Blakes 7 (Series 1)

The Firefly of its day: a raggletaggle set of criminal misfits on the run from the evil galactic empire – political dissident Roj Blake (Gareth Thomas), smuggler Jenna Stannis (Sally Knyvette), comic relief thief Vila Restal (Michael Keating), computer fraudster Avon Kerr (Paul Darrow) and hard man Oleg Gan (David Jackson, who seems to be smiling at the absurdity of it all) are all sent into exile together, but Blake managers to comandeer the ship and they escape to an alien starship, the Liberator, run by a computer, Zen. In the fourth episode they pick up a telepath, Cally (Jan Chappell), who completes the seven.

Part of the ongoing story arc is staying a step ahead of the evil Federation (this is the flip side of Star Trek, in the specific form of Travis (Stephen Greif) and its Supreme Commander Servalan (Jacqueline Pearce), made more complicated by Blake’s desire to destroy the Federation rather than simply retire. Travis is constantly spared by Blake on the better the enemy you know grounds – someone will be after them.

I would says that it holds up better than I expected – but I’m not convinced I’ve seen it all. I came in at season two, and I think I only saw an edited down version of the early episodes. There’s some nasty stuff from Terry Nation and the friction of the Blake/Avon relationship holds up well. As telepath, it is Cally’s job to be brainwashed or possessed, and Jenna is underused – at one point Blake even suggests she flirts with another character to get their way. The endings are usually a bit botched, and there’s a bizarre plot recap at the start of episode 13 as the characters tell each other stuff they know and we’re need to learn. The spaceship effects are ropey, too – or there are small planets in this universe.

At this point Servalan isn’t the queen of camp, nor has Avon discovered the Skin Two concession – instead clothed by an outdoor pursuits emporium. The mood is dark – but the morality not quite as ambiguous here as I think Nation was aiming for.

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