Let’s Have a Blake’s 7 Reboot. Why Not?

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For my July author newsletter, I’ve given up trying to be cool and am embracing the voices in my head, which means—what else?—I’m going to write about Blake’s 7 and why it’s finally time for a reboot! [Newsletter essay posted here.] For the uninitiated, Blake’s 7 is a 1970s BBC space opera about a band of freedom fighters striving to overthrow the totalitarian Terran Federation. Long beloved for its mature themes and fantastic characters, Blake’s 7 has been teased for a sequel or reboot since the 1990s, an idea most fans detested. “They’ll ruin it,” they chorused (probably rightly). For years now, the reboot has been moribund. But I contend the time has come. Our current moment opens up fascinating possibilities for modernizing the show’s wrenching social commentary.

(Extremely light series spoilers follow.)

To me as an American viewer, one of the show’s most interesting worldbuilding aspects is class privilege, the depiction of which, I suspect, is partly intentional and partly just the BBC in the 1970s. The Federation is caste-constructed society, with grades ranging from Alpha to (at least) Delta. It is notable that Blake’s revolution against the Federation is led Federation Alphas. Of series regulars, five characters (Blake, Avon, Jenna, Tarrant, and Dayna) are strongly suggested to be Alphas, leaving only four to represent all other people (Cally, Vila, Gan, and Soolin). (I am not counting the series’ three computers.) Of these four, Cally is a foreigner (alien); Vila is explicitly a Delta; Gan’s grade is not stated but he seems accustomed to taking orders, which leads me to conjecture he’s not an Alpha. Soolin originates as a farmer from the provinces and may or may not have a Federation grade.

By and large, the Alphas are the leaders. Blake, Avon, and Jenna dominate the pecking order in the first two seasons. With Blake and Jenna gone missing, Avon, Tarrant, and Dayna dominate it in the third season, with Soolin becoming a strong presence in the fourth. Cally is a strong, self-motivated character but shows little penchant for ordering others. With a couple of notable exceptions, Gan is a follower, and Vila is, to some degree, dismissed or scorned by everyone, though Blake is pretty decent to him.

So the elites lead a revolt to overthrow the elites. It’s reminiscent of the centrality of the bourgeois to the French Revolution or the landed (often slaveholding) gentry to the American Revolution. This centrality of privilege is fascinating—and probably due to the dynamics of British class—feels natural and realistic in all its muddled complexity. But perhaps for the same reason, the series does not really unpack it. It’s there, but it’s rarely explicitly noted. Read more… )

But let me know what you think, B7 fans. Do you agree?

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Arwen Spicer
Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer is a science fiction writer and writing teacher raised in the San Fransciso Bay Area, and Northern California will hold her heart forever, even if it turns into a desert. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on ecology in utopian science fiction and is an educator on the concept of workable utopias. Her novel The Hour before Morning was hailed as “A carefully paced, rewarding sci-fi debut” by Kirkus Indie.

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Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer is a science fiction writer and writing teacher raised in the San Fransciso Bay Area, and Northern California will hold her heart forever, even if it turns into a desert. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on ecology in utopian science fiction and is an educator on the concept of workable utopias. Her novel The Hour before Morning was hailed as “A carefully paced, rewarding sci-fi debut” by Kirkus Indie.

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