Happy 40th anniversary, Blake’s 7! This month marks 40 years since Terry Nation‘s SF adventure series launched on BBC1, and there’s been no shortage of celebrations – not least of them artist Pete Wallbank‘s marvellous cover art for an upcoming issue of Infinity magazine.
I was delighted to have the opportunity to work with Pete back in my happy days as editor of Doctor Who Magazine, and it’s been a delight to see him back in action. Not only with this gorgeous cover featuring Blake (Gareth Thomas) and Avon (Paul Darrow) and the Liberator designed by Roger Murray-Leach, but his art on the latest issue of Infinity, on sale in shops now, featuring Jodie Whitaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, and his previous Planet of the Apes cover, too.
The original Blake’s 7 series – the brainchild of Terry Nation (creator of the Daleks and Survivors) – followed Roj Blake (played by Gareth Thomas) as he led the fight against the corrupt Federation that controlled the majority of the galaxy. He quickly formed a ragtag team of rebels, refugees and renegades who became the crew of salvaged ship, Liberator.
Although some members of the team – including Blake himself – would leave, the fight against the Federation, personified by Servalan (played to much acclaim by Jacqueline Pearce), continued for four series of adventures.
“Blake’s 7 was a much-loved TV show back in the day and is still very much loved today by many,” says Pete (who acknowledges that for all its iconic look, the Liberator‘s design is of a time when many British TV shows spaceships reminded many of a washing up bottle…)
“I was more than happy to complete this job to celebrate 40 years of this classic show,” he adds, although he confesses that back when it launched in 1978, he didn’t watch the show!
“I can’t remember whether it was the fact that we only had one TV in the house or my parents didn’t like the show as to the reason I never saw it as a kid,” he says. “Probably the latter, knowing my parent’s disinclination towards anything SF.
“Blake’s 7 was driven by a large cast of characters who all have more than a reason to feature on a piece of illustration to celebrate an important birthday,” he says of his glorious art. “Sadly, given cover text there was only room to feature both Blake and Avon and their trusted ship.
“I’m not new to the world of Blake’s 7 art, having worked on a number of projects in my time, so this new work is something of a welcome return for me.”
Forty years of Blake’s 7 has also being marked by plenty of feature coverage, including a Radio Times retrospective of Terry Nation’s “Dirty Dozen in space”, and the Big Finish release of The Way Ahead audio adventure this month.
Written by Mark Wright, it’s the perfect celebration of the television show, with the action taking place in three different time periods all linked by the popular character of Avalon who first appeared in the TV episode Project Avalon.
“It’s been a particular honour and pleasure to be responsible for the story that celebrates 40 years of Blake’s 7,” producer and director John Ainsworth tells us. “We’ve done our best to include all of the regular characters from the TV series, and I think Mark Wright has written a brilliant script which manages to encapsulate the essence of Blake’s 7, as well as being very dramatic and exciting.”
Avalon is played by Olivia Poulet who Big Finish listeners will recognise as Emma Peel from The Avengers: Steed and Mrs Peel audio releases.
Blake’s 7 fans can also continue listening to the new series of audio adventures for the Liberator crew in Crossfire, set during the third TV series. Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Jan Chappell, Steven Pacey and Jacqueline Pearce returned to their B7 roles, with Yasmin Bannerman as Dayna and Alistair Lock as Zen/Orac.
• Infinity Magazine is online at infinitymagazine.co.uk
• Order The Way Ahead, a double-length drama from Big Finish here. All CD purchases unlock a download exclusive from the Big Finish App and the Big Finish website
• The Horizon Blake’s 7 Fan Club is online and very active at www.blakes7online.com
• Cygnus Alpha, an Blake’s 7 event, returns Friday 28th to Sunday 30th September 2018 Holiday Inn, Brentford Lock, London | Web: www.cygnusalpha.org
In a break from tradition, Blake’s 7 producer David Maloney commissioned the BBC’s top designer Roger Murray-Leach to design both the Liberator’s exterior and interior because Maloney viewed both assignments as one concept. It was a move that infuriated the special effects department who would normally be responsible for designing spacecraft exteriors.
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