Blake's popular support

By Pat Fenech

Something we hear very little of in 'Blakes 7' is Blake's vision of the better future he is fighting for. However we hear a little which suggests that his instincts are democratic. He talks of returning government to the 'honest man' and of not himself being free until all men - I am sure he really meant all persons - are free to think.

And being democratically inclined he was probably more than aware of the basis of any real democracy, the consent of 'the people'. To impose his idea of good government upon an unwilling 'people' would have made him little better than the Federation. So, what did 'the people', those capable of freely thinking within the Federation, feel about Blake? Or put another way what popular support was there for Blake's fight?

Thinking about it I seem to recall there being some evidence within the series that he did have such support. And to test my memory I went looking to see what is to be found... and discovered quite a bit.

True enough we did not see scenes of the citizenry rioting through the domes demanding Blake for President. Nor did we see so very much about the rebellion. But... there is a lot of material scattered throughout the series which suggests that Blake's opposition to the Federation was of some significance; that it was not without support, nor did it pass unnoticed. The very first episode has quite a lot of detail about the opposition to the Federation.

FOSTER: Four years ago, there was a good deal of discontent with the Administration. There were *many* activist groups. But the only one that really meant anything was led by Roj Blake ...

BLAKE: Why are you telling me this?

FOSTER: Because we are preparing to move again. And if it were known you were with us, we'd get more support...

FOSTER: ... You've probably heard that the settlers in the Outer Worlds are rightly demanding greater autonomy. If we can help unify their voices, the Administration will have to listen. The security forces are overstretched. If we can step up our campaign of civil disobedience here on Earth, they will have to concentrate their forces here, and that will give the Outer Worlds much more freedom of action.. Now we must aim to have at least one world declare its independence within the next two years...

TARRANT: We've got to cause as much disruption as possible in the food manufacturing division. There's nothing more effective than ration cuts to cause unrest. I've worked out methods by which this disruption can be implemented.

This does seem to suggest that there was considerable, organised, opposition to the Federation on Earth, an opposition with detailed plans for furthering their aims. It also suggests just how much importance these dissidents placed upon having Blake associate himself with their plans. Important enough to risk trying to re-recruit him even when they knew what had been done to his mind and were aware that he might possibly betray them.

Then there is the Federation's *very* nervous reaction to discovering that Blake was showing rebellious tendencies again. So worried were they that they feel compelled to conceive a messy and discoverable conspiracy in order to be rid of him and more importantly perhaps, to attempt to destroy his reputation utterly with the charges of child molestation. Morag suggests the Federation's thinking as to the necessity for such measures.

MORAG: ... he's a symbol of opposition to the administration.' ... His death could be used by the dissidents. They need a hero. Alive or dead Blake could be it.

And it seems that the Federation were not worrying needlessly. For once Blake is free of them again, has 'Liberator' and begins 'fighting back' he does become a major problem.

[Federation Space Headquarters. Servalan's office.]

RONTANE: Which is why the President has asked me to come here personally; to express his own very grave concern over this matter. The destruction of the communications center has far-reaching political consequences. Controllers from some of the Outer Planets, whose loyalty to the Federation is, uh, delicately balanced, have been openly critical of the Administration's defense system. There are even one or two radical voices that speak of withdrawal from the Federation.

BERCOL: My department has done all in its power to suppress information about Blake and his actions -- there is a total blackout on all reports concerning him -- but still the stories get out. They spread by word of mouth, by whispers, by rumour; each time the story is told it is elaborated upon. Any damage to the Federation is attributed to Blake. The smallest incident is exaggerated out of all proportion until it becomes a major event. Blake is becoming a legend. His name is a rallying call for malcontents of all persuasions. He must be stopped.

SERVALAN: Gentlemen: I share the President's grave concern. And I am aware of the danger should Blake become a legend. But let us keep this matter in its correct perspective. It is true that Blake has command of a superb space vehicle, but he is just a man, backed by a handful of criminals, and that is all. He is not invulnerable, nor is he superhuman. He is just a man, who has been extremely lucky to evade capture --- so far.

RONTANE: With respect, Supreme Commander, we are aware of the facts. They are simply that with all the resources that the Federation can call upon, this one vulnerable, lucky man is still free to cause havoc.

SERVALAN: You have some criticism of my handling of this matter, Secretary Rontane?

RONTANE: Not at all, I hoped merely to convey the concern shown by the President when he briefed me for this visit.

BERCOL: It would be very helpful to all of us if we knew --- if you could indicate what action you will NOW be taking against Blake.

SERVALAN: Very well, Councillor Bercol. You may tell the President that I am appointing a Space Commander to take absolute control of this matter. He will be exclusively concerned to seek, locate, and destroy Blake.

BERCOL: Oh, excellent, excellent.

RONTANE: May we know the officer's name?

SERVALAN: Yes, you may. Space Commander Travis....

SERVALAN: Responsibility is something I have never evaded, Secretary.

RONTANE: Ah. May I then tell the President that you are confident that the Blake problem will be solved, soon?

SERVALAN: You may tell him to prepare a statement announcing that Blake has been eliminated.

BERCOL: Thank you for your reassurances, Supreme Commander.

This suggests much. Firstly, it suggests that Blake's activities have been a cause for concern to the Federation for some time. It further suggests that the President of the Terran Federation is worried enough about Blake to be sending his minions to demand better results from Space Command. It perhaps signifies the depth of the concern that the Federation's ruler is chancing offending the military with this criticism of their effectiveness. You would imagine that such a risk would not be taken lightly by a dictatorship which depended upon the repressive capacity of its soldiery such as the Federation seems to have been.

Within this exchange there are also suggestions as to just why the President was so concerned. Blake is becoming a legend. A news blackout has not prevented the stories of Blake's exploits from spreading to obviously receptive ears. This suggests strongly that there was popular interest in Blake and his opposition to the Federation and further that the interest was positive and large enough to be of some considerable worry to the Administration. Also interesting are the lengths they are all prepared to go to stop Blake. Servalan seems willing to provide Travis with whatever he feels he needs to 'seek-locate-destroy' Blake and as the series progressed we saw that she continued to do so.

A tiny glimpse of the people who were listening to the tales of Blake's exploits and passing them on is provided by this exchange between Travis and Avalon:

AVALON: Every year more people defy the Federation, thirty planets in this sector alone, and others will follow -- many others. TRAVIS: Yes. Well, you'll tell us about those, won't you? Their leaders, locations, their plans. I'm sure we'll be able to convince them that loyalty to the Federation is after all in their best interests.

AVALON: I know enough about these machines to realize that I will tell you everything. You will murder hundreds of people, maybe thousands. But you won't end the opposition, you'll never end it.

Not just bravado from Avalon, for try as they did the Federation could not put a stop to Blake nor it seems to the word of his deeds spreading. So that eventually Servalan finds herself confronting another Councillor - this one somewhat more senior, it seems to be implied ,who is voicing similar but now even more anxious concerns than Bercol and Rontane.

JOBAN: Some members of the council are concerned that many of our citizens now know of Blake's activities, and those of the renegade Travis.

SERVALAN: But there have been no public spacecasts on either Travis or Blake.

JOBAN: People talk, Servalan. There's no way of stopping them.

SERVALAN: This is a major breach of security. The punishment is total. Who are these people who have been talking? I want their names, Councilor.

JOBAN: All sorts of citizens from Alphas to labor grades know of Blake's defiance of the Federation. They talk of him as a sort of...hero, many of them.

SERVALAN: What rubbish.

JOBAN: His men impede progress, and more importantly order. Order, Servalan. It is all that matters.

SERVALAN: I do not need you to remind me of that...

JOBAN: The council ask, "Where is Blake's head?" And we've no answer.

SERVALAN: You shall have it.

JOBAN: The answer, or his head?


JOBAN: Good. I would not like to think I might have been wrong in my choice.

Again the clear impression given from this is the concern of the Federation hierarchy about the effect Blake's exploits are having upon the citizenry. Joban is obliquely threatening Servalan with loss of her position if she is not more effective in dealing with Blake, serious stuff! (you wonder if this sort of pressure did not contribute much to her eventual decision to stage a coup against the civilian government) That Blake was a seriously destabilising influence seems clear and while it's not spelt out exactly where the people doing the talking were the suggestion seems to be that it was on Earth and throughout the worlds ruled by the Federation. There is also the extremely interesting suggestion here of the extent of the interest in, and approval of, Blake through all stratas of society - from the Alphas to the labour grades. You would imagine that the Federation might have considerable cause to be worried.

There is some evidence of the particular of the generalities Joban mentioned to Servalan when Blake goes to the aid of a planet which is attempting to throw off the yoke of Federation dominance, Albian.

CAUDER: Don't move. Now who are you?

BLAKE: I'm Blake. This is Avon and Vila.

CAUDER: Blake? [He lowers his gun] You mean the Blake who's been giving the Federation so much trouble?

BLAKE: We've certainly been trying and from what we see here, you've been doing the same thing.

CAUDER: Enters with Grant] Blake, this is Grant.

GRANT: Good to meet you. [They shake hands]

BLAKE: And you. We've been hearing about your strikes against the Federation.

GRANT: You've been hitting them pretty hard, too. You keep it up, you'll put us out of business.

Here we hear the interest and approval for what Blake has been doing expressed by both Grant and Cauder, evidence of just how far and wide Blake's fame has spread.

Then there is 'Voice from the past' with all it suggests about how important Blake is to the scheme of things in the rebellion. Mainly it seems because of the popular support for him personally.

LE GRAND: My homage to you.

BLAKE: Mine to you, Governor.

LE GRAND: No. It is to you only.

BLAKE: I don't understand.

LE GRAND: Did not the Arbiter General explain? For years now, the Arbiter General and I have prepared for this moment. He gathering evidence of the Administration's infamies, while I lobbied the support of my fellow governors. However, we could not challenge and discredit the Administration until we had found an alternative leadership, capable of uniting all factions.

BLAKE: Well, you, Governor.

LE GRAND: No. He who leads must be from Earth. Someone of renowned integrity, someone who has become a legend of hope to the great mass of the oppressed. A messiah.

If there was any doubt about a popular basis of support for Blake this surely suggests otherwise - '...someone who has become a legend of hope to the great mass of the oppressed.' seems to me to be saying say that there was a vast reservoir of discontent waiting to find a focus, which it did - in Blake. Of course there is much more to this than the simplicity of Le Grand's statement but I think she at least believed it to be the truth of the matter and she was the representative of all the Governors of the Outer Worlds. And though Glynd's agenda was different the lengths he went to to get Blake to come to him so that he might use him as a front man do suggest that he also recognised that only under Blake's aegis could a new regime have any popular legitimacy.

And finally there is the perception of Blake and his activities from another dissident, Hal Mellanby :

MELLANBY: Blake? You were with Blake?

AVON: Yes, though it hardly seems to matter now. If it ever did.

MELLANBY: If it mattered? Blake and the Liberator? I've been hearing reports for the last couple of years. You were magnificent.


considering all of the above it does seem to me that it is possible to draw the very strong inference that there was considerable popular support for Blake - support throughout the Federated worlds - strong support. So strong that whenever any group of dissidents considered moving in any way against the Federation they sought out Blake to lead them as he was the only one who would be acceptable to all factions. So strong that the Federation were prepared to go to any lengths, even to the extent of perhaps undermining their own position, to stop him.

Of course, as was the case with Nelson Mandela, who is, I think, a very good analogy, there is no hard evidence such as polls of interested citizens to underpin the impression of widespread support with tangible evidence. But, as with Mandela, we perhaps can suggest with some certainty that the support is evident enough in different but just as meaningful ways, such as Le Grand's conviction about Blake's pivotal position in any rebellion, based as that is on a recognition of the popular support he has.

Sometimes it seems to me, though I may be misinterpreting, that some of the discussion about Blake seems to correlate whether Blake was justified in what he did with evidence of popular support. I don't know that I would necessarily agree that one is *the* justification for the other. I tend to feel that Blake was more than justified even if not one citizen agreed., which is hardly likely I suppose - the yen for freedom being one aspect of humanity which is common to all eras and conditions. But even if the repression of the Federation had killed it entirely it does not effect the fact that the government Blake takes up arms against is an evil government which if any sort of justice is to prevail deserves to be at least altered if not brought down for the repression it practices upon its citizens. We can argue about his methods but his cause seems to me to be a just one. But, if it is felt that popular support adds legitimacy and justification to the righteousness of Blake's cause and the actions he takes in pursuit of it, then perhaps the inferences of such popular support to be drawn from the few moments mentioned above do provide such justification.

I know the politics of 'Blakes 7' are not of much general interest, but I find them very intriguing and feel that it was rather a shame that this aspect of the series was not explored in more depth. I would like to have seen what Blake might have accomplished at the head of his 'rabble' :)

If Nelson Mandela could walk from Robin Island into the office of President of South Africa Blake might have accomplished something similar.

Pat Fenech

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Last changed on 01st of March 1998