Information: The Making of Blake’s 7 - Seasons 3 and 4 by Rob Emery
- 19 Jan 2022
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The Making of Blake’s 7 - Seasons 3 and 4
by Rob Emery
with grateful thanks to Andrew Pixley and Jackie Emery
The planning for the third and, as far as anyone knew, final season of Blake's 7 started with something of a challenge for the programme makers. The actor playing the title character, Gareth Thomas, decided he wanted to leave the show. Sally Knyvette, who played Jenna, also announced she would not be returning. This meant that they would need to do something drastic to the show’s format: they would have to make Blake's 7 without Blake.
It was decided that the third season should be the darkest yet. Blake was to have gone missing during the war with the Andromedans, only to become an inspirational figure for rebels. One thread running through Season C would be the search for Blake, eventually culminating about halfway through with the Liberator crew finding his grave.
The idea of the Liberator being destroyed and the crew having to fend for themselves was rejected. However it was re-worked into the beginning of the season, which sees the crew separated from the Liberator and having to find their way back.
With the departure of Gareth Thomas and Sally Knyvette, two new characters were needed to replace them. The task of creating these new characters fell to Terry Nation. It was known early on that Thomas only intended to make his initial twenty-six episodes before moving on, so Nation had been formulating the idea for a replacement. Nation’s original character outline was for a character he called ‘The Captain’. This would be an older man, possibly in his mid-fifties. He was to be a hardened space veteran and would join the Liberator crew as their new leader with, of course, plenty of conflict with Avon. In contrast to Blake, the Captain would most definitely not be the freedom fighter type. In fact, his primary motivation would be to turn the Liberator crew over to the Federation at the earliest opportunity, purely for personal gain.
Nation started work in earnest on the new characters in early 1979. He further developed the Captain and gave him a name, Del Tarrant. Although Nation wanted him to be an older man, David Maloney persuaded him that it would be better to make him younger. The reason for this was twofold: initially the team had considered an actor like Jack Watson for the part, but it was thought that as the show was in its final year it would be hard to get an older and more established actor to play the role. Secondly, if Tarrant was played by a younger actor it would allow more contrast between him and the new central character of the show, which it was decided, would be Avon.
With Tarrant now fully sketched out, attention turned to the second of the new characters. It was to be a woman, a lithe combat and weapons expert. It was also decided to give an edge to her character that Cally originally had, but that had been eroded away as the series progressed. Her name was to be Dayna Mellanby. Nation previously had very definite ideas of what some of the other characters should look like, but the only comment for Dayna was that she should not be brunette, in order to contrast with Cally. Although Dayna was created as a replacement for Jenna, one vital skill was missing from her repertoire: she was not a pilot. This skill was transferred to Tarrant, who became an expert space-pilot.
Nation’s deadline for the first story outline for Season C was 7th February 1979. It was to be called Aftermath and was loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest - a play that has seen more than its fair share of science fiction adaptations, including the movie Forbidden Planet. In Nation’s version, Dayna was to be a Miranda-like character with her father, Hal Mellanby, as Prospero, while Avon would be Captain Tempest.
By 10th April, notes on Nation’s script for Aftermath were sent back to him. The next script commissioned for Season C came from Roger Parkes and was to be called Children of Auron. Soon after, Robert Holmes was commissioned to write an episode titled Sweetly Dreaming, Slowly Dying, which was delivered in August but never used. The next episode was written by script editor Chris Boucher. It would turn out to be one of the best-loved stories from the entire run of Blake's 7 – City at the Edge of the World. This was unashamedly a Vila story and was written partly at the request of Michael Keating’s daughter, who was fed up with Vila being cowardly all the time and wanted him to be the hero for a change.
While David Maloney took a holiday before production started in earnest, Chris Boucher commissioned a second script from Nation. This new script would be titled Powerplay and concentrated on introducing the new character Tarrant and developed further the character of Dayna.
During pre-production on Season C, David Maloney had considered a sea change in the character of Avon. Now that Blake was gone and Avon was the central character, they considered making Avon more Blake-like. It was suggested that Paul Darrow make Avon more moral and a bit more idealistic, as Blake had been. Darrow did not like this idea; he knew that the popularity of his character was partly down to his anti-hero aspects and he did not think that messing with the established formula was the right thing to do. Another plot thread suggested was that Avon leads the crew throughout the season in a search for Blake. Again, Darrow did not think this made sense, as he had been trying for two seasons to gain control of the Liberator. Now that he had it, it was not logical to give it away. Although a faint echo of this story line did survive in the episode Volcano, this was probably down to the fact that Volcano was early commission.
Another ongoing theme that was brought more to the fore was that of romance between the main characters. There had always been ‘something’ hinted at between Avon and Cally, though this had never been followed through. There was no real reason for this other than that it was difficult to synchronize between scripts on Season B, so it was never expanded upon. There was also a fine line to be drawn between genuine sexual tension and soppy or smutty innuendo, neither of which was appropriate to the show.
After the events of Star One, the Federation was in a mess and Travis was dead. Jacqueline Pearce was asked to reprise her role as Servalan, but this time she was promoted; she was now President of the Federation. Pearce was pleased to see that she would be appearing in nine of the thirteen episodes and, as an established character in the series, would be getting higher billing than either of the new permanent cast members.
It was now time to focus on casting for the two new characters in the show. At the beginning of April 1979, a list was drawn up of potential actors to play Tarrant. The list included Desmond Adams, Chris Brown, Jonathan David, Steven Pacey, Duncan Preston, Andrew Ray, Paul Seed and Nick Tate. Another actor considered for the part was Christian Roberts, who was interviewed on 4th April, and had already appeared in Blake's 7 in the Season A episode Breakdown. In the end, Steven Pacey won the part. When he saw what age Tarrant was supposed to be, he wondered why his agent had sent him to audition, as he was quite obviously too young.
That just left casting for Dayna. Actresses considered for the part included Floella Benjamin, Debbi Blythe, Lindsay Duncan, Caroline Langrishe, Brioney McRoberts, Joanne Pearce and Marina Sirtis. Sirtis was to find fame in Star Trek: The Next Generartion a few years later. A favourite for the part was Kirstie Pooley, who was interviewed as early as 3rd April. The role eventually went to Josette Simon, an actress so new to television that at the time she didn’t even have an Equity card. Prior to starting on the show, Pacey had seen a couple of episodes of Blake's 7 and did not think much of it. Simon, on the other hand, had not seen any at all.
Costume fittings and rehearsals for Season C started on Monday 23rd July 1979. The following weekend they moved up to Ripon, in Yorkshire, which would be the unit base when shooting commenced on 30th July.
Powerplay was the first episode to be filmed. It was directed by David Maloney, although he was uncredited, due to already having a credit as producer. During the filming at How Stein Gorge (doubling for planet Chenga) local TV news programme Look North interviewed Michael Keating and David Maloney and produced a report on the making of the episode. This report is available to watch as one of the extras on the Blake's 7 Season 3 DVD box set. Later that week, location filming for Volcano took place on Hebden Moor, and included Tarrant and Dayna’s first filmed scenes. It was during this portion of filming that Paul Darrow fell and damaged his ankle, making it necessary for the shooting schedule to be rearranged slightly.
The beginning of September saw rehearsals start at the BBC rehearsal rooms in Acton. There was a press call with the three female stars Jan Chappell, Jacqueline Pearce and Josette Simon, together with producer David Maloney. Also ready was the new title sequence created by Doug Burd. This, of course, had been made necessary due to the departure of Gareth Thomas.
Recording at Television Centre started on Tuesday 11th September for the episode Powerplay. Used for the first time on this season was a new type of camera, which caused problems for the visual effects department and for A J 'Mitch' Mitchell in particular. Whenever he tried to generate the teleport effect, the cameras would cut out. Removing their safety circuits fixed this problem, but at the expense of one of the cameras!
More rehearsals for Powerplay and Volcano started on 13th September and continued until the second recording session began on Thursday 20th. There was another press call on the 21st September with the regular cast on the Liberator set.
Aftermath and City at the Edge of the World were next to go into production, both directed by Vere Lorrimer. After the Yorkshire Dales, it was on to the beaches at Bamburgh in Northumberland, which were filmed as Sarran, the planet where Avon meets Dayna for the first time. Shooting took place here from Tuesday 7th to Friday 10th August. It was during this period that Terry Nation was commissioned to write a very special script. It was to be the last ever episode of Blake's 7 - Terminal.
The next block of location filming was from Monday 13th August and took place around Pateley Bridge, whose moorland was used to represent Keezarn in the episode City at the Edge of the World. Filmed at the same time were some scenes for the episode Aftermath involving Cy Grant, who played Dayna’s father Hal Mellanby. This extra shooting was laid on because Grant had not been available for filming the previous week.
Vere Lorrimer had his turn next for the studio recordings. As he was directing two episodes back-to-back, he was able to mix and match his scenes between episodes. These recordings took place on the 2nd and 3rd October, during which there was yet another photo shoot.
City at the Edge of the World began studio rehearsals on 4th October, which continued again right up until recording began on Thursday 11th and continued until Saturday.
Children of Auron began its location filming on Wednesday 15th August at Leeds Polytechnic and continued until Saturday. After this, the crew returned to London and took a short break in order to prepare for the next block. Children of Auron studio recording was from 23rd to 24th October.
Next up was filming for Dawn of the Gods, a script written by James Follet. Boucher had approached Follet to do a quick one-off story for the series. An interesting point to note is that throughout the original script Tarrant is still referred to as Captain and Dayna’s part was originally labelled Jenna. As no location work was required for this episode, initial filming was carried out at Ealing Studios. Also filmed at the same time were Liberator corridor and escape capsule scenes for Aftermath and Powerplay.
Thursday 25th October saw studio rehearsals start for Dawn of the Gods, ready to be recorded in studio TC1 on Thursday 1st to Saturday 3rd November. As previously, the first shots recorded were the flight deck scenes.
As well as the location and studio work, model filming by Steve Drewett and Jim Francis had also commenced. Their first batch of filming covered the first six episodes and included shots of Servalan’s new command vessel. It was hoped that they could do some more stock shots of the Liberator too, but this was ruled out due to cost. This is why stock shots of the Liberator from Season A were reused.
With the first six episodes in the can, the cast took a week’s holiday before starting work on the remainder of the season.
First up for filming was Harvest of Kairos, which saw all the regulars carted off to Bovingdon Airfield in Hertfordshire for filming that took place between Sunday 11th and Wednesday 14th November. Back at BBC Television Centre, programme production was halted due to a major union dispute. Luckily this did not affect the location shoot, but other programmes such as Doctor Who were not so fortunate and suffered major disruption.
Studio recording for Harvest of Kairos began in TC1 on 21st December and ran for three days. It was about this time that the cast and crew began to deliberate their futures in the programme. Many wanted it to go out on a high, as everyone thought that the programme would end with the current series. However, it was at this point that Jan Chappell made it clear that if the series were to continue beyond Season C, she would not be interested in continuing with it.
Vere Lorrimer directed the next episode, Ultraworld. Much of the filming took place underneath Camden Town Underground Station in a network of old service tunnels.
Studio rehearsals for Ultraworld started on 24th January 1980. During this session, Steven Pacey took time out to record some scenes as Del Tarrant’s brother Deeta, for the upcoming episode Death-Watch.
TC6 was the BBC studio for the Ultraworld recording which took place on 1st and 2nd of February. This episode was particularly tricky to complete on time, due to the amount of make-up effects needed for the blue Ultras. Make-up designer Sheelagh Wells had to concoct a special type of make-up that would crack and crumble on cue. This was more difficult than it sounds, especially when studio lighting conditions are taken into account. However she prevailed and the Ultra’s face crumbled right on cue.
It was back to a classic location for filming on Moloch - Betchworth Quarry. The crew were there from Wednesday 21st until Friday 23rd November. For this episode, Lorrimer took it upon himself to write a song that was sung by convicts from the planet Kalkos - The Convicts’ Freedom March.
Studio rehearsals for Moloch began on 4th February. BBC TC1 was the studio for the recording, which began on Monday 11th February and ran until Wednesday, with some scenes for Ultraworld also fitted in on Tuesday.
Director Fiona Cummings took over the directorial reins for the next episode, Rumours of Death. Location filming took place around the end of November. This episode featured Servalan’s residence and was shot at a stately home in Pangbourne, Oxfordshire.
Cast and crew broke for a week’s holiday at Christmas and were back in the saddle again at the beginning of January 1980, with rehearsals for Rumours of Death. The first episode of Season C aired on Monday 7th January and gained very respectable ratings - a sign of things to come.
Recording in BBC TC6 for Rumours of Death took place on 11th and 12th January, with rehearsals for Sarcophagus beginning the following Monday.
Sarcophagus was written by established author Tanith Lee and required no location filming. It was decided to film the scenes in the alien spacecraft at Ealing Studios. Recording for Sarcophagus took place in TC6 from Monday 21st to Wednesday 23rd January. It was an interesting episode, because as well as a nicely oddball story, it included a song composed by Tanith Lee which was sung by Josette Simon.
As with the previous series of Blake's 7, the production schedule was insanely tight. For example, Dawn of the Gods only finished post-production three days before it was broadcast on 28th January.
Location filming for Terminal started on 5th February under the direction of Mary Ridge. Doubling for the planet Terminal was Pirton Hill in Oxfordshire. During the filming, Deep Roy, who was playing one of the ape-like Links, was injured when a fight sequence involving him and Steven Pacey went wrong. Deep Roy’s injuries, whilst not serious, were sufficient that he could not go on to his next film project. The meeting between Avon and what he believes to be Blake was also filmed in Pirton Hill, in a nearby church hall. This was because Gareth Thomas had other commitments, which meant he would not be available for the studio recording session.
Terminal was to be a special episode for a number of reasons, but two in particular: it would see the return of Gareth Thomas as Blake and it would also see the destruction of the Liberator. As Terminal was to be the final episode of Blake’s 7, it was decided to end it on a depressing note, and the destruction of the Liberator would have that desired effect.
Rehearsals for Terminal began at the end of February and continued until recording started in TC8 on Wednesday 5th until Friday 7th March. The distressing scenes of the Liberator’s destruction were saved until Friday. On that Friday, the Liberator sets were dressed with Slime, a children's toy that consisted of a non-toxic viscous, oozing green material. There was not enough of it at the BBC and runners were sent out to toy shops all over London to buy pots of Slime. However, they still couldn't find enough to cover the whole set, so the crew resorted to using a version of Slime that contained rubber worms. By all accounts, there was not enough time to remove all the worms, so if you think you saw worms on the Liberator flight deck, you might well be right. The visual effects team then had a lot of fun making sure the Liberator went out in a blaze of glory.
Death-Watch began rehearsals on Thursday 14th February. Recording this episode began on Thursday 21st February and ran until Saturday. Chris Boucher had written Death-Watch as a last minute replacement for a script which was not used. One requirement for the script was that it had to be cost effective, hence the reusing of an observation gallery set at the beginning and end of the episode. Boucher also wrote the script in such a way that Del and Deeta Tarrant never meet on screen, thus saving time and money on split-screen effects.
The reaction from the cast toward the last season was positive. Most thought the scripts had improved and many were looking forward to new careers and opportunities. Jan Chappell in particular was happy the series had finished, as her character of Cally never really developed in the way she would have liked.
Season C of Blake's 7 performed very well in the ratings. Despite being up against the likes of Coronation Street, it managed more than 10 million viewers on several occasions. However, what happened during the closing credits of Terminal took everyone by surprise, and I do mean everyone. The continuity announcer stated that Blake's 7 would be back in the new year! But how? The production office was closed, many sets and props had been destroyed and some of the cast and crew had moved on to new jobs.
Immediately following the announcement, Paul Darrow and Michael Keating were on the phone to each other questioning what they had just heard, as neither of them had expected it. At the same time, in one of the control rooms at the BBC, Judith Smith, David Maloney’s production secretary, and Sheelagh Wells were watching the show go out and were both astounded by the news. It is not clear how this change of heart came about, but it is thought to have been a direct intervention by the then head of BBC Television, Bill Cotton.
Vere Lorrimer was appointed series producer for Season D. There was no chance of David Maloney returning, as he had already moved on to produce When the Boat Comes In. Luckily, Chris Boucher was able to stay on as script editor and he worked closely with Lorrimer to rebuild the series from the bottom up. Gone were all the elements that had given the show its comfortable feel: no Liberator, no Zen and probably no teleport, as the Liberator was supposedly the only ship equipped with one. Not only was there the new format to be worked out, but they also had to find out which members of the cast would be willing, or indeed able, to return to the show.
Work began in earnest on the new season in September 1980. Much of the fourth season styling was based on the first completed script, written by Chris Boucher and titled Rescue. At this point, Rescue was written on the assumption that all the original cast would return for the show, so Cally was included in the original draft. From these first principles, Boucher and Lorrimer were able to give the crew a new ship, Scorpio, and for the first time give them a base of operations, Xenon. It was Lorrimer’s intent to make Season D grittier and darker than what had gone before. The crew had it too easy with the Liberator; if they were being chased they simply accelerated out of trouble. For the new season, the crew would need to out-think, rather than out-run, their enemy. It was also necessary to re-invent the teleport; as a plot devise it was too useful to lose. Other cosmetic changes were also made: with the Liberator gone and with it the Liberator handguns, new side arms were needed, so the clip gun was invented. To cut down on the post-production time needed per episode, the guns were designed to fire a small black powder charge from the muzzle, thus producing a ‘real’ muzzle flash. Because this happened on camera there was no need to add an effect afterwards, which saved time and money. Another method used to speed up production was the way in which models were shot. For Season D, all models were shot against a blue background, and all the star and planet backgrounds shot on film. The two shots were then combined using Colour Separation Overlay (CSO) in post-production.
Then the question of Servalan has to be addressed. Initially it was decided that Servalan really had died when the Liberator was destroyed and so a new character, Commissioner Sleer, was created. However it was soon decided that Sleer should be Servalan, who was now also wanted by the Federation and using the Sleer identity as an alias. Another thing that Boucher had decided was to not follow up the implied relationship between Avon and Servalan, which had been hinted at in the previous season. To this end, the characters rarely met throughout Season D.
Another ongoing theme that was largely dropped from the final production was the idea that Avon and crew would scour the universe looking for specialists to help their fight against the Federation. It was thought that this would cause problems, because it would mean that the episodes would need to be shown in story order for the arc to make sense. It would also lead to the band of rebels becoming too powerful, due to all their new weapons and equipment built by the various specialists. So it was decided instead to make sure the specialists were usually killed off during the episode. This led to what many thought was a major flaw in the fourth season of Blake's 7 - whoever the guest star was, you could bet they would be dead by the end of the episode.
Doug Burd was again responsible for designing a new title sequence for Season D. He also designed the show’s new logo, which was used on promotional material and on the cover of Marvel’s new BLAKE’S 7 magazine. The opening credits were not the only thing to undergo a revamp; the theme tune was also re-orchestrated and given a lift by composer Dudley Simpson.
By the end of 1980, it was known that all of the original cast were willing to come back for another series. The only exception was Jan Chappell, who was unhappy with the direction her character had been taking and also had personal commitments. So with these factors taken into consideration, she declined to return. She did, however, agree to come into studio and record the voice-over for Cally’s death scene. The loss of Cally left Boucher with a problem; he needed to create a new character to replace her. He also needed to re-write his script for Rescue to add a death scene for Cally. Boucher then went on to create the character of Soolin, the striking blonde gunslinger.
Lorrimer took notes about all the planned changes to the series and went to see Terry Nation, who was now living in the United States. Nation agreed to the changes but, sadly, made no further contribution to the show.
Lorrimer had seen a young actress called Glynis Barber, when she was interviewed for a part in When the Boat Comes In. Lorrimer thought she would be ideal for the character of Soolin and cast her in early 1981. Barber was no stranger to Blake's 7 as she had already appeared as a Mutoid in the Season A episode Project Avalon.
Friday 20th February 1981 saw the first photo call for the new season. The main cast were there in their new costumes, sporting clip guns and the new design of teleport bracelet.
Filming for Season D started on Monday 23rd February and saw Mary Ridge back directing at Pirton Hill, which again was used for the planet Terminal. A slight alteration was made to the script to change a spider-like creature that Dayna and Vila were supposed to encounter, into the big green snake thing that was seen on screen. Again, this was to save money as Andy Lazell and Jim Francis had already made the snake creature. Ridge had been allocated four episodes in Season D, so filming for all her episodes was done consecutively over the next two weeks.
A second photo call was arranged for 11th March, when the new ship set was unveiled.
Rescue rehearsals began at Acton on Monday 30th March and ran until Friday 10th April when they went to TC6 to start recording. It was here that the Scorpio set was erected for the first time. Roger Cann had designed the set with input from Mary Ridge, and it had been made with simplicity and strength in mind. It was also much easier to light than the old Liberator set. Slave, the shipboard computer replacement for Zen, had its own alcove in one corner of the set. Indeed, Slave had quite a sci-fi heritage, as part of his casing was made from part of the Death Star set from Star Wars.
It was back to Betchworth Quarry to film Power, where conditions could hardly have been worse with the crew having to deal with torrential rain and hard frost.
Power was recorded in TC6 on 23rd to 24th April. It was during this episode that we get to see the new teleport effect for the first time. Robin Lobb designed this new effect and, in line with many of the other visual effects used in Season D, was easier to achieve than previously.
Box Hill in Surrey was next on the location list; this was the setting for Animals. This episode was notable for several reasons, not just the obvious one of it being probably the least popular story in the entire four year run of Blake's 7. First, there was a new design for the Mutoids, who now wore blonde wigs instead of the pepper pot hats they had before. One of the reasons for the change was the difficulty that production staff had in getting the old black hat design to stay on the actors’ heads. The other notable event was when several of the actors playing the animals had to be treated in a nearby hospital for facial burns, caused by a severe reaction to the spirit gum and latex masks used for the costumes.
The studio recording, which was the last block for the first half of Season D, took place from Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th June. It included the first appearance of Servalan’s new command ship.
Headhunter was Ridge’s next episode and that too was filmed at Box Hill. A bridge over the river Mole was used in the climactic scene. This bridge has since been demolished and new one built in its place. The shoot for this episode was marred both by the weather (a problem that was to affect many episodes in this season) and by an unexpected visit from the police. Apparently they had received reports of a headless man sighted in the woods! TC1 was the destination for Ridge when she returned to the studio to record this episode on 5th and 6th of June.
Next into the director’s chair was David Sullivan Proudfoot. He was down to do two episodes: Stardrive and Traitor. A quarry in Bedfordshire was the location for the planet Caspar. As with Animals there was another trip to the local hospital, when during filming Josette Simon injured her leg whilst riding one of the trikes.
Stardrive’s studio sessions were in TC1 on the 8th and 9th May. During this episode, Proudfoot experimented with various electronic wipes and transitions.
Bad weather in the third week of March affected filming on Traitor, which was on location amongst the earthworks of Binnegar Heath Quarry in Dorset. Traitor saw a lot of costume swapping going on, with several extras wearing costumes that had been seen in earlier episodes of Blake's 7. Even Tarrant is seen wearing a costume previously worn by Avon. Traitor was not the original title for the episode; its working title was A Land Fit for Helots. The episode was recorded in TC6 from 22nd to 24th May, and marked the return of Servalan.
After a short break between blocks, two weeks of location filming got under way on 6th July. First location was Winspit Quarry near Swanage, which was used to film the episode Games over three days. Games studio recording was from 10th to 12th September in TC1.
Assassin was filmed on location in a sandpit near Bovington. It was during this session that yet another accident was to strike the production, when Paul Darrow was hurt during a stunt fight. Recording for Assassin started on 13th August in TC6 with David Sullivan Proudfoot at the helm.
Brian Lighthill was in the director’s chair for the episode Gold. Poole Refuse Disposal Centre doubled for Zerok’s gold processing plant and the scene on Beta 5 was filmed in a nearby quarry. Gold went to studio on 24th and 25th September. Another money-saving attempt was made when sets used in Assassin were redressed and used again.
For the episode Sand, Ealing Studio was covered in green sand and used for filming most of the scenes set on the planet Virn on 20th to 24th July. Sand’s studio recording in TC6 was on 28th and 29th August. This was the only episode of the final season that Jacqueline Pearce was pleased with. She had been unhappy and slightly confused at the direction her character had been forced to take in Season D.
Rehearsals for the studio-bound episode Orbit commenced in late September with Brian Lighthill directing again. This was to become one of the standout episodes of Season D, which includes a particularly powerful scene in which Vila hides, cowering in terror as Avon stalks him. Recording for Orbit began on 9th October and ran for 3 days in TC6.
Much of the location filming for Warlord took place in the early autumn. The scenes on Zondawl were filmed at a shopping centre in Guilford. Then it was back to Betchworth Quarry yet again; this time it was portraying the planet Betafarl. Studio recording for Warlord took place on 22nd to 24th October.
Unlike the other scripts for the season, the script for the final episode, Blake, was held back from the actors until production on it was ready to begin. There had been rumours about how the season might end and whether or not there would be a fifth season. When the cast finally saw the script for Blake there was little doubt that it would definitely be the end this time. Much discussion had taken place between Lorrimer and Boucher on exactly how to end the series. It was in keeping with Lorrimer’s downbeat approach to the whole season that major characters should die in the last episode. It also fitted in with the need to make this series end on a highly memorable note. Many shows like Blake's 7 have come and gone in the intervening years, whose last episodes did not stand out. There are few people, however, who saw the final episode of Blake's 7 and can’t tell you what happened, even now over three decades on.
However, Boucher did hedge his bets by having all the Scorpio crew gunned down, but without a speck of blood being seen on them. This was just in case the show got a last minute reprieve; he could then say that they had just been stunned. The exception to this was Blake himself: one of the conditions Gareth Thomas made in agreeing to come back for the last episode was that he must be seen to die, with no room for doubt. This has led some fans who still wanted the show to continue, or who just did not like the idea of Blake being dead, to hypothesise that it was the Blake clone seen in the Season B episode Weapon that died, not the original. Many of the cast did not have a problem with the ending; in fact both Paul Darrow and Gareth Thomas were pleased with it. Darrow was particularly satisfied to see his character’s paranoid psychosis played out to its natural conclusion.
As had been the case with Terminal, Mary Ridge was asked to direct the last episode of the season. So, it was off to a forest in Camberley for the scenes set on Gauda Prime. Filming took place between the 13th and 15th October.
Jim Francis filmed the crash of Scorpio in the pine forest miniature, completely destroying the large Scorpio model in the process. Then came the last studio recording for Blake's 7. The three-day session started on Thursday 5th December in TC6. The climactic scene when all crewmembers are gunned down was recorded on Friday afternoon. The scene where the Scorpio flight deck was destroyed was recorded Friday evening. The final scenes of Blake's 7 to be recorded were those set inside the wrecked hulk of the Scorpio.
The final episode, Blake, was broadcast on December 21st 1981 to an audience of 9 million viewers. This time there was no last minute reprieve from the BBC continuity announcer; this time it was finished for good.
Blake's 7 has ended, but it has most definitely not been forgotten. It still lives on in the form of books (fiction and non-fiction), magazines, videos, remastered DVDs, conventions and fan clubs. It has now received a whole new lease of life, with new audio adventures starring the original cast, who have returned to their roles over thirty years since the TV series ended.
This article was originally published in Action TV magazine.
· Posted by Travisina on 12 January 2014 12860 Reads ·