Roj Blake

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Character
Name: Roj Blake
Occupation: Rebel leader
Title/Rank:
Location: Liberator, Gauda Prime
Status: probably dead
Relationships: no canonical romantic relationships; family deceased, except uncle Ushton and cousin Inga
Fandom: Blake's 7
Other: Played by Gareth Thomas (more information about other roles here
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Roj Blake is the eponymous 'hero' of Blake's 7, although he is only part of the core-cast for the first two series (appearing briefing in the finales of series 3 and 4). Blake is the self-appointed leader of the Liberator crew - his goal is to bring down the Federation (a fascist empire), using almost any means necessary. Of his crew, he is perhaps closest to Jenna Stannis and Kerr Avon. The latter claims to want to be free of him and then pursues him across the galaxy after he leaves at the end of series 2. Travis is his self-appointed nemesis.

Fan reactions

Blake is a controversial figure in Blake's 7 fandom - he's both one of the more popular characters in the show and one of the most hated. For example, the 'Classic Era Character Discussion' forum on Horizon (Blake's 7 fan club) has 7 pages of comments about Avon, followed by 4 pages about Blake, 3 about whether Avon loved Blake, and then 2 about the next most discussed characters.[1]

A commissioned Audience Research Report on the first series indicated that Avon was the most popular character followed by Blake, Jenna, Vila, Cally and Gan,[2] although today his popularity has probably been overtaken by Vila. Blake is the other half of arguably the most popular Avon ship.

Those who dislike him tend to focus on his ineffectiveness as a leader, his autocratic behaviour, or his Machiavellian manipulation of other characters. Burntcandlemass comments that:

I get the impression that overt, public "Blake bashing" was most common among early British fans. I've got old Horizon (British B7 fanclub) newsletters (and a few LPF ones as well) from the 1980s , a period when the letter columns, articles and fanfic reveal a number of influential British fans as being very critical of Blake. However Horizon fanclub's 1988 10th anniversary questionnaire shows that Blake was the "least favourite character" of only 6% of fans! (this is about the same number as have him as "favourite male character"). It appears that in the U.K. a small number of BNF Blake bashers made expressions of hatred publically acceptable and influenced other British fans. By the way, the top of the 1988 "least favourite character" poll was Tarrant with 36.1%, then Soolin with 19.2%, Dayna with 12%, Gan with 10.8%, Jenna with 9.6%. I've now sent for a few more newsletters to find out what later and earlier polls actually say! A few letters to Horizon from American fans suggest that people whose favourite character was Blake were looked upon as a bit odd or mad in the very earliest days of American fandom, but ...I have yet to come across evidence of "bashing" in American "gen" fic.... As far as internet fandom goes, early Lysator seems to have had a disproportionate number of Blake and even Tarrant fans, so there isn't any real Blake bashing on there in the early 90s. Sue Clerc (of Adrenaline and Soma website fame) was the top poster and she was a real Blake fan.[3]

Early US fans comment:

If you think character bashing is bad now, try to have been me in 1984. Tarrant fans were met with less bile. I recall being sneered at for preferring Blake. I was often greeted with “You like..BLAKE? in a tone of voice that suggested I probably ate used cat litter, too…Lately the attitude is one of acceptance…(Linda Terrell), 1988 [4]
I come from a previous generation of B7 fandom where it was initially almost heretical to declare a fondness for the Blake character. I can recall many instances where fans who were put on the defensive by the voiced of a vast majority of devoted Meegats and Kerrills, or simply frowned on by serious and mature Avon fans who thought that the Blake fans had incredibly bad taste.(Leah R.), 1994[5]

A prominent early British fan is quoted as saying that Blake is "nothing more than a nasty little terrorist"[6]. However, Blake's supporters tend to laud his goals and his idealistic drive and consider his methods as necessary, if undesirable.

I find Blake’s most appealing characteristic is his /passion/ - the way he cares about aspects of life that the vast majority of people in the Federation (not to mention his ship) take for granted…He probably threw away a pretty cushy lifestyle simply in order to try to improve the life of others.
He also has a beautiful speaking voice :-) (Ingelode Wordsmith), 2003[7]
In my nearly five years in Blake’s 7 fandom I’ve seen a definite cycle involving Blake. Actually, it starts out being enraptured by Avon (I, too, was nearly ‘gone’ on Avon). But true to my perverse nature, when I saw that everyone was going for Avon – to the point of putting down Blake and those who ‘dared’ like him – I stepped back and took an inventory. What was it about this Blake character that compelled a force like Avon? No mere ‘two dimensional, cardboard’ character could capture and hold the fierce loyalty of someone like Avon…. I started seeing ‘Blake’ as Avon saw him. And what I saw was a damned complicated and ‘dangerous’ character. More truly dangerous than even Avon. And danger fascinates us. Where was the ‘goody two shoes’ who was always outshined and outsmarted by the computer genius? I saw a character who wasn’t remotely fazed by any of the Liberator’s hardware; oftentimes a step ahead of Avon, and even Orac. Who could handle a ship in space combat, had a tactical mind – always seemed to know what piece of hardware needed to be taken in order to paralyze a Federation Base, or even an HQ. Blake knew where and what it was and how to neutralise or take it. So where was the dolt Avon was running rings around?…– he rather proved to be Avon’s equal, often outsmarting Avon. And – most definitely a step ahead of him - mentally and verbally… Manipulator? Hell, yes... You do not get free-willed people to do things against their will (and better judgement ) by simply ordering them – unless you are backed up by government and rules and regs and torture chambers. All Blake had was the force of personality and a diabolical mind (sorry, but there are no ‘innocent’ revolutionaries – not live ones, anyway)… (Linda Terrell),1988[8]
I’m very interested in the idea of Blake being manipulative. I read about it in zines, but I don’t really see it in the series. Not often, anyway. Maybe, it’s a matter of semantics. Where do you draw the line between leadership and manipulation? (Sue Clerc), 1992[9]
I totally reject the idea that Blake was a terrorist… Blake’s 7 are not terrorists according to today’s standards: they don’t set bombs in shopping precincts or civilian airliners or school buses….The bases attacked in Blake’s 7 are all legitimate military targets in, what is, after all, an unofficial war. I think Star One was also a justifiable target. It is a means of Federation control and what is the use of overthrowing the local military forces if the regime can still turn your weather cycle upside down and destroy the crops and food supply?...The Federation has already shown itself to be utterly ruthless in its hold on power and peaceful means have failed dismally.
It does boil down to the end justifies the means, the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few. It is the same decision Truman had to make: drop two atomic bombs and kill thousands, or invade Japan and see hundreds of thousands die. The scale is larger but the logic is the same. Compromised with one’s own principles have to be made in order to achieve something: it is a fact of life. (Faye Bull), mid-1980s[10]
One of the few things that I am inflexible about is that the Federation – meaning the government, the social structure – is an abomination that has earned its annihilation… Nor does it bother me that his [Blake’s ] methods are not always pristinely and unambiguously noble. He’s my hero precisely because he is willing to shoulder the whole grubby mess, ignoring the jeers of the sideliners in their glass houses, so those who come after won’t have to dirty their sensitive hands. (Rebecca Ann Brothers), 1996[11]
Ruthlessness is as necessary a quality to leadership as compassion. This is war, after all. (Sue Clerc), 1992[12]

An early and not uncritical fan also comments:

In the end Blake’s heroism reduces itself to a single statement. ‘I will not surrender’ and it is inspiring. (Sue Walker), 1984[13]

Fans known for being particularly pro-Blake

Fans known for being particularly anti-Blake

Meta

Popular Blake ships

Blake/Avon

Blake/Avon is easily the most popular Blake ship, and one of the most popular ships in Blake's 7 (somewhat by virtue of Avon being the most popular character in Blake's 7).[14] The dynamic is usually antagonistic, either manifesting as hate sex or 'getting along despite their differences', but can be straightforwardly positive. Most fics take place during series 1 and 2, or Post Gauda Prime.

Blake/Jenna

Blake/Jenna is the most popular het Blake ship, although significantly less popular than B/A or het ships involving Avon.[15] The dynamic is generally warm and loving, although some of the same issues present in B/A (Blake's focus on the revolution ahead of his personal relationships) do appear here as well. Jenna's romantic interest in Blake is frequently mentioned in B/A fics (Jenna is typically jealous of Blake's interest in Avon). There are relatively few threesome fics featuring all three characters.

Big Finish's new audio line seems to be providing more paracanonical evidence for this pairing with each release.

Other Blake ships

There are no other popular Blake ships, although outliers do exist - Blake/Deva has inspired a few fics, although some of them end in B/A instead. Even Travis's determined pursuit of Blake has only produced a handful of fics to the surprise of some later fans.[16]. Blake/Tarrant was apparently so unlikely that fandom refers to a "Curl Rule"[17][18] that keeps them forever apart.

Fanfiction and Popular Tropes

As usual, the Recurring Themes in Blake's 7 Fan Fiction list is completely on the money. Most notably:

Blake is: 1) a sentimental sap; 2) too dumb to find his ass with both hands; (1 and 2 are sometimes combined) or 3) so devious, scheming, hypocritical, and manipulative that Machiavelli was apparently writing about him in "The Prince." Blake is also obsessed with Star One to a much greater extent than in the series. IMO, he isn't any of these. Writers (and not just fan writers) seem to have a much tougher time getting Blake "right" than they have with Avon.[19]

Other Blake related tropes mentioned in the recurring themes list:

  • Blake is an engineer
  • Blake is Welsh
  • Blake as Nature Lover
  • Blake gnaws a finger (his own unless it's slash...)
  • Blake is fairly often referred to as smelling of spices (also rain. Not usually in the same story).
  • Blake's room: It's a mess. I can't decide if this is meant to represent his uncontrolled energy and drive or his chaotic approach to running a rebellion. Or just that he's too busy to clean up.
  • Blake is bonkers: This is usually either a preStar One theme or aP/GP story. In the first, Blake's determination to destroy Star One is seen as irrational and insane. There is a _very_ pronounced tendency in fan fiction to portray his intention to blow up Star One as unquestionably nuts. Stories that make any attempt to give Blake's p.o.v. are as rare as anti-Avon ones. When Blake's mental health is questioned in GP or PGP stories, he is generally said to have lost his lead duck while away from Avon.
  • Blake has no memories of former sex partners or sex
  • Blake is hung like a horse

Fanart gallery

List of Blake-centric zines

This is not an in-exhaustive list. Currently it features zines that feature Blake as one of the main characters in all fics (if anthology), particularly if the editor asked specifically for fics about Blake, or has been reviewed as being 'great for Blake fans' or similar.

Blake/Avon

Other

Other Resources

References

  1. 'Classic Era Character Discussion' forum
  2. Wikipedia, quoting Blake's 7 Summer Special. This same audience report seems to have been responsible for killing Gan and saving Vila.
  3. Burntcandlemass commenting on a post by Aralias on Livejournal
  4. a comment by Linda Terrell in Horizon Newsletter 21 Dec 1988
  5. a comment by Leah R. on lysator, 17th June 1994
  6. comment in a Judith Seaman profile in Horizon newsletter no. 12
  7. comment in a post by Ingelode Wordsmith on alt.fan.blakes-7, 12th February 2003
  8. comment by Linda Terrell in Horizon newsletter no. 21 December 1988
  9. comment by Sue Clerc in a post on lysator, 15th November 1992
  10. a comment by Faye Bull that originally appeared in an article entitled In Defense of Blake, in the newsletter Blake's 7 Review in the mid-80s.
  11. comment by Rebecca Ann Brothers in Altazine 0
  12. comment by Sue Clerc in a post on lysator, 27th November 1992
  13. comment by Sue Walker in her article "The Political Education of Roj Blake" in Liberator Popular Front Newsletter no. 16, January 1984
  14. Pairings table on Hermit.org
  15. Ibid.
  16. two B7 ships that didn't sail (and one that did) posted by Aralias on Dreamwidth
  17. Slash Zine review-- Southern Comfort 9.5/Review by Sarah Thompson on Hermit.org
  18. The Top Ten Reasons Avon and Tarrant Make a Good Couple: on the Tarrant Nostra website
  19. Recurring Themes in Blake's 7 Fan Fiction
  20. The Avon Club zine page recommendations on hermit.org
  21. The Avon Club zine page recommendations on hermit.org