ORBIT (Blake's 7 convention)

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Dates: August 3-5, 1990
Location: Newark, New Jersey, U.S.A.
Focus: Blake's 7
Organization: Down/Safe Productions, Inc. (JAF Box 8138, New York City, New York, 10116)
Founding Date:
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ORBIT con booklet, front. Cover image by Gail Bennett
ORBIT con booklet, back. Cover image by Gail Bennett

ORBIT was a Blake's 7 convention held in a Holiday Inn in Newark, New Jersey over the long weekend of August 3-5 in 1990. The convention was named after "Orbit", the show's fourth season, 11th episode. The tagline for the convention tee shirt was "With Friends Like These....", an in-joke reference to that episode. The tagline for the convention booklet was "You're Always Safe With Us!", also an in-joke reference to that episode.

Guests included Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Janet Lees Price, and producer/director Vere Lorrimer.

Cost: $45 attending, $10 supporting.

Attendance was limited to 600.

Touching on The Blake's 7 Wars

The turmoil of The Blake's 7 Wars was very much on fan minds at the time of this con.

As someone who lived through the feud and was a concom member for STARDRIVE, the proposed series of B7 cons of which grossly inaccurate reports triggered much of the widely public side of the feud, and then for ORBIT, the con which we did after STARDRIVE was cancelled, I'll put my two cents in. Yes, there was never any court case, although there were snotty threats (which had nothing to do with smut, but which tried to scare certain folk into not using Paul's likeness in any way). Having seen personal letters Paul and Janet wrote to members of the STARDRIVE and ORBIT concoms during the height of the nastiness, I can certify that slash was a minor concern at worst. (For the record, I had already published Blake/Avon under my own name at the time I was invited to join the STARDRIVE concom...)

Further accurate information? People on both sides behaved like asses. And it had no particularly chilling effect on slash, as far as I've been able to tell. At this remove, that's probably all that's important. [1]

Video Tapes

Videotape footage from the convention can be found as part of the "S. Hereld Collection of Blake's 7 Fanzines and Fan Fiction" located at the University of Iowa fanzine archives.

The 4 videotapes sold with convention footage contain:

Tape 1: Opening, Director's Panel, Dramtic Reading
Tape 2: Paul Darrow's One-Man Show, Panel: Avon Wins?
Tape 3: Panel: Vila Restal - Hero?, Darrow's Acting Workshop, Keating's Comedy
Tape 4: Panel: Orbit, Panel: Avon/Vila, Closing, Staff Party

Video Tapes Review

In 1993, Sandy posted the following review of the convention videotape to Lysator. It is quoted here in its entirety with permission.
"The Orbit convention had Paul, Michael and Vere Latimer. Paul and Michael appeared to be having a blast: they did one panel where they were supposed to answer questions 'in character.' With in a couple of minutes, they had: switched characters, started playing other characters on the show (Michael playing Jenna was only eclipsed by Micheal playing *Tarrent*--hilarious).

In another panel following a group-watching of Orbit (it was the name of the con, after all), a fan asked Paul if Avon would really have pushed Vila out. He said (paraphrased) of course he would, and any of you would have done the same if it had been you. Michael was then asked if Vila would have pushed Avon out if he had had the gun, and he insisted he wouldn't have. They played up to each other a lot; there were a number of running jokes: Vila actually making all the clothes on the liberator; Vila moving out of Avon's room after Orbit (including some wonderfully silly camping between them).

Vere was a good speaker, with some stories of shooting incidences; Paul probably has the best memory for episodes of any of the cast. Maybe he just gets asked more questions. Michael seems to be the most comfortable; 'on' but still relaxed, not manic.

The tape ends with Michael and Paul doing dramatic readings, first separately, and then doing Julius Caesar together. Very Nice......

....All in all, I very much enjoyed the tapes, and recommend them to others. Unfortunately, all of the ones I have are fairly low quality, and I don't think they'll con down one more generation. If other people have sources, post them."[2]

Con Reports

Some years ago I began a con report with the words "It was the best of cons, it was the worst of cons." Today I can start one with "It was the best of cons." Period.

The con was ORBIT, sponsored by Down/Safe Productions and held August 3-5 in Newark; New Jersey at the Holiday Inn North. There are three basic elements that go into making a great con; the guests, the con committee, and the hotel. All three came together this time in what could very well be the last of the major Blake's 7 conventions.

To analyze the elements: The guests: Paul Darrow, Janet Lees Price, Michael Keating, and Vere Lorrimer. It was Lorrimer's first American convention, as well as his first trip to America, and he was an absolute delight. He never ceased to be a gentleman, to accept the fans with delight, to take questions seriously, or to put every bit of his energy into his activities. It is no wonder at all that we have always heard good things about him from the actors in the show.

Michael Keating, by now an old hand at doing American Cons, was in fine form and — for those of you who might be interested — figure. Cheerful, helpful, enlightening—and doing an wicked imitation of Tarrant on one of the panels, he also "taught" two workshops on comedic acting. Particularly fascinating was his reading from Death of a Salesman in a "surprise" session in the fan con suite.

Janet Lees Price. Well, now. At last a British woman who can completely hold her own on a panel or by herself without for one moment using an artificial "persona" to carry it She and Lorrimer presented a Workshop for Directors which was, by all accounts, fascinating. And, although it must be somewhat daunting to be asked to do panels by yourself when you had only a "one shot" appearance in the show that has drawn everyone to the con, she pulled it off with class and humor. Given that I've heard just about every question answered that could be asked of the "regulars" I found her panel fascinating.

Paul Darrow. Whew. This man never ceases to amaze me. Arriving on Thursday evening, he was almost constantly "in sight" and available to the fans. From calming down a neo-fan who was (literally) shaking in her shoes at the first photo session at the thought of meeting "Avon" to asking a young fan to sing her "special" filksong at the closing ceremonies, to staying after the helpers' party to play Trivial Pursuit with anyone who wanted to hang around (he won), he was never less than outstanding. His schedule was a killer—beside all the "regular" panels, autographs etc he did two acting workshops, two presentations of his one-man show, and threw in an extra autograph session since some folks had missed out earlier. There are some actors who could do what he did (although I'd be hard pressed to name them), some who would do what he did, but I can't think of anyone else who both would and could.

The events at the con were special. Beside the workshops, there was also the surprise visit of Darrow, Keating, and Lorrimer to the "con suite" (a place where I have never seen any other guest even set foot). The fans who were there stopped eating (I think), playing games, and chatting and were treated to readings by all three separately and together. Although I must say that I don't think they have much of a future playing the witches in the "Scottish Play."

Then there was the con committee. Since I usually have some kind of contact with them, as do many of the fens and, certainly, all of the workers—they can also ruin a convention for me (and have, quite successfully). This con committee showed their class in clearly demonstrating they had learned from previous experience. They had their act together as well as their tempers. Managing a con with a triumvirate of coordinators is possibly one of the most difficult tasks I can imagine—but they succeeded. I had a last moment schedule change that allowed me to attend I offered to help and was handed a responsible job (its own manager gone missing due to personal job changes at the last moment) and allowed to handle it. Foolish person that I am (or masochist?) nothing gives me greater pleasure than to feel that I was able to make a difference in a positive fashion, and I was allowed to do that (as well as thanked for helping — another area some folks who run cons seem to forget). In startling contrast to almost all Blake's 7 cons I have attended and worked, this con committee did not make me feel as though I was some kind of sea sludge. Nor did they treat any of their people that way. Bravo to the con-com!

And the hotel. Suffice it to say that they got the ice machines fixed. The only problem for some people is that the meeting rooms were also a bit "icy."

The "workers" party" was the final official con event. All of the guests were there and stayed there and circulated, making a point to talk to as many people as they could. There was a country-western duo playing and someone suggested they play some "Elvis" songs and get one of the guests up to sing. (Guess who?) So we wound up with Darrow reprising his stage "Elvis," backed up by Keating and Price and assorted other fans in several wild and crazy moments. It perhaps typifies the whole attitude of the convention that the guests felt comfortable enough to do this, and also that when it was going on, one of the "triumvirate" told some non-workers who were hovering in the hall to come in and watch —and repeated the invitation until they did. Quite a contrast to the attitude of some other Blake's 7 con committees. Applause to all. [3]


  1. comments on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (April 8, 1995)
  2. Subject: FW: B7 conventions and tapes (long) dated Feb 25, 1993.
  3. report by Jean Airey in Tarriel Cell v. 4 n.1