Sand", when she was responsible for his brother's death in the previous season. It also happens a lot to Travis until Avon finally kills him in "Star One".
- Bottle Episode
- Brian Blessed - Amazingly, he once admitted in an interview he felt he'd overplayed his character (a cult leader.)
- Bus Crash ( Jenna)
- ( Assuming Blake is telling the truth, and not just throwing out the name to see how Tarrant reacts)
- Butt Monkey - if Vila isn't, nobody is.
- Canon Welding - Chris Boucher's spin-off works have suggested that the show takes place in the same time period and spatial area as his popular Doctor Who story "The Robots Of Death". It could have happened earlier and with a much higher profile, as Tom Baker and some of the actors from Blake's wanted to do a crossover story, and Terry Nation originally wanted the alien invasion at the end of S2 to be the Daleks from Doctor Who.
- Which would have been awesome.
- The Caper
- Chronic Hero Syndrome - Blake has a bad case; the cast's general exhaustion and frustration from mid-Season Two onward is a testament to it.
- Cold Equation - "Orbit"
- Combat by Champion - "Death-Watch".
- The Con - "Gambit" and "Gold"
- Cool Starship - The Liberator, a mysterious, fantastically powerful alien craft; when they board it, Jenna and Avon find an on-board treasure room and a vast costume closet.
- Crossover - The Daleks would have shown up in the Season Finale to Season 2. (Terry Nation created them, after all.) This did not happen. However, a guest character, Carnell, turned up in a Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventures novel, Corpse Marker by Blake's 7 Script Editor Chris Boucher.
- Cult Colony - Cygnus Alpha, under Brian Blessed.
- Dark and Troubled Past - Soolin, although you need to piece things together from lines in different episodes. when she was a child her family were slaughtered in front of her in a Federation-sponsored attack on her colony, the guy who killed them kept her as a child Sex Slave, and she finally killed him after convincing him she had Stockholm Syndrome and getting him to teach her to fight.
- Dating Catwoman - Avon and Servalan in Season 3. Or at least awkwardly making out with Catwoman.
- Deadpan Snarker - Avon, all-consumingly. The rest of the cast qualifies as well, just not to the same extent.
- Depending on the Writer - In the later seasons. It's particularly noticeable because in the first season, each script was written by the showrunner with assistance from the script editor, so the characters tended to be internally consistent and have nice, smooth arcs. Then things started to disconnect: Servalan's priorities and competence, the state of Avon and Vila's relationship (it's always argumentative, but its balance varies widely; sometimes they trade barbs, sometimes Avon simply insults Vila, and sometimes they casually team up to scam a casino). Vila's intelligence also varies - in Terry Nation's scripts he's highly intelligent and competent, but will play the fool to avoid dangerous situations. In Chris Boucher's scripts he's an incompetent alcoholic. Tarrant's character lurches from being the cold and calculating mercenary he was originally conceived as, to heroic and chivalrous, and back again. Cally is either a passionate fighter or a passionate pacifist, depending on the script.
- However, at actor Michael Keating's request, Chris Boucher wrote the third series episode, "City at the Edge of the World". While Vila's fearful nature is still in evidence, the episode also features him at, arguably, his most intelligent and skilled as a safecracker. He's even the romantic lead in the story, and does some genuinely heroic acts.
- Depraved Bisexual - Egrorian in "Orbit" -- although initially he's very closely attached to his one-time student Pinder, he has no problems blowing him off in favour of a relationship with Servalan.
- Diabolus Ex Machina
- Die Hard on an X - "Powerplay"
- Downer Ending - Especially in series 3 and 4.
- Had there been a series 5, there might have been some redemption from the down-ness of series 4's ending.
- The Dragon - Travis
- Elaborate Underground Base: Xenon Base
- The Empire - Though it's called The Federation. Not to be confused with The Federation.
- Enemy Mine - Season 2's cliffhanger.
- Equal Opportunity Evil - Most prominently Servalan, also Morag, Major Thania, and others.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas - In "City at the Edge of the World", Beyban the Butcher (played by Colin Baker) speaks fondly of his mother ("Wonderful woman. Truly evil personality.").
- Even Evil Has Standards - Beyban again, who is disgusted that Blake edged him out of the #1 spot on the Federation's "Most Wanted" list by resorting to quick n' easy politics, unlike his (Beyban's} earning that honor over the course of a long and brutal career.
- "Everybody Laughs" Ending - Happens a few times, usually when someone's cracked a joke at Vila's expense.
- Evil Is Hammy - "Evil" is an open question, but it's certainly true that the more embittered and compromised Avon becomes, the more studs he wears, poses he strikes, and lines he delivers in staccato barks.
- Failure Is the Only Option - The ending of a very large number of episodes involve this trope.
- Fake in the Hole - Tarrant throws a stone into a nest of Federation troops, shouting "Grenade!" The troops reflexively dive for cover, and when they realize it was fake and look up, the heroes have them at gunpoint. Tarrant: "It must have been a dud. Sorry about that."
- Foe Yay - Between Avon and Servalan, who share a few dysfunctional moments during the third season. In "Death-Watch," it's hard to tell whether Avon is trying to manipulate her or just contriving an elaborate excuse for a hug.
- Also, Servalan and Tarrant in "Sand".
Avon: You believed her?
- Friendly Enemy: Avon and Vila have this sort of relationship. On a personal level, they despise one another. On a professional level, they have tremendous respect for each others skills (Avon as a computer expert, Vila as a master thief).
- Ghost Ship - "Sarcophagus".
- Girly Run - Gareth Thomas and Paul Darrow are clearly not Rated "M" for Manly kind of guys in Real Life, and thus Blake and Avon run like girls. It's oddly appropriate when you consider Blake is an engineer and Avon is a computer tech.
- Travis gets one too, from the hips down (he was being doubled by another actor); in a documentary on the series, they point out that the director wanted a pell-mell run, but the set was so small that doing that would have resulted in smacking into (or, just as likely, straight through) the far wall. The attempt to find a compromise between artistic vision and safety results in sort of a bouncy, skipping... thing...
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Dutch metal band Star One is named for the series, and their song "Intergalactic Space Crusaders" is pretty much a progressive metal Filk Song with the two singers playing the parts of Blake and Avon.
- Government Drug Enforcement - The cult on Cygnus Alpha's fake medicine, plus the various tricks pulled by The Government back on Earth to keep people in line, from fake memories to tranquilizers in the food
on the prison shipon nearly every Federation planet.
- The Gunslinger - Soolin.
- Hammerspace - Dayna's preferred weapon is basically an explosive, heat-seeking roomba that she carries around... where?
- Hell-Bent for Leather - Most of the cast; Avon is the earliest and most prominent case.
- Hero of Another Story - (Or possibly villain) The System, the race that created the Liberator.
- Ho Yay - usually pops up in one form or another in Robert Holmes's episodes, most notably between Krantor and Toise in "Gambit," and Egrorian and Pinder in "Orbit". Although the standards of the time meant that they couldn't actually be called lovers on-screen, Holmes made it pretty much as obvious as you can get without outright saying the G-word.
- They are also inevitably villains. Well, half of them anyway; Krantor and Egrorian were outright villainous, but Toise didn't really care for Krantor's schemes and just wanted to focus on running the casino, while Pinder was Chaotic Neutral.
- Avon and Blake were this at times, particularly in Terminal.
- As noted in the description, Blake and Avon themselves were favorites among early slash writers.
- "Rescue" is basically The Picture of Dorian Gray IN SPACE! with much of the subtext intact.
- Impractically Fancy Outfit: Everyone wears wonderfully bizarre clothes, which never appear to get in the way of their adventures. Skin tight leather, very long dresses, clevage (and not just the women) and puffy sleeves abound. Jenna, for example, once saves the day in a gorgeous blue ankle-length evening dress and high-heel boots, even though her coming to the rescue would have involved climbing a lot of ladders.
- Interrogation by Vandalism - Used by Blake in the episode "Bounty."
- It's All About Me: Vila and Servalan. Avon pretends to be this.
- Kill'Em All: Arguably, the series finale.
- Kill Him Already
- Knight in Sour Armor - Blake turns into this.
- La Résistance
- Licensed Sexist - Avon turns into one of these in any episode written by Ben Steed. The most blatant instance is in the episode "Power," where he actually lectures a female villain on how women are inherently less strong than men, and how they should learn their proper place in society, though he seems to have a mutual respect with Servalan.
- Limited Wardrobe - In season 4, when they're in reduced circumstances, the cast wears the same clothes episode after episode; it's not a perfect example, because they do change once or twice, but it's pretty striking after three seasons of lavishly Unlimited Wardrobe.
- Load-Bearing Hero - A major second-season death.
- Locked in a Room
- MacGuffin - In damn near every episode.
- The Mad Hatter - By the final series, Avon is clearly well into a psychotic break. In the final episode, he implicitly describes himself as a psychopath.
- Paul Darrow considers Avon "under stress" rather than actually mad, at least up until that point.
- Magical Computer - Zen, Orac, Slave.
- Magical Database - Orac.
- Magnificent Seven
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Jacqueline Pearce. Servalan is an utterly cold, calculating (and scene-stealing) bitch. Pearce herself is a rather charming and good-humored sort.
- Mirror Match - Soolin gunslinging against herself in 'Games'.
- Misanthrope Supreme - Avon pretends to be this but is in fact the most philanthropic member of the crew.
- Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Way down on the soft end in the original series. Way up at the hard end for the audio dramas, which have retooled away Time Distort drives in favor of talk about fixed mass points and delta-v, depict the Federation as lacking artificial gravity technology, and even remove Liberator's teleport
- Morality Chip - In Gan.
- Obfuscating Stupidity - Vila's favourite way of getting out of anything dangerous.
- Some fans speculate that Avon sees right through it, and his grudging admiration for just how good Vila is at it is the reason he never quite resorts to cold-blooded murder.
- The Other Darrin - Done with Travis. Less visibly, Orac's voice was provided in "Orac" by Derek Farr, who had played his creator Ensor, but in later episodes by Peter Tuddenham. The Federation official Ven Glynd was played in "The Way Back" by Robert James and in "Voice From the Past" by Richard Bebb.
- Painted-On Pants - Common among Liberator crew members. Apparently, Paul Darrow once wore a pair of leather trousers that were so tight, he had to be helped up and down in scenes where Avon was kneeling down to do something technical.
- They wouldn't happen to be these downright indecent trousers, would they?
- Yes. The outdoor scenes in Pressure Point required extra manpower to help Darrow kneel and stand up.
- They wouldn't happen to be these downright indecent trousers, would they?
- Paul Darrow Is About To Shoot You
- Planet Terra: The Terran Federation.
- Playing Drunk: At one point, Vila pretends to be drunk so he can make a suggestion on how to fix the current problem (atmosphere leaking out of a hole in the hull) in the form of a rambling reminiscence, but not be called on to undertake the repair himself (because you couldn't give such a dangerous task to someone who was obviously drunk).
- Pretty in Mink - Servalan, often.
- Psychic Radar: Cally, the Auron telepath pulls this trick to sneak up on Blake when she's introduced.
- Psycho Sidekick: Avon while he's second-in-command to Blake, though arguably he only went really round the twist when Blake vanished and left him in charge for the next two seasons.
- The Quincy Punk - the Space Rats are violent Outlaw Bikers IN SPACE who have gigantic mohawks and glam-rock facial make-up. Not so much "stereotype punk" as "three different countercultures shoved in a blender".
- Rearrange the Song (the inappropriately jolly end credit theme on the final season)
- Sapient Ship - the starship Liberator is fully sapient but entirely mechanical. In the recent audiobook remake/reboot of the series, the ship is at least partly biological and considerably more sinister, attempting to assimilate the crew into itself and being rather predatory in its attempts to survive.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: the number of planets featured on screen and their close proximity to each other in almost any given shot of the Liberator flying through space is absurd.
- Season Finale - Each one ended in a Cliff Hanger
- Sour Supporter - Avon
- Space Clothes - A classic example; pulpy and elaborate, with lots of weird Elizabethan touches.
- Space Opera
- Space Pirates - Jenna is a 'free trader' i.e. a smuggler. Also, her...ex-colleagues, the Amagons.
- Spit Take - In Gambit.
- The So-Called Coward: As touched upon in the Depending on the Writer entry above, Vila's unwillingness to put his neck on the line stemmed from the fact that he didn't especially care about Blake's revolution and most of his alleged comrades-in-arms seemed to regard him as expendable. When it came to the lives of anyone who treated him with a modicum of respect, however, Vila could be surprisingly badass.
- The Squadette: Every armed resistance group or Federation base appears to have a single female member in a speaking role, while the rest of them are all male. There are never any female mooks in the background, silently working their way up the ranks to the position of Supreme Commander or Rebel Leader.
- Star Trek Shake
- Story Arc - An early example and sometimes a slightly meandering one, but when the arcs get going...
- Stuff Blowing Up
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute - Most obviously Tarrant, but all the incoming leads are of the same gender as departing leads, and will usually fit the general archetype of a departed character.
- Except that Tarrant, of course, is nothing like Blake when it comes to his motivations. On the other hand... bouffant hair, steers the Liberator, is a bit of a space pirate... yep, he's the new Jenna.
- Took a Level in Badass - Fourth-season Avon, debatably; he spends decreasing amounts of time fixing the computer and increasing amounts of time shooting people and smiling coldly in a studded leather jacket, but he's about as effectual as usual.
- Tragedy - The whole four-season mega-arc could be read as Avon's, with his great flaw being the inability to trust.
- Tragic Mistake - Followed by a record-settingly abrupt downfall.
- Trash the Set - The Liberator at the end of season 3.
- True Companions: One example among many: After Avon saves Blake from an explosion:
Blake: Thank you...why?
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Avon and Cally.
- Vinyl Shatters: In an early episode, there's a character who spends a lot of time listening to a song on an antique gramophone. (The writers have admitted that this was a ruse to fill in time because the script was too short.) Near the end of the episode Blake snatches the disc off the turntable and smashes it.
- Wagon Train to the Stars
- Was It All a Lie? - Avon and Anna Grant in "Rumours of Death". Anna even says "It wasn't all lies."
- Weapon of Mass Destruction
- We Can Rule Together - Servalan offers this to Avon. He rebuffs her.
- Welcome to the Liberator - trope namer.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist - Blake was descending into this by the climax of the Star One story arc. Destroying the Master Computer for the whole Federation (apparently We Will Use Dumb Terminals In The Future) would severely weaken the Federation's hold over its territory, but at the cost of a massive humanitarian crisis and a complete breakdown of law and order.
- Wham! Episode - "Star One", "Terminal", and "Blake" are the big three.
- "Pressure Point" deserves a mention, having the first death of a main character.
- With Lyrics - Briefly considered for Series Four, to be sung by the actor who played Tarrant, but discarded. You can see why.
- Woman in White - Servalan until late Season Two
- Would Hit a Girl - Avon in "Mission to Destiny": "I really rather enjoyed that."
- Xanatos Speed Chess - Belkov in "Games"
- You All Meet in a Cell - Blake, Jenna, and Vila in "The Way Back". Notably not Avon, who did not appear until "Spacefall," though he did meet them on the prison ship.
- You Fool! - A favourite insult of Avon's, often not unfairly.
- You Shall Not Pass - The finale of Series Two. A gigantic alien war-fleet begins to move in single file through a gap in the anti-matter minefield protecting the galaxy -- so the crew of the Liberator move their own starship into the path of the fleet and take them in a head-on battle, trying to buy time for the Federation's warships to arrive and counter the attack.