History of Blake's 7

:"This article is specifically about the production history of the television series "Blake's 7": for a more general overview of this series, please see the main "Blake's 7" article."

"Blake's 7" is a British science fiction television programme, produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for their BBC1 channel. Set in the far future, "Blake's 7" follows the fortunes of a group of rebels in their fight against the dictatorial Terran Federation Four thirteen-episode seasons were produced between 1978 and 1981. "Blake's 7" was created by Terry Nation, who later described it as “"The Dirty Dozen" in space”.cite journal
last = Pixley
first = Andrew
year = 2002
month = October
title = Blake's 7. 'The Dirty Dozen in Space'
journal = TV Zone
issue = 156
pages = p48–56
id = ISSN 0957-3844
]
David Maloney was assigned to produce the series and Chris Boucher was appointed as the script editor. Gareth Thomas was cast as the eponymous Blake. The series' budget was severely restricted, which limited the scope for visual effects. [cite book
last = Nazarro
first = Joe
coauthors = Wells, Sheelagh
title = Blake's 7: The Inside Story
publisher = Virgin Publishing Ltd.
date = 1997
location = London
page = 9
isbn = 0 7535 0044 2
]

Nation wrote the first thirteen-episode season, and contributed a further six scripts in the second and third seasons. Twelve additional writers provided material for the series. [cite book
last =Attwood
first = Tony
coauthors = Davies, Kevin; Emery, Rob; Ophir, Jackie.
title = Blake's 7: The Programme Guide
publisher = Virgin Books
date = 1994
location = London
pages = 10-14; 29-117
isbn = 0 426 19449 7
]

After three successful seasons, "Blake's 7" was unexpectedly commissioned for a further season. This challenged the production team to replace non-returning cast members with new characters and produce new story concepts to continue the series. Vere Lorrimer was appointed as producer, and oversaw major changes in the show's format. Following the dramatic finale of Season D, "Blake's 7" was not re-commissioned and the series ended. [cite book
last = Nazarro
first = Joe
coauthors = Wells, Sheelagh
title = Blake's 7: The Inside Story
publisher = Virgin Publishing Ltd.
date = 1997
location = London
pages = 97-99; 127
isbn = 0 7535 0044 2
]

Origins (1975-1976)

In 1975, Terry Nation attended a meeting with Ronnie Marsh, the BBC's Head of Drama, to discuss ideas for new television series. Marsh was looking for formats for co-productions with American television channels. Nation suggested a number of ideas, mostly for crime dramas, none of which appealed to Marsh. According to Nation, “the interview was drawing to a close when I surprised myself by starting to detail a new science fiction adventure [...] ‘Have you got a title?' someone asked. ‘"Blake's 7"’ I replied without hesitation”.cite book
last = Nation
first = Terry
authorlink = Terry Nation
editor = in Attwood, Tony;
title = Blake's 7. The Programme Guide
year = 1982
publisher = W.H. Allen & Co.
location = London
id = ISBN 978-0-426-19449-1
pages = p7-8
chapter = Introduction
] Marsh's notes of the meeting survive and record the pitch Nation made as follows: “cracking "Boy's Own"/ kidult sci-fi. A space Western adventure. A modern swashbuckler. "Blake's Seven". Group of villains being escorted onto a rocket ship (transported) which goes astray & lands on an alien planet where inhabitants are planning to invade & destroy Earth. Possibly live underground”. Nation left the meeting with a commission for a pilot script and “the bewildered feeling that [...] I could not trace the source of the idea”.

Nation submitted his pilot script, titled “"Blake's 7 – A Television Series created by Terry Nation"”, in April 1976, sub-titling the draft episode "Cygnus Alpha".cite journal
last = Pixley
first = Andrew
year = 1995
title = Season A
journal = Blake's 7 Summer Special
pages = p4–15
id = ISSN 1353-761X
]

The pilot script was broadly similar to what would become "The Way Back", the first "Blake's 7" episode to be transmitted, although the agent who betrays Glyd's group and plots to have Blake convicted was named Cral Travis not Tarrant as in the transmitted episode.

The proposed characters for the series was Rog (later changed to Roj) Blake and seven others – Vila Restal; Jenna Stanis; Kerr Avon; Olag Gan; Arco Trent; Tone Selman and Brell Klein. The descriptions given to Blake, Jenna and Gan are similar to the characters presented on the screen. However, the character of Vila is somewhat different: described as “thirty five, good looking athletic”, he appears to be more similar to the popular fictional character Simon Templar (a.k.a. "The Saint") than that of the Vila that eventually appeared on screen. cite book
last = Stevens
first = Alan
coauthors = Moore, Fiona
title = Liberation. The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Blake's 7
year = 2003
publisher = Telos
location = England
id = ISBN 978-1-903889-54-1
pages = p13-58
chapter = Season A
] The Arco Trent character was described as a powerful figure in the Administration who had taken the blame for a group of corrupt officials involved in arms dealing. Arco would plot against Blake but would gain respect for Blake after Blake saves Arco's life. Arco's sidekick would be Avon, a self-serving, treacherous coward. The characters of Selman and Klein did not appear in the pilot and the script noted that these characters would join the series in a later episode.

Marsh asked Nation for a draft script for a second "Blake's 7" episode in June 1976. Nation delivered "Space Fall", in which the spacecraft, "Liberator", is introduced, in mid-August. On 12 November 1976 Marsh commissioned "Space Fall" and, confirming the series for full development. Marsh asked Nation to deliver a further five scripts. The intention was that "Blake's 7" would run to 13 episodes and would replace the police drama "". Nation would write the first seven episodes, then the next four would be scripted by other writers with Nation writing a two-part finale. "Blake's 7" now officially entered production.

eason A (1977-1978)

To produce "Blake's 7", the BBC chose David Maloney.cite journal
last = Hearn
first = Marcus
date = 11 October 2006
title = David Maloney Obituary
journal = Doctor Who Magazine
issue = 374
pages = p58–59
id = ISSN 0957-9818
] Maloney's experience with "Doctor Who" made him an ideal candidate for producer of "Blake's 7". Maloney approached Robert Holmes as a script editor; Holmes was script editing "Doctor Who". Holmes declined but recommended Chris Boucher, who had previously written three "Doctor Who" scripts.imdb name|id=0098980|name=Chris Boucher]

Early in 1977, Terry Nation was commissioned to write four more episodes for Season A and five episodes for Season B. Nation was now contracted to write all thirteen episodes of the first season. The BBC had expanded Nation's writing commitment in order that Nation's high profile as a writer would help the promotion of the series. For Nation, providing a large amount of material in a short time would prove difficult. Admitting that he had agreed to write every episode out of “ego and supreme confidence”, Nation later recalled that he returned home following the commission and told his wife, “I think I've got myself into deep trouble!”.cite journal
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
year = 1992
month = August
title = Terry Nation's Blake's 7. Part One
journal = TV Zone
issue = 33
pages = p28–30
id = ISSN 0957-3844
] Nation made it clear to Boucher that he would only be able to deliver the first draft of each script, telling Boucher, “you can have rewrites or you can have the next episode: which do you want?”.cite journal
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
year = 1991
month = May
title = Chris Boucher: Writing for the Rebellion
journal = TV Zone
issue = 18
pages = p20–23
id = ISSN 0957-3844
] As a result, while Nation created the plots, Boucher provided a great deal of input into the characters and the dialogue. According to Boucher, “Terry came up with the characters, he came up with thirteen good stories, but he didn't come up with the dialogue. I remember saying, and I think it's pretty close to the truth, that for a long time, Paul Darrow [playing Avon] never spoke a line that I hadn't written or altered to make the lines sharper”.cite book
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
coauthors = Wells, Sheelagh
title = Blake's 7: The Inside Story
year = 1997
publisher = Virgin
location = London
id = ISBN 978-0-7535-0044-6
pages = p8-19
chapter = Starting Out
]

cript and character alterations

One script that was abandoned early was "Locate and Destroy", which was originally planned as the fourth episode. This story would have re-introduced the Cral Travis character first seen in the pilot script, now with a mechanical arm and an eyepatch, ordered by his superior “Commander Shervalan” to recapture Blake. The plot – elements of which would later be reused in the episodes "Duel", "Mission to Destiny" and "Deliverance" – centred around Travis attacking the "Liberator" while Jenna was captured by primitives living on a planet ravaged by a biological weapon released by the Federation. Cral Travis was later re-named Dev Tarrant (played by Jeremy Wilkin) in the opening episode, "The Way Back", and the Travis that appeared from "Seek-Locate-Destroy" onwards was a new character (played by Stephen Greif) while “Commander Shervalan” was renamed Servalan and changed from a man to a woman.

At the same time, the characters of Trent, Selman and Klein were removed from the series, although Trent and Selman appear as Blake's fellow prisoners and are then killed in the broadcast version of "Cygnus Alpha". These characters were removed in order to control costs and to give the remaining characters more work. “Blake's 7” would now comprise Blake himself; Avon, who acquired Arco's scheming nature; Vila, who now acquired the cowardly aspect originally planned for Avon; Jenna; Gan; Zen, the "Liberator" computer and a new character: the telepathic alien, Cally.

Cally was added to balance the gender mix among the cast. Alan Stephens and Fiona Moore note the similarities between Cally's character description and the character of Leela - devised by Chris Boucher, who had been inspired by the Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled - and speculate that Boucher had a large part in the creation of Cally.

Cally was originally intended to be more 'alien' in appearance – her skin and hair were to be coloured red and coloured contact lenses would be worn by the actor when Cally entered a telepathic trance. These ideas were finally abandoned to reduce costs and save time.

Casting and production staff

In June 1977, the BBC announced to the press that "Blake's 7", a “new and major BBC television series of space adventure” set in the “third century of the second calendar”, was in development, stating that 13 episodes would be made at a cost of £750,000.

Casting was now in progress. Gareth Thomas was chosen to play Blake at the suggestion of Terry Nation. Paul Darrow had been considered for the part of Blake but was cast as Avon. Michael Keating was suggested for the role of Vila by Pennant Roberts; the pair had worked together on the "Doctor Who" serial "The Sun Makers". David Jackson, who was known to David Maloney from Maloney's acting career, was cast as Gan. While watching Jackson on stage at the Royal Court Theatre, Maloney and Vere Lorrimer noted Jan Chappell, who would be cast as Cally. Sally Knyvette, who had been recommended by director Bill Sellars following her work on the serial "Who Pays the Ferryman?", was cast as Jenna. Peter Tuddenham was cast as Zen. Stephen Greif, who was appearing in the BBC sitcom "Citizen Smith", was cast as Blake's nemesis, Travis. Ingrid Pitt had originally been considered for the role of Travis' superior, Servalan, but the role went to Jacqueline Pearce instead.

Three directors – Pennant Roberts, Michael E. Briant and Lennie Mayne - who had directed "Doctor Who" episodes – were assigned to "Blake's 7". The directors would work in rotation, each directing four episodes. Episode seven would be directed by Paul Ciappessoni. When Mayne was killed in a boating accident, he was replaced by Vere Lorrimer. The seventh episode, "Duel", was finally directed by another "Doctor Who" veteran, Douglas Camfield.

Maloney assembled the rest of his production team and engaged Roger Murray-Leach, with whom he had worked with on the "Doctor Who" serials "The Deadly Assassin" and "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", as production designer. To ensure uniformity of concept, Maloney asked Murray-Leach to design both the interior and exterior of the "Liberator" spacecraft. Murray-Leach “turned the ship around, so it was drawn to look as if it were going one way but flew the other way. In fact, if you take the line of flow, the angles go with it to get a sense of speed, and we turned that around so the 'wings' all canted forwards, not backwards”. The fact that Murray-Leach had designed the ship would prove to be contentious with the series' special effects designer, Ian Scoones. Scoones, who had worked on Hammer horror films and Gerry Anderson's "Thunderbirds", found Murray-Leach's design for the "Liberator" awkward to mount and film for the scenes of the ship in flight.

Filming begins

Aware that "Star Wars" would be released in UK cinemas around the time of "Blake's 7"'s planned television debut, Scoones spent the budget he had been allocated for the entire series on "Space Fall", the first episode to be recorded. The model filming for this episode, the first piece of filming for "Blake's 7", took place at Bray Studios on 15 August 1977.

Live action filming of "Blake's 7" began on Monday, 26 September 1977 at Ealing film studios with scenes set on the spacecraft "London" for the second episode "Space Fall". Filming continued at Ealing and on location before moving into the studios at BBC Television Centre in November.

The series' animated title sequence was created by Bob Blagden and was based partially on suggestions given by Nation in his draft pilot script. Nation had envisaged a vast computer that would print out pictures of each of the characters; these would be deposited in a tray marked “Enemies of the State” before the appearance of the title caption. The theme music was provided by Dudley Simpson who composed the much of the music for "Blake's 7". [imdb name|id=0800981|name=Dudley Simpson]

Production problems

The strain of writing all thirteen episodes was starting to affect Nation. His tenth script – "The Invaders", in which Gan would fight an alien duplicate of himself intent on taking over the "Liberator" – was abandoned and replaced by a script titled "Brain Drain" (later renamed "Breakdown") which partially re-used some elements of "The Invaders". [cite journal
last = Pixley
first = Andrew
year = 2003
month = June
title = Memory Alpha – Blake's Invasion!
journal = TV Zone
issue = 163
pages = p18–19
id = ISSN 0957-3844
] Nation later recalled; “During those thirteen weeks, I ran entirely out of ideas, and I'd sit around and walk for days, saying, ‘There are no more ideas, that's it! I've shot it all and it's gone’”. One episode badly affected by Nation's difficulties was "Bounty"; even after a rewrite by Boucher, director Pennant Roberts was required to lengthen the scenes as much as possible to fill the fifty minute running time.

Not long after recording began, problems with the filming schedule became obvious. "Blake's 7" had inherited its production style – a method called strike filming – from the series it was to replace: "". Strike filming involved pre-filming, either on location or at a film studio, immediately before entering rehearsals for the scenes to be recorded in the videotape studios. This method worked well for a series such as "Softly, Softly" which had minimal pre-filming, few special effects and a large number of standing sets. However, it was unsuitable for "Blake's 7". Shooting schedules began to overrun, leading to expensive remounts and to cast members being taken out of rehearsals either for pre-filming or for remounts of scenes that had not been filmed on schedule. These problems peaked in January 1978 when, in the course of one week, the cast were filming four different episodes for four different directors.

Recording was further complicated when Stephen Grief, playing Travis, ruptured his Achilles tendon playing squash and had to be replaced by an extra for the studio scenes for the episode "Orac". The recording of "Blake's 7"'s first season was completed on 15 March 1978.

"Blake's 7" was first broadcast on BBC1 on Monday, 2 January 1978 at 6:00pm. Subsequent episodes were broadcast on Mondays at 7:15pm. It would compete against the popular soap opera "Coronation Street" and sitcoms "A Sharp Intake of Breath" and "Miss Jones and Son" on the rival ITV network. "Blake's 7" received an average 9.2 million viewers and attaining an average reaction index of 67.

eason B (1978-1979)

Planning

Planning for a second season of "Blake's 7" began in January 1978 after three episodes of the first season had been screened. Maloney and Boucher met with Terry Nation and his agent, Roger Hancock, to discuss the new season. New writers would be engaged and, although Nation would be consulted on general storylines, he would not be involved in choosing the writers or approving scripts.cite journal
last = Pixley
first = Andrew
year = 2005
month = April
title = Flashback. Blake's 7 – Star One
journal = TV Zone
issue = 187
pages = p50–54
id = ISSN 0957-3844
]

A story arc was planned, which would revolve around Blake's attempt to attack the Federation Supreme Computer Control.cite journal
last = Pixley
first = Andrew
year = 2004
month = August
title = Flashback. Blake's 7 – Shadow
journal = TV Zone
issue = 179
pages = p60–64
id = ISSN 0957-3844
] This would be located at a place called Storm Mountain which, when attacked by Blake in a mid-season climax, would be discovered to be a decoy. The rest of the season would follow Blake as he sought the real computer control, designated Star One. Travis would be dismissed from the Federation but would continue his vendetta against Blake.cite journal
last = Pixley
first = Andrew
year = 1995
title = Season B
journal = Blake's 7 Summer Special
pages = p16–27
id = ISSN 1353-761X
]

The general plans for the season was outlined in a document titled “"Blake's Seven – Series Two – General Notes"”. This document noted that “the Federation must be shown to be even more powerful, even more ruthless and even more intelligent”. To show this, it was decided that one of the main characters would die. Nation, unhappy with Michael Keating's interpretation of the role, was keen for Vila to be killed. Nation's view was opposed by Boucher and Maloney because the character was popular with viewers.cite book
last = Stevens
first = Alan
coauthors = Moore, Fiona
title = Liberation. The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Blake's 7
year = 2003
publisher = Telos
location = England
id = ISBN 978-1-903889-54-1
pages = p59-102
chapter = Season B
] An Audience Research Report commissioned on the first season had indicated that Avon was the most popular character followed by Blake, Jenna, Vila, Cally and Gan. It is likely that this report influenced the decision to kill Gan.

Writing

Terry Nation was commissioned to write five episodes for Season B: episode one, which would resolve the cliffhanger from Season A; episode 6, in which Blake would assault Storm Mountain; episode 10 would be a stand-alone adventure and episodes 12 and 13, a two-part finale in which Blake would reach Star One and would uncover a plot by aliens to invade the galaxy, forcing Blake to ally himself with the Federation to defeat the aliens. In interviews given by Terry Nation, he suggested that the Daleks, a race of alien villains he had created for "Doctor Who", would appear in "Blake's 7", leading to rumours that Nation intended them to be encountered by Blake at Star One.

To assist the new writers, Boucher wrote a “"General Notes and Baffle Gab Glossary"” that explained the format of the series, the characters' backgrounds and outlined the various technical terms – such as “spacials” or “teleport” - that the series employed. Boucher wanted to write for the series and received clearance to write up to three scripts in May 1978. Robert Holmes, Allan Prior, Roger Parkes and Pip and Jane Baker were commissioned to write the remainder of the episodes. It was intended that Boucher would write episode two, which would re-introduce Travis and Servalan; Holmes would write episode three, which would be an Orac story and Boucher would then write the fourth episode, which would introduce the Storm Mountain storyline. Pip and Jane Baker's script, "Death Squad", would follow, then Nation's Storm Mountain story. Boucher's next script would cover Travis' court-martial and Prior would write a script centred around a Ugandan-type of society. This plan was later revised; Boucher would write episodes two and three, taking the story centred around Orac, while Holmes would write the fourth episode, which would introduce Storm Mountain.

The eventual order in which the episodes was rather different. "Death Squad" by Pip and Jane Baker – in which Blake, Gan and Jenna would infiltrate a Federation facility experimenting with creating super-soldiers by administering drugs to them, leading to Blake and Gan becoming exposed to the drugs and Jenna being held by Servalan as an inducement for the scientist behind the plan – was abandoned, ostensibly on cost grounds, although Boucher had concerns about the quality of the script. The episodes were re-ordered; "Horizon", Allan Prior's “Ugandan” script replaced "Death Squad", while Holmes' script, "Killer", became the seventh episode. "Pressure Point", Terry Nation's Storm Mountain script, became the fifth and "Trial", the Travis court-martial story, moved to sixth.

The scripting problems intensified in September 1978 when Nation informed Boucher that he was having problems writing the two-part finale. Nation had made several aborted attempts to write episode twelve and had not begun writing episode thirteen. Nation's scripts were cancelled and the final two episodes were re-commissioned. Allan Prior was commissioned to write episode twelve, which became "The Keeper", while Boucher wrote "Star One" using Nation's original outline.

Cast changes

Season B saw some changes to the cast. David Jackson (Gan) was not upset that his character would die because Jackson was given little to do in many episodes. [cite journal
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
year = 1992
month = July
title = David Jackson. The Gentle Giant of Blake's 7
journal = TV Zone
issue = 32
pages = p28–30
id = ISSN 0957-3844
] According to Chris Boucher, Jackson once passed him a note with the word “four” written on it. When Boucher queried the note, Jackson explained that “four” was the number of lines he had in that week's script. It was originally intended that Gan would be killed by a double agent who would then join the "Liberator" crew as a Federation spy.cite journal
last = Pixley
first = Andrew
year = 1994
title = Season B
journal = Blake's 7 Winter Special
pages = p13–21
id = ISSN 1353-761X
]

Stephen Greif had torn an Achilles tendon playing squash during the filming of the first series, and had left to pursue other roles. Brian Croucher was cast to replace Greif in the role of Space Commander Travis. [ cite book
last = Nazarro
first = Joe
title = Blake's 7: The Inside Story
publisher = Virigin Publishing Ltd.
year = 1997
pages = 82,89
isbn = 0 7535 0044 2
] It was decided that Orac would become a regular character. Derek Farr, who had voiced Orac in its debut, was unavailable and Peter Tuddenham, who was already voicing Zen, was engaged to play Orac.

At the end of Season B, the actors' 26-episode contracts would expire. Neither Gareth Thomas nor Sally Knyvette wished to return for a third season. Thomas was disappointed not to be allowed to direct a few episodes, had been offered a role with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Knyvette, encouraged by Bruce Purchase, a guest actor on "The Keeper", wished to study full-time for a Master of Arts degree, studying Chaucer.

Because of the loss of the titular character, Nation considered introducing a “substitute Blake” character in "Countdown", the third story he was scheduled to write that year. It can be speculated that the character of Del Grant, who appears in "Countdown", was intended to be this “Blake substitute”. The “Blake substitute” also appears in one of the early drafts of Allan Prior's episode "Hostage". While Nation's original outline for the two-part season finale involved Jenna and Vila being killed, Boucher was aware that Gan's death had upset some viewers, and chose to have Blake and Jenna disappear from the narrative between the end of "Star One" and the opening story of Season C. Without Blake to act as Travis' motivation for his vendetta against the "Liberator" crew, Travis was killed at the end of "Star One".

Directors

The only director to return for Season B was Vere Lorrimer. The other directors appointed were George Spenton-Foster, Jonathan Wright Miller and Derek Martinus. Responding to the difficulties with the earlier strike filming, Season B was recorded using block filming. The block filming method involved a month of location filming on the first six episodes before the videotape recording of those episodes in the studio. Each director would be assigned two episodes. The process was then repeated for the next six episodes and the final episode would be recorded on its own.

Filming

Filming on Season B began on Monday 31 July 1978 at Oldbury-on-Severn nuclear power station near Bristol and finished on Thursday 8 March 1979. The recording of the episode "Hostage" was complicated when guest actor Duncan Lamont died during recording. He was initially replaced by Ronald Lewis, who proved to be unsuitable for health reasons and was quickly replaced by John Abineri. Vere Lorrimer was unavailable for the recording of "Star One", so David Maloney replaced him. Maloney was uncredited because of rules forbidding producers to direct their own programmes.

Broadcast

"Deliverance", the opening episode of Season B, was broadcast on Tuesday, 9 January 1979 at 7:20pm with subsequent episodes following at about the same time each Tuesday. "Pressure Point" was broadcast at 8:10pm because of coverage of the Variety Club Awards.

BBC Wales opted out of transmission and broadcast regional programming instead, showing "Blake's 7" on Sunday afternoons. Competition on ITV came from the popular import "Charlie's Angels". Ratings averaged 7 million; although two million lower than the previous season, a third season was assured.

eason C (1979-1980)

Planning

Planning for the third season began in November 1978. Gareth Thomas' departure meant the series would continue without Blake.cite journal
last = Pixley
first = Andrew
year = 1995
title = Season C
journal = Blake's 7 Summer Special
pages = p28–39
id = ISSN 1353-761X
] According to David Maloney, “a decision had to be made to go with a third series or stop it completely. Terry Nation, naturally, was for going on with it, and I think Ronnie Marsh was too, because of the viewing figures. [...] I think it was felt that they couldn't take it off, so why not be cheeky and do "Blake's 7" without Blake?”.cite book
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
coauthors = Wells, Sheelagh
title = Blake's 7: The Inside Story
year = 1997
publisher = Virgin
location = London
id = ISBN 978-0-7535-0044-6
pages = p88-96
chapter = The Cast. Part 2.
]

toryline ideas

Nation was requested to write several scripts, and to influence the format of the new season. By December, the idea of a new lead character, “The Captain”, was mooted. The Captain, envisaged as being aged between mid-thirties and mid-fifties and a veteran of the Intergalactic War. (started at the end of "Star One"). He would become the "Liberator" crew's new leader. The Captain would ultimately betray the crew to the Federation for personal profit.

A story arc was planned, much like that in Season B. During the first half of the season, the "Liberator" crew would search for the missing Blake. A mid-season climax would see them discover his grave. Nation was commissioned to write the first two episodes, which would establish the new format and characters. The final story of the season, would, it was intended, conclude "Blake's 7".

Maloney was concerned that casting an older, well-known actor for the final season of an established series would be difficult. He persuaded Nation to change The Captain – now named Del Tarrant into a younger character. "Tarrant" is a corruption of Nation's name that appears frequently in his work. Nation imagined this new, younger Tarrant as “someone like the Spitfire pilots of World War II, who were young and didn't know the meaning of fear”.cite journal
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
year = 1992
month = September
title = Terry Nation's Blake's 7. Part Two
journal = TV Zone
issue = 34
pages = p28–30
id = ISSN 0957-3844
]

Instead of Tarrant, Avon would become the lead character of the series. The intention was to soften the character of Avon and make him more moralistic. This was resisted vehemently by Paul Darrow who believed that it was Avon's anti-heroic qualities that appealed to viewers. Darrow was also sceptical of the idea of Avon searching for Blake, considering Avon's oft-stated aim of taking control of the "Liberator".

The difficulties experienced with the script-writing of Season B meant that the story arc was largely abandoned, although there are references to Avon's search for Federation torturer Shrinker in episodes prior to their encounter in "Rumours of Death". Tarrant became a more heroic character than originally intended.

New characters

Cast as Tarrant was Steven Pacey, who was told about the part by Chris Boucher at the BBC bar. Recalling his audition, Pacey remembered “...reading the character breakdown, and it said, 'Del Tarrant is thirty-five years old-' and I thought, 'This is a bit silly, I'm only twenty-one'. I went downstairs thinking it was a waste of time, and saw other actors who all seemed nearer the right age. When I went to see David Maloney [...] his advice to me was to keep my performance as gritty as possible”. Maloney was concerned about Pacey's curly hair, which, he thought, made Pacey look similar to Gareth Thomas. Judith Smith, Maloney's production secretary, recalled that “...there was all the rigmarole about trying to straighten his hair and can we cut it really short, and what can we do?”.

To replace Jenna, Nation created Dayna Mellanby, a skilled combat expert. She was partly based on the character of Miranda from Shakespeare's play "The Tempest". Nation “...thought it would be interesting to have a girl who was aggressive, to have somebody who would kill first and ask questions later, and it was nice to give what are generally masculine attitudes to a woman”. Chosen to play Dayna was Josette Simon who had just graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and did not have an Equity card. cite journal
last = Pixley
first = Andrew
year = 1995
title = Season D
journal = Blake's 7 Summer Special
pages = p40–51
id = ISSN 1353-761X
] Another actresse who auditioned for the part was Marina Sirtis who later starred in "Star Trek The Next Generation". [cite web
url = http://www.horizon.org.uk/readarticle.php?article_id=39
title = Blake's 7 - The Second Two Seasons
accessdate = 2007-07-22
last = Emery
first = Rob
work = Horizon (the official Blake's 7 appreciation society)
]

Writers

Returning writers for the new season were Allan Prior and Robert Holmes. New to the series were Ben Steed, a short story writer who had also written for "Coronation Street", and "Crown Court"; Tanith Lee, a successful fantasy novelist; James Follet, who had written science fiction serials for radio, notably "Earthsearch"; Trevor Hoyle, who had published two novelisations of Terry Nation's Season A scripts and John Fletcher. [cite book
last = Attwood
first = Tony
title = Blake's 7. The Programme Guide
year = 1982
publisher = W.H. Allen & Co.
location = London
id = ISBN 978-0-426-19449-1
pages = p24-28
chapter = The Writers
] Chris Boucher intended to write two scripts. One of these would be "City on the Edge of the World". This script was prompted by a request by Michael Keating, who later recalled, “...my daughter, who was about five or six at the time, thought Vila was stupid; Chris Boucher said, 'I'll write you a story where you get the girl'”. [cite journal
last = Wood
first = Graeme
year = 1992
month = February
title = Michael Keating. Actor on the Edge of the World
journal = TV Zone
issue = 27
pages = p16–19
id = ISSN 0957-3844
]

Meanwhile, difficulties arose with both Robert Holmes' story, titled "Sweetly Dreaming... Slowly Dying", and John Fletcher's story, about Hell's Angels in space. Both scripts were abandoned. Ben Steed was commissioned to write the replacement for "Sweetly Dreaming... Slowly Dying", which became "Moloch", while Boucher replaced the Fletcher script with "Death-Watch".cite journal
last = Pixley
first = Andrew
year = 1994
title = Season C
journal = Blake's 7 Winter Special
pages = p21–25 & p34–37
id = ISSN 1353-761X
]

New directors

Vere Lorrimer, the only returning director, directed four episodes in Season C. The remaining episodes were directed by Desmond McCarthy, Gerald Blake, Andrew Morgan, Fiona Cumming and Mary Ridge. David Maloney directed "Powerplay", the first episode to be recorded, to help the new cast members to settle into their roles.cite book
last = Stevens
first = Alan
coauthors = Moore, Fiona
title = Liberation. The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Blake's 7
year = 2003
publisher = Telos
location = England
id = ISBN 978-1-903889-54-1
pages = p103-148
chapter = Season C
]

Filming

Recording of Season C began on Monday 30 July 1979 and continued until March 1980. The series was filming on location and at Ealing Studios when industrial action began at BBC Television Centre in late 1979, which disrupted many BBC programmes. When filming was completed and the cast and crew were ready for recording at Television Centre, the strike had ended and "Blake's 7" was unaffected.

A new title sequence, featuring the "Liberator" and three Federation pursuit ships, was created by Doug Burd. The original sequence had featured departed star Gareth Thomas prominently.

Because "Terminal" was intended to conclude "Blake's 7", Maloney persuaded Gareth Thomas to appear as Blake. Because Thomas was not available for the studio recording days, his scenes were filmed in a village hall near Perton Hill, Oxfordshire where the scenes set on the planet Terminal were being filmed. While on location, an accident occurred during a rehearsal for a stunt; Deep Roy, an extra needed treatment for a broken collarbone.cite book
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
coauthors = Wells, Sheelagh
title = Blake's 7: The Inside Story
year = 1997
publisher = Virgin
location = London
id = ISBN 978-0-7535-0044-6
pages = p30-47
chapter = Location Tales.
]

It was decided that the series would conclude with the destruction of "Liberator", the scenes for which were filmed on the season's final day of recording, Friday 7 March 1980. Special effects designer Jim Francis, who had the task of destroying the sets on camera, recalled, “It was a big set to destroy. [...] All the pyrotechnics and the big beams dropping from the ceiling could only be done once, which meant we couldn't rehearse it. Everybody did what they were told, and it looked great”.cite book
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
coauthors = Wells, Sheelagh
title = Blake's 7: The Inside Story
year = 1997
publisher = Virgin
location = London
id = ISBN 978-0-7535-0044-6
pages = p76-87
chapter = Studio Stories.
]

Broadcast

Season C began transmission on Monday, 7 January 1980 at 7:15pm. Competition came from "Coronation Street", game show "Give Us A Clue" and sitcom "Keep it in the Family". Coverage of the Winter Olympics meant that "Children of Auron" was shown on a Tuesday before the series resumed at its scheduled time the following week. The season averaged 9.5 million viewers.

When the final episode, "Terminal", was shown on 31 March 1980, the "Blake's 7" production office had been closed and the cast and crew had dispersed. They were surprised that, during the closing credits of "Terminal", the continuity announcer declared that there would be a new season of "Blake's 7" the following year. Bill Cotton, the Head of BBC Television, was impressed by "Terminal" as he watched its broadcast at home. He telephoned BBC Presentation and instructed that an announcement be made during the end credits that the series would return.

eason D (1980-1981)

Producing the new season presented significant challenges. Several of the cast and crew were engaged in other projects and the "Liberator" sets had been destroyed during the recording of "Terminal".

Production staff

While Chris Boucher was available and willing to return as script editor, David Maloney was working on "The Day of the Triffids" and "When the Boat Comes In" and was not available. Maloney suggested that Vere Lorrimer, who had directed episodes in all previous seasons, had the necessary experience to produce "Blake's 7". [cite book
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
coauthors = Wells, Sheelagh
title = Blake's 7: The Inside Story
year = 1997
publisher = Virgin
location = London
id = ISBN 978-0-7535-0044-6
page = p97
chapter = Season 4.
] Lorrimer travelled to Los Angeles to meet Terry Nation - who was now working as a Hollywood producer - to discuss the series' new format. Nation approved the changes but played little part in the development of this season.

Director Mary Ridge returned to ensure continuity with the Season C's closing episode "Terminal". The other directors hired for the season were: David Sullivan Proudfoot, Vivienne Cozens, Brian Lighthill and Viktors Ritelis [cite book
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
coauthors = Wells, Sheelagh
title = Blake's 7: The Inside Story
year = 1997
publisher = Virgin
location = London
id = ISBN 978-0-7535-0044-6
page = p127
chapter = Episode Guide.
] When David Sullivan Proudfoot was taken ill during the shooting of "Assassin", Vere Lorrimer replaced him for some scenes.

tory ideas

The "Liberator"'s destruction let to major changes to the series' format. Chris Boucher has suggested that the fourth season can be viewed as an entirely new series.cite book
last = Stevens
first = Alan
coauthors = Moore, Fiona
title = Liberation. The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Blake's 7
year = 2003
publisher = Telos
location = England
id = ISBN 978-1-903889-54-1
pages = p149-193
chapter = Season D
] In this season, the rebels would have a planetary base on the planet Xenon (spelled Zenon in early drafts). The story arc proposed for this season involved Avon recruiting scientists in order to use their expertise to resist the Federation. Because this would impose a running order on the episodes, and because the rebels could become too powerful, the scripts often ended with the scientist dead and the rebels gaining nothing.

Avon, still the leader of the group, was shown as more determined to destroy the Federation than before (in the first season he had dismissed Blake's aims as "insane", his own aim being to obtain wealth), but he also became increasingly more self-centred and paranoid: in "Stardrive" he showed few qualms about sacrificing a woman scientist in order to escape Federation pursuit ships; and in "Orbit" he threatened to do the same to Vila. In the final episode, "Blake", he kills his former comrade whom he accuses of treason, unaware that Blake was playing a double game in order to recruit freedom fighters genuinely opposed to the Federation.fact|date=October 2008

From an early stage, Lorrimer and Boucher doubted that "Blake's 7" would be renewed for a fifth season. Boucher was disappointed; he thought that an additional season would have enabled the cast and crew to settle in to the new format better. The first proposal for the series' conclusion, titled "Attack", involved Blake returning to lead an assault on the Federation on Earth, finally defeating them. This idea was rejected by Lorrimer, who thought it “would be like five men trying to defeat the German army”. Influenced by the films "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Wild Bunch", Boucher decided that concluding the series in a shoot-out would provide a more memorable ending. cite book
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
coauthors = Wells, Sheelagh
title = Blake's 7: The Inside Story
year = 1997
publisher = Virgin
location = London
id = ISBN 978-0-7535-0044-6
pages = p108-119
chapter = “Blake”.
] Apart from Blake, the characters' fates would be deliberately ambiguous in case a fifth season was commissioned. Blake was to be given the dying words, “Oh Avon, I didn't take any of them on trust... except you... You are my... only friend”, but these were removed because Blake's ability to deliver them after the violence of his shooting stretched credibility.

Character changes

At the early planning stage, it was unclear which of the regular cast would be returning. Jan Chappell had become dissatisfied with the role of Cally. Chappell was asked to reprise the role, first for six episodes, then three, then one. She refused, but recorded a voiceover for Cally's death in "Rescue".

To replace Cally, Boucher created Soolin (a name partly derived from Boucher's wife's name, Lynn), a twenty-five year old gunslinger. Soolin had killed the man who raised and trained her in revenge for his murder of her parents. Glynis Barber, who had played a Mutoid in the first season episode "Project Avalon", was cast as Soolin. Barber would later attain fame in "Dempsey and Makepeace".

Jacqueline Pearce had fallen ill and was hospitalised shortly after Season C finished recording. Believing that Pearce may not be available, a new female villain, Commissioner Sleer, was devised. When Pearce indicated her availability for the series, Sleer became Sevalan's pseudonym, Servalan being considered dead by the Federation's new regime.

Gareth Thomas agreed to return for a final appearance as Blake on the condition that Blake must be irrevocably killed. [cite book
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
coauthors = Wells, Sheelagh
title = Blake's 7: The Inside Story
year = 1997
publisher = Virgin
location = London
id = ISBN 978-0-7535-0044-6
pages = p48-57
chapter = Special Effects.
]

ets and models

Vere Lorrimer decided that the new season should be darker and less glamorous than its predecessors. The crew would acquire a new spacecraft that should be somewhat cramped and more functional, akin to the "Nostromo" from the film "Alien", than the "Liberator".cite book
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
coauthors = Wells, Sheelagh
title = Blake's 7: The Inside Story
year = 1997
publisher = Virgin
location = London
id = ISBN 978-0-7535-0044-6
page = p97
chapter = Season 4.
] Chris Boucher, writing the opening episode, "Rescue", created the "Scorpio", describing it as “a fairly small and undistinguished looking cargo ship, moderately scruffy and beaten up”.

The "Scorpio" model was designed by Jim Francis and constructed by Ron Thornton, later of Foundation Imaging.cite book
last = Nazzaro
first = Joe
coauthors = Wells, Sheelagh
title = Blake's 7: The Inside Story
year = 1997
publisher = Virgin
location = London
id = ISBN 978-0-7535-0044-6
pages = p48-57
chapter = Special Effects.
] The "Scorpio"'s interior was designed by Roger Cann together with director Mary Ridge, who worked to make the new set easier to shoot on and less fragile than the "Liberator" sets had been.

Writing

The first six scripts were commissioned from writers familiar with the series – Ben Steed, Robert Holmes, James Follet, Allan Prior and Roger Parkes.

Scripts for the second six episodes were commissioned from established writers Robert Holmes and Tanith Lee and from new writers Rod Beacham, Bill Lyons, Colin Davis and Simon Masters. Scripts that were commissioned but abandoned were "Ragnarok" by former "Doctor Who" producer Graham Williams and "Man of Iron" by Paul Darrow, about an attempt by Servalan to regain power using androids created by the scientist Algor on the planet Epsilon.

Because of the uncertainty over Chappell's availability, most of the early scripts were written for Cally, whose lines were given to Soolin. A scene of Vila crying while hiding from Avon, who is intent on killing him, was removed from the final edit of the episode "Orbit" as it was felt to be too strong for a family programme.

Filming

A new title sequence, featuring a new logo for the series, was created by Doug Burd. Vere Lorrimer wrote lyrics, titled "Distant Star", for the series theme music with the notion that Steven Pacey would sing them over a new arrangement of the theme by Norrie Paramour.cite journal
last = Pixley
first = Andrew
year = 1994
title = Season D / The Lost Lyrics
journal = Blake's 7 Winter Special
pages = p38–50
id = ISSN 1353-761X
] Pacey did not agree with this idea, and Dudley Simpson created a more lively arrangement of the theme for the closing titles.

Filming for Season D commenced on Monday 23 February 1981 on location at Perton Hill for the scenes in "Rescue" set on the planet Terminal. Location filming for the final episode, "Blake", took place between 13th and 15th October 1981. Following rehearsals, recording began in the studio at BBC Television Centre on 5 November 1981. The final shoot-out was recorded on 6 November. Recording on "Blake's 7" concluded on Saturday 7 November 1981.

The final episode

Unknown to director Mary Ridge, Gareth Thomas was determined to eliminate any ambiguity over Blake's death. He had arranged with the visual effects team to ensure that as much blood as possible was seen when Blake was killed. Ridge was somewhat shocked when Thomas set off the charge to create the gunshot effect during the recording of his final scene.

Broadcast

The final season of "Blake's 7" began transmission on Monday 29 September 1981, competing with "Coronation Street", game show "Bullseye" and sitcom "Never the Twain" (replaced mid-season by "Astronauts"). The series attracted an average of 8.5 million viewers.

The apparent massacre at the end of the final episode provoked a strong reaction from many viewers, who were upset to see their heroes meet a grisly fate. Chris Boucher believed that the date on which the final episode was broadcast – 21 December 1981 – was unfortunate, and has since described himself as “the man who killed Father Christmas”.

ee also

*Blake's 7
*List of Blake's 7 episodes
*List of Blake's 7 planets
*

References


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