'Blakes 7' for U.S. TV?

blkelogoAccording to Deadline.com , Martin Campbell (CASINO ROYAL, GREEN LANTERN) is attached to  direct a pilot that would re-boot the 1970’s BBC space opera hit BLAKES 7.
Joe Pokaski (HEROES) is set to write (and one assumes re-interpet) the original series, created by the late Terry Nation, who also gave us the Daleks of DOCTOR WHO.
Marc Rosen (THRESHOLD) is to produce the project with Georgeville Television’s Leon Clarance. The venture’s development  is to be funded by Motion Picture Capital, with the hope that the new version of the dark UK ‘Cult Classic’ series will interest an American network.
Georgeville Television got the rights from Andrew Sewell’s B7 Enterprises, who had purchased the property from Terry Nation’s estate. B7 had been trying to relaunch the franchise as a TV series with ill luck for the last several years.  Only audio dramas based on the original program have thus far been produced, with a potential new series on the UK’s SKY 1 not coming to fruition.
B7-S1CrewThe series, which ran for four 13-episode seasons beginning in 1978, starred Gareth Thomas as the protagonist Roj Blake, a political dissedent framed for a crime by the Terran Federation. Sent off to exile on a primitive world, Blake  along with other convicted criminals, are sent to try to salvage a mysterious advanced spacecraft. Blake managed to push through his plan of using the ship that he dubs “The Liberator” as a weapon to fight for freedom. Some of the crew would be supportive of the plan, while others seemed more concerned with protecting their personal freedom and  enriching themselves instead.
The show also starred  Paul Darrow as the calculating Avon, Sally Knyvette
as smuggler Jenna Stanis,  Michael Keating as the genial expert safecracker Vila Restal, David Jackson as the strong and loyal Olag Gan, and  Jan Chappell as the cloned telepath Cally, from the planet Auron. Sentient ship’s computer Zen brought the team up to seven, and the independent ORAC (both voiced by Peter Tuddenham) would be added later.
Blake7iberator2That team would change over the seasons; Gan was killed on a mission during season 2, and Blake and Jenna would leave as series regulars at end of the second season, lost and presumed dead.  
Younger characters Dayna Mellanby (Josette Simon) and Del Tarrant (Steven Pacey) would join the crew in the third, with expert shooter Soolin (Glynis Barber) replacing Cally for Season four, after her off-screen death.
Often called the “anti-STAR TREK”, BLAKES 7 took place in a dark and bleak universe, with the corrupt Federation running or pulling the strings behind most human worlds. Even organized crime was under government direction. The power-mad Servalan (Jacqueline Pearce, veteran of Hammer horror) rises from Commander to President, becoming obsessed with possessing the Liberator and quelling rebellion.

The heroes were less than perfect, the series pitched as an outer-space “Dirty Dozen”. Even the initially heroic Blake realized on some level that his quest for freedom had a high and possibly futile cost in human lives. The amazing precedent of continuing BLAKES 7 (never an apostrophe) without the title character  required that the cynical, self-interested Avon  take on Blake’s crusade, and by the fourth season it was clear that the pressure was driving him mad.  

Season 4 Cast, with Paul Darrow as Avon in the foreground.
Season 4 Cast, with Paul Darrow as Avon in the foreground.

 

Originally made on the budget of a canceled police show, BLAKES 7 was a rough-hewn low-rent affair, shot on a mix of studio video and location film, often looking hokey even for its time.Some of the scripts and acting were cliche or over the top at times—and yet it worked. The series was very popular, watched by over ten million people in the UK, and exported to many other counties, including the U.S.
(The series ran largely on PBS stations in America, often paired with DOCTOR WHO.)
It’s difficult to imagine an American broadcast network being interested in a dark SF series like BLAKES 7. Fox’s FIREFLY had a similar vibe, leading to a very short life. The old Sci-Fi Channel’s FARSCAPE and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA reboot had more success, but would the current, mainly Earth-bound SyFy have any interest? Hard to say. Perhaps there’s a cable programmer looking for a space-based series with some kind of pedigree.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *