I really tried to write this Blake's 7 story but.....

by Chris Blenkarn

1st March

I'm having a rather nice dream, something to do with Blake and Dungeness power station, when the alarm sounds. Shame. It's 7am, time to climb out of bed and pull back curtains. What's the weather like? Preliminary analysis indicates that surface conditions are good. Get dressed , make coffee, eat toast. Wonder what's for breakfast on Liberator? What does the future hold for muesli? Judging by Avon's pallor, they all survive on some mutant form of cuppa soup and have run clean out of multivitamin tablets.

Proceed on foot to workplace through park; sunshine, crocus, lots of ducks. Must be depressing doing a morning shift on Liberator, no Spring morning, no sunshine, no ducks, and only the next trip to a quarry to look forward to. Suddenly have brilliant idea for a Blake's 7 story. By the time I arrive at work, have thought out draft of first chapter with intriguing role for Gan but unfortunately have no time to jot it down. Deal with heaving in-tray, return phone calls, go to meeting. At lunchtime realise someone has done a memory erase on me; cannot remember what the brilliant idea was.

Spend afternoon drafting document on Health and Safety legislation. Perhaps I could write story involving health and safety audit on Liberator and prosecution of the System for not providing seat belts or viewscreen filters. H&S inspector would have some helpful hints on how to lift corpses and other impedimenta without straining your back, rather a pity if you like back massage scenarios. He/she would probably insist on fitting fire doors to the teleport bay and removing Vila's Adrenalin and Soma from the flight deck in case he spilt it on Orac.

Why on earth - or any other planet - doesn't Vila steal some decent liquor? Won't the others let him? Adrenalin and Soma sounds deeply unappetising, surely he'd rather have a dry martini or a really good whisky. I'm surprised Vila never got Orac to build him a personal still. I'm amazed they didn't all need one; if I lived on the Liberator I would need a stiff drink every two minutes, and a large supply of herbal anti-stress pills.

Is it really 3.30pm already? I must concentrate (would chewing gum help to get my mind off Vila? Not if it's Orbit) and get Health & Safety draft finished, absolute priority one rating if I want to get paid. Dismiss thoughts of B7 from my mind. At 5.00pm walk home, past abandoned pizza boxes and drinks cans, unwelcome evidence that our planet supports primitive forms of life; you never see them in B7 - that's something to be said for the Federation. Feel jaded, my power banks apparently exhausted . Hope that my brilliant idea will resurface tomorrow. Writing would be easy if life didn't keep intercepting it. Understand how Coleridge felt about the person from Porlock.

10 April

Daffodils are starting to bloom. I got some new ones last autumn from the Avon bulb company (honestly, I can give you the address if you want). I couldn't resist, the names were so apt; Delta Wings (obvious), Moon Goddess (Cally), Privateer (Jenna), Leader (Blake) and Happy Face (Avon). As for my story, I still can't quite recall that first fine careless rapture though am fairly sure it did not (yet) involve quarries, clones, mutant clones, long-lost relatives, psychostrategists, alien telepathy or teleport malfunction.

Watched Gambit last night purely in the interests of research. Enjoyed it so much, I got withdrawal symptoms and felt compelled to watch two more episodes. Still haven't a clue what my story was about. Anyway, Spring has definitely arrived , rapid changes are occurring in the garden and I'm much too busy resisting the onslaught of dandelions to write anything.

I hate dandelions, they multiply so quickly. They're like those cryogenic thingies from Time Squad, you know, the single cells that reach adulthood in 1.6 minutes. Wish that Blake would do something really useful for a change and zoom in and blow up all the dandelions in the universe, or at least in our back garden. And if extermination offends his green principles (surely Blake is a Green?) could he locate a species whose diet consisted entirely of dandelions and introduce it by the weekend.

Are there dandelions on any of the planets visited by our heroes? Don't remember any, but then don't remember seeing much on B7 that would look at home on Gardener's World, the quarries don't contain a single alpine.

18 April

Geronimo! (or as the spellcheck insists, Geranium!) Was sitting in staff meeting this morning when my great idea surfaced from the subconsciousness. Wrote furiously, thus incurring everyone's deep suspicion. Meeting ends, so have to leave Jenna and Gan in perilous underground complex with mutoids in hot pursuit but no matter; will write more this evening.

Arrive home from work to find our cat has knocked over the Swiss cheese plant onto the front room carpet. As he is our last surviving cat and I am a rabid fan you may think he should be named Avon. However he is ginger and white, and as dim as he is friendly, so it really wouldn't be appropriate. We do have a small spaniel with beautiful big brown eyes who could reasonably (but I was overruled) be called Vila. Hope Mr Keating wouldn't feel insulted.

Remove puss, who is hurt and puzzled that I am not pleased with him, and clear up mess. Go to kitchen and peer into freezer to find something easy for dinner. Rummage in lower depths. Unearth unlabelled pie. Is it apple, cheese and onion, or something Servalan has left to entrap us? Do not know. Decide to put back mutoid pie and we have tortellini and salad instead. Afterwards make coffee and disappear upstairs to write.

Shut door and put on sixties compilation album to aid creative flow. I badly need a reason why Jenna and Gan are unable to escape back to the Liberator. Would like them to hold onto their bracelets just for a change, so what to do instead?

Notice album has reached "These Boots are Made for Walking", demonstrably untrue in the case of Jenna and Cally; these boots are made for spraining your ankle and are totally unsuitable for running around shooting people.

Am determined not to use sudden appearance of pursuit ships or malfunctioning whatsits or takeover by aliens /pirates/clones. Perhaps Avon has arranged to blow up the ship for the insurance money? Am tempted to let Cally and Jenna take Liberator away for a spin, just to show who's boss; ah, but Jenna is the one who's trapped, I forgot. Perhaps I should substitute Vila for Jenna, but then he could have unlocked the door at the top of page two and they wouldn't have been in this mess in the first place. Damn.

There is a clumpy noise on the landing. Child number two is bearing directly on my position, full of virtue because he has done all his homework. Asks if he can watch Red Dwarf video for third time this week. Say yes in fit of abstraction.

If Jenna and Gan can't get out, what happens next ? What's Blake doing all this time? Music has changed to "He's a Rebel". Become distracted into thinking of other appropriate sixties hits (apologies to anyone reading this who is under forty). Sticking with Blake, how about one for Gauda Prime, "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"; Kerril "Delta Lady", Travis "Nowhere to Run", assorted clones "I'll Never Find Another You", everyone "My Days are Numbered", "It's Over" and "The End"....

This is silly. Good job I don't have to do this for money or I would starve. How do real writers manage? Suspect real writers don't have to get dinner ready. Bet Coleridge wouldn't know how to open a tin of Heinz beans. Cat jumps onto keyboard. Dog paws plaintively at my leg. Give in, save the three lines I have typed and go to kitchen to feed them. Make more coffee, get back to keyboard, realise those three lines were rubbish and delete them. I think I have had a burnout in my main circuits.

Sensors report the approach of child number one. I really must remember to erect a force wall. Child cannot find score for tomorrow's clarinet exam. Child insists she will be killed instantly by malevolent clarinet teacher if she appears minus score. Child's clarinet teacher undoubtedly bears a passing resemblance to Servalan in pursuit of whomever ate the last chocolate digestive. Am far too busy to organise funeral this week so Search - and - Locate mission required. Why do kids expect parents to know where everything is? I may be the Guardian but I don't want to be the Keeper too.

Do you think any of the Liberator crew play a musical instrument? Perhaps Blake got his grade four saxophone certificate though he won't remember it now of course. Wouldn't be surprised if Vila kept a mouth organ in his back pocket as a child. Cannot find score. Husband returns home and joins hunt. Still no score. Child is despondent. Pity we can't ask Zen where the score has got to. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all homes had a Zen. He could locate car keys, the telly remote control which has a habit of mysteriously disappearing, usually though not always down the back of the sofa , the corkscrew..... Wonder if he could re-unite odd socks with their original partners, or is this asking too much? Perhaps a research project for Orac.

Go back to my story. Child retires downstairs and plays Dead March from Saul on the piano. Very distracting. Go to put music back on but cannot decide whether to play Beatles or Rolling Stones album (Aftermath?). Still distracted. You could make a nice B7 sequence just from these two;

We Can Work It Out
With a Little Help from my Friends
Give Peace a Chance
20,000 Light Years from Home

And specially for Avon:
Get Back
Paint It Black
Anna (Go to Him)
Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown
This Could Be the Last Time
It's All Over Now

Or how about a Blake/Avon slash?
I Can't Get No Satisfaction
I Wanna Hold Your Hand
Let's Spend the Night Together
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away

Well, it's a thought. Back to the story. I'm worried Jenna and Gan might wander into a quarry unbeknownst to me while I am thinking of other things like dinner, scores and when did I last water the Swiss Cheese plant. Write a bit more, then realise child number two has been slumped in front of Red Dwarf for well over an hour; go and yell at him to turn it off.

Try to print out the story so far, but printer is playing up again. Wish Avon would come and fix it. Well, wish Avon would come anyway, with or without his gadget. I'm fed up with trying to write. Decide to have a bath instead. Look through post-Xmas Body Shop stockpile for bath oil but can only find exfoliating cream. Sounds like something Travis would use. "Damn you Blake, give me the Liberator or I'll exfoliate you within an inch of your life".

18 April

Have taken a few days off work in Easter holidays. Story is now a few pages long, but I have just realised there is a glaring anomaly back on page one. Am not unduly concerned as B7, like Star Trek, is traditionally full of glaring anomalies but it niggles... Dandelions are re-grouping. There are a dozen seed trays bursting forth with tiny seedlings. I must take cuttings, mow lawn, fling Growmore around, and I must do it NOW. Sorry Jenna and Gan but I'll be back, trust me. Put story disk in drawer until next weekend.

18 July

Come across disk while searching for lost sock. Read story and am not impressed. I am spending a few days at home with sprained ankle (gravity compensation controls failed to come online halfway down the stairs). Decide to have another go at story. It's a lovely day, so go into garden while it remains a child-free zone. Maintain optimum evasion strategy by sitting under apple tree. Cannot help noticing that whitefly are rampant; must buy some more zapping agent. Pylene - 50 sounds as if it would be good for whitefly. Need glass of wine, preferably white. None in fridge, so put bottle in freezer for a few minutes to chill it.

Decide story might make more sense if told in first person so alter it all as needed. Have just got into it when child number two materialises and asks for a pound to go swimming. Abandon Blake hurtling along underground passage for the fifth time to go inside and rummage in pockets of different jackets to find change as I only have a ten credit note in my wallet.

Return to story but have lost thread. Coleridge had it easy, bet he made up the person from Porlock as an excuse. Coleridge never fed his houseplants or listened to French homework. Oh dear. Herbaceous border is looking good. Clematis "The President" is getting a bit rampant and needs cutting back; must take after Servalan. Shame there isn't a clematis called Blake; there is a lobelia named Dark Crusader but I don't see Blake as a lobelia somehow. The crew and company could be plant types instead. Servalan has to be elegantissima, Avon rigidus or frigidus or maybe lividum (black form), Vila prostratum, Gan giganteum, Cally terminalis (sorry Cally) and the mutoids trifida and vulpina.

This is not getting my story written. Concentrate hard and story line begins to emerge. Get carried away writing. Two and a half hours later remember about bottle of wine in freezer. Arrrgh! sound an alert. Hobble into house. Too late. Interior of freezer registers an explosion. Bottle has burst and shards of broken glass are scattered all over the contents. Cat and dog spot me and lock on, sensing that teatime approaches. Realise we are out of pet food and try to fob them off with muesli instead. Decide to pack up writing for today.

2 August

I'm sitting in a train en route to a conference in Manchester and have succeeded in rewriting eight whole pages. Halfway through conference inspiration recurs. Am sitting on back row taking notes on the European Social Fund when I see how to extricate Blake and Cally from the plight in which I had left them. Abandon Europe, turn over page and start to jot it down. Man sitting next to me misses speaker's last sentence and peers surreptitiously at what I am writing. Man looks startled and moves elsewhere when we stop for coffee. Dear me! It's not as if it were slash.

18 August.

We are in Scotland for family caravan holiday. The plan is this; children will gambol happily by lakeside, ride bikes, build dens, preferably not in quarries because we all know what will happen to them if they do, husband and I will relax, switch to automatics, and sit outside in sunshine; he will paint and I will get this sodding story finished. Have got to stage when I wish I hadn't started it. However am loath to abandon it because have already invested time and effort.

We erect caravan awning in record time. Wonder if Blake and co. could manage it without printed instructions? Does erecting awnings come under survival skills? Would like to see them deal with one like ours, second-hand, no instructions, alien fastenings unlike anything previously encountered "it's definitely a tent, but not a tent as we know it. This constitutes all available data". Wonder if Avon's giant intellect is up to working out which is the inside before they have got it irrevocably attached to the caravan? First week of holiday goes according to plan except that I spend most of it reading the paper and contemplating the scenery. Plenty of time for writing next week.

Monday morning, second week; analysis of residual vapour on awning indicates the weather is changing for the worse. We take children out for the whole day, every day, as dens not much fun in constant Caledonian drizzle. By friday have visited every National Trust property within hundred mile radius. During evening, rain increases and wind rises. Children getting restive. Wonder how our heroes would behave on a damp caravan holiday? Somehow doubt that Avon and Blake would argue over who has the dinner plate with the pig on it. Probably Gan would see to the washing up and stack plates neatly, Cally and Jenna having cleared off to the pub, and Vila would leave the shampoo in the shower block then moan about having to trudge back for it.

Gale gathers force during night. At 4.30am we are awakened by noise of caravan awning making bid for freedom in the Cairngorms. Leap out of bed and deploy all units to grab hold of it. Husband gets drenched banging errant pegs back in. We decide to go home a day early. My story is not finished.

14 October

Story, what story? Oh, that story! Frankly, it's a bit difficult at the moment. We've got builders in replacing the lead piping and I'm awfully behind at work and I do have other interests besides Blake's 7 for goodness sake and anyway it's really time I defrosted the freezer and got all that broken glass out.....

2 December

Have just completed standard mark one Christmas letter for circulation to absent friends and relatives . Perhaps I can pick up my tedious story again. Wonder if Blake and co. send Christmas circular tapes to freedom fighters on distant planets;

"Sorry I forgot to write last year, was a bit tied up fighting feds/saving furry aliens/avoiding plasma bolts/pushing back the borders of science etc.. Had lovely holiday on this quaint little planet that we found, totally unspoiled, and the locals really friendly. Last autumn Avon converted the shuttle bay into a leisure pool with jacuzzi, you should have seen Vila's face, it made it all worthwhile.

Gan is doing exceptionally well at his advanced first aid lessons, we're really proud of him, and we're all keeping our fingers crossed that Jenna will get her intergalactic gold piloting certificate. Must finish now as I have a lot of presents still to wrap. We really must try and see each other again before next Christmas. Love, Roj...."

23 December

Busy wrapping presents while cat and dog churn around getting in the way. Cat paces up and down as I crouch cursing on the carpet and gets his paw stuck on the sellotape. Hope sellotape has been replaced by something more manageable in the twenty-somethingth century. This story is destined to be incomplete.

1st January

Beautiful morning, shouldn't be surprised if the daffodils are early this year. Have made a New Years Resolution to finish my story. I only need to think of an original way to disable the Liberator computers; would spilling coffee on both of them work ? It worked on ours. I've clobbered Blake, mislaid Vila, sent Avon into another dimension, and imprisoned Gan. Cally and Jenna have gone shopping for some sensible shoes. I urgently need someone to effect a rescue. Either I introduce a completely new character or start again. Please, no!

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