Roj Blake, one of the rebel heroes of BLAKE'S 7, is sometimes maligned by both the media and B7 fans. Blake, who was initially the main hero and the driving thrust of BLAKE'S 7, left midway through the show's fifty-two episodes, appearing only twice more, including the shattering ending, "Blake." BLAKE'S 7 was an ensemble show centred around Blake and Kerr Avon in the first two seasons and then an ensemble show centring around Avon for the last two seasons. After the show's conclusion, fan fiction carried the story onward as well as examining various story lines during the actual show's time period and before it. Somehow in the passage of time, Blake's image has been twisted a little by a lot of people, even to the point that at least twice in the British print media recently Blake was actually referred to as a traitor* to the rebel cause, the absolute opposite of what he actually was.
Of course, it is anyone's prerogative to view a show and make interpretations. Also, anyone has the freedom to write fan fiction and portray whatever view they wish of the characters they are borrowing from the actual show. However, while this is so, I will maintain that Roj Blake was not only intended to be an actual hero, albeit a flawed one, but actually was one. Fan fiction, in my opinion, is definitely taking liberties and poetic license with the Blake as actually shown in the series when it portrays him, as it has done, as:
While presenting different interpretations is part of what fan fiction does, sometimes it appears that there are more "alternate" views of Blake in fan fiction than views of Blake that resemble what was shown on the TV screen. At least, that's my opinion -- even if sometimes I think it's a minority opinion.
I think Blake as presented was a fairly admirable character in that he was an idealist dedicated to fighting for the freedom of mankind from oppression, a brave rebel with great compassion for people in general and with special loyalty to his friends, a charismatic leader, an intelligent personable witty good man, pragmatic when he had to be, and definitely persistent.
However, he was flawed as a person and this realistic portrayal of him makes it hard for some people to like him. Some people only see the flaws, magnifying them and ignoring the total man. While there are some things that Blake said, did, or planned that I do not like or necessarily approve of, I still admire him. In fact, I even find him easier to like because he is presented as a flawed being. Blake is not your mythical shining knight in white armour. There's plenty of blood staining his hands and clothes and lots of dirt, the grit of realism. Avon, at one point, tells him at Star One that "...you can wade in blood up to your armpits," but this doesn't deter Blake.
BLAKE'S 7 didn't present a fairy tale. This world was one of grays with little hope. Blake, though one of the "good guys", had several flaws. He did have a temper, he wasn't always forthright with his fellow crewmembers, he sometimes makes severe errors in judgment, he could kill easily, and he was directly responsible for the death of Gan because of his lack of caution. It's arguable how much his fight against the Federation was partially personal vengeance for what had been done to him, his family, his friends, and his followers and how much was actual altruism. There is no denying that Blake was definitely dangerous to one's health. He left a trail of corpses behind him and many of them were his followers. However, this is part of my fascination with him-because he is flawed, he's believable.
Some fans seem to think heroes have to be Adonises. I personally think Blake is handsome, but that's arguable. I'll concede that most fans compare him unfavourably to Avon. On the B7 net lists, some common threads are "Avon drool" and what costumes Avon looks good in. I don't recall ever seeing a "Blake drool" thread. Blake's face, to me, is ruggedly masculine and projects confidence. I love his curly head of hair, his sparking eyes, and generous smile. And his velvety baritone voice fascinates me. Physically, Blake is broad, six feet tall, and over 200 pounds. He has strong arms and thick thighs, the very image of strength. Obviously, he's got the build to be a good fighter against anyone, even Gan who is physically even bigger. Detractors of Blake laugh at his flabby midsection, his "love handles," as shown when he's shirtless in "Horizon." Obviously, Blake would never be asked to pose for a modern version of David. Blake's body build is a realistic one. In real life, few men have slim waists and hard bodies that look great when bared.
Unlike Avon, Blake is no clotheshorse. Avon's fans can remember exactly what two episodes Avon wore his thigh-high boots in, and in which telepics his tight trousers show him off to best advantage. Blake's definitely an "off the rack" person who, if a real person, would probably be shopping at an outlet store specializing in rugged clothing for hiking. He wears sensible clothing, somewhat on the baggy side, which is appropriate for his body build. It's not an accident that the costume designers decided his colours would be earth tones, mainly browns and greens as brown is a symbol for earth and green for earthy, growing things. His clothing is practical, sensible, comfortable, durable, and down to earth; it is appropriate for Blake and reflects his personality--although Avon might have had a few choice words to say about Blake being "sensible," I'll admit.
So after admitting Blake has flaws and is not a gorgeous poster boy for adoring female rebels to drool over, let's concentrate on the qualities that make Blake the admirable rebel he is. He is individualistic, idealistic, brave, loyal, compassionate, good, intelligent, charismatic, personable, pragmatic (sometimes), and persistent. If I had to pick one word to describe Blake, it would have to be rebel.
Blake's whole raison d'ętre is being a rebel and bringing down the Federation. He's a fierce rebel in a repressive world where most of the populace obeys blindly either out of fear, ignorance, suppressants or a combination of these. He's a natural rebel and highly individualistic. Although for the common man, Blake is certainly not an ordinary man. We never hear how he first became a rebel or what he did before he was first captured, but we do assume he risked, and then lost, his comfortable Alpha life as an engineer when he pursued his dream of leading the masses to freedom. He and Cally are the only true rebels on the Liberator, both their goals being to help mankind--and alienkind. Once on the Liberator, it would have been easy to have escaped to safety and live in luxury, but Blake would not accept a life of ease.
Blake is motivated mainly by altruism and idealism, though one must admit that revenge surely had to play some factor as well. Blake is eloquent in his desire not to rest until freedom is achieved. "Not until free men can think and speak. Not until power is back with the honest man." This lofty goal is sneered at by Avon--and probably rightfully so. Blake tends to be an idealist and sees his fight in abstract terms, little caring for the practical details of what would actually happen once he won -- how the common man would actually handle his freedom and who would govern the planets once the Federation mantle was destroyed. We know Blake has no plans for the future nor does he desire to govern. Considering that he had enough on his hands just trying to run a rebellion, I can see that he wouldn't concern himself with the later practicalities. Blake's reward if he wins will simply be that mankind now has freedom--and freedom, though theoretical in many ways, is Blake's goal. He is dedicated to the good of mankind.
Some detractors see him as egotistical and especially point out two comments. "We did it. We did it. We did it. I did it," he says in the empty room that was supposed to house the Central Control computer. In "Star One," he says, "We have to win. It's the only way I can be sure that I was right." He is the driving force on the Liberator. And when things go wrong, he takes the blame, not the others. He considers himself responsible for what happens because he knows they only do what they do because of him. One time when he acknowledges this is after the Meegat episode, "Deliverance," when Avon has been thrust into the role of saviour. Blake commiserates with Avon, saying, "Yes, I don't like the responsibility either." I can see why he personalizes so much. In one way, Blake IS the rebel cause. And he is right that if he has been wrong all along that then everything was indeed pointless. He is the man who has made the decisions and called the shots. I frankly don't see this so much as an expression of ego as a simple fact that he and the fight for freedom for the masses are one--he has almost become a living personification of the abstract idea.
I can't see anyone doubting Blake's bravery. You may doubt his judgment or his common sense, but never the fact he has enormous courage and is willing to die for his cause. When BLAKE'S 7 reran for the first time on GOLD in the UK in 1994, the ads said Blake would "fight to the last drop of their blood." Blake had no fear of death and, being willing to sacrifice himself, he also expected others to follow his example. We see him withstanding physical torture several times; we know he seems unafraid of physical danger and doesn't seem to even sweat when death seems seconds away. He's calm when he asks Vila to remove his collar in "Bounty" despite the fact his head could easily be blown off. In "Project Avalon" he seems perfectly happy to commit suicide if he can take Servalan and Travis with him. But he's also smart enough to know that Servalan will trade him Avalon in order to save her skin, even if Travis won't. It could be also true that he's become fatalistic - so used to death that the thought of dying doesn't scare him any more.
His calmness in the face of danger is rather amazing in several situations. In "Cygnus Alpha," he tries the teleport for the first time without agonizing over it. He is prepared to die there rather than give Vargas the Liberator. In "Time Squad" he's confident Avon will rescue him and Jenna. In "Horizon" he offers himself in exchange for the others. In "Pressure Point" he runs through a minefield, and he does it first. There's probably an example of his bravery, and indeed of everyone's bravery, in each episode.
Loyalty to his friends or crew is something Blake has in abundance. There is no question he would return for Cally in "Seek-Locate-Destroy," that he would stay with the wounded Avon in "Hostage," or that he would go to Exbar in the first place to save his cousin Inga. When everyone in "Bounty" believes Jenna has betrayed them, Blake reserves judgment. When Gan needs a surgeon in "Breakdown," Blake makes sure he gets one. In "Countdown," knowing there is bad blood between Avon and Del Grant, Blake tells Grant, "One more thing: if anything happens to Avon, I will come looking for you." Even Blake's greatest enemy Travis tells Cally in "Seek-Locate-Destroy," "He [Blake] has one reliable flaw: loyalty."
Avon comments more than once about his "bleeding heart." Even Decimas, the people who resemble heaps of coleslaw and who act like savages when given the chance, receive Blake's compassion. Blake's love of people in general is part of what makes him the rebel he is. It is his love of the common man, the great mass of humanity, that drives his rebel fervour. Blake's compassion makes him send the plague warning in "Killer" so that the deadly virus doesn't spread, despite the fact that it means specifically warning Servalan who is on her way to Fosforon, too. His kindness is also shown for specific people, too, and especially so for Avon. He is more than willing to hand over the power cells in "The Web" when Avon is endangered. And at the very end, after having been blasted in three places at close range by the very man he trusted "even from the beginning," Blake struggles with his last ounces of strength to reach Avon, make contact, and offer his forgiveness. I think part of what makes "Blake" the tragedy it is is the vision we have of Blake forgiving Avon.
In this world of grays, Blake was basically a moral man, motivated by a desire to do good and restore justice. In most cases, he was a man of his word. He's not out to get rich nor is he out for power. He doesn't kill Travis in "Duel" because he realized that would have been simple revenge and wouldn't really change anything anyway. Whenever there is a chance to help others, he tries to do it, just for the purpose of doing good. He tries to be open-minded and tolerant of others, believing in the best in them. He trusts easily; perhaps too easily. Except for a few instances, what you see of Blake is what you get. But he was far from perfect, and detractors can point to several instances where he did do things that weren't right or are highly debatable, but I'm not going to worry about them. The ironic comment in "Shadow" that they are actually the "good guys" was deliberate. Although Blake was a good person most of the time, he was far from being a saint. Actually, none of the people in BLAKE'S 7 are going to get into heaven unless Vila steals the keys to the pearly gates for them.
Blake had to be an intelligent man to have been such a dangerous rebel against the Federation. His status and his continuing survival through the series cannot be attributed to dumb luck. Avon in the third season has almost everything that Blake had at the beginning, and Blake is left with nothing, but yet he survives somehow until he reunites with Avon in "Blake." It's stated both he and Avon worked on the Aquatar Project, but what they did is never said. Avon only criticizes Blake for his beliefs in mankind and the cause, not for any actual lack of intelligence. At the very beginning, Blake's intelligence saves Avon and Jenna in "Space Fall" when he immediately reasons the images that the defence sphere is projecting are false. Blake appears to have a natural gift for military strategy and quickly makes decisions that get them out of tight spots, such as ramming Travis in "Duel," ordering Jenna to fly through the centre of the gravitational vortex on maximum in "Breakdown," and hunting down and finding Star One. In "Killer," it is Blake who gives Dr. Bellfriar a lot of information and some theories about the plague, how it started and where it came from. Blake is intellectually smart and also intuitively savvy.
Blake is charismatic and a natural leader. Bran Foster comments in "The Way Back,• "There's not much left of the man [Blake] I knew." We must assume that in the following episodes that Blake becomes more like the original Blake. He innately seems to know how to make people do what he wants. He has a natural ability to make people believe in him and follow him, and he instinctively manages to appeal to both large groups he has never met--his name is the rallying call for the rebellion--as well as the smaller group on the Liberator. He manages to convince, inspire, or manipulate (depending on your view) the others on the London and on Liberator to do what he wants, regardless of whether he does this on a conscious level as some fans claim or it just comes naturally, instinctually. Blake is legendary and even after two or more years out of the limelight (seasons 3 and 4), his name still is magic to the rebellion and even Avon must concede that he needs Blake if he is to continue on.
Blake's a basically friendly person who gets along with everybody (well, everyone non-Federation) because he appreciates everybody. If you look at the episodes carefully, you'll see he often thanks people or compliments them. He's extremely witty and his repartee with Avon and the others is a main part of what people love about the show. For instance, when they see the Liberator guns for the first time, Blake picks up a gun.
Blake: "Handgun?"When Stott the Andromedan in disguise asks Blake who's pretending to be Travis why he wants to "eradicate humanity." Blake just replies, "Well, maybe I just don't like crowds." Even Avon, a cynic and a loner, was drawn to Blake, an idealistic who loved to be with people. By sheer force of personality, Blake got the other five people on the Liberator to follow him. They liked him, believed in him, and trusted him. Not even Cally as a natural rebel would have followed him if she hadn't have liked him as well.
Avon: "It's a bit elaborate for a toothpick.•
Blake: "Depends how elaborate their teeth were."
Although Blake is an idealist, he could also be pragmatic when he had to be. Blake threatens Sarkoff by using the man's love of his antiques. This is much more effective than pointing a gun at him. Blake tells Kane he will destroy his hands if he doesn't help Gan and do it in twenty minutes, since that is all the time Liberator has before the Federation arrives. And while Blake didn't kill Travis when he probably should have several times, Blake was capable of killing his enemies and not regretting it. Blake was willing to deal with the devil himself, the contemptible drug organization Terra Nostra in "Shadow," because he thought it would help him against the Federation. And he is prepared to sacrifice innocent people when he plans the destruction of Star One. So he wasn't a total idealist with his head in the clouds. Running a rebellion means being ruthless and being willing to kill people at times. Blake had few illusions. In "Countdown," his comment, "See you in hell," to the dying Provine was probably very sincerely meant.
If there is one quality I think everyone can agree on besides the fact Blake is brave, it's that he was persistent. He fights the Federation with all his might every chance he gets. He just keeps on and on. Only on rare occasions dos we see him falter. Before the show started, and in "The Way Back", we find out that the only way the Federation could deal with him was to restructure his mind and give him "tranquillised dreams" for his past. They broke him twice and for four years he lived as a drugged loyal citizen. Once the truth is revealed in "The Way Back" and yet another traumatic massacre occurs, Blake is back to being a rebel again. And for twenty-five more episodes he does nothing but fight. The only two times he backslides are in "Trial" where he is shaken by Gan's death, which is his fault, and in "Voice from the Past" where past conditioning once more makes him a Federation foil.
We don't know what happens to him in the next twenty-five episodes after "Star One" (assuming the Blake in "Terminal" is a drug-induced dream), but in the twenty-sixth and final episode, "Blake," there is Blake again who has managed to rebuild some type of rebel movement totally on his own and is now ready to join forces with Avon again. It is only Avon's bullets that finally bring him down, possibly actually killing him. Even at the end, the Federation doesn't defeat him. He is done in by fate and his trust in a man he had always trusted, even "from the very beginning" --give or take a little, this being BLAKE'S 7, after all.
BLAKE'S 7 is a complex show with a great cast of regular characters, none of whom are simplistic. Everyone can pick a favourite character (or characters) as well as favourite episodes. For me, the show revolves around Blake, even though he basically disappeared the final half. It is because Blake is not a simple hero, a white knight on a pure white horse, that I love him so much and enjoy the series immensely. I think one reason there is such a variety of fan fiction in BLAKE'S 7 is that everyone sees something a little different in the show. And we all want to rewrite the ending. In my favourite fan fiction, Blake always survives to fight again yet one more day. As for my view of Blake, he's not stupid, he's not expendable, and he's not going to be a second-rate character in the stories that I love to read and reread.
*RADIO TIMES, Sept. 17-23, 1994, p. 12 CULT TV 1:5 (issue 5), Dec. 1997, pp. 24-25.
**Your Blakes May Vary.
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