The immediate problem any remake of Terry Nation’s dystopian space opera faces is that of the Battlestar Galactica in the room, disguised as an elephant (but does it know it’s an elephant?).
Blake’s 7 managed to broadcast its lead character being framed as a paedophile, the execution of a large gang of political dissenters by the police, and the swift despatch of an investigating legal official (and his partner) by state-endorsed assassination. All this in its first episode, broadcast on a Monday evening on BBC One at 7.45pm. Bang Goes the Theory is on at that time now.
Then we have, arguably, its best characters: lip-purser and anti-hero legend Kerr Avon. Bring him back now and you’ve got to convince at least some of a new audience that he isn’t a Gaius Balthar rip-off. See also: Servalan and Cylon #6. Then there are elements of Homeland and Game of Thrones that occupy similar territory: the shadow of TV influenced by Blake’s 7 looms over its own reboot. On one hand, Battlestar shows what is possible for a remake, and on the other, there’s enough overlap between the shows to put pressure on another version to stand apart from its predecessor.
Yes, this is unfair. Blake’s 7 was very different to the original Battlestar Galactica, and no-one is expecting or wanting things to come full circle with a Mormonism-meets-Star Wars spanglefest version of Nation’s show. But let’s err on the side of optimism and say viewers can embrace something similar so long as it’s good. Certainly the old adage repeated by Terrance Dicks comes to mind:
“(For television) you need a good, strong original idea. But it doesn’t have to be your good, strong original idea.”
With that in mind, here are ten things we want to see, hear and smell from the new Blake’s 7:
1. Keep the theme music
Have you ever made love to the theme music from Blake’s 7? Of course you have, you’re only human. While that thought’s in your head, consider how Doctor Who kept Ron Grainer’s original score going throughout the years. Even if isn’t quite as iconic, there’s nothing wrong with Dudley Simpson’s theme music for Blake’s 7, so leave it be.
2. Make Servalan the new Tywin Lannister
Because if you’re going to give your younger viewers a confusing sexual awakening, Servalan is still the litmus test. A human sociopath who commits mass atrocities is a different dynamic from a cyborg doing likewise, especially when in a position of political and military power too.
‘Who would we cast as Servalan?’ you may ask. Well, we would cast someone like but not necessarily Rosamund Pike. Maybe Tilda Swinton, if we thought she’d say yes. Alternative suggestions are welcome. We’ll forward the best ones onto Martin Campbell, as soon as we find out how to.
3. The appearance of space plagues, rare minerals, jungles and radiation
If Terry Nation’s name is anywhere in the credits then we expect, nay, demand his favourite tropes to make an appearance. If necessary, set an episode in a radioactive jungle containing carnivorous plants that house a rare mineral that will cure a space plague. Then set another episode in a slightly different radioactive jungle containing carnivorous plants that house a rare mineral that will cure a space plague, only this time a haunted house is involved.
4. Spaceships that yield construction model ranges
Ask any Red Dwarf fan, and they’ll tell you that model work will always hold a special place in their heart over CG spaceships. It’s that much more devastating when they’re destroyed, because you know that something you found impressive actually got blown up.
We want spaceships that instil you with a desire to build your own replica at any cost necessary. We want spaceships with names that also serve as mission statements. We want spaceships that will break your heart when they explode.
5. Clive Owen as Blake
Sometimes he has the same haircut as Gareth Thomas. I have other reasons, but if I’m honest this is the main one.
6. Total bastards overpowering relatively nice people
Lots of this, as it’s pretty much the point of the show. Episodes have some sort of ‘Bastard Prime’ who is the focal point of all the bastardly activities going on, as if Terry Nation and Script Editor Chris Boucher were trying to create some sort of pyramid of bastardism with Servalan at the top.
Before Game of Thrones, Blake’s 7 was the go-to-show for surprising and/or nasty deaths. Have you ever wanted to see Brian Blessed explode in deep space? Of course you have, you’re only human. Does that new character seem like Doctor Who-companion material? If so, they’re going to die. Probably just after you’ve thought they’d got away with it and everything would be alright after all.
See also: basically all other characters in Blake’s 7.
8. Make the most of Martin Campbell
Before Bond, before Green Lantern, Campbell directed the original BBC production of Edge of Darkness, a conspiracy thriller with contemporary relevance broadcast in 1985. The man has form with anti-heroes, brutal fight sequences and paranoia. Let him do his thing.
9. Have a good ending
Series on Syfy fall by the wayside all the time, and Blake’s 7 could well be one of them. Joe Pokaski is developing the scripts for the remake, the writer of a number of Heroes episodes. Despite getting off to a strong start, I think we can all agree that Heroes didn’t exactly deliver a rock ’em sock ’em finale. If all we have of the Blake’s 7 reboot is thirteen episodes, give it a decent ending.
10. Ignore all the fannish concerns you read on the internet and just concentrate on making the best show you can
This generally works quite well for the rest of TV. They should probably try it on this show too.
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