This piece about and indeed extract from my first ever published piece of writing was originally going to open Well At Least It's Free, an anthology of various columns, articles and other bits and pieces that I've written over the years (including a large amount about Doctor Who both 'new' and 'classic'), but ultimately ended up being cut for space reasons. And because, well, it sort of didn't fit thematically with everything else. As a result, and in the conspicuous absence of any other suitable or even potential outlet for it, you're getting the strange story of how Blake's 7 is ultimately responsible for everything that you've ever read by me right here...
Outside of banging on about Max Headroom and The Housemartins in small-scale fanzines (some of which ran to nearly twenty copies), my first significant published piece of any note was, amusingly, about a TV series I’m notorious for not liking.
To cut a long story short, I used to attend a local sci-fi group (you had to make your own entertainment in those pre-Internet days) who decided to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the BBC’s ‘space opera’ Blake’s 7 by holding a special event with series stars Brian Croucher and Peter Tuddenham as guests. They were stuck for someone to write a feature for the accompanying programme, and I volunteered. It was hardly an interesting piece, and based perhaps rather too liberally on information gleaned from old issues of Starburst, but still managed to provoke two unexpected reactions.
The first was from the Official Blake’s 7 Appreciation Society, who got very cross indeed about some supposed errors and made such a fuss that an apology was later printed in the group newsletter against my wishes. Regular readers of my work may spot a running theme making its first appearance here. Oddly enough they seemed most annoyed by a statement that Paul Darrow was working on a novel based on his character Avon, information derived from the News page in American magazine Starlog, which they insisted could not possibly be happening because they would have heard about it. One can only assume that they were in some kind of before-the-event denial about the existence of eventual literary masterpiece Avon – A Terrible Aspect.
The other unexpected reaction came when Brian Croucher asked to speak to me. Fearing another telling-off over those ‘errors’, imagine my surprise when he remarked instead that he’d been reading the article and wanted to offer some words of advice. Though as he said it was still clearly the work of a young and inexperienced writer, he did feel that it had something that made it stand out from the endless reams of fan writing he had to endure on a regular basis, and was keen to encourage me to keep on writing about whatever I felt like writing about because “it’s worth working on”. So I did, and while I've not always been that positive about Blake's 7, I can never thank Brian Croucher enough for all the fun I’ve had as a result of his little chat.
Anyway, here's a brief extract from that oh so controversial piece. Lawyers at the ready...
"The major difference between Blake’s 7 and the other science fiction show on BBC1, Doctor Who, was the distinct lack of monsters. There was rarely need for them in the series and on the odd occasion they did appear, it was purely to elaborate a criticism of the world in which we live. For example, in the episode entitled The Web, the crew meet up right a rather strange race of half machine dwarf slaves called The Decimas. The story was basically a clever exploration of man’s use of his kind for racial or class reasons".
Take THAT, something!
Well At Least It's Free, a book collecting some of my articles and columns about Cult TV, is available as a paperback here or as an eBook here.