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Blake's 7: Blake

So, then. The big finale. Like probably every other B7 fan, I've thought up a million ways to carry the show on from this point; to rewrite what we all know really happened. Back at school I wrote a whole new series. And yet, whenever I sit down to watch this episode, I realise that it's perfect just as it is. It doesn't need fixing, it doesn't need to be changed. In many ways, Blake's 7 has the greatest ending ever.

So here we go then. Trauma teams are standing by. Following the disaster of last week's attempt at galactic rebel-wrangling, Avon has decided to fall back on his secret contingency plan. Orac has found Blake, lurking on the lawless wreck of a planet that is Gauda Prime. Avon believes him to be the perfect figurehead, and probably the only person left who can unite everybody to fight the Federation. I'm still not one hundred percent certain why Avon wants to fight the Federation. He'd surely soon be on the wanted list of whatever replaced it, so he's hardly going to be winning himself the freedom that's been his driving force all along. Nevertheless, clearly he has his reasons, and accordingly, off goes the Scorpio to find Blake. As ever, seemingly a simple plan, in which nothing could surely go wrong.


The Scorpio lifts off from Xenon Base. That lift-off model is beautifully made, even if the launch is all a bit Thunderbirdsy. The little lights are a great touch.


Avon is unimpressed with the whole business of galactic freedom fighting. Time to unite the galaxy behind Blake, and let somebody who wants the responsibility be in charge. Although one does wonder why, if he wants to do it so much, Blake isn't doing it already.


Orac explains that Blake is working as a bounty hunter on Gauda Prime. A lawless planet, it's been Outlaw Central for years, and Blake is one of many decidedly feral mercenaries helping with a clear-out. Presumably some, if not most, of the criminals genuinely need rounding up, but the evidence suggests that Blake is none too discriminate about who gets handed over to the Federation.


A native of the planet, Soolin describes what Gauda Prime is like, in her weekly allowance of dialogue. She's so good here, talking of her family, and how they lost everything when rule of law was suspended. Yet again, a little colour to round off her character, but left until it's far too late. She really is this show's one great lost opportunity.


As they approach Gauda Prime, a squadron of attack vessels appears and, badly out-gunned, the Scorpio is sent spiralling out of control. The crew teleport off, but Tarrant elects to remain behind. Damage to the stabilisers means that if he leaves, they can't. Two weeks ago, Avon was ready to throw Vila overboard without a thought, in order to save his own life. This week, when Tarrant offers to throw his own life away to save his, he hesitates. This is why we need unity when dealing with characters, people. It helps. It really does.


With the Scorpio's systems going crazy, teleport co-ordinates are impossible to fix. Leaving first, Vila, Dayna and Soolin land in one place, whilst Avon lands some distance away with Orac. He watches as the Scorpio comes down.


Elsewhere on the planet is Blake, who has changed a great deal. Busy about his bounty hunting, he hears that a ship has been brought down, and decides to take a look when he heads out to make his next capture.


Meanwhile, Avon has Orac transmit a distress beacon. He plans to lure a bounty hunter, in order to steal their ship.


Finding an abandoned cabin, the others set up home for the night. Soolin is full of warnings about the dangers of Gauda Prime.


Vila has finally found a planet where his many fears are actually grounded, although for some reason this doesn't lead to him being particularly careful. Soon enough they're set upon by bounty hunters, drawn by Orac's distress signal and by Vila's campfire. A campfire? Really? I could just about understand Vila starting one, but Dayna grew up fighting a guerilla war against tribal warriors, and Soolin grew up on Gauda Prime. Surely they're two of the least likely people in the galaxy to think it might be okay to light a fire?! Anyway, Avon turns up just in time. Reunited, they hop aboard the now ex-bounty hunters' nifty planet-hopper.


Back at the Scorpio, Tarrant has by a miracle survived the crash almost unhurt.


Which is more than can be said for the Scorpio, or for Slave. Having waited patiently for Tarrant to come around, Slave makes his final report before dying. Poor old Slave. He wasn't much of a replacement for Zen, but his final scene ought to win around all but his strongest critics. Having spent the entire series calling Avon "master", the other two guys "sir", and the women "madam", and being annoyingly obsequious every step of the way, he finally relaxes, and wishes Tarrant well as he dies, calling him by name for the first time.


Blake arrives, and takes Tarrant back to his base in another nifty planet-hopper. On the way, Blake mentions Jenna in passing, and her recent death, taking half a squadron of Federation ships out with her when she went.


Picking up the energy signature of Blake's hopper, the others lock on and follow, reckoning on being shown the way to the nearest settlement.


Blake takes Tarrant to Bounty Hunter HQ, which does strike me as not a very good place to be taken to if you're on the Federation's most wanted list. Granted finding Blake was the object of this whole exercise, and there wasn't a great deal of choice anyway given the whole massive crash thing. It still seems like rather a bad idea, though.


And turns out that it is. Blake pulls a gun, revealing that he knows about the price on Tarrant's head; and also that he's well aware of who is in the planet-hopper that trailed them all the way home. He intends to round up the whole gang, and grab his biggest bounty ever. Tarrant, unsurprisingly, has other ideas, and fights back. I love how, despite crashing a spaceship, he can still take on Blake's entire staff single-handed. His buckle may be dented, but still it swashes.

As Tarrant rushes off, ready to sound the alarm, we find out the truth of Blake's new occupation. Rather than doing the Federation's dirty work, he's recruiting an army, and this was all a show to see whether Tarrant could be trusted. Obviously he's passed the test, but now he's convinced that Blake is the enemy. Blake's confederate points out what a bloody stupid idea this is big risk Blake is taking, but Blake, as ever, cares only for the big picture. It doesn't matter what happens along the way, so long as the result is the end of the Federation.

So basically, whilst he's not as big a jerk as Tarrant now believes him to be, he is nonetheless still a jerk. Some things never change.


One last Professionals moment. Sans gun now though, sadly.


Reunited with the others, Tarrant fills them in on Blake's treachery. He's also sitting there with Soolin stroking his leg, and Dayna stroking his hair. I sense he could get to enjoy this crashing spaceships business.


But then trouble arrives. Catching up, Blake tries to welcome Avon. Avon, who is constitutionally incapable of trust, cannot see past the idea that he's been betrayed.


Blake begins to explain that the whole "kidnap Tarrant, and tell him that you're about to capture his friends and sell them all to their enemies" thing was just a joke, honest. Avon isn't listening.


Avon really, really isn't listening. Several gunshots (and quite a lot of blood and guts) later, and this time Blake is truly gone for good. Shocked by the turn of events, Avon doesn't even seem to notice what happens next. Blake has been betrayed by one of his own recruits, and soon the room is full of Federation guards. At first what's left of the Seven surrender, but then, one by one, they fight back. And, one by one, they fall.


Until all that's left is Avon, standing astride the body of Blake, with one gun against an army.


Possibly the most famous smile in science fiction.

And so ends Blake's 7, with a fade to black, and a hail of unseen gunfire. Is everybody dead? That's up to each of us to decide. Not that it's by any means difficult to write the gang out of trouble. Guns have more than one setting; only Blake had obviously fatal wounds. The real question is whether or not it should be done. I reserve the right to change my mind next time there's an argument about it over at the Mausoleum Club, but right now I don't think that it should.

I think this is the third time I've watched the show since the DVDs came out, but it's the first time that I've ever watched it with a critical eye. Before I've only watched for pure entertainment, but I'm glad to say that it holds up just as well when I'm being more objective. Certain things do rankle. I wish there had been better continuity of character. I wish that Jenna, Cally and Soolin had been treated better. I wish that other characters had had the same amount of thought put into them as Tarrant and Dayna. Avon was eventually given a past, but Vila never was. Soolin hinted at one, but Jenna and Cally remained blank slates. Vila, more than anyone, would have benefitted from more care and attention. If there had been some consensus about who he was, he wouldn't have lurched from moron to Machiavelli and back with such irritating regularity. It's entirely down to Michael Keating that he remains as likeable as he does.

But it's thirty years too late to worry about all of that. Frustrations are inevitable, but Blake's 7 remains a great show, and arguably one of the best pieces of British science fiction. It managed to be dark and edgy at a time when its stablemate Doctor Who was going through some terrible troubles, being badly over lit and beset with shoddy production values. Yes, the spaceships do wobble, but who gives a damn. Maybe it didn't get a great budget, but it certainly got a great central idea, fine characters, and some genunely good adventures. It also got one of the truly great finishes. Fans still talk of the year that Chris Boucher ruined Christmas, and yes, he did, sort of. Just at this moment, though, I'm actually kind of glad.

Comments

( 12 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
i_bookwyrme
Nov. 22nd, 2012 05:57 am (UTC)
And so it ends. It always ends.

The last time I watched this, on borrowed VHS tapes, my friend had to tell me that, yes, I did need to watch the final episode as she wanted to watch it again.

As long as I didn't watch that last episode, everyone was still flying about in their wobbly ship.
swordznsorcery
Nov. 23rd, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC)
Yes, I know what you mean. When the DVDs came out, I hadn't seen this episode since 1981. There was a big temptation to leave it that way! It really is good, though. And it's not hard to write them out of trouble if you want. The only one who is definitely dead is Blake.
i_bookwyrme
Nov. 23rd, 2012 08:26 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes. It's actually the perfect ending for the kind of show it is(1). What else could our inept, cobbled-together, not-entirely-sane (not any of them, really, not by the end) band of rebels do? A handful of semi-dedicated rebels in a ship that was really fast but had no special weaponry? Without a truly charismatic leader?

It's also very British: Look at Robin Hood and even King Arthur. Actually, I think one or the other of the producers mention Robin Hood at some point.

And the shock value is perfect, if you come on it unawares, as I did and as no one will get to do in an remake--which is one reason a sequel is a better plan.

And, yeah, I've read any number of fan fictions that get them out of their dilemma, one way and another. Some even manage to get Blake out of being dead, despite Gareth Thomas insisting there be so much blood that no one could ever mistake Blake as anything but dead.

Still. at that viewing, I delayed the final episode for as long as I could. If I ever watch again, I will probably drag my feet again.


__
(1)At least, the kind of show it mostly is, when it makes up its mind to be a kind of show, which is something you've mentioned in these reviews.
swordznsorcery
Nov. 23rd, 2012 11:58 pm (UTC)
I wonder if they would end a remake in the same way. I rather hope not, as what worked once wouldn't necessarily work again. As you say, that shock value is a good part of what made it so memorable. It wouldn't be nearly so effective if the viewer is waiting for it, perhaps several years in advance. A new show, with new adventures and different versions of the characters, might not lead to that ending anyhow. I'd hate for them to end it that way just because they think they should.

It's a brave step to take, anyway. I did think that it was where "Serenity" was going, but in the end most of them survived. That's probably a more likely conclusion for a B7 remake than an all-out massacre. Either that or leave it open, like "Angel" did, so in a sense the viewer is left to make up their own mind.
i_bookwyrme
Nov. 25th, 2012 03:31 am (UTC)
I hope not, too. I think a sequel would really work better for a lot of reasons.

It will free them from having to "be" the original, even in the most distant fashion, and it's clearly an option because the original team didn't succeed and the Federation was, for whatever unlikely reasons, all set to keep going & spreading and being evil.

And that will free the creators to make the new rebels successful, if they wish, or to have them corrupted by their attempt, or to have them flee to some distant planet to plan anew, or to fail, or whatever they wish, without needing to do more than keep the original as a backdrop.

And on a strictly one-fan note, I'll be happier because I will be free to like or loathe the new show without feeling that Blake's 7 itself has somehow been "tainted" by the remake.
swordznsorcery
Nov. 25th, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC)
It would also be perfectly acceptable to keep the title, as a new group could easily have been inspired by the legendary Blake.
i_bookwyrme
Nov. 26th, 2012 12:15 am (UTC)
Yes, in fact, in order for it to be a proper sequel, there would have to be some link.

Maybe there would even be curly hair.
sarren
Jun. 1st, 2013 09:59 pm (UTC)
It was a brilliant ending, yes.

Still, my headcanon is what the writers intended which (I'm sure you know, my gosh it's good to actually talk to people who know these old shows) was that they were just stunned, got tortured for a bit, and then escaped.

I wonder how long Avon's state of shock and grief lasted, if Vila would have had to drag him out. Hmm, would he, after Orbit? Nah, Avon would have snapped himself out of it soon enough. Self-preservation.
swordznsorcery
Jun. 2nd, 2013 01:22 am (UTC)
The effect of Blake's death on Avon is one of the fun things to speculate, certainly. It would have to have changed him in some way, although he's pragmatist enough to get over it to some degree, certainly.

I would love to have seen the gang having further adventures. Nobody had signed up for series five yet though, and survival was going to be based on who wanted to stay with the show, so I assume that it was curtains for Soolin. Poor Soolin. She was so badly under-utilised. I'd like to think that Avon, Vila, Tarrant and Dayna would have gone on, but I do like the ending that we got. It's one of the most dramatic moments in television.
sarren
Jun. 2nd, 2013 08:05 am (UTC)
And completely unexpected, in a way shows can't hope to do nowadays.
swordznsorcery
Jun. 2nd, 2013 07:07 pm (UTC)
Horribly true. It's a heck of a job trying to remain spoiler free about the big anniversary Doctor Who, and that's months away!
sarren
Jun. 2nd, 2013 07:16 pm (UTC)
Its impossible to avoid finding out who is and isn't going to be in it. Luckily the reports have been so conflicting I'm just assuming nothing until I actually see it.
( 12 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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