the state of things

 

Blake's 7, The Magnificent Seven, Seven Pounds, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

by Douglas Lindsay - 09:32 on 19 March 2009

Following on from their introduction to Monty Python & The Holy Grail and some of the finest movie lines of all time, which has had them scurrying around speaking in outrageous French accents for the last two days, last night I introduced the spawn to that other classic of 70's British culture, Blake's 7.

We watched the first episode - a very good place to start - where we are introduced to Blake, Jenna and Villa, we learn about the Federation's evil mind-control techniques, there is the genocidal slaughter of an unarmed opposition group, Blake is falsely accused of improper behaviour with young children and Blake's lawyer and his missus are gunned down in cold blood. Perfect viewing for kids.

While MP&THG has maintained its comic weirdness and still works on all the levels that made it successful back in the 70's, Blake's 7 is sadly just, well, a load of pants. And, despite all the dramatic things listed above, boring pants at that.

It used to be my favourite show, which explains why the DVD lurks amongst our collection. I watched every episode for four years. After Blake disappeared at the end of the second series, I waited desperately for his return. In those dark, antediluvian pre-internet times, I would buy the Radio Times every week to see if Gareth Thomas was in the cast list for the following week's episode. And then, when he was finally brought back and his guts were immediately spilled over the floor of the cheap-as-chips set in Wood Lane, I wrote two letters of complaint to the Radio Times. Sadly, those letters were never published, and there was never a fifth series of Blake's 7, where Blake's guts were put back into his stomach, or it had all been a dream sequence or Blake was brought back in some other form. Blake was dead and so was the series.

The show had Low Budget stamped across it, as sure as if the words were permanently imprinted across the TV screen. All talk, no action, despite the mass slaughter etc. Cardboard doors lined with silver duct tape to make them look like they're in space, when in fact it just looks like they're lined with silver duct tape. But the low budgetness doesn't have charm all these years later, it just looks rubbish. We were all bored.

MP&THG, while made with similar budget constraints, just looks all the funnier for it. B7 has become retrospective mince. Probably best not to watch anymore, and try to hang on to what's left of the dream.

Watched Seven Pounds the other night with Will Smith. Spoiler alert, as they say on American websites.... It presents an interesting dichotomy of film making. The storyline is fairly straightforward, of the heartbreaking/heartwarming variety. However, to mask this, you spend the first forty minutes in total confusion, having no idea what's going on. It could be sinister, it could be supernatural. Personally, I thought it was sinister and supernatural. And then, gradually it unfolds, and you realise that it's neither. It's heartbreaking/heartwarming... Now, if that had been obvious from the trailer and from the start, I would never have gone to see it. They keep you in suspense to suck you in. But then, a lot of the audience, particularly the male-orientated audience who aren't going to blub into a handkerchief at the end, are going to leave the cinema disappointed. Is that what you want as a film maker? Obviously you want to suck people in, in the first place, that's the marketing part, but as an artist you surely don't want to disappoint your audience.

Maybe I'm just a cold-hearted misanthrope...

I don't actually have anything to say about The Magnificent Seven or Howard Keel.

Comment from Trevor at 12:09 on 19 March 2009.
I'm refusing to accept that Blakes Seven has lost its appeal.

I'm still going to cling to the memories of watching the show then acting out the episode the next day with my mates in the playground.

Whatever did happen to Gareth Thomas? he was every bit as good as William Shatner? I remember him a few years later in some BBC play about a Welsh farmer who committed suicide, I guess he probably now runs a sci-fi themed pub in Rhyl or Carmarthen.

I was never comfortable once Avon became the leader - especially as he had the same name as a door-to-door cosmetics brand. He was always a bit shifty as well. Along with you, I was one of the 20 million who tuned in to see Blakes sad demise at the end of series 4.

I think I'll definitely take your advice and avoid seeking out a DVD and keep my memories intact.

In similar(ish) backward looking sentimentalism I'm forcing Audrey to watch DVD re-runs of Bagpuss at the moment and I'm sad to say that they've also lost some of the appeal of my childhood (that said they're still a long way ahead of the Teletubbies)

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