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Blake's 7: Series One Review

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Seminal sci-fi classic on DVD at last

★★★★

Getting past the plastic models and penny-pinching special effects is the biggest hurdle to appreciating the magic that was Blake’s 7.

This seminal sci-fi classic first aired in 1978, and this five-disc season one retrospective is a timely reminder of the days when prime-time TV drama was just as likely to be about space bandits as genteel detectives solving murders in the shires.

Devised as The Dirty Dozen in space, the four-season series traced the adventures of Roj Blake and his band of renegades as they battled the tyrannical superstate known as The Federation.

The show — devised by Terry Nation, who created the Daleks and Survivors (also out on DVD) — was aimed at adults, so there are serious messages behind the space opera, some slick characterisation and even the occasional frisson of sexual tension.

Earlier episodes of this 13-part season concentrate on Blake’s arrest and subsequent escape from a terrible fate on a prison planet. As Blake takes possession of The Liberator (surely the coolest spacecraft ever known to a ’70s schoolboy), the plot broadens as his crew trawl the cosmos, creating mischief and finding fresh ways to outsmart Federation Supreme Commander Servalan and her sidekick, Travis.

Like much TV drama of its day, stories unfold at a leisurely pace and audiences are seduced by character development and slowly arcing plotlines. So nagging doubts about the true motivation of Avon — always Blake’s least reliable disciple — remain largely unanswered, and one can never be sure if the sultry but psychotic Servalan (complete with fantastic ’70s power-smocks) will one day let her heart rule her head.

Yes, the odd model spacecraft will raise a smile, the planets all look like Sussex stone-quarries and the sets shudder in ways that have nothing to do with any warp-drive, but there’s plenty to entertain here.

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