Spanish Transition & Blake┤s 7

A brief insight into a TV golden age.

By Juan Pedro Esteve Garcia

February 1981: A group of military and Civil Guard troopers attacked the Spanish Congress (equivalent of British Commons) in Madrid and paralysed -for two days- the young democratic state born in 1978 with the new Constitution. Fortunately, the coup d┤etat was aborted because the modernisation process was supported by 3/4 of the population and even by important army authorities with a reformist sense of politics.

That was the social background when TVE (Television Espa˝ola, the only TV broadcasting system, a heritage of the pre-democratic period) had the idea of airing a new TV show imported from UK: "Los siete de Blake" (Blake┤s Seven). The series was a milestone in the difficult road to update the TVE┤s status quo of cultural sensibilities. In 1960┤s & 70┤s period, only a scarce number of Sci-Fi shows were transmitted by a television system immersed in lots of isolationist prejudices. Star Trek ("Viaje a las estrellas", as it was then translated) is a clear example of one of those rare shows -economic & political links with America were stronger than European connections- , but definitive European Sci-Fi landing came in 1981 with a brief appearing of our heroes -not all of them, only the original 7-

Television was not the only thing changing its structure in those years. In Spain, the period between years 1977 and - 1985 is known as the "Movida" age (A Spanish word that can be translated as moving in the sense of advancing or activity). "Movida" movement had its principal focus in Madrid -with links to some cities of Galicia- and was not a "perestroika": Russian Perestroika was an idea designed by the State for the People, but the Movida was an spontaneous cultural renaissance managed by the People for the People: Contemporary Art, Rock&Pop music, Comics and many other expressions, after 40 years of censorship, experimented a flourishing surge, breaking the walls built by Franco┤s gerontocracy.

Blake┤s gang started this Spanish mission 26.08.1981, an episode a week, aired on Wednesdays at 18.00. In the programme timetable, that was a location very suitable for children, and B7 was one of the earlier stages to give children a new kind of TV show. TVE for children and for young people shows of the "Movida" age (as "La Bola de Cristal") were designed for young people, not for morons. (children's TV had been very unappealing to Spanish boys) Terry Nation created B7 for adult viewers, but B7 fitted perfectly in the sensibility of those new Spaniards.

The most incredible aspects of B7 Spanish adventure were:

-The sound dubbing: Zen┤s voice was substituted by a more "mechanical" one, with influences of old American 50┤s B-movies. Jenna was "re-named" as Jessa to avoid sound as the word "Llena" (means "full" but is widely used in relation to a fat girl, fortunately not the case with Sally Knyvette). Cally became "Colly"!

P.D. According to some people of TVE, another reason for changing the name of our poor Jenna Stannis may be it also sounds as "Hiena" (the african mammal hyena), word commonly used to design a really bad person (as "snake", "vulture" or "crow")

-The infinitesimal duration of the airing: Only half a dozen episodes were regularly broadcast, between August and December 1981. The TVE timetable was totally unstable, because Spain lived under a sort of sport euphoria (1982 was the year of World Soccer Championship).

Titles given to episodes are a real matter of discussion (or joy):

Original BBC Episode Title Title used in 1981 by TVE Date of airing Literal translation into English of TVE titles.
The way back Camino de vuelta 16.08.81 Way back
Space Fall Encuentro espacial 02.09.81 Space encounter (or rendez-vous)
Cygnus Alpha Zignus Alfa (!) 16.09.81 ┐?
Time Squad Objetivo: Saurian Major 30.09.81 Target: Saurian Major
The Web Tela de ara˝a ? ?
Seek-Locate-Destroy Buscar, localizar, destruir ? ?
Mission to Destiny Mision hacia Destino ? ?
Duel Duelo ? ?
Project Avalon Proyecto Avalon ? ?
Deliverance Liberaciˇn Dec.81 Liberation (!)
In TVE's weekly statistics, B7 used to reach number 30-36 in the ranking of 56 programmes shown. After January 1982 no episodes were aired regularly, but some were used to fill gaps in the chaotic schedule.

The great lack of information or knowledge about B7 by the majority of TV viewers was due to the short number of episodes aired. TVE's printed magazine, Teleradio, did some advertising of the series using a BBC promotional photograph taken from series 3, and curiously an extract of that photo showing a black lady called Dayna... a character who evidently did not appear on screen in 1981...

Soccer killed B7 in 1981, but nowadays the TV panorama is more diverse than then. TVE┤s state monopoly of television was abolished in 1989. Private & Regional TV stations co-exist with TVE, but sometimes are too populist and sensationalist, close to the MIT propaganda of "sun, flamenco & bullfighting" (MIT was Franco┤s Ministry of Information and Tourism, that for many years gave the world a mediaeval and topical image of our country) There are also new satellite-based systems with more entertainment options, but the Spanish cultural background is being led to South American -specially Caribbean- standards instead of European ones, adding Spain to the context of an self-styled "Latin" culture, perhaps as distorted an image as old MIT┤s.

Doctor Who episodes are sometimes aired in Regional stations, with similar problems to B7 in 1981 -and the complexity of managing a much greater number of episodes-. Local web sites make very little reference to Blake┤s Seven, with inaccurate affirmations. Our beloved starship is called "Liberador" (a bit cacophonic), when in Spanish there is a more precise word (Libertador) to name her. After all this information, we only can make ourselves these questions:

-How many BBC episodes were dubbed into Spanish?

-Were these episodes distributed to other Spanish-speaking nations (The majority of South America, former colonies in West Africa) ? (Judith: It seems highly likely that they were. The BBC often made arrangements to have copies of dubbed series avialable for export to other countries and often gave the country doing the dubbing a special deal on their licence. Certainly, the series was sold to other Spanish-speaking countries.)

-Do those nations use the original TVE soundtapes or have dubbed the BBC images with local actors? Dubbing in Spain has a curious history, as all audiovisual products coming from foreign countries were dubbed after 1939 instead of being subtitled. Post-civil war politicians used massive film dubbing to eliminate foreign words or expressions relating to leftist ideologies or sex (Franco┤s regime had an ultra National-Catholic orientation). Even classic films such as Casablanca or Mogambo suffered that kind of censorship, obliterating all references to 2nd Republic (1931-39) or extra-marriage sexual & emotional activities.

Nowadays Spain is a relatively well consolidated democracy, but the economics developing after 1980s have destroyed that TV golden age, that spirit of innovation and rebellion of the Movida years that brought B7 here. Market Dictatorship has substituted the Political Dictatorship.

The only known Spanish web site with Blake's 7 information.

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Last changed on 30th of March 2001