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Liberation: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Blake's 7

by Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore

(Telos Publishing, www.telos.co.uk, £9.99, 228 pages, paperback, also available in deluxe hardback edition priced £30.00, published 25 September 2003.)

Oh, the guilty thrill that seized me the cover scanfirst time I saw an "Unofficial and Unauthorised" programme guide! It seemed to promise some naughty strain of fan insight that no official programme guide could offer -- "the true story of Serial X that they don't want you to read!" Now that I've read a few, my expectations are a little more prosaic: an episode listing much like any other, but with fewer pictures.

So, we've established that I can't drone on about lavish illustrations (although a light seasoning of black-and-white photographs do accompany the text of Liberation). What, then, does Liberation have to offer the discerning Blake's 7 fan? Each of the show's four seasons is given a short behind-the-scenes overview, and each episode a full production and cast listing, a brief summary and a fairly thorough analysis. There's a few introductory paragraphs outlining the show's creation, and a quick round-up of the spin-off material -- the authors modestly forebear from analysing those audio dramas they themselves penned -- at the back. And that's about it. No lengthy dissertations, no gloves-off interviews, no in-depth "making-of" features. The background information given scratches the surface, but barely. There's a foreword from David Maloney, the show's producer; it's a perfunctory piece. Telos could have plugged this as the "no nonsense" Blake's 7 programme guide.

All the more surprising, then, that in their acknowledgements the authors should credit a list of people, including several of the show's stars, for providing "interview material, anecdotes and reminiscences". Most of these B7 luminaries aren't even quoted in the book, and the glittering list also includes the writers of an abandoned script which is later mentioned twice, and a guest actor whose performance in the one episode he appeared in is highly thought of by the authors. It's a poor substitute for the juicy extras that fill out some programme guides.

What we're left with is the authors' own analysis of the episodes, and here at least there's something to justify the cover price. As I've said, Stevens and Moore have scripted some of the commercially available spin-offery themselves, and they certainly know their subject. Any reader who's ever puzzled over an uncharacteristically charitable act from Avon, or wondered why the show had to end in a massacre, will find the answers here. Stevens and Moore's thoughtful dissection of plot and character is probably the most scholarly examination of Blake's 7 money can buy, and without a doubt the best feature of Liberation. It's just a shame it's the only notable feature of Liberation.

I don't know what extras the additional twenty pounds for the hardback edition might get you, but readers might be disappointed if it's nothing more than a more durable cover. For a tenner, though, fans of Blake's 7 can content themselves with an intelligent exploration of the series in paperback form.


Review by John Toon.


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