I've been working through the final series of the early 1980s nihilistic sci-fi series Blakes 7, watching an episode a night. I watched the last episode last night. So I'm glad to read today that it's due to make a comeback, in radio form at least. It was 25 years ago this month that the cast met a particularly sticky end...
Blakes 7 defines "cult tv" for me. As a child it often made no sense at all. The titular Blake left after the first series, and there were only 5 or 6 human characters (although at various times computers were roped in to nominally make up the magic number 7).
The series depicted a future universe where Earth is run by the facistic Federation, who have most of their populace nicely controlled on happy drugs. Blake and his renegade band of leather-wearing outlaws decide to bring it all down. Their main enemy is Servalan, a woman who still manages to look as if she's come out of a time-machine from the future. With a severe cropped lesbian butch hairstyle and the flamboyant attire of a Vegas drag queen, Servalan cuts an imposing figure.
The show ended on an explosive low note, with all the "goodies" massacred by Federation agents in the final scene. It was very popular in Eastern Europe apparently. Blake's little gang were the antithesis of Star Trek the Next Generation's happy commune in space. No Counsellor Troi and Dr Beverly doing their stretch exercises together, or Data playing a concerto in the ship's orchestra for everyone to politely clap at. And certainly no cosy little poker sessions. Instead, the 7 barely tolerated one another. They only laughed the bitter laughter of cynics who'd been let down. When things went wrong they'd shout at each other. Their ship was ultra minimalist in decor, and their clothes had been purchased from a gay S&M shop in London (I kid you not). Even Orac and Slave (the computers) would engage in snippy little bitch-fests while the others patiently (or not) waited for them to get on with it. Orac, who resembled a plastic box full of Christmas tree lights, was like a tetchy gay uncle who'd been to Cambridge and thought that gave him carte blanche to be patronising and smug.
Almost every week, the 7 would get some fabulous lead which would help them to destroy the Federation. But it would usually end in tears and lots of people needlessly being killed. Nine times out of ten, Servalan would appear in the last scene, whip off a hood and explain that it was all one of her dastardly traps.
The other women were shamelessly under-used and once Blake left, the ultra-hammy Avon took charge, leading the group into more and more dangerous situations. Only he and cowardly thief Vila managed to stick around for the whole 4 seasons, although I was always partial to ultra-posh Tarrant, who was brought in for a bit of curly-haired sex appeal in season 3.
Here's perhaps the most famous (and camp) clip from all of Blakes 7. It's the season 3 finale. Servalan has stolen the hero's ship "The Liberator", dumping everyone on some boring planet so they can rot. But her triumph is majestically short-lived. Say it with her - MAXIMUM POWER!
And if you want to see how it all ends... "Have you betrayed us? Have YOU betrayed ME?"