BLAKE’S SEVEN - SERIES TWO GENERAL NOTES
In late January / early February 1978, the Head of BBC Drama Serials, Ronnie Marsh, asked Terry Nation to draft a concept document for Series B of Blake’s 7. Here we present the text of that document in full.
BLAKE’S SEVEN - SERIES TWO
Whilst it must always be our aim to improve, and whilst we should be ready to alter and modify, I think it most important that the changes we make do not interfere too greatly with the mix we achieved in series one. It might be worthwhile to briefly restate some of the elements that made up that mix.
Our principals are fugitives and as such are always in jeopardy. Federation pursuit ships are constantly in their wake. For Blake, there is no hiding place, no secure ‘safe house’. He never has total freedom of action. Being ‘on the run’ engenders continuity and a sense of pace throughout the whole series, and even in stories that are not directly concerned with the Federation, we should refer, however fleetingly, to the menace of the pursuers.
Blake’s now well established determination to ‘fight back’ at the Federation has also contributed to series unity. His obsession is the basis of interesting conflict and shifting loyalties within the crew. In the next block of episodes I believe we must see Blake start to make a more concentrated and practical assault on the power of the Federation.
The courage and resourcefulness of a hero figure is directly related to the strength and ruthlessness of his opponent. We have shown the Federation to have vast power. Blake’s stature grows when set against this evil might. In our new series the Federation must be shown to be even more powerful, even more ruthless and intelligent. The Federation must always be (in our terms) very real and very menacing. Its representatives must not become figures of fun, nor must they appear stupid.
Whilst these elements are important, there is one that I consider even more vital. “Blake’s Seven” is a space adventure. It is filled with action and adventure. This must be the yardstick by which we judge all future stories. Stories must be strong, well plotted and contain a lot of action and movement. A great deal happens in our stories. Moral points and philosophical discussions must always be well cloaked in our action-adventure.
Our special effects and model work have been steadily improving and they contribute enormously to the quality of our show. I am sure that we can become even glossier and more inventive in the next series. However, we must be alert to the danger of believing that production values can substitute for character and stories.
The one area in which we have not succeeded is physical action. This, despite fight directors and clever cutting. There may be many technical reasons for this failure but my own belief is that a well mounted fight must be shot and cut on celluloid. Whatever the reason, we should make a conscious effort to reduce our fights or limit their length.
The experience of our first thirteen episodes has taught us all a great deal and I think we can all be moderately pleased with what we have achieved. What I want to see from series two is ‘more of the same but better’.
In the light of experience we can now assess those who have succeeded and those who have shown up less well. In the second series we should start to phase out those in the latter category. We may be able to find perfectly valid story reasons for losing sight of them for two or even three episodes. Whilst series two can very well carry our ‘lamer ducks’, we must constantly bear in mind the possibility of a third series. It will be very much less obvious if we ‘kill off’ gradually and replace, than coming to series three with a whole set of new faces.
In my opinion the two major character failures are GAN and CALLY. I think their roles should be still further reduced and their appearances limited as far as possible. Either or both of those characters should be dropped when we find stronger characters to replace them.
VILA is still a borderline case. Whilst the character works and is valuable in plots, I am not sure that the player is getting full value from the part. I think we must keep a question mark against his name.
JENNA: She works well enough but is not so strong that she would be missed if the need arose.
AVON: Enormously successful, and the series would be diminished without him. We must feature him strongly in the second series.
TRAVIS: Another success. Vital that he becomes a semi-regular member of the company.
SERVALAN: Along with Travis, she is extremely good value and should feature regularly.
ZEN: It is my error that ZEN has remained colourless and fairly uninteresting. I suspect that our new computer ORAC may supersede ZEN.
BLAKE: A good solid hero. If we are convinced that he will remain trouble free then he could continue to lead our series. He would be difficult to replace but not impossible.
To conclude, I stress again that the decisions we make in series two are vital to series three.
Whilst we remain a series and not a serial, it is important to have a progressive theme and an ultimate goal. This theme will be dealt with in five or six key episodes. We should have some passing reference to the theme in all other episodes.
It is historically true that virtually all revolutionary movements, once established, are outlawed by the establishment. Their members are branded as outlaws and their movements are forced underground. If their cause is just, they generally emerge to overthrow the authorities and find themselves become the establishment. So it is with Blake. Except that Blake will never achieve this final objective.
Blake’s original ploy was to try to unite the outer worlds to combine and take action against the Federation (1). Most, while sympathetic to his cause, are too afraid of reprisal to openly rebel against the Federation’s might. Blake decides that to bring the outer worlds firmly on his side, he must carry out a plan that is a bold and stunning strike against the oppressors. Something that will stiffen the spines of the waverers and give them the courage to join in the fight. One spectacular event that will both damage and humiliate the enemy.
The Federation has never made any secret of the fact that the seat of its power is situated on Earth. The “Supreme Control Centre” is housed deep in the heart of Storm Mountain. From here, all Federation strategy is controlled. The vast complex of computers is under the command of the Elite Inner Cabinet. From Storm Mountain the great battle fleets are directed. Life and death is meted out on a scale that ranges from the dissident individual to the entire population of a planet. Storm Mountain is the brain of the Federation. If that brain could be damaged or destroyed then the whole vast organism of the Federation would begin to whither and die.
So, for Blake, the choice of target is not difficult. To achieve its destruction is impossible. Storm Mountain is the most invulnerable area in the Universe. Blake knows it. His crew know it. The only difference is that Blake intends to attack it anyway. And he has a plan:
The crew is virtually united in its opposition to Blake’s intentions, but he persists in continuing to research the proposition. By the end of episode six (2) he has gathered all the available information and in episode seven he makes his attack.
The defence mechanism of Storm Mountain is operated by a coded number. An infiltrator knowing that number could de-activate the system. That offers no hope to Blake… Unless…. Unless the Federation could be made to believe such an infiltrator had penetrated the complex. If they could be made to believe that, the defence system would have to be re-coded, a process that takes one minute and forty three seconds. One minute and forty three seconds is when the complex was unprotected. One minute and forty three seconds for Blake and his group to get inside.
Blake’s attack is successful, but it is no victory. Storm Mountain turns out to be a decoy and the Federation’s power is unimpaired.
Blake’s credibility is badly damaged but he doggedly pursues his search for the source.
By episode eleven we learn that the Federation controls its vast empire from “Star One”, a city sized space station that constantly shifts from galaxy to galaxy. This then becomes his new target.
By the end of the series, Blake has located Star One only to find it is being menaced by a massive force of aliens who are intent on adding the Federation's planets to their own vast empire. The aliens intend to destroy life on all the Federation planets and re-populate with their own kind. Must Blake now save the Federation?
The secondary theme to appear in our thirteen episodes is the continuing battle between Blake and Travis. After another unsuccessful attempt at catching Blake, Travis is dismissed the service. He continues his vendetta alone, but with the secret approval of Servalan. One of his first acts is to attack a Federation Station to equip and finance himself for his continuing hunt. Servalan plays her political game, ready to sacrifice Travis at any time.
This then will provide the main theme and provide us with continuity, whilst never becoming a serial story.
This is intended to act as a guide to where key episodes will slot.
1. Resolve the cliffhanger from the end of series one. Re-establish the characters and set out Blake’s future aims. All this within the context of a very action filled show.
2. A story to reintroduce Travis and Servalan.
3. A ‘one off’ space adventure.
4. A story that involves the Federation and gives Blake some information about Storm Mountain.
5. A ‘one off’ space adventure, but with the bonus of laying more information about Storm Mountain.
6. A story involving Travis and Servalan. Their finding out that Blake intends to attack Storm Mountain.
7. Storm Mountain. Travis fails in his master plan. Blake fails to achieve his spectacular victory.
8. Travis dismissed from the service and setting up on his own.
9. A ‘one off’ space adventure.
10. A ‘one off’ space adventure.
11. Travis and Servalan feature.
12. An adventure that confirms the existence of Star One. The introduction of the alien force.
13Blake taking sides with the Federation against the Aliens.
(1) A hand-written note by David Maloney said, “Not made clear.”
(2) “Or sooner?”