Written on: 04/02/2010 by helruna (36 reviews written)
Set in the late 70's and early 80's this series captures the Zeitgest of the UK during this era. It features on the whole the best sci-fi writing, penned by Terry Nation. Spanning 5 series it features the introduction of end of series cliffhangers into the world of TV. The show is dated and the special effects are on a very low budget. However, this series defines the best of UK sci-fi that, in my opinion created a path for other great sci-fi shows such as Firefly, Farscape and Star-Trek Next Generation.
Like Robin of Sherwood, the effects should not deter you from loving this series. The great plots, and double crosses plus flat jokes to immense sarcasm ought to make you laugh! The stunts and people running around a camera to make it look like there's more extras is as funny as it is inventive. Still, it doesn't detract from the constant dark lurking of the universe in which it is set.
Indeed, Dr Who was sci-fi light as compared to a universe that was dark and pretty much a stalemate for political dissenters. Okay, we were scared by the Darleks and Cybermen, but Dr Who was safe or he just resurrected. With Captain Kirk, well nothing can kill that guy. This universe is a lot harsher, the plot lines very dark and the tension kept through the majority of the series.
The storyline follows the introduction of a colony where people are in a state not too different from Lucas' THX 1138. You're introduced to Roj Blake, who we get to know is a former rebel leader. The known galaxy is controlled by Earth and its super strong corrupt and fascistic Federation. Peace it seems reigns at a price of forced dictatorship. Dissent and failure is severely punished. The Federation controls by drugging water and food to control its reformed populous. There's also a great introduction of the Federation controlling its soldiers by giving them a drug addiction [later used in Deep Space Nine].
In the opening episodes we learn that Blake was captured and his memories erased. He was a public show of the Federation's mercy and was branded a traitor by the resistance. The mindblanked Blake starts to move off his medication and learns that all is not as rosy in paradise as he thought. He rebels and tries to escape. He fails and Blake is exiled to a prison planet called Cygnus Alpha.
Enter the trademark spaceship: The Liberator. While in transit the Federation convict ship comes across a strange alien ship. They board and by their cunning they manage to escape in the ship and gain their freedom. They then travel across the known universe to investigate and settle their score with the Federation. People often ask how come there are only 6 humans and it's called Blake 7. Zen, the ship's computer [or AI] is number 7!
The show puts together a bunch of rag-tag convicts with a skill set that compliments and in turn causes friction with other members. The strongest acting and dichotomies are between Blake and Avon. Blake is an idealist and a blind hero. Avon is a cunning profiteer and creates doubt over Blakes leadership. Bit by bit we see Avon take on Blakes' ideology as he is not comfortable with his own super-rational and often solitary lifestyle.
Villa is another great character. A superb thief, he often gets himself in trouble through his own stupidity or greed. Avon's verbal attacks to Villa is probably the real first BlackAdder harsh sarcasm ever seen in space!
Another great applause goes to Jacqueline Pearce who plays Servalan. She's the sexy head of operations for the Federation. Everyone in the Federation wears Black. By contrast she wears white. There's a lot of innuendo and sexual frustration between her and Avon. They are a mismatched pair who have a love hate relationship throughout the whole series. She's cruel, calculating and cunning and Avon is her ideal match. However, they are both back stabbing. Their mutual mistrust can never lead anywhere.
The first 2 series are probably the darkest and the best of the total of 5 series. The end of season 1 finale brings together an unlikely alliance which shows how advanced this show was for its time. The introduction of the infamous Orac, a supercomputer brings another comedy element to the show.
Series 2 we learn about the history of the Liberator and its creators. All I can say is think the Borg and you'll be halfway there. The Liberator makes a departure end of series 2 which is a shame. Most of the characters leave, with Avon, Cally and Villa continuing on. We now get to some weaker series in the whole showcase but there are still quite a few landmark episodes. We then get another character who can counter Avon called Del Tarrant played by Steven Pacey. He's quite a strong character and challenges Avon as he did to Blake.
The final of season 5 is probably one of the most talked about in british Sci-fi series. It ends with a cliffhanger and a black-screen for the final few seconds. It was a fitting ending to a great series where the protagonist has to admit defeat or victory. Had this character finally learnt his lesson and had become the thing he originally hated?