Blake’s 7 series 3
In my continuing effort to catch up on one of the twp remaining big British SF TV dramas that I have to see (the other being Survivors) I finished series three of Blake’s 7. For those late to the game like me, this series started in 1978 with the third season starting in 1980. It was written by Terry Nation and produced by the BBC. This is a space based series that follows a group of escaped criminals fighting to overthrow the tyrannical Federation government. Spoilers abound so, continue reading at your own risk.
At the end of series two we saw an extra-galactic invasion force from the Andromeda galaxy on the verge of entering the Milky Way. Terry Nations’ original concept was for these invaders to be the Daleks from Doctor Who but this never ended up on screen. What also never shows up on screen was the invasion itself due to the series extremely tight budget. While this season opens with the conflict largely resolved (our galaxy won) we do get one battle scene in the opening episode. The Liberator ends up being abandoned by the crew as a result. This leads to a series of episodes focusing on their attempt to reunite with one another and the ship. Blake and Jenna are nowhere to be found (the actors left the series) and in their place we get two new characters in the form of Dayna and Del Tarrant. Dayna is the daughter of a secluded scientist who rebelled against the Federation prior to the invasion. Del is a rogue Federation space captain who becomes an obvious stand in for Blake to the point of being dressed in the same outfits.
We also learn that as a side effect of the conflict the Federation has been considerably weakened. Servalan, ruthless as ever, is trying desperately to restore some semblance of order under the condition that she is in charge. While this sounds like a continuing story arc, the third series really does return to a much more episodic format which I personally found to be less enjoyable than the previous season’s more story arc oriented writing. One of the things I did enjoy was that with the departure of Blake and Jenna we got more development on Villa and Cally. I was especially happy with the work on Villa as I felt it successfully took him from the role of comedic stereotype to a very real character that I found myself actually caring about.
There were two stand out episodes for me this season. Children of Auron takes us to Cally’s home planet that is threatened by some sort of plague. The society of Auron is really quite different and I found that part of the episode as interesting, if not more so, than the actual plot hatched by Servalan. The other episode was Death-Watch which gives us a good deal of background on Del as well as some of the more interesting political arrangements within the Federation and, again, the change of the standard pace and scenery was a welcome one.
The series finale introduces a number of interesting developments as well. We learn the final fate of Blake, assuming Servalan wasn’t lying, We also see the Liberator get infected by some sort of space fungus that ultimately destroys the ship. I really wanted to applaud the performance here of Peter Tuddenham who played the voice of the Liberator’s computer Zen. I found the death of Zen to be exceptionally painful to watch which is pretty amazing given that Peter did this with a purely vocal character.
This season of Blake’s 7 did not hold up as well for me as series two. I will certainly be finishing the series but, while I can easily see myself revisiting the second one at some point in the future, I’m not sure that the same applies for this season.