With three of its main stars now no longer with us, the idea of a Blake’s 7 revival has never felt less out of our reach – but Robert looks at how it could be done…
There have been more than a few rumours over the past decade that BBC 1970s hit show Blake’s 7 is going to see the light of day once again with a remake. Fans have had high hopes over the past decade or so with rumours of repeats, reboots and re-imagining but each and every time those eager to once again board the Liberator have had their hopes then dashed. Seeing the model that has over the past few years been successful for streaming this seems a wise plan and, if developed right, could bring in a sizable audience of specific fans and provide a selling point for say Prime (just has Jack Ryan has) television subscription services.
As has been proven original content for subscription services have shown there is a huge market out there for genre shows with people choosing to engage with 12 hours of near-cinematic quality programming than heading off the cinema for two hours of entertainment and slowly this concept of event television has become more appealing to a mainstream audience are is slowly getting huge figures and nods of approval from a more web-savvy generation and the more traditional telly viewing public.
For example, look at the recent Prime/BBC joint adaptation, Good Omens, which has been met with critical success almost across the board.
Go for the ‘total’ reboot
Having Netflix/Amazon buying this type of shows is a bit of a coup, the Beeb has a plethora of properties that are ripe for remakes or re-workings for a new audience. Take for example the genius ideas of having Kevin Spacey (before the… issues) ‘Americanisation’ of the 90s series House of Cards – while the initial show was superb it was an excellent piece of broadcasting savvy to update and ship across the pond as frankly the story of Machiavellian politics works anywhere and while the crew of Blake’s 7 might not have the political savvy of Mike Underwood the underlying aspects of the idea of the original show (a rebel force against an evil empire) would work perfectly with a reworking and updating scenario.
While the Liberator’s crew might not be as well-known as the likes of other BBC franchises such as Dr Who this might actually be a good thing. While a total reboot might upset some fans of the original series who could be very adamant that prior history or continuity should be noted a la Dr Who for this type of show it would not work, firstly due to the fact that Blake 7 is not as well-known as Who and secondly while the aspect of regeneration of Dr Who allows for the pre-built in nods to prior actors and stories for this type of show to work you would need to go for the full ‘Battlestar’, purposely ignoring what went before but acknowledging it by blending the good elements into a whole new show but with in-jokes or appreciation of what went before (say a smaller iPod sized but similar designed ORAC).
Get the visuals right
OK, so Prime or Netflix few quid in the bank and the tentative steps into television might not pay dividends on the first outing but to really bring home the commitment to a show like this you are going to have to have a sizable budget behind it and a visual effects house that could handle the required level of design to bring a believable level of realism to the show. Companies such as Pixomodo who provided the superb surroundings of Westeros would be perfect but while they may be busy over the next few years it might be worthwhile giving a new up and coming company a try.
Companies such as BAIT who have worked on the superb looking ‘The Machine’ are a company that people are taking note of when it comes to visual effects and they would have a lot on their plate to get this right as not only would the Liberator have to be updated from the original but also fans have been waiting decades for the concepts behind the show to be realised fully.
The ideas of the show were superb but were hamstrung by low budgets, echo-filled sets and the continued need to use power-stations as make-shift Federation headquarters – fans had to put up with a lot and had to use a lot of imagination and extrapolation of ideas rather than seeing monsters, alien worlds and ships that we all knew were pipe-cleaners and Fairy bottles. But imagine a scenario where the action of space-battles involving the Liberator or Slave against the Federation could actually be realised, where weapons did not look like a cobbled together ‘pew-pew’ style laser gun that looked like your mums hair-dryer with a torch on the end and a show that could translate the power of the federation with huge ships and just how much the rebels had to fight against to survive fully realised.
Get the roles right (go for the Brits)
TV is the new cinema – or so we are constantly being told. ‘Stars’ are not as afraid of television as they used to be and with the aforementioned box-set mentality the shift from starring in a big screen piece to a more sofa driven at-home audience is not as big ‘demotion’ as people expect (George Peppard, Hannibal from The A-Team, famously hated television work).
However the other thing that would be needed as well as some stellar CG would be a cast that could carry the show. While it might be all well and good wanting a George Clooney led cast of A-List people have to be realistic as to what could be done and things like budgets, especially for major stars could be an issue. Personally, if I were to develop the show I would take the route of Game of Thrones and have one major ‘star’ backed up by character actors and unknowns and even go as far as to have an all British cast and film in here in the UK.
So would star? Again this has to be realistic and while it would be nice to see Michael Keating (Vila) back on our screen in some way, it is wise to look at a complete re-boot rather than a follow on or re-imagining. So with that in mind how would you fill out the cast? As stated there has to be some realism to casting – commitment, costs and reputation are all major issues.
However to get someone like Rupert Penry-Jones to play Blake could be a good bet, he is well known as a UK star of television and is, much like his Spooks counterpart on the cusp of Hollywood stardom (potential new James Bond anyone) so to get somebody like this to commit to the show would be a major coup. Of course, you have to fill out the rest of the cast and for that, you could use other solid British thesps. For Vila how about Dominic Monaghan, whose role in FlashForward shows he can do smarmy, cowardly but also at times highly cunning (when his own life depends on it), or Stephen Graham as Gan, whose part in the original was a little bland but having an electronically neutered psychopath on your team could give then show that more of a serious tone.
TV’s Greatest Power Couple!
That, of course, leaves the two major key roles that pushed the original series along roles that of the intergalactic star crossed ‘lovers/haters’ of the show and the main thrust of what people really wanted to see – the tempestuous relationship between Servalan and Avon.
While before her death last year it was the dream of men of a certain to see Jacqueline Pearce once again don the tight leather and oh so revealing space lingerie (and while some fans of Only Connect would love to see Victoria Coren is the role), the sex appeal and downright focus and determination could be taken over by Laura Pulver who showed in Sherlock she can do the intelligent sultry thing but can also be utterly dangerous. With that in mind, this then brings us to the pivotal role – the role that essentially made the original series and who actually carries the show – namely the only character that could pull off highbrow sarcasm while decked out like a 1970s glam rock star – Ker Avon.
This role that would be integral for the show to succeed as while the programme was called Blake’s 7 everyone knew there was one main character people tuned in to see (no Not Jenna) and the main man who not threatened to abandon his crew, or sell them if the price was right but also travelled halfway across the galaxy to bed the teams main antagonist and leave with no more than a note (just because he could) Avon was not only a player but also did everything with a wry smile knowing full well he was three steps ahead of everyone else
It will take a man of wit, intelligent and acting chops to pull off the biggest cad in the universe and for somebody who could fill in Paul Darrow’s platform booted shoes is indeed a big ask. The actor also needs to appeal to a much wider audience, somebody with a ‘name’ and also somebody that Americans also know and while Aiden Gillen would nearly fill that role it would have to be Cillian Murphy who would don the black leather and become the other-worldly cold, calculating intergalactic wit that is willing to sell anyone or anything if the price is right.. for him.