Blakes 7 – the flawed but awesome BBC Sci-fi series from the 1970’s

Written on 22 December 2019. Edited 03 Dec 2021

There was a series back in the 1970’s on BBC TV called Blakes 7. It was horribly under-budget for a Sci-fi series as it inherited its budget from the cop show it replaced. Blakes 7 was a flawed but awesome series. It should have been so much better than it was, it was always about the potential it had, rather than what it actually achieved.

Recently I sat and watched the four series again with my wife, who is an actress. I’ve watched it so many times, but this time it was with new eyes.

Series 1 was subject to a lot of bad acting and lack of budget.
Series 2 the actors were getting into their roles, there was clearly more money.
Series 3 unfortunately there was now more money but the actor lineup had changed and shifted the dynamic
Series 4 more money but actors trying to get into roles and a big Star Wars influence, Paul Darrow turned Avon upto 11. Series 4 was quite influenced by Alien.

The best actor was clearly Paul Darrow and he held onto the character very well until series 4 when he suddenly became larger than life. Back in the day we all loved it but seeing it now you can see that series 4 had lost the plot. At the end of series 3 they destroyed the model of the Liberator. Nobody was expecting series 4 and they fond themselves lacking a spaceship. The result was Scorpio, an Alien style spaceship, much less swanky than the Liberator. They also ended up with a base, called Xenon Base.

Most of the series involved actors getting into the roles and as they got there, the dynamics changed again. And Travis 2 was just so bad, he never nailed it. It seems that Brian Croucher had not seen the Travis 1 character by Stephen Greif when he took over in season 2. Brian refused to have his face half covered by the eyepatch as it would ruin his looks! Funny how with the full eyepatch Stephen looks more handsome! It is a shame Stephen only played it for the first season, it was at first a tennis injury that took him out, followed by other acting commitments.

Blakes 7 was basically “cowboys and Indians in space”, clearly Paul Darrow was delighted to be running about like a cowboy. I’ve seen him talking on YouTube and he said he had the gun set just so for a “fast draw”. You see him loving all the cowboy gun stuff. I always find it amusing how his hand hovers over the “ray gun” like he’s going to cock the gun. Ready to pull the hammer back doing his cowboy impression.

Really, the biggest star was the Liberator, which, in the 70’s was the sexiest ship ever flown badly in an effects studio. It remained sexy for a long time, until it looked outdated, a bit like the Interceptor Special in Mad Max.

For me it took many years and many re-watchings to fully get over Blakes 7. For me it was much more influential than Star Trek or Star Wars. They lacked money for special effects and concentrated more on characters. As a kid and a young adult the effect was immense. Much like the effect Biggles books had on me. Of course it influenced my writing and Burning Wolfhound is clearly a Biggles/Blakes 7 rip off.

Blakes 7 is a dystopian future with a dark federation ruling the galaxy with totalitarianism. Blake is a rebel who is fighting for freedom. He’d be called a terrorist today. When I was young I never thought the world would actually become that dystopian future.