The latest from BBC NEWS!
A new remake of sci-fi series Blake's 7 could soon return to television screens, Sky One has revealed. The satellite channel has given the green light for the development of two 60-minute scripts for a "potential event series". It is not yet known if and when production on the series will begin.
"The time is ripe for a revival of a show that represents the best traditions of the genre, not to mention one of the best-loved and most successful dramas of all time," Elaine Pyke, commissioning editor for drama at Sky One, Two and Three, said. Sky is working alongside Blake's 7 Productions, a subsidiary of Blake's 7 Media who owns the licence to the show. The planned new episodes would follow recent re-workings of other sci-fi shows Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica and Bionic Woman.
Why doesn't this fill me with joy? Or enthusiasm? Or... anything?
It's not being done by the same idiots who perpetrated the B7 Audios - you know, the Babylon 5 rip off with lashings of Crusade? There's nothing to suggest it won't be a worthy successor to the original Blake's 7, like Rose or Invasion of the Bane or Will You Stand For This? Except... well, there is a huge problem here. And it's fundamental to Blake's 7.
Why bother to bring it back?
Seriously. Think about it. Why? All the episodes exist. They're on DVD. If you wanted, you could do a Red Dwarf re-mastering and replace all the dodgy, unconvincing model shots with COMPLETELY unconvincing CGI shots. Have the guns fire laser beams. Get Murray Gold to do a theme tune for Cally when she gets possessed. Alter the face of Travis so it doesn't shot that much when he changes appearance. Make alien war at the start of Aftermath isn't a lethal use of stock footage. Have Terminal explode.
Why stop there? Why not get Cosgrove Hall to do their 'talking heads' animation of Assassin and then get someone else to play Cancer? In fact, go the whole hog and rewrite Hostage, Animals, Bounty... and suddenly all seems getting a bit silly. Blake's 7 worked, people. More often than it failed, anyway. So, why remake it? Do you think Kill Bill-style bullet time effects can improve on the horror when Vila gets shot? That a huge Las Vegas set can make Gambit any funnier? That Adam Rickitt can convincingly create a Mutoid?
And if you're not going to remake the stories (more or less) as they were, why the hell reboot it? What was wrong - conceptually - with the original? Cause if it's a choice between The Way Back and Rebellion, I'll throw out Ben Aaronovitch's finest any day.
What good did rebooting the series as audio plays do? The Liberator becomes an out of control ship consisting of a skutter-filled corridor you have to go into a trance to talk to Zen. The episodes where you sit in a control room and start a sentence with "Zen" still work, you know. And if you ARE in love with skuller-filled corridor spaceship, why snatch names from Blake's 7 to make it work? Why set it in the 23rd century where people need hyperspace and cryo-stasis for decent space travel, when the series it is based on rightly thought such material boring and tedious? Why drop Cally? Why drop damn near everything and then replace it with the backstory of Babylon Five as ancient aliens turn up to face humanity with their mistakes, and a completely unambiguous moral hero leads a fight against an unambigously corrupt regime?
Assuming Ben Aaronovitch simply wrote this series and by accident made it seem like Blake's 7 when really it was supposed to be Gateway or something like that, it's still a waste of time.
Why bring it back if it's going to be changed? It's not like Doctor Who or Robin Hood, where as long as you get the basics right you can reinterpret and recast who you damn well choose. And it's not like Sarah Jane Adventures, because you've got none of the original cast.
There's no point rebooting the series, and you can't pick up where Blake ended. Not unless, say, you refilm Season Four - or bits of it, any road - and start from there. And no one is going to do it. Certainly not in a couple of movie specials. Which is why I'm not enthusiastic about this. It CAN'T succeed because it's based on a false premise - even if they somehow made it work, somehow redid Blake's 7 with James Nesbit as Blake and Simon Pegg as Vila and Sarah Lancashire as Servalan - what are they going to do? Really?
The Beginning, that's what. Like last time. They're going to have the gang meet together, steal a spaceship... and what? Destroy the Federation in part two? Why BOTHER?! Why bring it back and make sure it can't be used again? Is it just some broken logic that assumes "Doctor Who is a crap sci fi show now successful" "Blake's 7 is a crap sci fi show" ergo "Blake's 7 can be successful"?
And what happens if they do the opposite? If they, as Paul Darrow wants, continues the original B7 universe, except with a completely new crew fighting the Federation? BTR tried it, the SWARM tried it... and it hasn't worked. Seriously, does anyone watch Blake and go, "Wow, I wonder what's happening back on Earth right about now?"
No, they don't.
The cliffhanger ending works because all the people we care about are cut down mercilessly in a huge misunderstanding. Who cares if the Federation is defeated? The program makers certainly didn't, since they spent the penultimate episode setting up the Rebel Alliance to help fight them off. Blake's 7 is about Blake and the people who were with him. Take that away, and what's the point? Even if I could honestly say recasting them wouldn't matter, they'd have to start right on Gauda Prime for me not to instinctively react like the Doctor in Utopia and flee.
And that is why Blake's 7 is impossible to pick up from. You can't cut X years down the line like Doctor Who did, because effectively little changed in the day to day adventures. The Seventh Doctor and Ace walk into the sunset, and the Ninth Doctor walks out of the sunrise. No wonder Barry Letts scrapped the idea of his BBC audios being a sequel and instead missing adventures (given the quality, it's for the best).
It's worth noting at this point, since I'm mainly rambling in an excuse to get that disturbing Chris Hale cover lower down the page so I don't freak out every time I log on, that the Blake we see today is not the original cut. Having read the magazines at the time, I now know the final shootout scene was reshot, or at least a different take used (fair enough, as the photos show Vila and Tarrant's death agonies as them realizing they've shat their pants). Originally, they all died. I mean, ALL of them DIED. They screamed as they were shot, and much thought went into picking through previous episodes for a scene to be superimposed, a dying memory, if you like. Avon's freeze frame was originally discovering his gun was empty. Blake's flyer had furry dice. And a scene was planned that Orac would get blown up when a security guard shot at it, and Avon would kill him and get that gun in the first place. The cast were all convinced it was finale - Gareth Thomas, Josette and Steven Pacey weren't coming back, Michael Keating was strongly tempted, and Terry Nation assumed that they were all gone for good.
It was Mary Ridge, the director, who gave a more hopeful outcome, specially working in that final sound of gunfire so you hear that Avon's still firing at the very end. It was her who used the slo-mo death scenes to in her words, 'give the impression everything after Blake dies might not be real'. She was the one who suggested Season Five open with Avon in a cell, a prisoner of the Federation - an idea Chris Boucher and Terry Nation agreed had legs and worked out a rough plot for, to coin a phrase, "the restoration of order".
And Tony Attwood, that loveable schizoid B7 fan, novelized that idea/script, and turned it into a full-blown novel. At least the first half was Boucher approved and thus a hell of a lot closer to its tagline of "authentic sequel" than Kaldor City's "I Told You So" nihilistic claptrap of The Logic of Empire.
And, inspired by those first few chapters, with that spooky, dreamlike tale of Avon and Vila exploring a mysteriously deserted and ran-soaked Gauda Prime, I sat at my computer, opened a script-writing bit of software and let rip.
Vaguely justifying this post is an excerpt from my unfinished magnum opus, In The Company of Madmen!
INT. SERVALAN’S SHIP -- FLIGHT DECK
Three MUTOIDS sit at the flight controls in the middle of
the deck. SERVALAN sits at her control console to left of
the flight deck. Before her stands ARLEN, now dressed in the
uniform of a trooper. She stands to attention, helmet under
her arm. A fourth MUTOID stands nearby.
You were on the planet, Commander?
What were your orders there?
To remove the prisoners held in the
compound and return them to Earth.
SERVALAN is slightly surprised at this.
Why Earth? Were these prisoners
ARLEN looks slightly awkward.
For some time, the planet had been
used by enemies of the Federation.
We had them under close
surveillance and had infiltrated
the command structure.
And what form did this command
When Open Planet policy was
introduced, normal Federation laws
were abandoned, leading to a number
of criminals arriving to take
advantage. When the policy was
terminated, law enforcement
operations were set up to round up
and execute those criminals.
So any criminal elements using the
planet as a gathering place would
already be being dealt with?
That is what seemed to be
happening. However, the rebels were
using the cover of one of the
bounty hunter operations to attract
other dissident elements to their
base. They would capture criminals
at large on the planet and, if
suitable, recruit them. They
falsified records so the criminals
would be listed as dead, while
keeping them at large to plan a
And who was it that infiltrated
this underground organization?
I ensured that the dissidents were
unaware the rest of my force was on
the planet. At my command, we
stormed the silo they were using as
a base. All the rebels were to be
rounded up, and those that resisted
were executed on the spot.
SERVALAN does not look impressed.
And who were these... great
outlaws? That senior officers of
the Terran Federation had to rush
half way across the galaxy in order
to have them arrested?
ARLEN looks slightly smug.
The leader of the rebels,
SERVALAN stares at ARLEN for a long moment.
Yes, Commissioner. He was the major
political criminal on the
Federation’s wanted list for...
Don’t tell me about Blake,
Commander. I know more about him
than you were ever told.
A pause. SERVALAN is much calmer now.
Did you actually see him?
Yes, Commissioner. I spent much
time with him undercover. He was
one of the false bounty hunters
that captured me, believing me to
be a suitable ally.
And was Blake taken captive?
Not exactly, Commissioner.
SERVALAN’s voice is like cut glass.
Then what, "exactly", Commander?
Blake was shot repeatedly from very
close range as the troopers
arrived. I supervised
identification of the body. Roj
Blake is a dead man.
He resisted arrest, then?
We didn’t shoot him, Commissioner.
He died before my men even entered
the silo. He was shot by one of his
His name is Kerr Avon,
SERVALAN cannot hide her surprise.
INT. GP CELL
AVON lies on the bunk, seemingly asleep. There is a
scuffling noise from the closed door. Instantly, AVON opens
his eyes, wide awake. He sits up. He mutters to himself.
It seems I misjudged you, Korell.
He gets to his feet and crosses to the door, and presses
himself against the wall to the left of it, drawing his arm
up for a karate chop. The door slides open.
A TROOPER stands in the doorway. AVON’s expression shows his
surprise, but he still makes his move. Before the TROOPER
has stepped into the cell, AVON strikes him in the stomach.
Letting out a muffled groan of pain, the TROOPER falls
forward to the floor. AVON crouches down and slips his arm
around the neck of the TROOPER, getting him into a headlock.
AVON glances at the open door and the corridor beyond. No
one else. He tightens his grip on the TROOPER’s neck, as the
TROOPER instinctively tries to pull the arm away. AVON
tightens his grip further, but speaks quietly.
The wrong type of movement on your
part could have serious
The TROOPER stops resisting, intimidated.
It would be helpful if we could
talk. Take off your helmet.
AVON slackens his grip, while still holding onto the
TROOPER, who gently pulls off his helmet to reveal a
familiar face underneath - albeit with a stubbly beard and a
look of terror in the eyes.
Since you know who he is, you might
want to let him go.
AVON smiles and does so. We see a SECOND TROOPER standing in
the doorway, holding a sidearm aimed at AVON. VILA scrambles
away from AVON as far as he can.
Keeping AVON covered, SOOLIN takes off the helmet.
It’s bad manners to threaten the
lives of those who’ve just freed
you from a Federation cell.
It was rather hard to tell who you
were through those uniforms.
Although I should have recognized
VILA glares at AVON, annoyed.
Yes! You should have!
You thought he was the usual
He doesn’t quite have that
aggressive authority which is their
hallmark. As for you...
AVON starts to rise.
I’m not the one with a gun.
You’ve just demonstrated that
doesn’t count for much.
You also demonstrated how you’ve
turned into a homicidal maniac with
a tendency to kill people on your
I have nothing to gain from harming
either of you.
Very comforting. We rather got the
impression you wanted us all dead.
There are a number of locks between
here and the outside world. Vila
can open them quicker than the
average guard. And getting past the
guards is easier with a gunfighter
- especially the best there is.
Well, you don’t need to worry about
the locks between here and the
outside world, they’re all done.
What about the guards?
We won’t be bumping into any.
You killed them all I suppose?
I doubt it was Vila who did it.
I didn’t have to kill anyone. This
place is deserted.
There’s no one in this silo, except
AVON is troubled. He doesn’t know how to react.
How did you scare them off, Avon?
Threaten to give a lecture to the
assembled masses on the subject of
If I’d wanted them to leave, I
would have discussed yours for
maximum effect. Where are Dayna and
Not here. We’ve checked all the
Do you know if they’re still alive?
You mean you actually care? It
looked to me like you wanted us all
Dead or alive, they’re nowhere in
this silo. At least not any more.
Unsurprising. It’s been a week.
A week since you unleashed
universal mayhem. And in all that
time there hasn’t been a single
ship landing or taking off.
AVON gets to his feet.
What were you doing out there in
the meantime? Counting trees? Or
drinking every drop of adrenaline
and soma within a radius of twenty
VILA stands as well.
And what the hell have you been
doing for the last seven days,
Avon? Playing patience?
I’ve been held prisoner.
By whom? There’s no people here,
Avon. No guards, no Federation, no
What about Korell?
And who might Korell be?
A civilian woman with long hair.
She was here, in this cell, one
SOOLIN and VILA exchange a glance.
Well. We haven’t seen her. Maybe
you’ve gone mad, Avon? Again, I
Or maybe she was a ghost?
AVON turns to look sharply at SOOLIN.
Or maybe you are.
SOOLIN smiles knowingly at him.