Blake's 7

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Name: Blake's 7
Abbreviation(s): B7
Creator: Terry Nation
Date(s): 1977-1981
Medium: tv series
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
External Links: IMDB Epguides
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Contents

Brief Show Synopsis

the cast from the zine, The Measure of Affection

Blake's 7 is a British television show created by Terry Nation. It takes place in a dystopic interplanetary empire of the future.

Running for four seasons of thirteen episodes each between 1977 and 1981, the show was made with the BBC's usual production values for science-fiction shows at that time (low special-effects budgets, minimal sets, and most outdoor scenes filmed in one or two locations) but the series as a whole had sharp, political scripts. Blake's crew was canonically made "Blake's seven" by including the original ship's computer, Zen, in the count in an episode early in the first season: in second, third, and fourth seasons this "count the computers" was silently continued.

To some fans, the last episode of Blake’s 7 felt like the ultimate betrayal by the show’s creators and led many fans to write off the show as depressing and nihilistic. The fact that nearly every character perished in the finale certainly did not help contradict this opinion. Other fans felt that the ending was a mere speed-bump allowing them to pursue more creative ‘fix-it’ (or post gauda prime) stories. One fan writes: "What drove me into fandom was the last episode; it wasn't enough. I wanted to see more, discuss it, read about it." [1]

As a television show that chronicles the adventures of a ragtag band of fugitives vagrant on a space ship, Blake's Seven is a descendent of Robin Hood, and a forbearer of Farscape (Blake's Seven on Acid!) and Star Trek: Voyager (Blake's Seven on valium!). As of 2008, the show was slated to be re-made, a la Battlestar Galactica. However to date, this has not happened.

Without a remake on the horizon, Blake's 7 fandom, once one of the largest gen or slash communities around, has largely fallen silent. The two main mailing lists, Lysator and Freedom City are pretty much inactive. There are a few Livejournal communities still in existence.

There have been only a trickle of songvids made since the show came out on DVD (region 2) a few years ago. There are still a couple of hundred zines, and old videotape songtapes, of course, but few new ones.

B7 Cast

In order of appearance:

Seasons one and two

  • Roj Blake, played by Gareth Thomas (link)
  • Vila Restal, played by Michael Keating (link)
  • Jenna Stannis, played by Sally Knyvette
  • Kerr Avon, played by Paul Darrow
  • Olag Gan, played by David Jackson
  • Zen, voiced by Peter Tuddenham (Peter Tuddenham voiced all three computers, and in some episodes, there were scenes where Peter was both sides of a conversation between Orac and Zen or Slave)
  • Cally, played by Jan Chappell (link)
  • Supreme Commander (later President) Servalan, played by Jacqueline Pearce
  • Commander Travis, played by Stephen Greif (series 1) and Brian Croucher (series 2)
  • Orac, voiced by Peter Tuddenham

In season three, Blake, Jenna, Gan, and Travis (B7 hewed to the British sexist/classist tradition that all women of whatever class and any working-class characters of any gender are referred to by their given name only) had all left the series one way or another. The two new characters in season three were:

By the beginning of season four, Cally and Zen had left the series, and were replaced (in Zen's case, a virtual replacement only) by another two new characters:

Cally's lack of surname had always been justified by her being "an alien": Soolin's lack of surname was never explained at all.

Blake's 7 Fandom

The series began during the period after the original Star Trek and before the first Star Trek movie; hence its fandom participated in the normalization of many common fannish practices of today, for example the social history of slash and print zines. Its final episode, "Blake," caused such an uproar in the fandom that even today, thirty years on, fans are still working out Post Gauda Prime (PGP) stories of their own.

Several early Blake's 7 fan clubs sprang up in the UK during and immediately after the first season was broadcast (1977-1978), and one of them, Blake's 7 Appreciation Society [2] is still active thirty years later.

The series was not broadcast in the US until the late 1980s, and video recorders were neither cheap nor common in the UK till after that time, so videotapes could not be shared. Fans in the US received tapes made by pointing a portable videocamera at the screen of the TV while it was broadcasting an episode. These camera copies were poor quality to begin with, and became poorer quality as they were copied and passed on. A joke circulating among American B7 fans after the series was broadcast in the US was "My tapes were so bad, I didn't realise Travis was played by two actors!"

Other fans would often put together videotape "recruitment" packages:
When setting out to hook a new victim into the B7 universe, Ann Wortham used to put together a "special gift" of a videotape that would start somewhere around STAR ONE, run about 6 episodes in sequence...and then run out in the middle of the seventh! This had the inevitable effect of sending the hapless recipient screaming to the telephone (usually in the middle of the night), demanding more episodes at the top of their lungs. Before the advent of all-B7 media fanzines, it also had the effect of sending them to their fanzine collections to dig up something--anything--in the way of a B7 story to read and temporarily satisfy their craving.[3]
The inability to access the show impacted fans across the world. In 1994, an Australian fan complained about the decline in fan clubs and the lack of reruns::
"How's life Down Under? Does Australia still have much of an active B7 fandom, or have things quited --oops--quieted down there much as they have in the US?

B7 fandom in Australia is pretty much in a doldrums, as far as organised clubs go. Liberator Australis died a while back. The only active club related to B7 is New Horizons, which is a British Media SF club - the same group of people who put out the Enarrare' zine....

The ABC (Australia's equivalent of the BBC) doesn't help, when they say they will *never* show B7 again, and _now_ they say they will *never* show Doctor Who again! Not that they were treating it with any respect by showing it at 4:30 am like they were doing last year! Grrrr. And if the ABC don't show it, I doubt any of the other stations will. I can't imagine any commercial station showing an old British SF show - the TV stations don't think much of SF....."[4]
On the other hand, the show often appeared in unusual times and places:
Re the exact running dates of B7 in Communist Bulgaria: I don't know the answer, but the way I learned about it was from a LOC to the old Federation Archives in which a B7 fan recounted the experience of being a tourist in Bulgaria, and (I think) walking around in a B7 T-shirt and having people come up to her on the streets to express their own enthusiasm for the show. So that would place it approximately in the late 80's, I should think.[5]

Like many SF fandoms, there is a gen fandom that persists even now, when the formerly huge slash fandom is almost completely gone. [6]

One fan writes: "What I find compelling about B7: fallible heroes fighting against insurmountable odds; a cold, unreachable type as one of the leads; plots that go off at unpredictable angles; and most surprising for a continuing series, discernible change in the characters over time and most of it not for the better." [7]

Bloom County's cartoon cast as Blake's 7 characters, artist and source unknown

In 1990, a fan explains the show to some Star Wars fans: "About B7, it is an incredibly complex show, and I do advise anyone who might give it a chance to start with #1 and proceed in order to #52. The characters are so intricate it is scary. I still haven't worked up the courage to attempt even a vignette on any of them. But I love watching to sift for new aspects and ideas. And if ANH is fun to rewatch for the foreshadowing of things in RDTJ, B7 is full of that. It was 4th season of the show that hooked me. I think I had chills when I went back to 1st season and saw anew where they began, knowing how far they would eventually go. It put everything into new light." [8]

B7 Fanworks

front cover of a reprint of The Epic

Like most pre-web fandoms, early B7 fanfic was sharply divided into slash, explicit het (referred to in contemporary zines as "adult"), and gen. Fanfic was being published in zines from 1977 onwards. An early post-1st season story, written not long after the first season ended and before the second season was broadcast, was simply titled The Epic as it was at the time (50,000 words) the longest B7 fan story ever published.

As with the original Doctor Who, B7 was broadcast "before the watershed" (before 8pm) and expected to be suitable for children, so episode scripts when televised could not include either explicit sex or swearing. Very early fanfic, written while the series was being broadcast, was in general expected by fan editors and publishers to correspond to BBC pre-watershed standards: though swearing might be permitted, even heterosexual relationships could not be explicitly sexual. Horizon began to produce "adult" fanzines, heterosexual relationships only (even an early reference to male/male rape was objected to) in the early 1980s, after the series was no longer being broadcast.

Slash Appears

Relations between the gen fandom and slash fandom varied over time. Unlike other fandoms of the time, many B7 zines had both gen and slash stories (especially many by Ashton Press). But because actor cons were very common, gen fans often thought of the slash fans as an embarrassment. A quote from Paul Darrow, "Why is Gareth always raping me" was was frequently used by anti-slash fans to show how inappropriate the actors thought slash was. [9]

TPTB's dim view of slash continues to this day. In 2003, executive producer Andrew Sewell gave an interview in which he indicated he would do everything he could to root out slash fandom from Blake's 7 fandom. Swell, who now owns the rights to the show, has been lobbying for a remake of the show and plans were announced in 2013 for a US remake to be shown on XBox Live.[10] "I think slash is distasteful. The actors that are represented do not appreciate it. And some produce this stuff on the web. I think it is bad taste. It has no reflection or bearing on what the show is and it is not a tribute to Terry Nation's legacy. I think it is an abomination. I think what is an abomination is the pornography. I have no problem with fan fiction, but I do have a problem with pornography. [11]

Asked what he planned to do, he said: "They will find out how I am going to clamp down on it. The moment you start doing something of an extremely dubious nature of the pornographic variety or for a commercial benefit without acquiring the rights, I and my partners will take a dim view of that."[12]}}

Luckily, slash fans pay little attention to TPTB, and Blake's 7 slash fans are no different. Slash fanfic began to be published in 1983: an early zine that included same-sex as well as mixed-sex relationships was The Big Boy's Book of 1001 Things to Do in Zero Gravity with a Federation Hand Blaster, first published August 1983, which includes what may be the first B7 slash story, Licence, pairing Del Tarrant with Jarvik, a character who appears only in a third-season episode Harvest of Kairos.

However, the first known B7 all-slash fanzine was E-Man-Uelle. The first two issues were published in 1983 (issues 1 to 8 came out roughly twice a year between 1983 and 1987). While badly produced and badly typed, these zines were the first to publish some B7 fan writers who later became better known in other fanzines and other fandoms: Julien, Jane Carnall, Julie Kramer, Bryn Lantry and others. These zines were stories pairing Kerr Avon with either Roj Blake (Blake/Avon) or with Vila Restal (Avon/Vila), which remain the most popular slash pairings.

Hermit.org hosts a link to fansites hosting [13]. Many early stories are still only available in fanzines: the slash library is an institution at British slash conventions.

The Fandom Implodes

In the 1980s, when relations between many of the BNFs and many of the actors exploded, many fans -- starving for information in an era before the Internet -- blamed slash fans for the explosion, though in retrospect, slash had little or nothing to do with the explosion. Regardless of the motives, a campaign began attempting to drive slash fiction from the fandom and to out slash fans to the actors in order to bar them from conventions. Read more at The Blake's 7 Wars.

B7 Online

Blake's 7 fandom was an early participant in online communities.

Blake's 7 fandom went online in 1992. The first mailing list was called Lysator and was named after the "Lysator Academic Computer Society", one of the first Internet-connected sites in Sweden.[1] Lysator was a very active list for several years. Several members of the community collaborated on a full set of episode transcriptions to facilitate discussion and provide fans who didn't have access to the series a way to enjoy it. They are still available at Judith Proctor's site.

In [1995], Space City, a slash mailing list was spun off to allow discussion of slash and adult topics without controversy. Freedom City is now the current adult mailing list for Blake's 7 fans.

In the 1990s, when B7 fandom hit the Net, a lot of the online new fans were quite startled the first time they heard of slash. Slash fans on the various B7 lists and newsgroups grew tired of repeating the same arguments, and drew up a The Generic Slash Defense Form Letter[14] still available on the net.

Notable Slash Fanworks

Blake/Avon

front cover of the zine, Fire and Ice #2

Avon/Vila

  • Last Stand at the Edge of the World, a novel which is nominally gen, but featured Avon and Vila in a group marriage with Kerril, Vila's female love interest in the aired episode "City at the Edge of the World." Several adult and explicitly slash sequel stories were featured in anthology zines by the same publishers.
  • Southern Lights Special, later Southern Comfort, which were the adult/slash anthology companions to the publishers' gen Southern Lights zines. Each issue was differentiated from their gen counterparts by the issue number plus either a .5 (adult gen and slash, including Blake/Avon and Avon/Vila) or a .75 (all Avon/Vila issues).

Fanvids

The vast majority of Blake's 7 fanvids were made in the 1980s and mid 1990s. Very few of these vids have survived conversion to the digital age.

  • A memorably heartbreaking videotape fanvid contained scenes from the last episode to the song Send in the Clowns.[15]
  • True Believer by Viv Nichols of the Media Cannibals
  • Crimson & Crystal (sung by Julia Ecklar), vid by Cybel Harper
  • Comedy Tonight and Hotel California by MVD are extremely clever uses of images to create something entirely different from the show.
  • Studs in Black Leather set to "Everywoman's Lament" by Jillian Courtenay - a clever filk song that pairs "Nights in White Satin" with fandom's fetish for men in black leather
  • Tell It All - by ? - a Blake character study vid
  • Hold On by Liz Jordan - Sandy Herrold wrote: "A good video; made even more by the line, "Don't you recall how you felt when you weren't alone," The clip is Avon in the third season, it has stuck in my mind ever since."
  • Cold--Biography of a bastard in 4/4 time by DeeJay -- Sandy Herrold described it as "Every clip in order, to a song that was made for Avon, as if narrated by Vila"
  • Some of the most innovative vids of the 80s were made by Gayle F and Tashery S, including Walking and Falling, and Continental Drift. Both can be found on their Shadowsongs DVD collection.

Most of Blake's 7 fandom had become quiescent by 2000, however, a few computer vids did appear online. In 2002 both Morgaine and Xanthe offered their vids here and here respectively (sites are offline, archived versions are offered where available).

Other Activities

List of Pairings/Abbreviations

  • Blake/Avon (slash), referred to as "B/A"
  • Avon/Vila (slash), referred to as "A/V"
  • Avon/Tarrant (slash), referred to as "A/T"
  • Avon/Cally (het), referred to as "A/C" or sometimes "C/A." One fan writes: "I never saw [the Avon/Cally pairing] on the show, until I started watching Tashery Shannon and Gayle F.'s B7 songtapes. They mostly do B/A and A/C songs, and some of the clips they use for A/C finally work for me, at least taken correctly out of context"[16] and "Lots of C/A vids out there, Lots! But everyone must think Aurons are almost monogamous...she hardly ever gets another date--there must be 20 C/A's for every one C/T, and she never gets any body else. (B7 graffiti... Cally swings A/C--D/C.")[17]
  • Avon/Servalan (het), referred to as "A/S"

The list of other pairings in this ensemble show is long. Sandy Herrold once calculated that with "12 major characters in B7 (Blake, Avon, Jenna, Cally, Vila, Tarrent, Dayna, Soolin, Servalan, Travis (leaving out Gan, since I've never seen him 'paired' in a songvid)) you have 61 possible pairings. So far, in my B7 vid watching, I have seen 19 pairings, so there's lots of possibilities left.

I have seen: Blake/Avon, Blake/Jenna, Blake&Tarrant, Blake/Travis Avon/Blake. Avon/Jenna, Avon/Cally, Avon/Vila, Avon/Tarrant, Avon/Dayna, Avon/Soolin, Avon/Servalan, Jenna/Blake, Jenna/Avon Cally/Avon and a couple of Cally/Tarrant Vila/Avon, Vila/Tarrant, Vila/Dayna (1/4 of a single vid) Tarrant&Blake, Tarrant/Avon, Tarrant/Dayna, Tarrant/Soolin, Tarrent/Servalan Dayna/Avon, Dayna/Vila? Dayna/Tarrant Soolin/Avon, Soolin/Tarrant Servalan/Avon, Servalan/Tarrant, Servalan/Travis Travis/Blake, Travis/Servalan."[18]

Conventions

Small, fan-run conventions were arranged in the UK in the early 80s. The second of these (The Teal Vandor Convention) took place in Holborn, London and was run jointly by the two UK clubs - Liberator Popular Front and Horizon. A number of the cast and some production staff attended (unpaid!). British Blake's Seven fandom also had a significant presence at the 1979 World SF Convention in Brighton UK.

flyer for Orac (1988)

Conventions - some were fan run with actor guests and some were professional. In addition, not all conventions focused solely on Blake's 7 but were often bundled with other sci-fi and fantasy shows

Post-Gauda Prime

Fix-it fic for the series is known as Post Gauda Prime (PGP)

Lists and Communities

Blake's 7 fandom went online in 1992. The first mailing list was called Lysator and was named after the "Lysator Academic Computer Society", one of the first Internet-connected sites in Sweden.[2] It is still active and averages around around 5-10 messages a week.

In [1995], Space City, a slash mailing list was spun off to allow discussion of slash and adult topics without controversy. Freedom City is now the current adult mailing list for Blake's 7 fans, however it may be inactive and emails to the moderators remain unanswered.

There are several Blake's 7 communities on livejournal, most have very low to no traffic as of 2010.

Archives

One of the challenges facing Blake's 7 was that, as an established fanzine fandom like Star Trek, discussion of online fan fiction was often met with hostility.

For example, in 1993 on the Lysator mailing list one fan asked:
"I know this question has been asked before, but I never saw the answer. What I'd like to know is whether there's any B7 fanfic available over the network. And if there isn't, what exactly are the barriers? (I'm assuming that writers want to be read, and readers want to read -- and the net seems a natural way to distribute stuff.) So what's the story?"[19]
She received a swift and negative response:
"I posted a message about ftp sites for fiction, and received a reply

(off-list) that it's considered rude to compete with the zines by putting files on "the circuit". And that people write for zines for a) editing; b) distribution; and c) free copies of the zine.

Fair enough. What I'm now wondering is whether anyone has ever suggested an e-zine? This would be based on a theme, edited, and released as an 'issue' - only instead of being distributed through snail mail, with paper correspondance, currency conversion problems, etc. it would be distributed through the net. You'd lose the artwork and aesthetic quality of good formatting, so in some sense you'd have an inferior product, but you'd get the content, fast and free. And it would be the editor's responsibility to ensure good content. This would satisfy a), b), and c). (I'm assuming that no one's in this to try to make money...). Yes, you'd be competing with existing zines -- but hey, competition's part of life.

What are the problems with this idea? If you have any thoughts, please reply to me on or off list.

(Where I'm coming from: I'm involved in the local gopher and in trying to start a community Freenet. We are digitizing everything that isn't nailed down by copyright. Just preparing for the post-Gutenberg revolution...)"[20]
Her question was met by silence, until one list member finally explained:
"I have heard a few concerns about electronic publishing, however, chief of which seems to be the impossibility of copyright control. Once a

piece is in the ether, anyone with a keyboard can adapt, adjust, mutilate or destroy it very easily--granted, this could be done with hard copy too, but the ease of access in electronic format is awesome. "Circuit" stories (stories already released to unpublished circulation) were already vulnerable to this sort of tampering, and so seem fair game for e-access, but I think most writers prefer to have their works of genius have the modicum of protection granted by being published in a printed zine.

There are also several newsgroups devoted to the airing of fiction

of one sort or another, which seems to provide a venue to those who are interested in releasing their brain children to the ether--"[21]

In short, in 1993, there seemed to be little interest in or tolerance to the idea of online fan fiction.

Fortunately, that changed over time and several fan fiction archives were established. Most of them are inactive or have been abandoned as interest in the show continues to wane.

  • Personal Fan Fiction archives can be found here.

Zines

Print zines

Online zines

These either started out as ezines, or were archived on the web after going out of print.

Blake's 7 vs. Star Trek

Like Star Wars, fan inevitably compared Blake's 7 to Star Trek , sometimes with amusing results. In 1994, a Lysator member re-posted the following tongue in cheek comparison of the two shows.

Star Trek Blake's 7
1. The triumph of morality. 1. The triumph of amorality
2. The Federation is good. 2. The Federation is evil
3. The Federation is an instrument of democracy and free speech. 3. The Federation is a facist military dictatorship
4. Everyone on the ship gets along. 4. Don't turn your back
5. Reliable friends. 5. Betrayal
6. Goal:"to explore strange new worlds & civilizations", assist colonies and promote growth. 6. Goal: to survive, destroy the Federation and make a fast buck whenever possible.
7. The basic crew don't die; in fact, they come back from the dead 7. The basic crew dies, disappears and finds better things to do.
8. The Captain has a receding hairline or no hair. 8. The Captain has a perm
9. The heros chase things. 9. The heros are chased
10.Electric shavers that can stun. 10.Cattle prods that kill
11.A new planet in every episode. 11.A new plot in every episode
12.Special effects. 12.
13.When nothing else works, the Captain will try deception. 13.When nothing else works, the Captain will try a little truth.
14.Disposable extras. 14.Disposable regulars
15.The Boy Scout mentality. 15.Niccolo Machiavelli
16.Occasional sarcasm. 16.Occasional straight dialogue
17.Stand by your friends. 17.Stand behind your friends
18.Love will save the day. 18.Love[equals]carelessness[equals]death
19.Choosing between good and evil. 19.Choosing the lesser of two evils
20.Mind-meld. 20.Telepathy
21.Transporters are commonplace. 21.Transporters are amazing
22.Helpless females. 22.Ball-busting females
23.An alien crew member. 23.An alien crew member
24.Computer personality problems. 24.Computer personality problems
25.Justifying pacifism. 25.Justifying your right to live

Courtesy of Westrek 'Constellation", April 1994 issue by Russell B. Farr

External Links

References

  1. from Comlink #40
  2. Horizon, the Blake's 7 Appreciation Society
  3. Subject: EHA post to Lysator on May 1, 1994.
  4. Subject: Re: mscl. post by Kathyrn A. to Lysator on May 1, 1994.
  5. post by Sondra S. to the Lysator mailing list dated May 11, 1994.
  6. [needs source to support fandom activity- how many Blake's 7 mailing lists/forums/websites are active in 2010? See current activity stats under communities/archives]
  7. a reader's LoC in Comlink #40
  8. from Southern Enclave #25
  9. as well as blurring the line between the actor and the character
  10. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blake%27s_7#Television Wikipedia article, Blake's 7 TV revival.
  11. What is the way forward for Blake's 7? interview with Andrew Sewell, Nov 2003.
  12. What is the way forward for Blake's 7? interview with Andrew Sewell, Nov 2003.
  13. Blake's 7 fanfic online
  14. The Generic Slash Defense Form Letter
  15. Shown by the Skaro Hunting Society in the mid-1980s. Maker unknown. (busaikko)
  16. Sandy Herrold's Feb 1993 post to the Virgule-L mailing list reposted here with permission.
  17. Sandy Herrold's post "Pairings in B7 songvids (longish)" from the Virgule-L mailing list dated April 4, 1993, quoted with permission.
  18. Sandy Herrold's post "Pairings in B7 songvids (longish)" from the Virgule-L mailing list dated April 4, 1993, quoted with permission.
  19. Subject: Re: Electronic Fiction by Janice A. dated Sept 29, 1993.
  20. Subject: Re: Electronic Fiction by Janice A. dated Sept 30, 1993.
  21. Subject: Re: Electronic Fiction by Agnes T. dated Sept 29, 1993.
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