Wednesday, January 02, 2008


The Way Back

Thirty years ago this evening, with Star Wars opening in cinemas across the country, the BBC broadcast the first episode of Blake’s 7. Aged seven, I was captivated by both, but despite each starring a band of rebels fighting an oppressive galactic power, they’re not the same sort of thing. The leader of the rebels in one was a princess; in the other, a convicted paedophile. True, all charges of child molestation against Blake were faked to discredit him, but what drama today (let alone one aiming for a substantial child audience) would risk its hero being labelled a paedo-terrorist?

Most series start with a ‘pilot’ episode that sets up everything we might expect from the series. While The Way Back introduces the main character, very little else carried over; it’s more like a prologue than a conventional pilot episode. Set on Earth, with ordinary people slugging along under a drably authoritarian administration, the hero is initially very sniffy about getting heroic – and, in the rest of the series, this is the man who’ll turn out to be the only nice one. With only two of the other regular characters appearing (and even then only as cameos near the end), the focus is on how Blake becomes himself, and on the faceless banality of the system that forces him to react.

The most memorable characters of the series – anti-hero Avon, iconic villain Servalan – are yet to appear and give bastardism personality. Instead, we have a story that could almost be a Play For Today about a futuristic Soviet state, something which dates it almost as much as the constant presence of security cameras as a signifier of oppression; one strain of totalitarianism has since lost, the other won. The central character is an apparently ordinary person who finds his life is a lie, his memory is a lie and the whole system is a lie, which then lies about him in the most horrible way to destroy his credibility as a political threat. Very few later episodes deal with such edgy material; very few are anything like as brutal; and very few are anything like as impressive. Despite it being almost completely different from the rest, it remains hugely powerful, both as a piece of drama in its own right and as a statement of what our heroes are there to fight against through the rest of the series.

Labels: , , , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?