The Battlestar effect

I can't tell you how disappointed I am. You go away for a few days and back home earth shattering news rocks the TV world. No not Dawn Airey, but the return of 'Blake's 7'.

Anyone who has been here before will know that I am of the firm belief that 'Battlestar Galactica' is some of the best television ever made and that reimagining the show as a dark and desperate struggle for survival in a post 9/11 world has made for compelling viewing.

While at the end of the 1970s the US was enjoying the camp original of 'Battlestar Galactica' we had 'Blake's 7', which was as dark as British sci-fi gets.

A band of rebels on the run in a cool ship from the totalitarian Federation regime, and now it is on its way to Sky One.

Actually that was two cool ships, and one after the other they all ended up in small pieces. First the Liberator.

…and then Scorpio, each with their distinctive onboard computers.

Slight worry as the station has little track record with drama (it did some sub-'Buffy the Vampire' show called 'Hex', but it had short bumpy, cast-changing run). But Sky also had a co-production role in the "re-imagining" of 'Battlestar Galactica' so it does know TV magic when it sees it.

'Blake's 7' has already made a little comeback with audio stories, but a move to TV is what fans have really wanted. Sky has commissioned two 60-minute shows and six scripts have in all been mapped out. I just hope it doesn't go the way of Sky's botched remake of the 'The Prisoner', which got dropped.

For a Big Brother/1984 set-in-space story about a society that controlled the lives of its civilians, 'Blake's 7' is perfect for a return. The only shame is that they did not do it sooner because it looks unlikely that any of the cast will make a reappearance — retired as most are.

Oddly enough, like the new 'Battlestar Galactica', now in its fourth and final season, 'Blake's 7' only ran for four years until Paul Darrow's Avon shot dead the eponymous Blake in the final episode in a spectacular shootout.

Why the BBC hasn't moved on this before, after the success of revamping 'Doctor Who', is anyone's guess, but as a broadcaster it has never handled sc-fi very well — even now (softening Doctor who with earlier timeslots and the awful Catherine Tate).

Oddly enough, it is making a 'Blake 7' -alike show about outcasts from Earth looking for a new home… which is odd, but very BBC like.

The success of the show will depend on whether Sky One can sell it, as the BBC has done with 'Doctor Who', in the US. First time around, the BBC sold 'Blacke's 7' in 40 countries around the world and that was in the 70s/80s, when most of the ships and props were made along strict guidelines set by 'Blue Peter'.

Sky has already said that Blake will be back as a character and you have to hope Federation boss Servalan will also return. She brought a dark touch of glamour to the show and Daniela Nardini, Anna from 'This Life' fame, would be a shoe-in — she has been playing the role in the audio dramas.

The best role and the best lines belonged to Avon. The cool, cold and calculating cynic, who pretty much always dressed in black, and much will rely on who gets cast there.

There's so much to look forward. In the meantime, there is always YouTube. My favourite line: "Staying with your requires a level of stupidity I'm not capable of", but here are some more of top quips.

  • iain Maclean

    London’s stranglehold on advertising is akin to that which Madison Avenue once had in the US.

    Their monopoly was broken in the mid-1980s, when a small, provincial agency in Minneapolis, Fallon McElligott, suddenly started winning dozens of golds for big awards, like the One Show and Clio.

    With Winter temperatures of -20 and a relatively small population, no-one could explain it.

    Under the creative direction of the great Tom McElligott, they created the famous
    “Perception/Reality” campaign for Rolling Stone magazine, and the “The Daily Diary Of The American
    Dream” tagline for the Wall Street Journal.

    They dominated all awards throughout the late 80s.  And suddenly, suspecting that there must be something in the water, more and more Madison Avenue stalwarts opened branches in Minneapolis. 

    Thanks to Fallon McElligott, many agencies such as W+K in Portland, Butler, Shine, Stern in San Francisco and Martin in Richmond, have their HQs outside New York.

    All it would take is one brave agency with a big creative reputation to set up outside London.

    Apparently, in the 70s (then plain old Mr.) Frank Lowe wanted to move CDP, which was regarded as one of the best creative agencies in the world, to a stately home off the M4 corridor. It made perfect economic sense as so many client companies were based there.

    But, it went against the prevailing social trend.  Clients and staff wanted the buzz and glitz of London, not some sleepy town off the M4.

    Besides, all the TV and radio production and facilities houses were in London. And TV ruled.

    Then.

    It doesn’t any longer.

    Digital agencies don’t need to pay huge rents and business rates, or the proximity of ancillary services..  But, because the average age of their staff is just above that of a foetus, they feel they need the buzz and edge of the East End.  It’s he old cattle-market syndrome; young, single people prefer big cities because they’re on the hunt for a mate and good times. 

    So, the digital agencies are all there near Old Street, in London, not in Bristol. 

    It’s a shame, but perhaps one day soon a British version of Fallon McElligott will shock the London stalwarts. 

    For the best of all worlds, I still like the idea of a stately home off the M4 corridor.  Hmmm.

  • Marie Clarke

    I totally agree. I think most people soon realize that work-life balance is a must. Being “creative” and having a high-paid job just isn’t enough, especially when you see what other cities/countries have to offer. Take Singapore- I lived there in 2011. People worked hard, but played equally hard. There was life beyond commuting, watching telly and going out to pubs and restaurants. You could take part in outdoor sports after work, go to Sentosa beach on your way home, eat out everyday for under a fiver at hawker centress. On the weekends you can also get cheap flights to anywhere in SE Asia. The  365 days of sunshine helped too. ;)

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