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"The Definitive British Space Opera... i.e. Bloody Miserable"
April 25, 2008 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Blake's Back! British science fiction classic Blakes 7 is getting the Battlestar Galactica treatment.

Created by Terry Nation, the original program famously finished with one of the most downbeat endings of all time. However it is probably now more notorious for it's less than special special effects, but what can you expect for fifty quid an episode? It's been kept alive by fans ever since it was first broadcast. Now the big question is, who on earth can fill Jacqueline Pearce's stilettos as Servalan?
posted by fearfulsymmetry (45 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oooh. I still have nightmares about the scene when they're between the walls and all this foamy stuff starts oozing in and....oooh.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:15 PM on April 25, 2008


When are they going to get to Sapphire and Steel?
posted by Iridic at 2:19 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


The "Blake's Back" article alludes to a stalled remake of The Prisoner. I've been watching the original The Prisoner on DVD. At least once an episode, I go, "Holy crap, just what is going on here?" I'm not sure if it's good, but it's reliably surprising and unexpected -- more so than anything else I can think of. I have to wonder about a remake, though. "Consistently original" isn't something television is known for these days.
posted by sdodd at 2:38 PM on April 25, 2008


Another site I frequent has a user who will. Not. Shut up. About his Blake/Avon slash fantasies. My guess is that, given what "the Battlestar Galactica treatment*" has come to mean his dreams are finally coming true.

*Season 3, you started out so well, but the endless Apollo/Starbuck whinging is making me hesitant to watch Season 4
posted by lekvar at 3:07 PM on April 25, 2008


lekvar - I wouldn't worry about the whinging re. season 4, particularly if you make it to the end of 3. There seems to be far less whinging so far in 4.


On topic: I'm not sure how I feel about this. I've always thought that apart from it being so hideously cheap, it was at least a series with some edge, or intended edge... Whether it comes across with any style and substance is going to be an interesting question, though at least it's from Sky and not BBC, who make even their peak time series look painfully cheap (I'm looking at you Who and Torchwood... Ugh).
posted by opsin at 3:11 PM on April 25, 2008


lekvar - Lots of crying and moping in the last episode I saw, FWIW. And some fairly awful attempts to be arty and poignant.
posted by Artw at 3:12 PM on April 25, 2008


Torchwoods level of sccess in the US, when it's quite plainly awful, compared to that of Nu Who, which is awful a lot of the time but has hit some real highpoints whenever anyone decent gets to script, freaks me the hell out.
posted by Artw at 3:13 PM on April 25, 2008


...at least it's from Sky...

??????
posted by Artw at 3:16 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I loved this show when I was a kid, but recently tried re-watching Season One and nearly died of the corn! Avon and Servalan's scenes of snark and villainy were still worth watching though, as was the set design. Avon was such a memorable antihero and got all the best lines, though the cowardly Vila had some good ones. It will be interesting to see what they do with a remake.
posted by Coaticass at 3:36 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Clackavoid: Technical BBC term for a page of dialogue from Blake's Seven.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:45 PM on April 25, 2008


That's pretty snarky for a Who writer. Terry Nation should have gone round his house and reversed his polarity.
posted by Artw at 3:47 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Weird. Google images is refusing t give me any pictures of the Space Rats, it's like they've been erased from history!
posted by Artw at 3:53 PM on April 25, 2008


Yeah, time has largely caught up with Blake's 7. It was amazing for its day, but the power of some occasionally great character work (agreed, mainly by Avon, Vila and Servalan) to compensate for the incredibly cheap production design, silly costumes and frequent moments of sheer buffoonery has kind of faded over the years. The standards are higher these days. Thankfully.

My first wife and I would occasionally collapse one another into hysterics by suddenly bellowing "Crimmos! Crimmos!" for no particular reason.

Also, if I had a nickel for every time I'd heard someone claim they'd sorted out the rights and were mounting a big budget return to Blake's 7, I'd, well, I'd have a good twenty cents. Hopefully this one will actually amount to something. (I've got the wallpaper from the last one if anyone wants it.)
posted by Naberius at 4:01 PM on April 25, 2008


Space Rats... it's practically Mad Max!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:01 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


OHSHIIIIIIiiiiiii. I was just getting nostalgic about Blake's 7 today. About Avon, weirdly enough, who is, like, the worst character to get nostaligic about.
posted by boo_radley at 4:03 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


He won't be nostalgic for you... once he's killed you!
posted by Artw at 4:05 PM on April 25, 2008


lekvar - I wouldn't worry about the whinging re. season 4, particularly if you make it to the end of 3. There seems to be far less whinging so far in 4.

Three episodes in, season four is pretty fucking awesome. If you count Razor, it's been awesome for, like...five episodes or something. A nervous little voice in the back of my head never fails to remind me that the first few episodes of season three were pretty great, too, and look how that ended, but I think the voice is making a bad point -- they went into this season knowing it's the end of the series, and I have a feeling that'll keep it on track.

On topic: I'm not sure how I feel about this. I've always thought that apart from it being so hideously cheap, it was at least a series with some edge, or intended edge... Whether it comes across with any style and substance is going to be an interesting question, though at least it's from Sky and not BBC, who make even their peak time series look painfully cheap (I'm looking at you Who and Torchwood... Ugh).

I haven't seen "Torchwood" (I'm still watching the second "Doctor Who" season, on disc), but "Doctor Who" looks fantastic to me -- stacked up against the production values of the show I watched when I was a kid. While it may look a little shaky compared to, say, "BSG," I don't think it's too much cheaper than a lot of original-for-basic-cable American TV, and -- again -- it's obvious that a single episode of the '00s show cost probably about what they spent on any previous ten years of the series combined. So it's hard for me to find fault there.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:42 PM on April 25, 2008


As I was reading this thread, I looked up at the television, and in an episode of The Avengers, Mrs Peel was walking past a newsagent, an ad for the Daily Mail with the headline "Where is Blake?" on display.

Synchronicity moment, and apropos of nada.
posted by Grangousier at 4:42 PM on April 25, 2008


Wow, great timing. I've just been rewatching the entire series (thank you Internet!) and I'm amazed that something I haven't watched for 20 years or so is still relevant and interesting.

The writing is what make Blake's 7 great -- not the melodramatic over-acting done by many of the actors, nor the cheesy sets (heck, the producers seemed to be about 10 years behind the U.S. in special effects). Virtually in every episode, I feel uncomfortable about a choice one of the main characters makes... sometimes downright queasy. The moral ambiguity is what makes the series so great. Good and bad isn't black and white, and sometimes good people on the run have to do incredibly bad things.

Most episodes are 50 minutes and seem to drag a bit with extraneous scenes often drawn out too long. Meaning that they would make great 40 minute U.S. episodes if someone decided to take the general plot outline from the original series and remade it along those lines.

I *wish* somebody would find a great cast and remake the original series with modern effects, refined and tightened scripts, reduce the melodrama, and give the characters edges even greater definition earlier on (especially the women, who too often in the first 2 dozen episodes seemed largely to play undefined roles, except Servalan of course).

The best part of rewatching the series is to see how often they played the opposite of Star Trek, and how some of the ideas and technologies expressed in the series ended up in other scifi series much later on. (Admittedly, some episodes were complete throwaways too.) ORAC has never been replicated as a supercomputer-in-a-box-with-serious-attitude. And Kali, a telepath who actually put her abilities to good use to warn other crew members of danger (go figure). Other series, like Firefly and Babylon 5, owe something to the ideas and stories told by Blake and his crew.
posted by docjohn at 4:47 PM on April 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I couldn't cope with the production values of the new Dr. Who, once the writing got really bad at any rate. The season with Ecclestone I saw most of, and had it's moments, but since then...

I saw Charlie Brooker reviewing one of the David Tenant seasons on Screenwipe, and a whole list of his issues with it added up to prove to me it wasn't worth my even trying to watch it. They were just going to infuriate me - that is, the camp attempts at humour (and that's so not a reference to Davies exec producing, honest - I mean, there was a clip of them doing the Monkeys/Yellow Submarine running through an illusiory maze of doorways to escape a cyberman or something - play Benny Hill music over it and it would be more appropriate!), and some of the really bad choices of guest.... And that leads on to them having now gotten Catherine Tate back as the sidekick. A woman I not only can't stand, but can't stand to listen to!

So yea, for various reasons it's not for me. And Torchwood just came across as cheap when it was trying so hard. I can see the appeal, but every time I try to watch it I just end up sniggering.

Still, new Joss series this fall! And BSG to keep me going 'til then.

And Artw, I said at least it's Sky, not BBC, not like I like anything Sky have ever had a hand in producing, but it at least gives me a little more hope. BBC + sci fi = teh terrible.
posted by opsin at 4:59 PM on April 25, 2008


I thought Blake's 7 was already re-imagined as Farscape -- or was Farscape meant to be a re-imagination of Flash Gordon?

And if Farscape was supposed to be Flash Gordon, what was that Robert Halmi-produced bullshit Skiffy was broadcasting last season?
posted by vhsiv at 5:41 PM on April 25, 2008


BBC + sci fi = teh terrible.

But... Sky?

Do they do anything not utterly wretched?

Importing things doesn't count.
posted by Artw at 6:21 PM on April 25, 2008


And if Farscape was supposed to be Flash Gordon, what was that Robert Halmi-produced bullshit Skiffy was broadcasting last season?

Battlestar Galactica 2003.
posted by Artw at 6:23 PM on April 25, 2008


(Though in actuality: Stargate)
posted by Artw at 6:24 PM on April 25, 2008


I can't see it working. Part of why I was hooked on the series was because it was cheesy. It was a different time and place, and I was a different person. "High budget Blakes 7" is a contradiction in terms; it was precisely because it was low budget that it was so cool to watch.

If they try to make it realistic, all the charm will be drained out of it.

(And just in passing, Vila and Avon are the only ones guaranteed to have survived the last episode. Everyone else could be dead.)
posted by Class Goat at 7:06 PM on April 25, 2008


Artw, seriously -- FFlash Gordon 2007 made Mission Genesis look like Star Trek (any). They had the Canadian wilderness of SG-1 and all of the back-yards of the greater Vancouver area.

Seriously -- you, your neighbors and $50 could have done better than Skiffy and RHI did with Flash Gordon. I guess they thought they could make lightning strike a 2nd time, now that Henson wasn't involved.
posted by vhsiv at 7:16 PM on April 25, 2008


BSG was also mentioned as an inspiration for the Bionic Woman revamp, which was poop as well.
posted by Artw at 7:29 PM on April 25, 2008


When are they going to get to Sapphire and Steel?

A special treat for you
posted by Artw at 7:38 PM on April 25, 2008


Do people really worry about special effects when there is good writing and acting? I do love great makeup and puppet work - Farscape puts all other sci-fi to shame on both grounds, but I watched for the story. And I'd rather watch rickity falling over sets Doctor Who, or original series Star Trek - Twillight Zone or Outer limites - any day compared to the shiny but stupid sci-fi. And the new Doctor Who has brilliant writing and some great acting - Catherine Tate is rocking it.

I do admit that I never finished series 1 of Blake 7, but that was because the middle episodes just didn't seem to come up the caliber of writing the first one had. (Or two - which one has the escape to the alien ship?)
posted by jb at 8:52 PM on April 25, 2008


I guess I feel that if you are worried about production values, watch the Terminator films.

If you want quirky, original, interesting stories, learn to let your imagination out. It's all theatre -- we never complain when we can see the ropes when watching a show on stage.
posted by jb at 8:53 PM on April 25, 2008


I hope you're not implying that Terminator isn't an original interesting story.

Of Harlan Ellisons, so the lawyers claim. Tell him that to his face and he will fuck you up.
posted by Artw at 9:12 PM on April 25, 2008


Blakes 7 was cheesy sets, cheesy plots, cheesy writing, and cheesy acting. It was high camp.

If they do a remake and try to do a good job of it, it won't be high camp any longer. I know Blakes 7, and that won't be it.
posted by Class Goat at 9:20 PM on April 25, 2008


Ah, Blake's Seven. I saw that ending late at night on public television as a kid, and afterward couldn't sleep 'til morning.

sdodd: I've been watching the original The Prisoner on DVD. At least once an episode, I go, "Holy crap, just what is going on here?" I'm not sure if it's good[...]

I'll help you you with that decision: it is.
posted by JHarris at 9:20 PM on April 25, 2008


Leave it.
posted by asok at 10:11 PM on April 25, 2008


I can't see this keeping a lot of what made the original great. The series starts with Blake as someone who's reputation has been destroyed by having him framed for crimes against children (it's never spelled out whether this is killing them or child molesting). Until he dissapears from the regular cast his character development is spent moving from a freedom fighter to a complete nutbar who's every bit as nasty as Travis and Servelan.

One of the things I liked best about it was how nasty it was, and I can't see that being kept, frankly.
posted by rodgerd at 10:38 PM on April 25, 2008


When I was a kid, I soooooo wanted to be Avon.

Does that make me a bad person?
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:56 PM on April 25, 2008


Of course it doesn't mean you are a bad person, Saxon Kane. It just means you want to be a bad person.
posted by gds at 5:39 AM on April 26, 2008


the new Doctor Who has brilliant writing and some great acting

Have we been watching the same thing, or have I missed some unspeakably awesome episode which forgives the general terribleness?
posted by Freaky at 6:44 AM on April 26, 2008


I saw Charlie Brooker reviewing one of the David Tenant seasons on Screenwipe, and a whole list of his issues with it added up to prove to me it wasn't worth my even trying to watch it.

At least you admit to damning something before giving it a proper chance, don't bother with watching or seeing for yourself or anything because of the self fulfilling prophecy you've set up for yourself.
posted by mediocre at 2:51 PM on April 26, 2008


Have we been watching the same thing, or have I missed some unspeakably awesome episode which forgives the general terribleness?

Yes, you have. Blink.
posted by Jakey at 3:11 PM on April 26, 2008


Although, to be fair, some of the episodes are a bit ropey and in the new series Catherine Tate is so fucking annoying I might have to poke out my eyes and skewer my ears if I watch too much more.
posted by Jakey at 3:16 PM on April 26, 2008


To get back on topic, BBC4 fairly recently broadcast a nostalgia program called The Cult of Blake's 7 which I believe is still obtainable on P2P.
posted by Jakey at 3:25 PM on April 26, 2008


Jakey: No, I saw that one, and while it was surprisingly good for Doctor Who, it's almost a year old, and there's a *lot* of awfulness to make up for, especially with Torchwood spinning off from it.

Of course that's not to say I don't still watch it, but I kind of get that the terrible writing and acting are the entire point.

I'll be breaking heads if the new Blake's 7 goes the same way. I've only seen one or two of the original episodes, but reading the general plot, it sounds like it could be really good; degrading it into yet another campy "ho ho, this is so bad, isn't this fun?" pseudo-sci-fi show would really upset me.
posted by Freaky at 4:34 AM on April 27, 2008


I like Catherine Tate, she's the best companion the new Who has had so far -- though Rose was excellent as well. Martha wasn't quite as compelling - not as well-developed as Rose, not as snarky as Donna.

Maybe the Who haters just have different taste than me, and most of the British population, and intelligent sci-fi fans all over the world. (Trust me, if you are at a sci-fi con, the Dr Who fans are the generally among the smarter people there. I came to this conclusion years before I was a Who fan, and even now I wouldn't consider myself among their league.)
posted by jb at 5:01 PM on April 27, 2008


Right. Clearly I'm one of the stupid sci-fi fans, because I don't particularly like cheesy sci-fantasy with extra cheese, and would much prefer another BSG to another Torchwood.
posted by Freaky at 3:55 AM on April 28, 2008


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