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Feature: Blake's 7
‘The Dirty Dozen in Space’
Celebrating its 25th anniversary next January, Blake’s 7 is still regarded as one of the all-time greats of television Sci-Fi. TV Zone has an exclusive feature on the origins of the series…
After his hurried scripts and storylines for an epic 12-part Dalek story on Doctor Who, Terry Nation had not worked for the BBC since Summer 1965. Instead, the Welsh former ‘comedian’s labourer’ had become script supervisor, story editor, associate producer and writer on commercial film series such as The Baron, The Champions, Department S, The Saint, The Avengers and The Persuaders! It was while working on The Persuaders! at Pinewood in Spring 1971, that Nation’s contact with the Corporation who had brought him and his Daleks fame on Doctor Who was renewed, as the BBC aimed to bring his metal monsters back to the screen after a break of several years. With The Persuaders! not renewed for a second season and the heyday of the high quality 35mm British film series almost over, it was to the BBC that Nation looked to pitch new ideas in December of that year.
Rather than the glossy globe-trotting thrillers he had handled of late, Nation instead opted to return to the Science-Fiction arena with his two series proposals: ‘The Incredible Dr Baldick’ concerned a Victorian gentleman adventurer and scientist who travelled around investigating bizarre phenomena while ‘Beyond Omega’ concerned survival in a post-apocalyptic world (not so far from Nation’s concept for his original 1963 Dalek story). ‘Beyond Omega’ was deferred in January 1972, and Nation concentrated on Never Come Night, the pilot episode of The Incredible Robert Baldick (see TV Zone Special #37). This trial outing in BBC1’s Drama Playhouse strand was produced in June/July 1972, by which time Drama Playhouse producer Anthony Coburn had reactivated the ‘Beyond Omega’ format as ‘The Survivors’.
… Luckily the BBC was still interested in series formats from Nation, and the writer decided that – after two unsuccessful attempts at shows with Fantasy concepts – he would play safe… Nation’s main pitch is noted prominently at the top of the page: Dan Fog – ‘an American – been a cop, a lawyer, a district attorney – has been a huck’. Dan was outlined as being ‘Around 45/50’ and had written a book about Criminal Investigation while ‘Living in Mid-west with his second younger wife’. And now he is offered – and accepts – ‘the chair of Criminology at an Oxford College’. The resulting series was described as a ‘Witty, glossy thriller’. The format was felt to be versatile because Dan ‘is in contact thro’ his lab that police use with the local police & thro’ fellow dons with government, higher reaches of civil service etc’. Marsh’s concluding remark was that the format offered ‘A continuing British interest’.
Unfortunately, this proposal for something between the calibre of Inspector Morse and the freelance crime-fighting of Department S’s Jason King didn’t seem to hit the spot. As Nation recalled, “We had discussed a number of projects which excited none of us. The interview was drawing to a close when I surprised myself by starting to detail a new Science Fiction adventure… ‘Have you got a title?’ someone asked. ‘Blake’s 7’ I replied without hesitation.”
by Andrew Pixley
Find out what happened to bring about the 'Dan Fog' idea and how Blake's 7 developed in:
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