Blake’s 7: City on the Edge of the World

As we look towards episodes of Colin Baker for the first time, let’s take a look at the man in one of his celebrated pre-Who roles.

Colin Baker - Bayban

It’s widely believed that Colin used B7 as a back door audition for Doctor Who. Here he demonstrates his marvellous Sontaran impersonation.

Bayban the Berserker.
Bayban the Butcher.
Babe (to his dear old mum).

To be truthful, as an entry point to discussing Blake’s 7, this wouldn’t be my first choice. Acting on a request for some thoughts on pre-Doctor Who Colin Baker (from @TardisBlue and supported by others) this is a natural though, and highlights all the talents he brought to the Doctor.

That said, any episode of Blake’s 7 gives you a natural entry point to talk Doctor Who because the shows were almost stable mates during the four series it was on. Look at the credits for this episode and you’ll find the series was created by Terry Nation (Daleks), Produced by David Maloney (whose first director’s gig was Mind Robber), Music by Dudley Simpson, and the episode was written by Chris Boucher (Robots of Death, Star Cops).

It’s City on the Edge of the World. If you want an intro to the Blake’s 7 universe, it’s found below the episode.

If you have any thoughts on Blake’s 7, the episode itself and Colin’s turn, give us your thoughts below.


The Original Seven – Back (L-R) Gan, Vila, Avon. Front (L-R) Cally, Blake with hands on Orac, Jenna.

Blake’s 7 ran to four series of thirteen 50 minute episodes between 1978 and 1981. It told the tale of Roj Blake, freedom fighter against an oppressive totalitarian regime. He’s fitted up on child molestation charges (to discredit him) and shipped off world. Escaping on a deserted alien spacecraft with a not-so merry band of prisoners he wages a campaign against the Federation.

Over the first two series the campaign has highs and lows, with the recovery of super computer (cheap box of tricks) Orac, and the death of crewmate Gan, the “gentle giant” of the team. Blake gets some measure of revenge, but is ultimately shown to be a potentially dangerous mixture of idealist and extremist – at one point contemplating millions of innocent deaths to see the end of the Federation.


Times change: L-R Tarrant, Dayna, Avon, Cally and Vila

Throughout the early series, two of the emerging popular characters were Avon (cold calculating computer fraud specialist) and Vila (cowardly thief). They made an effective and entertaining team. While Blake was off doing heroic things, they occasionally embarked on wild get rich schemes. When not doing that, Avon was undermining Blake’s leadership. The third series saw Blake and Jenna absent, missing after a space battle in which the team was forced to aid the Federation against an alien incursion.

In series 3, Avon forms a new team, including survivors Vila and Cally (a telepathic freedom fighter committed to nobler endeavors). They’re joined by Tarrant, an expert pilot and Dayna, a weapons whizz. He commands the Liberator on a personal revenge spree, and occasional search for Blake. Avon perpetuates some of Blake’s work, but largely to his own advantage to keep the Federation destabilised. This episode is from that series. The culmination of the series saw the destruction of their fine ship.


Even the mighty Liberator couldn’t survive Blake’s 7.

Series 4 sees the surviving team recruit a new member (after yet another casualty) and a new ship. It’s a downbeat affair, with Avon acting more and more paranoid as time goes on. It ends in an astonishing way, with Avon finally locating and meeting Blake. It doesn’t go well.

Blake’s 7 was an attempt at a space opera on a “cheap as chips” basis and actually one of the first examples of a Sci-fi series with a story arc in each series (although not as tight as they could have been). I doubt it could be made these days because, although the budget is laughable, and the performances variable, it does deal with stong stuff on occasion, for the pre-watershed timeslot.

It reached the magic 52 episodes for syndication in the US and PBS happily rotated it for many years where it came to the attention of J Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5. He has a lot of good memories of it, and at a sci-fi convention once pronounced it “fucking awesome”. He based his earth-as-fascist-regime arc in B5 on it. It’s been cited by others involved in Lexx and Farscape as influential, and there are some similarities when you compare it to Firefly. For cheapness, it has lasted. The ending in particular, after you’d followed these adventures, was pretty devastating as a kid. There were many complaints to the BBC as it was shown quite near to Christmas. Happy Christmas Kids!!

There were quite a few near misses in making the relationship between Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who official – Tom Baker and Gareth Thomas both lobbied to have a walk down the corridor nod between The Doctor and Blake (which would have been used in both shows, from opposite perspectives). Terry Nation wanted the alien incursion at the end of Series 2 to be the Daleks (which would have been a jaw-dropping surprise to my ten year old self) and Chris Boucher’s Robots of Death society was to have been set in the Blake’s 7 universe. Alas – not to be.

It’s completely flawed, but so, so memorable for anyone of that era, and it has a lasting legacy. In Avon, Television produced one of the greatest anti-hero’s. A term that has become abused perhaps. Mal Reynolds, from Firefly, is not an anti-hero. Mal Reynold’s would not be willing to chuck his oldest ally (and the nearest thing to a friend he has) out of an airlock to save his own skin. Watch the episode Orbit, and see Vila crying in a hiding place as Avon seeks him out. It really is harrowing.

They keep threatening to make a US remake. Bigger effects – bigger budget. May Satan’s stinky demons keep it in the seventh circle of Development Hell. Because for all its faults, Blake’s 7 was special.

Buy it. Series 1-3 have been republished recently with Series 1 at under 17 of your earth squids at the moment.


  1. I loved series 1&2 of Blakes7 as a teen, almost as much as Dr Who, and it has one of the best theme tunes ever. I still love that music. Series 3&4 however I found unwatchable. Blakes7 without Blake was, well, simply not Blakes7. The arc faltered and with it the backbone of the story. Avon when tempered by Blake was a fantastic anti hero but when given free reign he became overbearing. One villian fighting another villian does not make for the best story and the other actors who joined the crew were entirely lacking in personality or acting ability.

    I do recall Colin Baker’s first appearance in Blakes7 and the role seemed fitting to me as I disliked him, (albeit unfairly) after seeing him in War and Peace. I think C.B. is best cast as a “bad guy”, arrogant, bullying etc. That, I realise now, does not reflect his character just his acting range. (@Bluesqeakpip might be able to correct me here)

    @PhaseShift, Maybe at some time we could watch an episode of B.5. JMS was also a big fan of Dr Who and wanted Tom Baker to do a cameo but wasn’t able to tie it up with him. And then of course we would have to discuss Fringe…:-)


  2. Thanks for this @Phaseshift – you’ve finally nudged me into watching Blake’s 7!

    I grew up a tad too young and confused by Blake’s 7 – I missed the first episodes and as a 7 or 8 year old watching the odd episode, I couldn’t figure out why seeming ‘bad guys’ were helping the ‘good guys’ – or vice versa.

    So, over the last few days I’ve watched the first 4 episodes and they’re brilliant!
    Each episode is self contained and 50mins feels about right for the stories.

    The initial paranoia of the totalitarian regime, with its themes of altered memories reminds me of Philip K Dick (eg Total Recall but actually most of his stuff!).

    The use of sound is also interesting – high pitched industrial acerbic whines during interrogation scenes is excellent (though the Star Trek-esque ‘wooshhhhh’ sound when hinged doors open is… less impressive! 🙂 ).

    For 1978 it also seems quite good on the ‘future predictions’ tech – with personal stereos, personal video recorders, ‘the’ computer (always singular) being central to everything and of course surveillance cameras (1978 seems really early to have caught this but maybe it was a fear that was in the media at the time?).

    There is some casual sexism in there (did they *really* have to make Gemma lean over the console quite that many times to show us her arse, lovely though it is, as well as the “Do you like my outfit?” line) but these are tiny points and it was 1978.

    But honestly – so far its been great!

    And I wish I could remember the whole speech/ conversation in episode 2 about “Freedom”, with some fantastic lines all delivered in the space of a minute before the episode carries on!

    “They murdered my past and tranquillised my dreams!” – I want the T-shirt!!


  3. A fantastic show from my teenage memories. I remember series 1 and 2 as excellent, 3 going down hill and 4 as pretty forgettable apart from he last episode. Blake, Avon and Villa were certainly the most memorable characters, with Avon exceeding Blake certainly from series 2 onwards. I don’t think many teenage guys could forget Servalan either.

    I can’t say I’ve watched any episodes since and few stories are more than a few specific scenes these days. The one linked above certainly doesn’t stand out for me.

    I wouldn’t be against a modern remake – if the “right” team made it. The Battlestar Galactica reimaging showed that it can be done well (although the story arc concept that drove that was a little too weak imo, although I really liked the overall concept/conceit). I think you’d need to run any remake just until the end of season 2. Anything after that would need a new concept to carry the story onwards into new territory. Blake’s 7 lacked that. I think that’s the ultimate problem with having a Story Arc narrative concept drive the framework of the show.

  4. @janetteB @Nick

    I think common consensus puts Series 3 and 4 showing a marked downturn in quality, but it’s quite common to find a strong opinion that the show benefited from a new direction with Series 3, and I’m probably one of them. Certainly, after Gareth Thomas declined to continue, I think it was an obvious choice to put Avon in the central part. It really was astonishing that his and Vila’s popularity had easily exceeded Blake’s at this point in AI feedback during Season 2.

    Vila’s attraction is simple and straightforward I think, and this episode does highlight how engaging Michael Keating was in the role. I once had the opportunity to ask Terry Pratchett (who mentioned the show in an SFX review of top SF shows selected by creatives) if he had been informed by Vila for Rincewind, his cowardly wizard. He laughed and said not to his knowledge, but he could see the similarities.

    I’m not entirely serious about the “no remake” approach. I’ve heard some of the audio that attempted to revisit the idea in a new way, and it’s interesting enough, but I think it struggled in comparison. If it happens, I’d give it a try and stop watching if it wasn’t my thing. Some of its themes are still very relevant, and it’s curious that the evolving premise of the show – perceptions of myth and legend, have been echoed by Doctor Who during SMs tenure.

    The scripts put a lot into Series 1 (mainly related by Federation personnel) about how Blake and his crew are becoming a modern myth. A rallying cry for hope. The myth of Blake’s 7. There aren’t seven of them, and the idea of a noble crew working tirelessly and selflessly for good is rendered pretty laughable by what we see the crew do. It’s an interesting idea, and 3 and 4 continue it in a new way.

    @janetteB, I love for me or someone else to write something on Babylon 5. As well as the mentions I put in the Blog, JMS also commissioned one of the alien ships, the Drahzi Sundog to echo the liberator design. He really is a big fan. I was trying to work out a good Doctor Who link to exploit. I’ll have to have a rewatch, but if you (or anyone else) think of an episode, or want to write a piece, let me know.

  5. @whisht

    That’s heartening, if you are giving it a look. It’s cheap and variable but it really is memorable. I’m not going to defend the sexism. There are a couple of later episodes that are wince-inducing. It’s a curious mixture, because when you get to Servalan, she’s actually something completely different again. Icy camp is one description I’ve heard, but try watching her and not thinking of Francis Barber’s Madame Kovarian (Barber also watched Blake’s 7 when young).

    I hope you continue to watch. Some of it is ludicrous, some of it is very good, and it really is breathtaking some of the scenes and concepts that they got away with in the pre-watershed timeslot. Just drink a lot, and laugh at the unintentionally funny bits. It’s part of the charm.

    The CCTV cameras were directly echoing 1984 with the brutish federation thugs (an iconic design I think) a further reference. The entire approach was that Terry Nation was appalled by the underlying concept of the Star Trek Federations happy/clappy approach. He was a child of war and the threat of fascism and wanted to present something darker. Hence, the Federation logo in B7 is a rough approximation of the Star Trek Federation turned 90 degrees.

    Give us your thoughts as and when, and if anything bizarre strikes you, please let me know. I’m delighted it’s sparked one person to look at it.

    And what did you think of Brian Blessed?! He was hilarious ,and is on record as saying (for the first time in history) that he thinks he went “over the top” in Cygnus Alpha. 😀

  6. Just one further point, and the main one given the reason. Colin Baker. We’re talking about Doctor Six, and so it was interesting to talk about him.

    If you watch his turn as Bayban, it’s really striking how much of Doctor Six is in that package. The over the top bully. Self-aggrandising and vain. An air of self satisfaction. It’s largely Doctor Six in leather.

    I think it works here, and his turn is very funny. From the lines “My mother – truly evil woman, she said Babe…She called me Babe”, to him railing about being second on the most wanted list (after Blake) “I didn’t take political short cuts”. It’s fantastic and over-the-top.

    Thing is – I can recognise this, and I wouldn’t think “Hey – wouldn’t it be great to give this guy the role of the Doctor.” Cast him as a bully boy Security Time Lord (as in Arc of Infinity), yes.

    This is why I don’t think he was a good choice, and I’m sure as hell he couldn’t pull off the “transition over five years to something more familiar”. I’ve seen him in other productions like The Brothers, and his range and subtlety aren’t that good. He’s fine at what he does, but my instincts say it was a bad match for the Doctor.

  7. @Phaseshift – how could I have forgotten Brian Blessed?!!?!

    I thought he was quite restrained (in a good way)!
    Almost (almost, nearly) channelling his quiet forceful Shakespearean acting (was it Julius Ceasar or am I misremembering I, Claudius – either way, fantastic when he is quiet).

    Though at one point he ratchets up through a speech and absolutely (((bellows))) at Gareth Thomas who seems blasted by it!!
    Brilliant stuff.

    And yes, am watching with a drink close by so am able to ignore certain elements (I’d forgotten how ineptly people had fought in the old days!).


  8. @Whisht

    You’re right. I’m sure you can see Gareth Thomas’ curls blown back in the gale in that scene. 🙂 He does some fantastic eye rolling with the “I am god!!” stuff as well. You’ve just reminded me of something, actually but I’ll put it on the general TV thread.

  9. @Phaseshift

    Thanks as ever. I never knew about the star trek link. By the way, wasn’t the Federation Security Guard uniform (or at least the helmet) reused in Who ? I certainly recall seeing the helmet design elsewhere.

  10. @Whisht

    Hi there. Glad my memory wasn’t completely wrong for once. Wonder if that was the only occasion ? They look fairly expensive props so you’d expect them to be used more than once.

  11. @Nick @whisht

    I’m sure someone could write a book on all the props, costumes and behind the series links between B7 and Doctor Who. @Whisht is right on the Frontios point, and I believe about half the helmets were butchered for that one. A couple must have survived because I saw them in a comedy sketch (I’m pretty sure it was Alexei Sayle’s Stuff) in the late eighties.

    The props thing was natural I suppose – they used the same department and they mixed and matched stuff to order on the criminal budgets the shows had.

    One of the most fascinating stories I’ve heard (and I would love to hear an account of this from someone involved) was the relationship between the BBC props department and Shepperton/Pinewood studios. Apparently there was a really good relationship and after major productions they would go raiding as sets were stripped down and basically skipped. Some stuff was purchased, others just pulled out of skips.

    In these days when anything from a movie can become a valuable item, two specific pieces surprised me. The central console of the Penal ship in the first few episodes of B7 (the “London”) was actually the Laser console from the Bond movie The Man With the Golden Gun.

    Perhaps even more astonishing is a character from The Empire Strikes Back. The robot Bounty Hunter IG-88 seen very briefly in the movie, but the subject of spin-off media actually turned up (head and shoulders I think) in a S3 episode in a Junkyard behind Vila (even less screen time than the movie he was in). It’s amazing really.

    Just on actors, this episode feature Valentine Dyal as well as Colin. He was, of course, The Black Guardian and the voice of Deep Thought in Hitch Hikers. So Sci-Fi royalty in my book. B7 was where Richard Hurndall came to the attention of the Doctor Who team as well. After his appearance in S3 Assassin everyone (including most of the audience) was saying “Doesn’t he really look like William Hartnell”? So he was cast in Five Doctors.

  12. @Phaseshift

    a couple of things II want to pick up on.

    Series 3/4. I think I’d agree that the casting changes at the end of series 2 wasn’t the factor that drove the decline. The crew ensemble in series 3 (at least) worked fine for me and certainly some of the stories remained excellent. However, something did go missing in series 3. Loosing the Liberator was also a mistake. The other thing that I particularly remember was the much lower quality of special effects. Series 1 in particular had (for TV of that era) really good model work effects, which had pretty much gone by series 3, replaced by pretty poor quality digital effects.

    The other thing is that I think these days most of this show wouldn’t be shown before the 9 pm watershed. I can still recall the casual massacre of the “resistance” at the end of the very first episode. It really did set the scene for what TN and the team were trying to achieve. (The opening titles and music for Survivors stands out for much the same reason).

    I really do think TV is too safe right now.

  13. Random thoughts #14 @Phaseshift – saw a coupla more episodes last night and wanted to ask if anyone thought that Servalan sounded suspiciously like Thatcher.

    Calm, measured, post voice-coaching Thatcher. Rather than Kovarian’s more aggressive malice, I think that Jacqueline Pearce almost goes toward Thatcher’s condescending tone. Obviously Servalan is more overtly threatening than Thatcher, though hasn’t quite reached that evil so far.

    Did manage to get up to Julian Glover though (which I guess is a fixed-point in any series!). Always brilliant even with the (what could have been meagre) part he had here.

    Am finding Cally’s character very annoying though – from feisty renegade fighter to wet gullible and downright dumb within two episodes!
    She seems to be getting massively contradictory directions even within the same episode (though that’s true of Avon too who’s made to ‘laugh’ at Vila’s asides, but Cally rolling her eyes??!!?).

    At least we have Gan – ah, there could be a whole blog on “the big guy in the team”:
    off the top of my head: Little John, Tiny (BoTP), Sandy, Mongo (ABC Warriors), “Hodor!”, Hoss (Bonanza), Hulk (Avengers), Alan (Grange Hill)… ok that last one is a stretch!


  14. @Whisht

    Jacqueline Pearce doesn’t mention that here (this seems the best of the immediate google searches I found)

    Given the time its an obvious comparison to draw, but that reflects our limited modern day persons to make the comparison against. Having read her interview, I’m not actually that convinced that its a relevant comparison at all, given that Terry Nation wrote the part as a male (then changed his mind) and she came up with the non-military visual style and inherent low key eroticism. @Phaseshift will probably have a more coherent opinion.

  15. @Whisht – it’s a bit unlikely. Not impossible, but unlikely – because when they were recording the first series of Blakes Seven, Mrs Thatcher was the Leader of the Opposition. She became Prime Minister in 1979, after Series One had been broadcast.

    @Nick is right, I think. The frequent modern comparisons of Servalan to Mrs Thatcher are more representative of the limited number of powerful females in the late 70’s than anything in Jacqueline Pearce’s performance.

  16. Hi @Nick @Bluesqueakpip – thanks for the link to the interview Nick!
    Yep, doesn’t sound like Jacqueline Pearce would have taken inspiration from anyone – very much her own woman!

    It really was just the voice I was thinking of and what it might be is just me hearing a voice (specifically in Thatcher) that has been trained. Rather than one emulating the other, its possibly just a shared sound (or all in my head – it was late last night and some drink had been taken on Doctor’s advice).

    I don’t want to go back and watch the same episodes again tonight, but will listen out next time she’s in it to see if I’m imagining it all.

  17. @Whisht – yes, you’re probably hearing the similarities due to voice training. The natural accent has been replaced in both cases by ‘received pronunciation’.

    They’ll both have been trained in slightly over-emphasised diction, and both will have been taught to slow down their natural speech slightly (it helps comprehension when you’ve got a large audience).

    I’ve no idea what Jacqueline Pearce’s natural pitch is, but Mrs Thatcher was certainly taught to lower hers. The natural female pitch is, strangely, ‘shrill’ when being used to say things that a man doesn’t like. 😉

  18. @Nick

    I really do think TV is too safe right now.

    It’s an interesting question. I have a thirst for older TV from my childhood and before, and I watch a lot. Revisiting episodes of this, Sapphire and Steel, Survivors and the like as well as Doctor Who can be an education, so here are my thoughts.

    I think TV has evolved with the pressures and expectations of the public, but especially the pressure groups who are determined to analyse the long term impact on the audience, Children especially. The crusade by Mary Whitehouse and her moral minority was laughable when I read about it as a teenager, and I was untroubled. I think I should have taken more notice.

    Her focus was usually on sex (in a broad sense, including sexuality) and violence. On the violence question, particularly the more horrific content of shows like B7 and Doctor Who she had a long term impact that was way out of proportion to the actual complaints received from the public. I think she (and her allies) did capitalise an awful lot on the video nasty phenomenon in the mid 80s, and the media panic that engendered. Doctor Who took, in particular and ill-advisedly in the long run, a peculiar delight in baiting her in the 80s. This “not in front of the children” stance by some concerned parties even extending to killing of Adric (a lot of complaints were received).

    It’s that peculiar thing that a minority of complaints can be seen as requiring action and response automatically that has seen a tightening up of standards and behaviour guidance, and led us to a position where the creatives are probably issued with more guidance. A lot of this was solidified in the early 90s, and continued to evolve while Doctor Who was off air. Doctor Who, because of its relative history actually appears to be allowed to go further than most these days – it regularly strays into 12 cert territory (particularly in the SM years). If in doubt, compare it to Atlantis, shown in B7s timeslot and “bloodless” in all senses of the word. So tame it lacks all sense of jeopardy and a significant reduction in drama. I actually think it’s detrimental – violence and horror are always effective storytelling routes if it is shown there are consequences.

    I’ve always said beware of people who say “think of the Children”. Mainly because the last thing they think of doing when saying that is to actually think of asking the Children themselves.

    The Sexuality part of crusade was her other aspect, and that’s taken a distinct turn elsewhere. You often come across isolated positions that the old show was much better without all the romance bit, and that those wise old showrunners had it right when they made the Doctor asexual. It’s a matter of opinion, but the last part (it was the intention of the Producers) is complete horseshit in terms of character. The conservative early sixties frowned on any suggestions of hanky panky in a show with a demographic that strayed into Children.

    So we had a position, with Ian and Barbara, that the intent was that they were falling in love. But we couldn’t really explore that because, you know, kissing is a bit awful. I do think this plagued the show. Whenever any of those companions wandered off to marry an unlikely prospect it was usually because they struggled to actually inject anything that wasn’t objectionable and present a real desire. Look at Leela and Peri leaving and it’s really weird. In the modern age, that conservative attitude has declined significantly, and so you have a romance like Amy and Rory that actually seems tangible, real and with drama.

    So while a lot of TV has changed for the worse, I’m nor sure we can apply that to Doctor Who. It’s different and they certainly wouldn’t go down some of the body horror routes the old show took. They also deliberately maintain a lighter tone throughout much of it. But that can make the transitions to a darker tone (particularly in the Doctor) far more powerful. People like Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy and Philip Hinchcliffe have all said that in many ways that the modern show is a much stronger proposition because of these additions, and I think I’d agree with them. The one thing I think we may not see is the Adric situation. I think the violent Death of a companion (as opposed to the death of personality of Donna, and the natural deaths of Amy and Rory) would be a tricky one to pull off these days.

    If Mary Whitehouse was alive today though, and watched some episodes of Doctor Who, she wouldn’t be alive tomorrow. She’d have a coronary at the presentation of real moral ambiguity, casual jokes about sex and lines like “I’m a lizard woman from the dawn of time, and this is my wife”. 😀

    It’s actually a pretty interesting subject, and one I’d like to hear other views on, in particular people like @bluesqueakpip, @jimthefish @juniperfish @cathannabel and all the others who grew up in this period, or enjoy sampling the older material. I actually think it would make an interesting blog topic, perhaps towards the end of the next run of the show.

  19. @whisht

    Er wow – I didn’t realise I’d written so much above to Nick, and now my hands are tired! Glover was marvellous in that episode, with very little to go on (but then he’s usually as reliable as hell).

    I think Jan Chappel who played Cally would agree with you. As that interview Nick posted suggested, Terry Nation really didn’t have a feel for female characters and said as much to Pierce. I think all the female participants save Jacqueline had the same complaint.

    If you want to have a few recollections, the BBC did a retrospective a few years ago (just 30 mins) looking at the show and it features some genuine honesty by the usual suspects in front and behind the camera. Jacqueline Pierce and Paul Darrow (Avon) in particular are top quality (they are genuinely hilarious and friendly on the fan circuit). It does contain spoilers from your perspective though. On the female question, I think Jacqueline makes a point she had a few more years under her belt than the others, and got used to making something out of nothing.

    The Cult of Blake’s 7

  20. ah @Phaseshift – Spoilers. My aversion to them is so much that I haven’t even read a lot of your initial blog post (I’ll go back once I’m finished all the series – promise!).

    But I love hearing about behind the scenes stuff so will also definitely watch that doc – cheers!

    Funnily enough your other post about TV becoming ‘safer’ reminded me of something I was thinking about ages ago that even kinda links up a few of the blogs here.

    As far back as the mid nineteenth century we had the Penny Dreadfuls and also “dime” novels from the States.

    Then in the 1950’s “comics” were seen as the ruin of their age (psychiatrist Frederic Wertham wrote a book, The Seduction of the Innocent, where he accused comic books of causing youth corruption and juvenile delinquency).

    Video nasties in the ’80s then took over the mantle, creating the trash that is today’s adults.

    now…… we have “Antisocial Networking!!”

    Comics, cheap Books, TV shows, Social Media, Music (Rock’n’Roll, Rockers, Punk, Rave etc)…

    And don’t get me started on Grimm ‘fairy’ tales – brutal!

    It’d be an interesting Blog I’d like to read – I’m curious as to how parents think about setting boundaries for their kids. Too restrictive and they impede thinking/ experience, too lassaiz-faire and they risk ‘damage’.

  21. @PhaseShift

    It’s definitely a difficult subject. As an adult (without children of my own, who grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s) I definitely find the topic of violence more concerning than sex. I pretty much agree with everything you wrote above regarding AG Who and sexuality. Where we are today is so much better than the 1960’s view. 1960’s Who certainly lost out because of that, which is a shame as it does weaken the story premise.

    I do have a couple of caveats though:

    I’m not sure to what extent BG Who really considered the importance of character arcs and Doctor companion/assistant dynamics to be important to the show. As a ongoing weekly drama, I dont think that was seen as important, which is why companion characterisation was weak and inconsistent and the actors were unable (and frequently inexperienced enough) to counter this. The point you made above regarding Cally shows this continued into the 1980’s. Terry Nation might not have been capable of writing for women characters, but the story editors and writers could have done better. I think its a common failing of the time.

    The other point to remember is that from 1971 onwards the assistant/Doctor relationship was on an older male character interacting with with a comparatively much younger single female (without the 2/3 companion team that characterised the 1960s). I don’t find it at all surprising that the “asexual” Doctor characterisation came about. That dynamic really wouldn’t have worked then with a sexual element, not matter how limited in a Children’s TV show then. Would that apparent age dynamic work today with a romantic (which implies sexual) element ? The little I’ve read about Capaldi’s characterisation suggests the current team is not keen to try it out, but we’ll see soon.

    This is more possible with Tennant and Smith as the age difference is smaller and we commonly see 40+ year old males playing 30 ish characters opposite 20 something female actors playimg 30 year olds. That’s part of the odd dynamic of our society right now.

    The problem I have (as an adult) with the Doctor Romance element (Rose, Martha) is that from a character perspective (Rose was what 18/19 and Martha 25 ish), whilst the Doctor was about 1,000 years old., it doesnt really conceptually work for me as an adult. I just cant find it credible that the Doctor would be even slightly romantic. Best friends yes (even then the ought to be a high degree of remoteness. As a 7 year old, a year seems a very long time 1/7 of your life, whereas as a near 50 year old (1/7 of my life is 7 years) a year passes quickly. How must this seem to a 1,000 year old ?

    The Rose/Tennant dynamic didnt feel right at all to me. It could have worked given more thought, but I didnt see that on screen. The rejection of Martha’s crush was painfully poorly done IMO. Looking at the equivalent BG Who dynamic Baker/Sladden (Pertwee/Manning to a lessor degree) I feel that worked better. I have to say that I think SM has managed this much much better than RTD did. Of course, this is how it strikes me and obviously there are plenty of other opinions.

    On violence, I do find that more difficult. However, I do think Children are more capable of understanding the comic book element than we give them credit for, but I do agree that the level of violence did get too much at times in the 1980s and it should have been avoided. If you look at Parting of the Ways or Silence in the Library (for example) there are quite a number of deaths and you can argue the body count isnt that much lower than many 1970/80 Who episodes that Whitehouse was complaining about. I think the lesson that modern Children’s TV has learned is to do it in a more responsible way to a certain degree, which is certainly a good thing. I suppose that modern Who is less dark (when it comes to violent death). Look at Resurrection of the Daleks or Attack of the Cybermen – its a much darker feeling (aimed at an older audience ?).

    Having written this, I didnt particular have Who in mind when I said TV is too safe. Whilst I cant really see modern Who doing something like the first episode of Earthshock or the “torture” element in the Matrix scenes from Deadly Assassin (and I’m not entirely sure that is a good thing), but its difficult to see anything like that (or the massacre scene in the first episode of Blake’s 7) before the 9 pm watershed today.

    But its not just that. We have a jet shot down and hundreds of innocents dying in Gaza, but the news is highly censored and we dont really get too feel the real horror and outrage we ought to. The world isnt a nice place sometimes and I dont think we should pretend otherwise. I have found the photographs of dead soldiers, separatists or civilians in Ukraine or video of the crash sight with obvious bodies amoungst the wreckage from Russian sourced media more thought provoking than anything I’ve seen on British news. Recent events should outrage us as a society and we really ought to expect our politicians to react with some passion to at least pretend to try and make things better.

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