Having read other excellent titles by John Kenneth Muir on the series Space:1999 and Doctor Who, I was thrilled to discover he had the courage to take on Blake’s 7 as well. Blake always seemed to me to be an odd hybrid of Saturday morning action adventure and dystopian fairy tale. Its dark vision of an oppressive empire, ironically named the ‘Federation’, contrasted with the cheap sets, the expressive acting of Jacqueline Pearce, and the poorly choreographed fight scenes. Still, Blake’s 7 has always been a guilty pleasure, and a joy to watch. Muir takes us on a comprehensive journey through the series history. The book offers details such as back stage gossip, struggles with the budget, explains the frequent cast changes, and includes a detailed analysis of each episode. Muir’s writing style is both engaging and amusing. I loved this book, despite the simple cover art. It’s a must for any Blake’s 7 fan, and well worth the cover price.
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John Kenneth Muir’s text on the British TV series Blake’s 7 is an enthusiastically written and well researched one. Given Muir’s writing pedigree, which includes similar analyses of programs such as Dr Who, Space 1999 and Battlestar Galactica, plus his examinations of the films of directors such as Wes Craven and John Carpenter, it is evident his knowledge of the sci-fi/horror genres is exhaustive and admirable. As opposed to previously books which offered little or no in depth analysis, Muir’s book looks at each episode with a critical eye. This is not new, however: various Internet sites have forums and reviews of episodes in which fans offer their opinions. However it is comforting to be able to read a list of them in the old fashioned form of a book (the Luddite in me!). His analyses are very well written. Thankfully they skim over the plot descriptions (anyone reading this book would know the plots backwards anyhow), and offer many interesting points. I can’t say I agree with all of his conclusions, but that is the wonderful thing we call democracy. If everyone agreed on everything, what a boring place it would be! Muir savages some episodes I hold in high regard; however I respect his opinions and uphold his reasoning, as I would anybody’s. Apart from the episodes, Muir writes some very interesting essays – the “anti-Star Trek” one is, in my opinion, the best. The examination of the sci-fi story arc and the shorter piece on sexual machinations among the crew also hold the interest. Putting Blake’s 7 into a historical context, relating it to sci-fi programs of its day and also more recent programs such as Babylon 5, is also well done, maintaining that Blake’s 7 has not had its day and is still relevant in today’s deconstructions of the genre. Although this book is excellent, there is one major irritating fault – the book seems to have not been proof read at all, with glaring mistakes. For example, his examination of the season B episode “Weapon” refers to Fen as Coser’s companion, when she was Rashel. The cast list to “Traitor” (Season D) credits David Quilter as “The General” and not “The Tracer”, while the essay on sex, naturally discussing the controversial gender themed episode “Power”, constantly refers to it as “Rescue”. There are countless others. This criticism may come across as nitpicking, but for an author of Muir’s calibre, especially given his insights and knowledge of the program, along with his other writing efforts, they are unforgivable oversights. They may have been simple typographic errors, but Muir, of all people, should have noticed them before publication. However, this should not detract from the book’s excellent writing and interesting observations. For a fan of Blake’s 7, it is very worthwhile and engaging, able to be read and re-read.
Ever since watching the Blake’s 7 television series on late night PBS stations in the 1980s, I’ve wanted someone to publish a book like this. Mr. Muir has created an objective and detailed analysis of the series, its creator, characters, scripts, symbolism, and influence. The author is not an agent of the BBC, he is a student of the science fiction genre with a lot of knowledge and research behind him. As a result, the text is very fresh and honest, free from institutional bias or propaganda, giving the book (if you’ll pardon the expression) an almost “liberated” feel.
Included in the text are background on the series origins and history, a discription of Nation’s intent to mix aspects of “The Dirty Dozen” and “Robin Hood” into the series, critical reviews on each of the 52 episodes, an excellent analysis of the Blake’s 7 story arc, an examination of the shows place in science fiction history, and several essays on the characters of Blake and Avon and their relationship with each other. The commentary on the series finale is also the most complete and inspired analysis of the meaning of that episode that it has ever been my good fortune to come accross.
This is fantastic reading, and I found myself literally sitting up in my chair saying “Holy smoke, I’ve never noticed that before.” The book sent me scrambling for my episode tapes to view the show again in a different light. There are so many layers to this show, and this book gave me a lot to think about.