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Blake’s 7 – The Merchandise Guide

Blake’s 7 – The Merchandise Guide
by Mark B. Oliver

Review by Jackie Emery 

This is a handsome reference book. The cover is glossy, the pages shiny, the printing is clear and accompanied by lots of colour photos. While the bulk of the book is made up of a comprehensive catalogue of Blake's 7 merchandise, it also includes several very interesting articles on the background and history of B7 merchandising and the people involved in producing it.

The Merchandise Guide begins with an introduction in which Mark Oliver explains its nature and purpose - it is an attempt to fully catalogue all professionally produced B7 merchandise available to the general public. He mentions the wealth of fan-produced items, and illustrates this with two items of Horizon merchandise - the mirror and umbrella – but explains why these fall outside the scope of this guide.

This is followed by articles about Terry Nation and the background to B7 merchandise. Dalekmania had taken the BBC by surprise in the 1960s, and this time the BBC wanted to be prepared. Manufacturers were invited to apply for licenses to produce Blake’s 7 merchandise in time for the programme’s release, but all did not go according to plan…
After the introductory articles, the catalogue then lists almost every conceivable item of Blake’s 7 merchandise in alphabetical categories, from A (audio) to V (video) taking in books, clothing, games, gadgets, magazines, models… Each item is assigned a rarity value from 1 to 5 Federation symbols, and is accompanied by a colour photo. Some of the items have only a brief listing, while others, such as the Marvel Monthly magazines, have further articles about them.

The catalogue listings are followed by several appendices. Appendix A details the merchandise that was never released, Appendix B provides the circulation figures for the Marvel Monthly magazines and Appendix C comprises a series of interviews with people involved in the creation of B7 merchandise: artist Ian Kennedy, who drew the B7 comic strip; writer Tony Attwood, who produced the Programme Guide as well as the post-Gauda Prime novel Afterlife; Trevor Hoyle who wrote novelisations of the first episodes of B7, and Chris Boucher, who in addition to serving as script editor throughout the TV series, wrote a Doctor Who novel that featured the B7 character, Carnell. There are also interviews with merchandisers Michael Stevens (commissioning editor of BBC audio books), Wakefield Carter (Termight Replicas) and John Archdeacon (Titan Find Models).
The book lists the merchandise available up to the end of December 2011 (which obviously does not include the burgeoning range of new Big Finish audios and books), but Mark has produced a PDF Update, in which he was able to include new details that came to light after the book went to print and to correct some factual inaccuracies that sadly crept in. Both he and Telos wanted to get this information 'out there' as soon as possible, rather than wait for the second edition, and the PDF is free to download here: telos.co.uk

In summary, despite the Merchandise Guide's somewhat high RRP of nearly £20, the quality of the production, the wealth of information and the generous free PDF update make this a book a must-have for all collectors and completists.

A revised and updated version of the guide will eventually be published, but only when there is sufficient new material to make it a worthwhile purchase. Meanwhile, Mark has been posting new and rare items on Horizon, so that fellow fans don't have to wait.

A few of these are:

The Crooked Dice Miniatures
The first of these - Servalan, Travis and Federation Guards - are included in the PDF update. Since then, the entire Season 1 crew (including Orac) has been released, and very recently, Dayna, Tarrant, the Federation Security Robot, two mutoids, and a Federation Commander. Four additional Federation troopers will be released in February 2014. These figures are made of pewter, are 25mm high and cost around £3-£4 each unpainted, but Crooked Dice do offer group deals from time to time. 

Blake's 7 Sheet Music
In 1978, Chappell released Dudley Simpson's theme, and this is included in the guide (entry ASH-001 on page 30). It has recently come to light that the sheet music was included in another Chappell release - Hits in Vision No 2 which was released in 1979 at a cost of £1.95. It was one of ten themes included.

In 2013, Wobbleco Music (a Milton Keynes based music company) published a full brass band arrangement of Dudley Simpson's Blake's 7 Theme Tune, which they sell through their website for £30 + p&p.

Blake's 7 Theme Tune
Way back when, Jason Haigh-Ellery wrote a two-page merchandise guide for DWB, in which he described a US-only version of the theme that had a new Season 4 cover. When Mark asked him about it, he said that he had received second-hand information about the theme and had never seen it, nor any paperwork related to it. No record of this was included in the BBC files, and Mark was unable to locate anybody that either owned it or had seen it. The only variant was a VERY small difference to the standard Liberator cover that was issued in the UK.

However, Andy Spencer has now informed Mark of an advert that appeared in the US magazine Starlog Presents Cinemagic. On page 10 of issue 26 (June 1984) a black-and-white advert appeared of mostly Doctor Who related records, but partially obscured is the elusive Season 4 Cover of the theme, priced at $2.30. Again, it's still not known if this was issued, but finally some photographic proof of it exists!

Fly Me To The Moon T-Shirt

This was released in early 2013, and is a rather neat design of silhouettes of many spacecraft from film and television, including the Liberator. It costs £18 and is still available and even glows in the dark! 

Corgi Liberator
Andy Spencer was able to supply Mark with a hitherto unseen packaging of the Liberator. It contained the metallic blue version and 'Heavy Die-Cast' appears prominently. Interestingly, this cover did not appear in the BBC files (the Corgi contract was quite specific in that all packaging needed BBC approval), while all the other covers did (together with an unproduced version that was planned when Corgi went under).

The Paul Darrow Portraits
Paul appears in seven photos by Oliver McNeil and Legend Photography. These signed photos are amazing, but cost a jaw-dropping £200 each. The link to the relevant page in the shop is here: paul-darrow-avon.moonfruit.com

Our Disappearing Earth
Paul kindly signed a number of composite images for this charity. One is with him alone and contains a quote from the episode Duel, and three others feature him with Barry Jackson, Julian Glover and Isla Blair. Peter Miles has also signed a photo for them, as has Ian Cullen (Base Commander Escon in ‘Seek-Locate-Destroy’), and another image is of Julian Glover and Isla Blair. These photographs, which were released in 2013, were made available through eBay.

Unstoppable Trading Cards
Two sets are to be produced. The first covering seasons A and B, was released in November 2013, with the second set (which will incorporate the final two seasons) scheduled for release in March 2014. A collectable binder for the cards will be released to coincide with the second set.

The first set comprised fifty-four base cards, two for each episode with an episode synopsis across each pair, a header card and a checklist. There were eighteen autograph cards, and nine gold foil cards, the reverse of which showed a composite image of the crew, Servalan and the Liberator. Additionally, there was one costume card, and numerous sketch cards by some very talented artists.

In the guide, Mark only had room to include some of the covers for the Together Again audio series, but now has high resolution copies of each, which he has added to the PDF as these may be of interest to members. 

On the fanzine front (which falls outside of the guide in order to comply with Telos' standards, but is now included in the preamble), Mark has located a copy of Peter Anghelides' novelization of Blake which the author himself no longer owned. This has been added as a curio. 

Big Finish
All the information, including recording dates etc, relating to the amazing work being produced by David Richardson, and latterly Cavan Scott, and their teams at Big Finish, will be included in the second edition of the Guide. In addition to The Liberator Chronicles and the books, the full cast audios will also be included, which after the hugely successful Warship, got underway in January 2014, with Fractures by Justin Richards.

Where's Wall-E? Poster
This includes the Federation Security Robot. The poster is available from Hopewell studios here: Where's Wall-E? and costs £12.99. 

Radio Times
One final thing that is included is the colour spread that appeared in the Radio Times to accompany the first episode. This two-page photograph was obscured by the centre crease and staples, and appears here in high resolution glory for the first time! 

All images that accompany this article were kindly provided by Mark Oliver


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