Blake's Seven is an iconic British SF series created by Terry Nation, who had earlier created the Daleks and the After the End drama series Survivors. It ran for four thirteen episode series between 1978 and 1981. The series takes place during the "third century of the new calendar" (fans estimate this as approximately 2700 AD). The series is about the quest of a group of rebels to overthrow the evil and fascistic Federation that controls Earth and most of the known Galaxy. Though it is sometimes referred to as a Space Opera, it tended to the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, particularly after a certain point. The format had elements of Wagon Train to the Stars. It was also lower-budget, and looked it.It is distinctive in that most of its leading characters are of the Anti-Hero type rather than your usual clean-cut heroes. In fact, Avon, the lead of the latter two seasons, counted as an Anti-Villain. It's often seen as Nation's attempt to subvert Star Trek — the B7 Federation's logo is the Trek Federation logo rotated through 90 degrees — and other subversions of what, at the time, were standard Space Opera tropes are common.Premise:Roj Blake (or just "Blake"—in The Verse, people usually used only a single name) had led a rebellion against the Federation which had been put down. Brainwashed, Blake had renounced the rebellion he led and was leading the life of a normal citizen until he was brought out of his brainwashing by a new group of rebels. Again, that putative rebellion was quashed and Blake was framed for crimes he didn't commit (child molestation, though this wasn't mentioned again after the second episode) and sent to a prison planet.En route to exile, Blake and a group of prisoners managed to escape from captivity and take control of a mysterious, and very advanced, ship which they called the Liberator and resolved to fight back against the Federation. The series then chronicled their attempts, which were usually (and ultimately) unsuccessful, to overthrow the Federation.Blake was perhaps the only "good" character amongst the Seven but, though he sometimes appeared to be, never had the full authority and respect from the others to be The Captain. The other main characters in the series were: Kerr Avon (Avon), an amoral computer expert who refused to trust anyone — a real Anti-Hero; Jenna Stannis, a smuggler who was the pilot of the Liberator during the first two series; Vila Restal (Vila), a cowardly thief; Cally, a humanoid telepath with kamikaze tendencies exiled from the planet Auron; and Olag Gan (Gan), a Gentle Giant, but only because he had a limiter fitted to his brain after he killed a man in a rage (admittedly, said man had just raped and killed Gan's girlfriend). Liberator was controlled by a sentient computer known as Zen.The Federation was represented by an array of troopers, usually outfitted in uniforms of black leather and gas masks. For the first two series, the Seven were pursued by Travis, a psychotic killer (and The Dragon) dispatched to "seek, locate and destroy Blake" by Big BadServalan, the impossibly glamorous Supreme Commander (later President) of the Federation.At the end of the first series, the Seven beat Servalan to find the supercomputer Orac (originally presented as a Weapon of Mass Destruction but downgraded when it was kept on), which was capable of finding information on almost anything but was also programmed with the personality of its creator, an irascible old man.The second series saw Blake determined to strike at the heart of the Federation by destroying its central computer — the series had a Story Arc, but often the quest for information about Star One was little more than a MacGuffin. During the quest, Gan was killed and Travis went mad, eventually betraying humanity and allowing the alien Andromedans to attack. The Seven were forced to fight alongside the Federation to stop the invasion. Liberator was heavily damaged in the battle, forcing the crew to abandon ship, meaning some of them were lost (a useful device for the writers to explain away the departure of characters between series).Despite Gareth Thomas, who played Blake, leaving at the end of the second series, the series retained its title, with Avon now becoming leader of the Seven. Blake was replaced by Del Tarrant (Tarrant), a former Federation officer who'd deserted. Jenna had also gone, being replaced by weapons expert Dayna Mellanby (Dayna). At the end of the season, they appeared to have found Blake again, but had been tricked. Liberator was destroyed and the crew were abandoned on planet Terminal.This was supposed to be the end of the series (and, indeed, was the last episode written by Nation), but a year later, the BBC brought it back, though without the active involvement of Nation. The crew now had a new ship called the Scorpio and the deceased Cally was replaced by female assassin Soolin.If anything, the final series was even darker than before, with almost all the Seven's plans failing and ending with the episode "Blake", perhaps the ultimate Downer Ending of any series. Finally finding Blake again, Avon kills him, believing he has betrayed the rebellion (and, more importantly, him) before the rest of the crew are then killed by the Federation with only Avon left standing. Surrounded by Federation troopers, he aims his gun at the camera, smiles and then it cuts to the final credits with gunfire sounds in the background.Blake's Seven was clearly a strong influence on Farscape, Lexx, and Firefly, as well as having a minor influence on Babylon 5 — J. Michael Straczynski noted that, in writing all of Season 3, he was doing something that hadn't been attempted in SF TV since Terry Nation wrote all of Season 1 of Blake's Seven. It had a much stronger influence on the sequel series Crusade, which became even more obvious when information began to leak about plot developments that would have occurred had the show not been cancelled.Big Finish has made, and is continuing to make, audio dramas featuring the original cast; they are also publishing a trilogy about Avon by Paul Darrow which is largely set twenty years after the events of "Blake."In 2007, a new audio version was produced with some interesting twists to the story. It can be listened to at the Sci Fi UK website.  A couple of scripts have been ordered for a possible TV revival. ...Orpossibly not.But now there's a possibility SyFy will reboot it.Some familiar plots used in the series:
There's quite a strong element of sexual tension within the show, though much of it is beneath the surface, mainly because it was originally shown in an early evening timeslot. Fans note much subtextual Ho Yay in many of the male relationships. Amongst British SF fandom, Blake/Avon (or Avon/Blake — the order can be very important to fans) slashfiction is very popular, as is Avon/Tarrant.
Ace Pilot: Jenna and Tarrant. Everyone else learns basic piloting techniques, but anything complicated is left to them.
Action Girl - Most of the women in the series can handle themselves in a fight, but Dayna, by virtue of youth and sheer variety/depth of combat skill, stands out.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot - While Orac does not have homicidal tendencies, he is frequently reluctant to follow orders given to him, dismissing them as irrelevant waste of time. Zen, on the other hand, deliberately withholds information from the crew on more than one occasion until the crew takes "full" control of the Liberator at the end of "Redemption". It's also the back-story to the same episode (well, unless the enslavement of the entire star system including its builders was intended). Mueller's android is an evil, homicidal machine that can control any other machine, and wished to use this ability to conquer the universe.
Aliens Made Them Do It: Tarrant and Servalan in "Sand", and attempted unsuccessfully on Tarrant and Dayna in "Ultraworld".
Ambiguously Human - Cally the Auron, whose nature unfortunately changes from season to season; she was initially portrayed and repeatedly described as a very humanoid alien, but later became an artificially enhanced clone from an isolationist human society. Might also be an example of Human Aliens, depending on what you believe.
Also, various planetary populations encountered by the crew who appear human but have ancient civilizations predating the Earth colonies. Some are explicitly stated to be Human Aliens, others are left ambiguous.
Artifact Title: A pre-and-post variant thereof; There aren't seven of them until the end of the third episode, when Cally joins. After that, the number usually stays close to seven, but varies... and after the end of series two, it's not Blake's any more.
Bad Export for You: It's currently not available on DVD in the US, though you might be able to scrounge up some VHS tapes.
Bolivian Army Ending: The final episode ended with all the heroes apparently getting shot. Had there been a fifth season it would have been revealed that some if not all had survived, but at that point the show got cancelled. Fanon has it that Vila, at least, survived, as when he is 'shot', he falls the wrong way, early - faking being hit, or so the story goes.
Bond Villain Stupidity - Servalan benefits from a heroic version of this, especially from Tarrant in "Sand", when she was responsible for his brother's death in the previous season. It also happens a lot to Travis until Avon finally kills him in "Star One".
Canon Welding - Chris Boucher's spin-off works have suggested that the show takes place in the same time period and spatial area as his popular Doctor Who story "The Robots Of Death". It could have happened earlier and with a much higher profile, as Tom Baker and some of the actors from Blake's wanted to do a crossover story, and Terry Nation originally wanted the alien invasion at the end of S2 to be the Daleks from Doctor Who. Which would have beenawesome.
Casual Interstellar Travel: This series has several forms of Faster-Than-Light Travel; Time-Distort and Hyperdrives (which may or may not be the same thing) are used by the Federation. The Liberator uses a different, more exotic method that involves "crossing the antimatter threshold." In the 4th season, Scorpio is fitted with an experimental Photonic Drive that is faster than anything else. All these systems differ in maximum speed, with the Liberator and Scorpio outclassing just about everything else, but all of them are apparently very fast; the crew darts around the galaxy and is able to return to Earth to strike at the Federation's heart without too much extended space travel.
Chronic Hero Syndrome - Blake has a bad case; the Liberator crew's general exhaustion and frustration from mid-Season Two onward is a testament to it.
Cool Starship - The Liberator, a mysterious, fantastically powerful alien craft; when they board it, Jenna and Avon find an on-board treasure room and a vast costume closet. It has numerous crew amenities, a teleport system, a BFG and a sentient computer.
Crapsack World - The show is generally extremely cynical, and gets even more so as it progresses. The "good" characters are generally either Nominal Heroes or Well Intentioned Extremists, the victories against the Federation are minor and temporary, and increasingly rare in later seasons. The Federation is nearly destroyed at the beginning of Season 3 by the Andromedan invasion, but gradually gets back up to full power despite the resistance's efforts. And of course there's the notorious ending.
Debut Queue: Vila and Jenna get introduced to Blake at the very end of the first episode, Avon and Gan are introduced in the second, Zen in the third, and Cally finally turns up to complete the original team in the fourth.
Decoy Protagonist - New viewers watching the first episode might assume the thoroughly likable Varon (Blake's lawyer) and Maja (Varon's wife) are going to be major characters, as they have a lot of screen time, and spend much of "The Way Back" attempting to help Blake. New viewers would be wrong in this assumption.
Depraved Bisexual - Egrorian in "Orbit" — although initially he's very closely attached to his one-time student Pinder, he has no problems blowing him off in favour of a relationship with Servalan. Also Krantor in "Gambit", who similarly is strongly implied to be same-sex lovers with his sidekick Toise but flirts heavily with Servalan as well.
The Empire - Though it's called The Federation (occasionally the Terran Federation), it's notThe Federation in anything except some of its own propaganda. Puppet states and rigged elections on its frontiers are par for the course.
Establishing Character Moment - Avon snarkily explaining how the door panels work in "Space Fall", thus showing off his love of computers and his love of being rude to people he thinks are dumber than him. (Which is, of course, everyone.) Cally knocking Blake over with her gun, and speaking to him telepathically combines her fighter nature with her dislike of actual violence, and demonstrates her telepathy. Vila trying to take Blake's watch shows he's a thief, though it's presented initially as being a compulsive behaviour rather than something he does because he's good at it, as in later episodes.
Even Evil Has Standards - Beyban again, who is disgusted that Blake edged him out of the #1 spot on the Federation's "Most Wanted" list by resorting to quick n' easy politics, unlike Beyban's earning that honor over the course of a long and brutal career.
Evil Is Hammy - "Evil" is an open question, but it's certainly true that the more embittered and compromised Avon becomes, the more studs he wears, poses he strikes, and lines he delivers in staccato barks.
Faceless Goons - The Federation's always gas-masked troopers. Subverted in some episodes where we see them take the masks off for breaks, or if you the viewer are going to have to remember which one is who.
Fake in the Hole - Avon throws a stone into a nest of Federation troops, shouting "Grenade!" The troops reflexively dive for cover, and when they realize it was fake and look up, the heroes have them at gunpoint. Avon: "It must have been a dud. Sorry about that."
Fan of the Past: A number of planets resembled 20th century locations, and this was used several times due to the famously low budget.
Faster-Than-Light Travel; Time-Distort and Hyperdrives (which may or may not be the same thing) are used by the Federation; the Liberator uses a different, more exotic propulsion. In the 4th season, Scorpio is fitted with super-fast experimental Photonic Drive. All of these propulsion methods are limited to travel within the Milky Way Galaxy. The alien invaders from Andromeda, however, have an unspecified "intergalactic drive."
Friendly Enemy: Avon and Vila have this sort of relationship. On a personal level, they despise one another. On a professional level, they have tremendous respect for each others skills (Avon as a computer expert, Vila as a master thief).
Blake and Avon run like girls. It's oddly appropriate when you consider Blake is an engineer and Avon is a computer tech.
Travis gets one too, from the hips down (he was being doubled by another actor); in a documentary on the series, they point out that the director wanted a pell-mell run, but the set was so small that doing that would have resulted in smacking into (or, just as likely, straight through) the far wall. The attempt to find a compromise between artistic vision and safety results in sort of a bouncy, skipping... thing...
A Good Name for a Rock Band: Dutch metal band Star One is named for the series, and their song "Intergalactic Space Crusaders" is pretty much a progressive metal Filk Song with the two singers playing the parts of Blake and Avon.
Government Drug Enforcement - The cult on Cygnus Alpha's fake medicine, plus the various tricks pulled by The Government back on Earth to keep people in line, from fake memories to tranquilizers in the food on nearly every Federation planet. The Federation also turns out to have a hand in the production of Shadow, a dangerous narcotic.
Usually pops up in one form or another in Robert Holmes's episodes, most notably between Krantor and Toise in "Gambit," and Egrorian and Pinder in "Orbit". Although the standards of the time meant that they couldn't actually be called lovers on-screen, Holmes made it pretty much as obvious as you can get without outright saying the G-word.
Impractically Fancy Outfit: Everyone wears wonderfully bizarre clothes, which never appear to get in the way of their adventures. Skin tight leather, very long dresses, cleavage (and not just the women) and puffy sleeves abound. Jenna, for example, once saves the day in a gorgeous blue ankle-length evening dress and high-heel boots, even though her coming to the rescue would have involved climbing a lot of ladders.
Infant Immortality: Tragically averted in "Children of Auron" when Servalan destroys a facility full of cloned foetuses, particularly significant since she emotionally broke down immediately after (in a tearful pained way, not an angry villainous way). She'd had her genetic material implanted into some foetuses but had been tricked into believing it had been removed, but as soon as she'd fired she said knew they were hers and she "felt them die".
Insult Backfire: "He was calling me a machine. But since he undoubtedly defines himself as a human being, I shall choose to take that as more of a compliment than anything else." You'd have thought Vila would have known better than to try and insult Avon in such a fashion.
Invisible President - We are never shown the unnamed President, though we see a number of his underlings. This is quite brilliant, as it suggests the Federation is vast, and the President has better things to do than run around after Blake. This unfortunately get averted when Servalan becomes President, and appears to have all the time in the world to chase after Avon. (Presumably the original President didn't have Unresolved Sexual Tension with Blake like Servalan has with Avon.)
Attention Earthlings! if you do not surrender immediately we will be forced to put on the ill-fitting clothes and the thinly disguised motorcycle helmets, and ponce up and down in the high-heeled leather boots, in the company of lots of women with no bras on!
Large Ham - Many, especially by the end. Well-acted, but not understated.
"Is it true? Have you betrayed us? Have. You. Betrayed. ME?" (Shatner would be proud)
Licensed Sexist - Avon turns into one of these in any episode written by Ben Steed. The most blatant instance is in the episode "Power," where he actually lectures a female villain on how women are inherently less strong than men, and how they should learn their proper place in society. Fortunately the other writers treated Avon in a much more even-handed way, giving him much respect for his female colleagues and even Servalan to a certain extent.
Limited Wardrobe - In season 4, when they're in reduced circumstances, the cast wears the same clothes episode after episode; it's not a perfect example, because they do change once or twice, but it's pretty striking after three seasons of lavishly Unlimited Wardrobe.
Machine Empathy: Jenna can tell the hyperdrive of the London "needs restressing, by the feel of things."
The Mad Hatter - By the final series, Avon is clearly well into a psychotic break. In the final episode, he implicitly describes himself as a psychopath. Paul Darrow considers Avon "under stress" rather than actually mad, at least up until that point.
Married to the Job: Servalan, who states that "power became [her] lover" when her boyfriend left her. It has to be said that the rebel's work-life balance is also terrible.
Mean Character, Nice Actor: Jacqueline Pearce. Servalan is an utterly cold, calculating (and scene-stealing) bitch. Pearce herself is a rather charming and good-humored sort.
Paul Darrow, as well, who (while having wit the speed of Avon's) is charming, self-deprecating, and disarming; a delightful and considerate man to his fans (who consider meeting him or hearing him speak an honor).
The series had the System, a civilization controlled by the three powerful defense computers of the three inhabited planets of their solar system, which built the starship DSV-1. The System was administered by Altas (either cyborgs, androids, or augmented humans) and black-armored guards that appeared to be cybernetically augmented humans. There were also thousands of human slaves, descendants of the people who had built the computers that had taken over their civilization.
Similarly, the Ultra of Ultraworld in Series 3 are blue-skinned humanoid creatures either summoned or created by Ultraworld (a living, artificial planet/giant computer centered around an enormous brain) to interact with captured starship crews, whom Ultraworld intends to absorb into its gestalt. They walk with a jerky gait and speak in odd, robot-like cadences. The "menials," assimilated humanoid servants, are also examples of this trope: their identity, memories and emotions are recorded on a tube and stored in a library. They behave mechanistically as they toil about, maintaining Ultraworld.
Mirror Match - Soolin gunslinging against herself in 'Games'.
Misanthrope Supreme - Avon pretends to be this but is in fact the most philanthropic member of the crew.
Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Way down on the soft end in the original series. Way up at the hard end for the audio dramas, which have retooled away Time Distort drives in favor of talk about fixed mass points and delta-v, depict the Federation as lacking artificial gravity technology, and even remove Liberator's teleport.
Mook Mobile: Any Federation Pursuit Ship not commanded by Travis or Servalan.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: The President's offsiders Rontane and Bercol, who are sent to threaten Servalan on the President's behalf.
One Extra Member: Inverted. The team never had more than six human members. You had to include one or more of their sentient computers to bring the group up to seven.
Only One Name: All the main characters are known by one name only, and it is inconsistent as to whether it is their first or last name. It's not established in the case of Cally, Soolin, Servalan and Travis if they even have another name.
The Other Darrin - Done with Travis. Less visibly, Orac's voice was provided in "Orac" by Derek Farr, who had played his creator Ensor, but in later episodes by Peter Tuddenham. The Federation official Ven Glynd was played in "The Way Back" by Robert James and in "Voice From the Past" by Richard Bebb.
Painted-On Pants - Common among Liberator crew members. Apparently, Paul Darrow once wore a pair of leather trousers that were so tight, he had to be helped up and down in scenes where Avon was kneeling down to do something technical.
Playing Drunk: At one point, Vila pretends to be drunk so he can make a suggestion on how to fix the current problem (atmosphere leaking out of a hole in the hull) in the form of a rambling reminiscence, but not be called on to undertake the repair himself (because you couldn't give such a dangerous task to someone who was obviously drunk).
Pretty Boy: It is established in canon that Servalan likes to surround herself with these, leading Travis to sneer at her "decorative staff men".
Psychic Radar: Cally, the Auron telepath pulls this trick to sneak up on Blake when she's introduced.
Psycho Sidekick: Avon while he's second-in-command to Blake, though he only went really round the twist when Blake vanished and left him in charge for the next two seasons.
Punch Clock Villain: Practically everyone we see in the Federation is either worldly weary and just trying to get on with their day, or cooly indifferent.
The Quincy Punk - the Space Rats are violent Outlaw Bikers IN SPACE who have gigantic mohawks and glam-rock facial make-up. Not so much "stereotype punk" as "three different countercultures shoved in a blender".
Rebel Leader: Blake, though he ventures into morally hazy territory. Avon from Series 3 onwards, not that he wants to be. A number of others appear over the course of the series, including Avalon and Kasabi.
Revolving Door Casting: Only two characters, Avon and Vila, made it through all four seasons as regulars. Michael Keating (Vila) was the only actor to appear in every episode of the show, as Avon wasn't introduced until the second episode.
Rousing Speech: Blake likes to try and give these, much to Avon's eternal annoyance.
Sapient Ship - the starship Liberator is fully sapient but entirely mechanical. In the recent audiobook remake/reboot of the series, the ship is at least partly biological and considerably more sinister, attempting to assimilate the crew into itself and being rather predatory in its attempts to survive.
Say My Name - Many have noted (and mocked) the tendency for characters to call out for Blake during their dying moments, even when he's not actually around. Cally even does it even when the group is (falsely) under the assumption that he has been Killed Off for Real.
Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: the number of planets featured on screen and their close proximity to each other in almost any given shot of the Liberator flying through space is absurd.
Space Pirates - Jenna is a 'free trader' i.e. a smuggler. Also, her...ex-colleagues, the Amagons.
Spit Take - Avon does a rather big one in "Gambit".
Spotlight-Stealing Squad - The show might be called Blake's 7 but Avon is in more episodes, is more popular with fans, and is more interesting.
Synthetic Plague: Used by Servalan (apparently not the same one both times) in "Operation Avalon" and "The Children of Auron".
Teleporters and Transporters: Liberator and Scorpio both possessed teleports, which required bracelets to operate. The bracelets were also communicators. A few other aliens could teleport, too, either psionically or using technology. The matter-transmission system on Keezarn appeared to function more like a physical gateway than a teleporter.
The So-Called Coward: Vila's unwillingness to put his neck on the line stemmed from the fact that he didn't especially care about Blake's revolution and most of his alleged comrades-in-arms seemed to regard him as expendable. When it came to the lives of anyone who treated him with a modicum of respect, however, Vila could be surprisingly Bad Ass.
The Squadette: Every armed resistance group or Federation base appears to have a single female member in a speaking role, while the rest of them are all male. There are never any female mooks in the background, silently working their way up the ranks to the position of Supreme Commander or Rebel Leader.
Tsundere: Fanon would have you believe that Avon is a male version.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute - Most obviously Tarrant, but all the incoming leads are of the same gender as departing leads, and will usually fit the general archetype of a departed character. Except that Tarrant, of course, is nothing like Blake when it comes to his motivations. On the other hand... bouffant hair, steers the Liberator, is a bit of a space pirate... yep, he's the new Jenna.
And then there's the Scorpio. For the first three seasons, the Liberator is the cast's greatest asset because it has two technologies that the Federation cannot match: its speed and its teleporter. When the Liberator is destroyed at the end of Season three, they find a new ship, the Scorpio. It also has a superintelligent talking computer (something not seen on most human ships) and a teleporter system! What are the odds? But it's not very fast... until about the fourth episode of the season when they find a new super speed technology.
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: If there is an occasion that the crew of the Liberator do something together without snarking at each other, we are never show it. On the other hand, they do quite genuinely look out for each other, though Avon likes to pretend he doesn't.
Took a Level in Badass - Fourth-season Avon, debatably; he spends decreasing amounts of time fixing the computer and increasing amounts of time shooting people and smiling coldly in a studded leather jacket, but he's about as effectual as usual.
Tragedy - The whole four-season mega-arc could be read as Avon's, with his great flaw being the inability to trust.
True Companions: One example among many: After Avon saves Blake from an explosion:
Blake: Thank you...why?
Avon: Automatic reaction. I'm as surprised as you are.
Unperson: Happens to Servalan during the episode Terminal, when she is overthrown by the Federation High Council while hunting the Liberator to replace the Federation fleet. They install a new government dominated by the secret police instead of the military, and officially erase her from existence and pretend her period as president did not occur. She hides under an assumed name as Commissioner Sleer and manages to become a high ranking secret police commander and oversees a program of retaking Federation colonies that declared independence after the alien invasion using mind control drugs. People recognize her and she murders them as needed to hide her true identity.
Vast Bureaucracy: The Federation seems to be this, judging by the various detached bureaucrats attending meetings about "the Blake situation".
Vinyl Shatters: In an early episode, there's a character who spends a lot of time listening to a song on an antique gramophone. (The writers have admitted that this was a ruse to fill in time because the script was too short.) Near the end of the episode Blake snatches the disc off the turntable and smashes it.
You Shall Not Pass - The finale of Series Two. A gigantic alien war-fleet begins to move in single file through a gap in the anti-matter minefield protecting the galaxy — so the crew of the Liberator move their own starship into the path of the fleet and take them in a head-on battle, trying to buy time for the Federation's warships to arrive and counter the attack.