I have to admit to a little bias on this one. We’re both fans of Blakes 7 from (the) way back; even our domain name of “peppertop” takes its cue from our pet name for the Federation’s mutoids who quite frankly all looked like they were wearing large black peppers on their heads (well done BBC costume department!).
Blakes 7 was, in many respects, the British answer to Star Trek (the original series). In many other respects it was a blatant rip-off, as the direct translation of transporter/teleporter and photon torpedo/plasma bolt indicates, not to mention the cunning ruse of simply spinning the Star Fleet logo through 90 degrees and ironing out the curves. But where Star Trek was filled with American aspirations of a better universe, B7 was cursed with the British mindset of a corrupt, authoritarian regime, suppressing its citizens 1984-style.
Whether it’s sci-fi, comedy or drama, we Brits have never really been very good at aspirational. We do have a good line in the heroic underdog, though. It’s one reason why so many British programmes fail to make the transition to an American audience and falter at the pilot stage, or after a few episodes. It’s also why a lot of Americans appreciate the existence of BBC America (there’s less need for an equivalent channel going the other way, as we’re used to having a lot of American content in our schedules anyway).
So while Star Trek struggled with exploring the universe as one big, (usually) happy family on board the Enterprise, Blakes 7 threw an ensemble of criminals together who didn’t really like each other much, had few overlapping motives, and were bound largely by sharing a common enemy. Principal cast members were tossed aside in narratively pointless deaths; alliances were made and broken; they were forced to side with their arch enemies against an even bigger threat from outside our galaxy; and all the while they had to contend with computers which had obviously dropped through a wormhole from the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.
B7 was, at times, dark and depressing – particularly with its now famously bleak ending – but as fans of science fiction it gave us a whole lot more to chew on than the relatively lightweight episodic fare of Star Trek. For that we loved it, wobbly sets and all, and only wish it had seen the revival that Terry Nation wished for it. While Star Trek was largely salvaged from the dustbin of televisual chintz by ST:TNG, leading to several more series and films, Blakes 7 never got that treatment and the world of science fiction is a poorer place for it.