Sunday, May 5, 2013


I've just got my grubby little protruberances on Lucifer, the latest novel of Blake's 7 from Big Finish. For those keeping count, the previous three were The Forgotten (meh) Archangel (wha?) and Warship the novelization (heh).

Ok, before I go on, I'll just do an impromptu lecture on the end of Blake's 7. This is my blog and anyone trying to use this new format will totally understand a) why I've been limiting myself to posting music videos and b) anything else has really been preying on my mind.

So, in 1980, the Controller of the BBC watches Terminal, loves it, and recomissions the show right away for one more season. This means that Blake's 7 will now run for 52 episodes, perfect for syndication overseas - and thus, the chances of a series beyond that number are very low. Chris Boucher and Vere Lorrimer decide the only way to do this is plan for another "last" year. The final episode is decided to be Attack, where Avon links up with Blake (who isn't dead) and they turn the tide of the war against the Federation. One problem, Gareth Thomas wants Blake to be killed off, properly, for good. The uplifting ending won't work now? Paul Darrow suggests Avon kill Blake in a failure to communicate. The final episode now ends, Western-style, with a shootout. Terry Nation, unhappy at the downer ending, nonetheless gives his blessing - he's worked out five different plots to restart the show by the end of that conversation, after all. Blake goes to studios, but that pesky Controller says that the thing is turning up to be way too graphic - blood spurting everywhere, horrible screams, dying visions... Director Mary Ridge agrees and the shoot-out is now shown sans screams, edited to be dream-like, etc. She even edits the last burst of gunfire to show that Avon survives.

Unsurprisingly, Blake's 7 is not renewed right away. For a year it hangs in limbo, a rough plot in existence of Avon waking up in a cell, meeting Vila and discovering the shootout wasn't what it appeared. Tony Attwood adapts the idea in Afterlife, and then adds his own continuation - but the stuff set at the start on Gauda Prime is given the approval of Nation and Boucher, and will be adapted if the show goes on. As for the cast, well, Paul Darrow's up for coming back but the others? Stephen Pacey and Josette Simon are firmly out, Michael Keating's on the cusp and Glynis Barber would lunge for it unless she gets a huge role in Dempsey and Makepiece. Which she does.

After failing to interest Michael Grade in a spin-off series about Avon and Vila, Blake's 7 is declared dead. Nonetheless, Terry Nation and Paul Darrow are great mates and plot a kind of backdoor movie pilot - a TV movie that ends Blake's 7 but also kicks off a relaunch, kind of like A Call to Arms did with Babylon 5. Alas, Nation dies and Blake's 7 Enterprises (still awaiting the arrival of Ben Aaronovitch and his reboot, because nothing less is acceptable) tell Darrow to go hang. The TV movie aint made.

And then Big Finish finally arrive. And Darrow turns the movie script into a novel, Lucifer.

Which is where we are now. Having read Darrow's previous work, Avon: A Terrible Aspect and Man of Iron, the guy clearly has a decent grasp on the show and characters, albeit with his strange fetish for pump-action-shotguns-blowing-up-helicopters and his bizarre take on the Federation as a Roman Court who name bits of the galaxy "the Great Beyond" instead of Delta 734 and planets "Raphaelex" rather than Atrix Minor. You get the feeling one quick edit would strip away these bizarre quirks, the same way Nation needed to be told not to kill Vila or Robert Holmes warned about doing the "teleport gonad" joke.

Basically, had this been a TV show, I think I would have been far more open-minded at the casual dismissal of the end of Blake where all our beloved characters were murdered. To put it in context, Logic of Empire had Avon more respectful and bereaved over the loss of his pals. Blake is the only one mentioned, and Avon doesn't even think of Vila in the sense of "I need another talented thief". On TV, of course, we could easily imagine Avon is thinking such things, but the prose looks right inside Avon's head and there ain't that much there.

Just saying, unlike Warship, I have no gut instinct that this is canon. None whatsoever.

(On the other hand, I don't buy Unbounds as canon - it doesn't mean Lucifer is crap, is it? Is it?)


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