Blake's 7 #2
June 11, 2012
I'm still shocked this show lasted as long as it did without making a single "Avon calling!" joke.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. (holds up index finger) I friggin' love Blake's 7, and I bet 90 percent of you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about.
(The title for Blake's 7 is shown, followed by footage of this show)
Linkara (v/o): Blake's 7 is a British science-fiction series that aired from 1978 to 1981. The show is about a group of freedom fighters trying to overthrow a tyrannical federation in the far future year of... no idea. We know it's the future, but the actual year is described as "the Third Century of the Second Calendar," so who knows? The premises was that Roj Blake, after being brainwashed and sent to prison by the federation, led a group of other criminals over to an abandoned alien spacecraft. Once there, they took control of the ship, freed some more prisoners, met up with more people along the way, and began a campaign to take down the federation.
Linkara: Just a side note, but why is it that Star Trek is the only science-fiction series I can think of off the top of my head where a federation is not evil? I mean, unless you read too much into it.
Linkara (v/o): In many ways, Blake's 7 is kind of like Classic Doctor Who, to the point where I actually consider them sister shows, despite not taking place in the same universe. The low budget, the cheap sets, the special effects that weren't exactly special, hell, even the music had a very similar feel to it. It probably helps that the creator of Blake's 7 is Terry Nation, who you might know as the writer who invented the Daleks on Doctor Who. Both shows are cheesy when looked at today, but what helped them succeed were the strong writing, great characters, and entertaining performances. Hell, there were even a lot of actors who were on both shows. Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor, played the awesomely insane criminal called Bayban the Butcher. Anyway, there were a lot of cast changes over the course of their four seasons. Hell, Blake himself left after the second season, and the new leader also happened to be my favorite character, Avon. Avon is the epitome of the magnificent bastard. He's selfish, superior and arrogant, but he has every damn reason to be. He is genuinely smarter than everyone, scoffing at cliche, and pointing out when everyone else is being idiotic. (as one of the crewmen) Hey, why don't we all go check out that mysterious anomaly? I'm curious about it!
Avon: (to the crewman) Oh, you are curious? Well, I'm glad we have a worthwhile purpose.
Linkara (v/o): Hey, you know that Star Trek idea of the away team or a landing party?
Crewman: (to Avon) What don't you go?
Avon: You are expendable.
Crewman: And you're not?
Avon: No, I'm not. I'm not expendable, I'm not stupid, and I'm not going.
Linkara (v/o): Damn it, Avon! Don't you ever get tired of being right?
Avon: Just that the rest of you being wrong.
Linkara (v/o): The show is part The Dirty Dozen and part Robin Hood. It was originally going to end after the third season, to the point where they actually destroyed the sets and everyone went their separate ways. However, the head of BBC Television watched the last episode as it was being broadcast and thought, "Hey, this show is awesome! We should really keep it around!", and then phoned the studio to tell them to make an announcement during the credits that the show would come back for another season – despite no one knowing that there would be one. The show's ultimate finale is one of the most epic and shocking ever done, and I'm not even going to spoil it for any of you who haven't seen the show. I could go on for hours talking about this and all the elements of the show, but we're here to talk about comic books.
(Cut to a closeup of not a comic book, but a magazine, for Blake's 7)
Linkara (v/o): There are no official Blake's 7 comic books. However, there was a Blake's 7 magazine put out by Marvel's UK division. And of course, it had a comic in it! Admittedly, it's only eight pages long, but a comic is a comic. Is it any good? Well... actually, it is fairly decent.
Linkara: So then, why am I talking about this on the show about bad comics? (shrugs) Well, because when the hell else am I gonna get to talk about Blake's 7? Besides, you can riff on something and still love it. So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Blake's 7 #2" and see what they've got.
(AT4W title theme plays; title card has the Blake's 7 title theme playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): There's really no point in looking at the cover since it's a magazine and not meant to be sold on the merits of it as a comic, though the one funny thing for me is that it's "based on the smash-hit TV series!" Blake's 7 actually did remarkably well in the ratings. I've heard rumors that the reason why the show was never renewed was because the higher-ups were pissed off that a silly little space opera was doing better than the dramas they were producing. However, the official word from Chris Boucher, script editor and writer for the series, was that the show was simply not renewed as opposed to outright canceled. Let's introduce our cast.
(Cut to footage of the characters on the show)
Linkara (v/o): I've already talked about Avon, but the only other remaining character from the first season is Vila, a cowardly thief who indulges in alcohol and his own greed a little too often for his own good. Avon frequently insults Vila for his stupidity, but the truth is that Vila prefers to be seen as stupid so people overlook him and his talents, underestimating him. Next is Dana, a badass weapons expert whose father was killed by the main villain of the show, but we won't talk about that villain today. There's Tarrant, who was an accomplished pilot and, in Avon's own words...
Avon: Tarrant is brave, young, handsome. (chuckles) There are three good reasons for anyone not to like him.
Linkara (v/o): Next up is Orac, a smug little artificial intelligence introduced at the end of the first season. He's the best resource they have in hacking the federation's information networks and can remote-operate the ship when they need him to. And finally, introduced in the fourth season, when this story takes place, are the last two characters, Soolin and Slave. Soolin is an assassin and unfortunately didn't have much to do in the season, really just joining the crew out of convenience. Slave was the ship's computer of Scorpio, an upgraded freighter that the group had taken at the beginning of the season. Unlike the computer of their last ship, the alien warship Liberator, Slave was subservient and humble, referring to its owner as "Master".
(Now cut back to the "Blake's 7" magazine)
Linkara (v/o): Let's begin our story. (reads text dramatically) "AUTONA... PLANET OF LIES!"
Linkara: Aaaand suddenly I realize why the show tended to have one-word episode titles.
Linkara (v/o): We open with Scorpio damaged from a fight with Federation patrol ships.
Slave: Craft's skin damaged in sector E 12. Entire water supply has been lost.
Linkara: My God! The pool party is in danger of being cancelled! We have to do something!
Avon: Tell us something about this place, Orac.
Orac: Planet Autona... Capable of supporting humanoid life. Once designated a prison planet but fell into disuse twenty Earth standard years ago. No known inhabitants registering on scans, Master.
Linkara (v/o): Wait, "Master"? Orac doesn't call people "Master". I mean, I know Peter Tuddenham did the voice for both computers, but come on! Different characters here. With the ship landed, Avon gives instructions.
Avon: While Vila and Soolin look for water, we'll do what we can to patch the damage.
Tarrant: Doesn't look as bad as I thought. A few astro weld tapes should seal the leak.
Linkara: Yes, even in the far future, duct tape is the best way to patch anything, even starship hulls.
Linkara (v/o): Some kind of land vehicle approaches the group. Avon instructs them not to use their weapons yet, and a woman exits the craft.
Woman: Welcome to Autona, friends. My master lord of this planet, bids you come with me to his dwelling.
Linkara: (as this woman) We have prepared refreshments and appetizers of the cheese stick variety.
Linkara (v/o): Vila, surprisingly suspcious for a change, thinks it could be a federation trap, though the others are fine with it. Tarrant says that some of them should stay with the ship, so he and Soolin stay behind while the others go with her. The transport heads into an underground facility, where they meet a man named Wogan and an identical woman to the first standing next to him. Naturally, they do not question this in the slightest. Wogan himself actually kind of looks like an older Vincent Price.
Avon: Our records showed this to be a deserted prison planet. Why is it you are here...and living in such splendour?
Wogan: Oh, I just decided to settle here to keep out of the federation's way...after the last war, you know. You're not from the federation...are you?
Avon: The federation and us have had, er, a disagreement. We avoid contact with them whenever possible.
Linkara: (as Avon) And yet, we still invite them to Thanksgiving and Christmas. (holds up two fingers) Two nights of uncomfortable silence, and they never even help with the dishes.
Linkara (v/o): Wogan offers them some peace and quiet, since the federation patrols don't go near the place anymore. He says that one of the women, Diana, will lead them to some room so they can stay for the night.
Narrator: In the darkened rest area...
Linkara: Are they sleeping in a bathroom with a bad light bulb in it?
Linkara (v/o): After noticing Vila eyeing up one of the women, Avon pulls him aside for a moment.
Avon: We're guests here– keep your eyes off her...and that's an order. There's something strange about this place...but I'm not certain what it is yet!
Vila: You worry too much.
Linkara: (as Vila) We just happen to run into a single guy who runs a huge underground complex and has two identical women at his side, and he has lots of food and rest space on a former prison planet without anyone else on it. What's there to be worried about?
Linkara (v/o): However, Wogan is watching their conversation. (as Zordon) Now, Rangers, observe the viewing globe.
Wogan: I was right. The one called Vila is the weak link. He will be the one we select.
Linkara: (as Wogan) And by "we", I mean "I", and by "select", I mean "sponge bath".
Linkara (v/o): And of course, the woman goes to him with some booze and invites him to her room for a nightcap. Naturally, Vila accepts. Yeah, remember when I said he was smart? What I meant was, he was smart at being a thief. He is every bit a moron at everything else.
Vila: What is it you like about me? Is it my wit and charm...or just because I'm so handsome?
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Blake's 7)
Avon: The rest of you is not very impressive.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): And naturally, it's an evil lab of science.
Wogan: Neither my friend. In fact...it's me who wants your body!
Linkara: (as Vila) Well, you're not really my type, but hey, I'll try anything once.
Linkara (v/o): A few hours later – that was a short rest, I guess – Avon and Dana meet Wogan in his living room or... whatever it is. Wogan asks Avon if it'd be possible for him to borrow Scorpio for a short mission.
Avon: That's out of the question. Besides, why would you want it? You seem to have all you could ever want right here.
Linkara: (whiny voice) Aw, come on, Pops! It's Friday night, and I want to take Heather to the movies!
Linkara (v/o): Wogan accepts this, though why he didn't just make up an excuse for at least a short hop, I'll never know. Vila returns with one of the women and is scolded by Avon for going around against his instructions. Afterwards, the group returns to Scorpio, which has finished its repairs and water resupply. Wogan bids them farewell, but as they're taking off...
Wogan: Farewell for now...but you will be back sooner than you think. I have seen to that!
Linkara: (as Wogan) I've slashed their tires! (cackles, then stops abruptly in confusion) Oh, wait...
Soolin: Who was that funny-looking man who came to see you off, Avon?
Linkara: (as Soolin) I mean, did you see that goofy poncho he was wearing? (laughs) I'm glad we don't wear anything silly like that. (smiles smugly)
(Cut to clips of the characters on Blake's 7 wearing those silly-looking outfits, while in the background, "Fashion" by David Bowie plays in the background)
Linkara: Oh, what? It was the late '70s and early '80s trying to predict fashions of the future. It happens.
Avon: He called himself Wogan...a plausible looking character...
Linkara: Yes, it's plausible that... he's a... character who... looks like that... (shrugs in confusion)
Linkara (v/o): Vila comes in with some drinks to celebrate, though Avon is suspicious of this.
Avon: You're being generous with the drink you normally jealously guard, Vila.
Linkara: (as Avon) You're usually very protective of your appletinis.
Avon: Drink up, Avon. You of all people should be joining us.
Vila: Er... Not right now. Had too much on Autona.
Avon: You can never get enough drink...and that's an order.
Linkara: You know, some people go their entire life wishing that their boss would order them to drink booze.
Avon: Drink...or I'll blow your brains out!
Vila: N...No! C...Can't! Take it away!
Linkara: Just as I thought: this is Miller Lite!
Linkara (v/o): Avon shoots Vila right in the face, revealing that this Vila is an android.
Avon: ...made to look and behave like Vila...but there was one flaw. It should have been programmed to drink!
Linkara: (sarcastically) A robot that drinks? Perish the thought!
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Futurama)
Fry: (to Bender, who is drinking beer) Why would a robot need to drink?
Bender: I don't need to drink. I can quit any time I want.
(Back to the comic again)
Avon: Wogan! A curse on him! He must have Vila still trapped on his planet...and this android was created to drug us...then fly the Scorpio back to Autona!
Linkara: (as one of the crew, pretending to hold a drink) Oh, then maybe I shouldn't have had three of these... (falls over, pretending to pass out)
Linkara (v/o): They decide to go back for Vila and land the ship, letting Wogan, his two assistants, and the captive Vila come on-board. Wait, one of the women says they plan to kill everyone on-board. If that's the case, why is Vila still alive? Anyway, they get to the flight deck and find everyone unconscious. However, when Wogan turns the android around, Avon springs up! Wait, is everyone else legitimately unconscious? Why the hell didn't he wait until everyone had shaken off the drug or given them a stimulant or something? Anyway, Avon manages to blast one of the women, revealing they're androids as well. Vila grabs a... flower vase, I guess, and tosses its liquid content at the other android.... which somehow fries it.
Linkara: (as android) Oh, no! A tiny bit of liquid has landed on me! I was not programmed to withstand being slightly damp!
Linkara (v/o): Wogan explains that he had been left there by the federation for malfunctioning androids he had sold to them. As such, he has since perfected them and wanted the ship so he could sell new androids to them. So, he can build absolutely perfect androids, minus their inherent weakness to all liquids being splashed on them, but he couldn't build a radio or something? And if he just wanted money and to get off the planet, why not offer his services to Avon and the others? Ah, well, pretty minor plot holes in the grand scheme of things. Avon tosses his ass back onto the planet, and Scorpio flies off into space.
Linkara: Like I said before, this is pretty decent.
Linkara (v/o): I could actually see this story, after some padding and the like added, being made into a standalone episode of the show. Hell, it's not the first time they'd run into alien androids.
(Cut to a montage of Blake's 7 merchandise)
Linkara (v/o): Blake's 7 survives today in a few ways. Aside from DVDs of the series, which are unfortunately at the time of this video not available region-free, there was a novel called "Afterlife" that takes place right after the end of the series. I've seen a lot of people online saying it was awful, but personally, I really liked it. My only complaint is that like the series itself, it ended on a cliffhanger, meant to be resolved in another book that never got made. Aside from an audio play reboot of the show, audio dramas with some of the original cast have begun to be released by Big Finish, the same company that puts out the superbly awesome Doctor Who audio dramas. I haven't listened to any yet, but I hear they're great. Aside from that, there's also an awesome rock band called Star One, named after an element from the show, and their song "Intergalactic Space Crusaders" is about the show.
Linkara: I would end the episode with that song, but to get the true Blake's 7 experience, you need to hear the theme song, which was always jarringly upbeat at the end of the episode, no matter how dark it got. And of course, for season 4, which is considered even more dark, they made it (gives a thumbs-up) even more upbeat! (puts down comic gently, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll, to the Blake's 7 theme)
So oddly enough, the first three seasons of the show sported a particular symbol behind the Blake's 7 title. That symbol? The Federation's logo. Why is the logo of the BAD GUYS behind the name of the show?
And please, no semantics about how British television tends to use "series" instead of "seasons." I said seasons because it's easier to understand for most people.
(Stinger: Dr. Insano is sitting in his room playing a game on a Nintendo DS. He gets frustrated)
Dr. Insano: Oh, for the love of Heineken! Sabrina is a cheating harlot! (suddenly, there is a knock at his door; he grunts) Better not be Joe again.
(He gets up from his seat and goes to answer the door. It's Linkara, who angrily rushes Insano and shoves him against a wall, aiming his inert magic gun at him)
Linkara: (angrily) WHO DID YOU SELL IT TO?!
Insano: (terrified) I don't know what you're talking about!
Linkara: Anti-magic field generator kit! Who did you sell it to?!
Insano: I haven't sold one of those in months, not since they discovered the defect against Blitzballs!
Linkara: (looking away in frustration) Dammit, then who disabled all my magic?!
Insano: Well, I don't know! I'm a scientist! (stops as he realizes something) Wait a minute. If your magic's not working, why are you threatening me with a magic gun?
Linkara: Because I can still beat you to death with it! (Insano cowers) If I find out that you were lying to me... (grins and chuckles evilly) you'll be eating those goggles!
Insano: Yes, yes, I understand!
(Linkara stalks out of the room, slamming the door as he leaves. Then Dr. Insano realizes something)
Insano: So... his magic isn't working, is it? (strokes chin, then giggles)