We’re four episodes into Series D of Blake’s 7 and now have another issue of Blake’s 7 Monthly to keep us going between episodes. Let’s take a look at some of the features from issue 2, published in November 1981.
It’s another bright cover for Blake’s 7 Monthly, with the series logo once again done out in primary colours – though different to issue 1. As Stardrive was the last story to be broadcast before this issue came out, it probably makes sense to have the Space Rats on the cover and they look more impressive here than they did in the episode.
On the inside cover, the contents page includes a brief note from the editor. This is the first time the magazine has abbreviated the programme’s title to ‘B7’. It’s already become familiar to me though as other fans have used it in written chats ever since I started watching.
Danger…Stuntman at Work!
We have another stuntman interview. This time the subject is Mike Potter. I skipped a chunk of this once I realised it was referred to a story I hadn’t seen yet, but I did enjoy reading about how the trike chase was filmed for Stardrive. I also liked the photos that include a fairly clear shot of Mike doing a wheelie on the trike in full Space Rat war paint. There is also a photo of the camera vehicle filming from its rear and although this is how I presumed the shots were filmed, the car doesn’t look too rugged – it’s different from the modern Range Rovers I’m used to seeing.
While Blake’s 7 Monthly has taken a look at the programme’s stunts for two issues in a row, fans can take a behind-the-scenes look at Blake’s 7’s visual effects in this month’s Starburst magazine.
Comic: Autona… Planet of Lies!
I found the comic in issue 1 thrilling but this one isn’t quite so action-packed in the same way.
After landing on the planet Autona, Avon, Dayna and Vila head off with a resident young lady while the others stay to make repairs to Scorpio. The friendly Diana and her ‘master’ Wogan offer luxurious hospitality but Avon is cautious.
We’re guests here – keep your eyes off her… and that’s an order. There’s something strange about this place… but I’m not sure what it is yet.
Avon giving Vila “an order” still feels a tad odd but it seems in keeping with Series D as Avon is more of an official leader now. The three crew retire for a rest and when they return to Scorpio, it’s apparent to Avon that something isn’t right with Vila. I love that the reason for Avon’s suspicion is Vila being unusually generous with the wine – certainly in character – followed by him turning down a glass himself. Seeing Avon threaten to blow Vila’s brains out and then gun him down is a slightly shocking sight, even though we know it can’t really by Vila.
Wogan has been abandoned on Autona by the Federation for his failures in android construction and was desperate to escape. At first, I thought Avon’s decision to leave Wogan alone again was harsh. However, sympathy for Wogan disappears because he planned to go back to the Federation with his new, superior androids to gain a pardon. He was always a willing researcher and, despite having been forgotten by them, still wants to return to helping the Federation.
Similar to the film reviews, the Blake’s 7 Monthly book reviews pick out sci-fi releases for its readers. I hesitate to use the word ‘recommends’ as they aren’t all brimming with enthusiasm and the ones for Harry Harrison’s Wheelworld and Homeworld are off-putting, even with the magazine’s comment that ‘enjoyment of SF depends so much on personal taste.’ The one for Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is the clear favourite and it’s the one I’m most tempted to look up.
I like the idea of the magazine trying to introduce its audience to different but similar things and expand their youthful horizons. Of the four books presented here, two are relatively recent while it’s apparent that the other two were published a while ago, so I’m also happy that the magazine isn’t just pushing the latest releases.
My issue with these reviews is that they devote most of their space to reviewing the style and quality of the writing while telling us little of what the books are actually about. I’m more persuaded to investigate Heinlein’s book because it’s the one review that provides some intriguing plot details.
The jokes here are all basic enough, but I do like the visualisation of the alien playing People Invaders. The allure of getting a potential £2 for sending in your own gags is tempting, as my look at issue 1 established that young readers were getting less than a £1 in pocket money each week.
Star Profile: Michael Keating
Like the Paul Darrow profile, I enjoyed discovering some of Michael Keating’s background. The article did seem to try to steer us to the idea that Michael Keating is the same great joker as Vila, but it does come through that there is more to the actor and he’s had a varied enough career.
It was pleasing to hear how supportive his parents were of his choice of career, when so often parents are unhappy that their child has opted for a competitive profession with such slim chances of huge success. I was surprised by his assertion that while he only needed O Levels to audition for drama school, A Levels were needed later as well and I’m left wondering if that’s still insisted upon in the present day. But he’s also representative of the era of actors gaining experience through repertory theatres and that opportunity for young actors has also disappeared.
I’ve still limited knowledge of behind the scenes on Blake’s 7 so I enjoyed the image Michael provided of himself, Gareth Thomas and Paul Darrow visiting a pub in full costume while on location, with the locals paying no attention. I think the photo accompanying this feature, capturing Michael and Paul together on the Scorpio set, is lovely.
Story puzzle: A Fracture in Time
As Blake’s 7 Monthly contains a regular short story as well as a puzzle version, I like that readers don’t know which one they are reading until they turn over the page. Like last issue’s puzzle, the story only uses two of the crew, which enables it to be told over a single page.
I had found the maze in issue 1 quite hard and gave up after a few attempts, but I was more determined with this puzzle, which requires you to identify the broken pieces of the Scorpio.
There is an accompanying photo a couple of pages before, so I was certain I could complete it, but nonetheless, I again found it challenging. One of the ships is clearly the Liberator and a third ship is darker, while the underside of the Scorpio is in shadow, making it difficult to match up some pieces.
I’m enjoying these story puzzles and only got one piece wrong with this one. I’ve enhanced the pages here so have a go yourself – the answers are at the end.
I was inclined to believe that issue 1’s Ask Orac was populated by questions from Marvel UK’s staff. Now some genuine readers have had time to write in, we have questions about the show itself, instead of just general ones about space.
‘Susan Grey from Brighton wants to know all about Soolin’ – *sigh* don’t we all?
Julian Wells from Hereford asks Orac a very good question: ‘why don’t you fly the Scorpio instead of Slave?’ We had Zen before Orac and as Series B began I did wonder whether Zen might go as he surely wasn’t needed anymore. With the chance to create a new ship, the series could have simply used Orac. But Orac’s answer fully matches his personality: ‘I have better things to do with my time than worry about piloting a spacecraft.’
Brian Telland of Leeds has pondered something that never bothered me: ‘what are Clip Guns made of?’ Orac’s answer (Argentium) also provides some interesting details, like the fact the guns can be fired underwater.
This is the only insight the magazine has been able to provide about its audience so far. I would really like to see a letters’ page so we can hear more from the Blake’s 7‘s audience, especially while the latest series is still on air.
Questions & Answers
Blake’s 7 Monthly has passed on having a back page advertisement this issue and its replacement may well be my favourite segment.
Paul Darrow has answered questions about his favourite and least favourite things, providing us with marvellous insights, like the revelation that his favourite TV programme is The Magic Roundabout. Quality choice, Paul. I’m sympathetic to his dislike of Dallas, having struggled through it myself during a visit to 1980. Last year the US soap had gripped viewers with a high-profile storyline following the shooting of villainous oil baron JR Ewing and over 21 million people in the UK tuned in to discover who the perpetrator was. I’m guessing Paul was out.
He must enjoy his costumes as Avon as he names his favourite colour as black. I remain curious to discover what he’s got against Tiddlywinks.