Friday, April 25, 2008

The Future Is Bleak

Just when I thought I was on the mend, a relapse. It may have been because I was up and about too soon, meeting up with Work Buddy and his Brother at a country house to flesh out a new idea they’d been working on.

I’d zoned out a few times during the day, watching a pheasant wandering the grounds and the magpies ganging up on rabbits, rather than make notes. It wasn’t until later in the evening, long after the Governess has joined us to discuss other possible work, that I started to feel like I wanted to be out of there and back home in bed.

Alternatively, the unexpected downswing might have come about from learning that not only had FOX renewed the lacklustre Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles but Sky One is looking to remake Blake’s 7. Why and why? And... for the love of all that’s holy, WHY?

While Elaine Pyke, Sky One’s commissioning editor, seems to misguidedly think that Blake’s 7, like the new Battlestar Galactica, represents “the best traditions of the genre”, I’d say that Blake’s 7 actually represents everything wrong with useless, ill thought out science fiction.

Blake’s 7, it’s reasonably fair to say, falls somewhere between a bit rubbish and dreadful rubbish. It was bright and colourful and entertaining for a younger audience, but then so where the clowns at the circus.

Supposed to be a futuristic variation of Robin Hood – a live-action Rocket Robin Hood if you will – it was a litany of useless clichés. A grim future where individual freedom of expression is outlawed? A handful of rebels in one spaceship battling a totalitarian Federation that rules over the galaxy?

It only really got interesting when Blake and crew argued amongst themselves. A few episodes hit reasonably close to the mark, but otherwise it was like watching mosquitoes trying to take down an elephant, badly. The only reason they survived as long as they did was because Federation soldiers were even worse shots than the Death Star stormtroopers.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Blake’s 7 was how, some time ago, fans pestered and petitioned the BBC to repeat it. When the Corporation finally relented and rebroadcast the damn show, the ratings held for the first couple of episodes and then plummeted. The years certainly hadn’t been kind to what had been just about acceptable in the late 1970s.

Of course the news wasn’t that Sky was going ahead with the series, simply that they had ordered two scripts for a potential series. How long has it been since their remake of The Prisoner was supposed to appear? I wonder how that is coming along.

Because, if you want to get information out of somebody you take them down into a basement room, soak them in water, attach electrodes and run a current through them. If that doesn’t work you start in on them with a chisel and a blowtorch. It certainly doesn’t need some stupid Village and stupidly overcomplicated scenarios to elicit the facts from someone.

So what do you think is the way to go with Blake’s 7? How does a handful of rebels fight a dictatorial regime? When he first saw an episode of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, Work Buddy rather astutely pointed out that was the Blake’s 7 remake, right there, or rather the way that it should go.

But I suppose instead of doing what Whedon did with Firefly or what Ron Moore is currently doing with Battlestar Galactica, they’ll go for big, silly names and unbelievably stupid scenarios that haven’t even a shred of logic to them. But then that was what Blake’s 7’s creator, the late Terry Nation, certainly excelled at.


At 9:06 am, Blogger Ian said...

S'funny how as a kid I always looked for Terry Nation's ("the inventor of the daleks") on a script because then I had a weird idea that meant it was PROPER Doctor Who. Of course now I look at his stuff and think how dire, repetitive and lazy it all was.

As for Blake's 7 I agree with you and the series hasn't aged well at all, although I do think it deserves credit for having the balls to end the way it did.

At 7:19 pm, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

Let’s face it, it’ll be a mess. Insider information aside, it wasn’t very good to start with (as GD rightly points out) and it would only be workably improved if you scrapped a ton of the extraneous “spacey” rubbish that UK TV sci-fi tends to love so much. Which would surely result in a decent show you wouldn’t need to name Blake’s effing Seven, no?

At 9:21 am, Blogger Stevyn Colgan said...

I'm just amazed that somebody remembers 'Rocket Robin Hood'.

I once read that the guy who created 'Babylon 5' was inspired by 'Blake's 7'. What episodes was he watching? I always found the show to be lacklustre, predictable and poorly-directed. I hated that K9 in a fishtank computer (Orac?) and I really hated Avon. More ham than Sainsburys.

At 11:31 am, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

Terry Nation = hack. And a lazy one that got everyone else to do his work for him at that.

At 6:29 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Stevyn, yeah I saw somewhere that Joe Straczynski was inspired and impressed by Blake's 7 - which is kind of worrying. Although Crusade, the completely unnecessary and quickly knocked on the head Babylon 5 sequel.

I think Straczynski was also taken by the fact that Nation wrote all 13 episodes of Blake's 7's first series. For the last three seasons of the five season show he wrote pretty much every episode. And it showed.

Still, it doesn't seemed to have harmed his career.

At 3:02 pm, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

The sad thing is that remakes - just like reality TV - have a commercial logic to them that's as undeniable as it is tragic.

They attract a mountain of free publicity and the nostalgia/fanboy element guarantees some sort of initial audience.

(As I write this, Sky is showing a trailer for the new incarnation of Gladiators)

As for B7, the bar for British sci-fi is set so low at the moment that if it offers nothing more than one hot chick in skintight metallic lycra, it'll get my vote.


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