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September 1992


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 28 Sep 1992 10:06:00 EST
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>From: [log in to unmask]
>Several people posed questions about BLAKE'S 7, a British Science fiction
>series. I want to first say that B7 has been and continues to be a major
>fan interest of mine and I would recommend it to anyone who likes intelligent
>science fiction with a dark edge.
        Henry, you are obviously a man of intelligence and good taste!
>In many ways, the series was a response to
>ST with a bad totalitarian Federation, the protagonists as subversives, and the
> relationship founded on mutual distrust rather than the "great friendship."
        So you don't think Avon came to trust Blake?
>More to the point, the female characters are stronger than any on American
        This is one of the things that I liked best about the series. But I
think the female roles grew weaker as the seasons passed.
        In the first two years, both women in the crew had vital roles and
almost all of the places visited or groups encountered had at least one strong
female. They weren't always good and they weren't always bad, they were
roughly good or bad in the same proportion as male characters.
        Toward the end of the second season, however, Jenna and Cally were left
behind more and more often. Starting in the third season, fewer and fewer
women appeared, although Servalan, the chief villain, appeared more often. I
also think Dayna, while she started strong, lacked Jenna's strength. It's too
bad neither Jenna nor Cally were developed as fully as they might have been.
        By the fourth season, the only other women (other than Servalan and the
crew) were either evil or dead, or both, and there only a handful of them.
        Having said that, let me add that no matter how badly the female roles
deteriorated, they were still a hell of a lot better than anything I've seen
in US series of the same time time (late 70s - early 80s) or even now.
Lok at the edges on Jenna and Cally and Soolin compared to the tapioca
blandness of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION's Crusher and Troi, for
>As Sue
>suggests, there is a heavy overlap among Slash (homoerotic) fan writers between
> Star Trek and B7. Many B7 slash fans began with Trek and moved over when
>they felt they had exhausted the themes, characters, and other program
>materials. To my mind, many of the most sophisticated fan writers write
>in B7. There are significant differences in the fan writing which reflect
>the different tone and content of the two series. B7 slash stories tend to
>be much darker, focusing on the brutal competition between the men, the
>problems of building trust, struggles for authority and power (as in something
> as basic as who is the top and who is the bottom) and issues of class
> relations. Star Trek slash tends to be lighter and more romantic, assumes an
> existing basis of friendship between the male protagonists, focuses on the
>possability of greater intimacy (via the mind-meld), etc.
        I'm glad to hear you say that B7 slash is darker, because I was
beginning to think I was reading an obsession with domination into the stories..
>In other B7 fan writing, a
>key theme is working around story events which kill off character or
>threaten potential lines of narrative development of interest to fans.
        The first thing I noticed was the preoccupation with getting them off
Gauda Prime and preventing Cally's death. Do you think the concern with saving
Cally but not Gan reflects her greater interest for fans, the fact that she
died off-camera but Gan died  on-camera, or just that the writers want Avon
>Because B7 was a semi-serial rather than an episodic series, the stories
>tend to be more time-specific, that is more closely anchored to specific
>story events. Zines are sometimes subdivided according to the season in which
>the story is set with much devoted to fifth season stories, ie. stories that
>go beyond the aired narrative and rework its rather emphatic closure.
        "emphatic closure"   Nicely put.  8-)
>is posed by the differences between the fan writing surrounding the two
>programs is of course what role program ideology plays in shaping the
>reader's appropriation of program materials. I stress the resistant and
>creative reworking of program materials in the book, but it is certainly
>clear that fans respond to parimeters set by the original series, at least
>as they interprete it, and try to write stories that are somewhat consistent
>with the original characterizations.
>They were of course drawn to the program
>because it offered the chance to explore issues important to them and as I
>argue, fandom is motivated by a mixture of fascination and frustration,
>fascination to motivate their initial involvement, frustration to spark
>creative reworkings of the original.
        I really like the way you put that...
        What I see is a very strong urge to deal with issues raised and
abandoned by the series writers, things left unexplained, and to resolve
inconsistencies. What does Avon really think of Blake, how can you account
for what happened at the "the rather emphatic closure," and so on.
        It seems to me that zine writers are much more concerned with the
psychological impact of events on the characters than the series writers,
even though the series writers are the ones who introduced the ideas. For
instance, Avon becomes increasingly unstable during the 4th season. Maybe.
The series writers certainly give him odd things to do, but the change isn't
steady and they never explicitly address the issue of whether he has
completely lost his lead duck by the time he reaches Gauda Prime or not, and
if he has, why. Zine writers take the idea and chart the deterioration in a more
satisfying and consistent manner in order to make sense of what seems to be
happening in the series.
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