40 years of “Blake’s 7”

Blake’s 7 first broadcast 40 years ago today. Created by Terry Nation, this SF classic told the story of Roj Blake, who fought with a motley crew of criminals and idealists against the sinister Federation. Special effects could be a bit ropey but the design work on the series was nevertheless impressive. Where it really shone was in the strength of the characterisation. On the side of the good guys there was in particular the interplay between Blake’s own lofty ideals and the cowardly venality of Vila and the cynicism of Avon. The bad guys meanwhile had Servalan (for whom men of my generation still have confused feelings) and the genuinely threatening Travis (at least as played by Stephen Greif in the first series). The storylines were also strong, with particularly impressive episodes including Sand (written by Tanith Lee) and Orbit (by Robert Holmes).

The show’s downbeat ending in season four saw all the remaining good guys gunned down by the Federation (/spoiler). Since then there keeps being talk of its revival but it would be better for everyone if it was left to be remembered as a completed classic.

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Servalan (Jacqueline Pearce) and Avon (Paul Darrow) (Den of Geek: Blake’s 7 series 3 episode 13 – Terminal)

See also this thread from Twitter’s Pulp Librarian.

1/1/1818 “Frankenstein”: the dawn of science fiction

Two hundred years ago today the novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus was published. Its author was the 20 year old Mary Shelley. The novel’s strange gestation is well-known. Shelley and others, including her lover Percy Shelley and Lord Byron, were staying in the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Seeking to amuse themselves, they endeavoured to create ghost stories. In a dream Shelley imagined a scientist engaged in the process of creating life; the thought horrified her and from the dream came the novel.

Frankenstein is sometimes hailed as the first science fiction novel. The eponymous scientist creates his Creature not through magic but through science, though the exact processes by which he does so are not described (supposedly to prevent readers from replicating his obscene experiments). Nowadays most people know Frankenstein through its many film adaptations but the novel has its charms and is worth exploring. Much of the book deals with Shelley’s progressive social and political ideas, with a recurring question being whether the Creature is an evil monster or an unfortunate driven to terrible acts by the rejection of its creator.

Shelley’s later writings may well have produced better books than her first novel. Nevertheless, in Frankenstein she created stories and characters that have become modern myths, cautionary tales for us of the dangers of unfettered science.

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Title page of Frankenstein first edition (Wikipedia: Frankenstein)

Frankenstein’s Creature, by Marek Oleksicki, from the comic Frankenstein’s Womb, by Warren Ellis & Marek Oleksicki (Marek Oleksicki on Behance)