Blake's 7 Versus Star Trek
The following is a post which I made to aus.sf sometime in 1998.
I had forgotten about it, until I saw it sitting on someone else's
Then I forgot about it again, until someone pointed out that web-page (<http://www.coe.missouri.edu/~peace/Blakes7/> to be precise, and the rip-off bastard still hasn't taken it down, years after I asked him to!) for another reason, I surfed there, and remembered again. So I decided I'd better hurry up and put it here!
Star Trek Formulas:
- Enterprise meets alien (civilization) and destroys it (in the
name of Freedom, Truth, Justice, and the American Way.)
(Apple, etc, etc)
- Enterprise meets superior aliens and come out even
(Arena, the one with Abraham Lincoln, a few more...)
- Enterprise explores strange new worlds
(Where No Man Has Gone Before)
- Enterprise on Federation business
(Journey To Babel)
- Enterprise crew have shore leave
(Shore Leave, Trouble with Tribbles)
- Enterprise travels through time
(The City at the Edge of Forever, three others I can't remember titles for)
Blake's 7 "Formulas":
- Liberator/Scorpio meets alien and destroys it in
(Sarcophagus, Time Squad, Ultraworld, Moloch, Redemption, The Web)
- Liberator/Scorpio meets superior aliens and come out even
- Liberator/Scorpio explores strange new worlds
(Dawn of the Gods)
- Liberator/Scorpio falls into (and out of) Federation trap
(Project Avalon, Children of Auron, Terminal, Hostage, Voice From the Past, Seek-Locate-Destroy, Assassin, Blake )
- Liberator/Scorpio performs rebel activities
(Time Squad, Project Avalon, Countdown, Pressure Point, Killer, The Keeper, Shadow, Traitor, Bounty, Trial, Star One, Gambit, Weapon, Sand, Games, Warlord)
- Liberator/Scorpio steals valuables
(Gambit, Gold, Games, Orbit, Harvest of Kairos, Stardrive )
- Liberator/Scorpio finds (and loses) valuable gadget
(Orbit, Stardrive, Headhunter, Orac, Animals, Mission to Destiny, Weapon, Sand, Moloch )
- Liberator/Scorpio looks for base/R&R
(Volcano, Death-Watch, Horizon )
- Liberator/Scorpio recuperates/orientates with new crew/new
(Spacefall, Cygnus Alpha, Aftermath, Powerplay, Rescue, Power)
- Liberator/Scorpio does something else...
(The Way Back, Breakdown, Deliverance, City at the Edge of the World, Rumours of Death)
Disclaimer: I am not as familiar with Star Trek plots and episode titles as I am with Blake's 7, so this is not balanced, but I hope the imbalances (too familiar vs not familiar enough) cancel out...
There is more wit in Blake's 7, not surprising, since it is a British series. The Americans are less subtle with their humour.
I think everyone would agree that the main characters in Star Trek are Kirk and Spock, and the main characters in Blake's 7 are Blake and Avon (with Vila a close third).
Although detractors have called Blake's 7 "a poor man's Star Trek", and cite the parallelism of the Kirk/Spock , Blake/Avon relationships, they really aren't that similar.
- "Commands" a star ship
- Stubborn, always sure he is right
- Strong believer in right and wrong
- Usually a good judge of character
- Is so busy appearing nice, no-one notices how ruthless he is.
- Blake is an outlaw - Kirk is a law-enforcer
- Blake is not always right - Kirk (sickeningly) always is
- Blake becomes obsessed with winning - Kirk always wins
- Reserved, intelligent, cold...
- Usually comes up with brilliant solution to the problem
- is always right...
- Explains his actions in terms of logic/pragmatism
- Buries his emotions
- Avon keeps his word - Spock is dependable
- Spock is half Vulcan (obvious, but must be mentioned)
- Avon is cynical - Spock is not
- Avon is predictably unpredictable - Spock is not
- Avon has many hidden depths - Spock has a few
- Avon is so busy appearing ruthless, he doesn't need to be. - Spock doesn't even seem ruthless (i.e. he's "nice")
[That is : Kirk bluffs, Blake intends, Avon threatens, Spock raises eyebrow]
Overall, the Blake's 7 characters are less perfect, more human
--> more interesting, more realistic, more 3D. Blake's 7 as a whole is much more pessimistic than Star Trek. Most of the time, this feels more realistic, but sometimes it isn't.
Star Trek is very blatant with its "we're right - you're wrong" world view, whereas Blake's 7 is much less black & white with its motivations - so much so that fans can like it for precisely the opposite reasons!
It is interesting to compare two episodes with extremely similar plot-lines: Arena (ST) and Duel (B7)
The general plot is that Hero (Kirk/Blake) is forced by superior aliens to battle against another on the surface of rugged planet, with little but his brains for resources. Hero manages finally to best the Other, but refuses to kill him.
Who was our Hero fighting?
Arena(ST): a strange alien
Duel(B7): an enemy (Travis)
Why did the aliens interfere?
Arena(ST): because they felt like it.
Duel(B7): to limit the killing (Blake & Travis were fighting in their "air-space", so to speak)
to teach the two leaders a lesson about death - the death of an enemy, and the death of a friend.
Why did our Hero refuse to kill?
Arena(ST): because these stupid high-handed aliens needed to be
taught that human beings are better than THEY are.
Duel(B7): because Blake didn't like being manipulated, he didn't need their lesson
because Blake was better off with Travis chasing him, because he knew he could beat Travis.
It was a way of insulting Travis. He "didn't matter enough to kill".
Don't get me wrong. I am a Blake's 7 fan, but am very willing to admit that Blake's 7 made some stupid episodes. It also had a tendency to formula (especially in the fourth season) but overall it was 'good'. However, I am definitely not, and never will be, a Trekkie. It had some very good episodes, and some atrocious episodes, ok, but I wasn't hooked by the characters like I am for Blake's 7. And the humour. And the courage to kill off main characters (which I think shows maturity in a TV show, unless it's a soap).
This commentary is by no means exhaustive, but I think that's enough for now!