Tag Archives: Blake’s 7

Opinions, Truthiness and Violence in Video Games


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Here’s a quote from Blake’s 7:

VILA: “I’m entitled to my opinion.”
AVON: “It is your assumption that we are entitled to it as well that is irritating.”

And here is a quote from acclaimed sci-fi author Harlan Ellison:

“We are all told from the moment we open our eyes, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Well, that’s horsepuckey, of course. We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions. Without research, without background, without understanding, it’s nothing. It’s just bibble-babble. It’s like a fart in a wind tunnel, folks.”

All of which is by way of an introduction to the subject of this post – violence in video games. Yep, that old chestnut.

Despite the fact that studies suggest that the average age of a gamer is now anything from 25 to 35, some people still find it shocking that some games are made for adults and not kids.

This is because some people are opinionated, ill-informed idiots. They are ignorant of the state of the video game industry, the policing of that industry and the failure of any credible study to find any significant link between violence in games and violence in real life. Yet these people know that, despite a lack of evidence, video games corrupt our kids and turn them into sadistic, racist killers.

Which brings us to this clip from an edition of The Alan Titchmarsh Show that aired last week on ITV1. Timed to coincide with an event celebrating the artistic and technical merits of gaming, the BAFTA Video Games awards, the show used that positive representation of gaming as its jumping-off point to lambast the industry for corrupting children.

It starts off with the host criticising videogames for not having a rating system similar to movies – they do – and goes rapidly downhill from there, as Computer & Video Games editor Tim Ingham finds himself under attack from Titchmarsh and his regular guest Julie Peasgood, both of whom are armed to the teeth with opinions and spurious, unsubstantiated “facts”. Watch and weep:

Both Titchmarsh and Peasgood state a number of “facts” about videogames that are what satirical US comedian Stephen Colbert would label as “truthiness“. Truthiness refers satirically to “facts” that are intuitively correct without support of logic or reason. Truthiness refers to the kind of facts you look up in your gut, not in books. To quote Colbert:

Anybody who knows me knows I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books – they’re elitist, constantly telling us what is or isn’t true or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I want to say it was happened in 1941, that’s my right.
I don’t trust books. They’re all fact, no heart. And that’s exactly what’s pulling our country apart today. ‘Cause face it, folks: we are a divided nation. Not between Democrats and Republicans, or Conservatives and liberals, or tops and bottoms. No. We are divided between those who think with their head, and those who know with their heart.

‘Cause that’s where the truth comes from ladies and gentlemen. The gut.
Do you know you have more nerve endings in your stomach than in your head? Look it up. Now somebody’s gonna say, “I did look that up and it’s wrong.” Well mister, that’s cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, try looking it up in your gut. I did. And my gut tells me that’s how our nervous system works.

Back to the Titchmarsh interview and according to Peasgood, videogames are “addictive”, “promote hatred, racism, sexism”, make kids “less caring” and “cause low self-esteem and depression”. She also states that “there is a proven link between behavioural violence and video game violence”.

That’s truthiness in its purist form, right there.

Surprisingly perhaps, the normally reactionary Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of The Sun newspaper, was less opinionated, albeit expressing concern about the realism of the violence portrayed in videogames and where it was going. He did, however, falsely state that videogames had influenced one of the killers of toddler James Bulger in 1993. To be fair, rather than employing truthiness, he may have simply been confusing videogames with “video nasties” – the tabloid media at the time persistantly suggested that the horror film Child’s Play 3 had influenced the Bulger killers, despite the fact that any link between the case and video nasties was dismissed by both the home office and the police.

Getting back to Peasgood, I have to admit that I had never heard of her until yesterday. She is an actress-cum-TV presenter who regularly appears on the Titchmarsh show as his resident “sexpert”.

We could perhaps excuse the pair’s ill-informed ranting and rampant truthiness if we assumed it was motivated by a genuine concern and heartfelt belief that our kids are being corrupted by objectionable content in videogames, films and the media in general.

However, that is a little hard to reconcile with this clip of the wholesome family entertainment served up by the pair during a show that airs on one of the UK’s two main TV channels at 5pm in the afternoon (that’s except for viewers in Scotland, who’ve got their own programs):

What’s that you say? The Alan Titchmarsh Show isn’t intended for children? Well, neither are violent video games with an 18 certificate. Parents have a responsibility to monitor and prevent their kids watching unsuitable TV content? The same surely applies to parents taking responsibility for monitoring and controlling their kids’ videogaming.

The above clip shows a very petty and fairly trivial sort of hypocrisy from Titchmarsh and Peasgood. Their sex toys feature is “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” stuff. It’s hardly soft porn and it’s certainly not going to corrupt or damage anyone – though, given the time it aired, it might have led to embarrassment and some uncomfortable questions for parents of kids who happened to see it.

Actually, having said it’s not damaging, the sight of Alan Titchmarsh playfully putting a dildo up to his ear may well have an undesirable effect on you libido… or at the very least, given the show’s timeslot, put you off your tea.

More seriously, though, a worse, more distasteful form of hypocrisy was uncovered by the Twitterverse and reported by C&VG yesterday. During the debate, Peasgood self-righteously states:

I am categorically against violence as entertainment. It is just wrong.

Which is fair enough. She’s entitled to that belief – even if it does seem to dismiss many classic movies, TV shows and novels in one fell swoop.

However, such a strident, uncompromising moral statement is hard to swallow from an actress who was happy to lend her voice to a 2000 survival horror video game called Martian Gothic: Unification, a game whose storyline revolves around humans living on Mars who are transformed into flesh-eating zombies and see the player as their next meal.

Here are a couple of screen shots from the game (don’t panic, kids – this was the year 2000 and although we thought graphics like this were cool and state of the art, we know better now…):

It seems that Julie is morally outraged by and categorically against violence as entertainment… unless she is getting aid to take part in it.

For the final word, I draw your attention to Ms Peasgood’s Wikipedia entry, as it stood last night, which revealed a hidden, if very apt, talent (click on the top image for a full-size version):

To that, I would only add that she is also clearly exceptionally good at farting in wind tunnels, folks…

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Liberate Yourself A Blake’s 7 Teleport Bracelet


Regular readers will know (from posts such as this and this and, ahem, this) that Blake’s 7 is the Choob’s all-time favourite TV show.

I have also been known to spend silly amounts of cash on geek-related replicas and limited edition stuff such as this, this, this and, um, this.

So you can imagine my delight the other day when I discovered that a company called Termight Replicas was selling replica Blake’s 7 teleport bracelets (the superior version from the Liberator spaceship, rather than the later Scorpio model).

And here’s the kicker – they are made by Martin Bower, who created the original TV prop bracelets used on the show. Here’s a photo of the replicas – Termight say they are virtually identical to the ones used on the TV show. Of course, this authenticity is also why they don’t exactly come cheap. Anyway here’s what they look like:

Termight Replicas, incidentally, currently specialises mainly in Judge Dredd/2000AD items – the company name presumably is inspired by Nemesis The Warlock, one of the long-running weekly British anthology comic’s most popular series, in which a far-future Earth has been renamed Termight.

They offer pretty impressive Judge Dredd helmets, shield badges and belt buckles.

But a couple of other comics-related items particularly caught my attention.

First, this awesome-looking and very beautifully presented replica of The Armstrong Siddeley “Royal Albert” Vibro-Beamer, from writer/artist Bryan Talbot ‘s wonderful comic-book series The Adventures Of Luther Arkwright. Check this beauty out:

And then there is this – Strontium Dog Johnny Alpha’s Westinghouse Variable Cartridge Blaster replica:




The replica is based on designs originally prepared by artist Carlos Ezquerra (Strontium Dog‘s co-creater, along with writer John Wagner) for a TV adaptation that never happened:

And here are a couple of examples of Ezquerra’s art from 2000AD to see how closely the replica captures his original comic artwork:

 

Disclaimer: I have no connection with Termight Replicas (or any of the makers/creators/publishers of the replicas or the works they are based upon). However, I may well become a customer in the very near future!

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It’s Classic Clip Friday: Blake’s 7 – A Dead End


As I may have previously mentioned, Blake’s 7 is my all-time favourite TV show.

I won’t repeat all the reasons why I still think so highly of this 31-year-old TV show – you can find some of them here.

The show ran for four seasons (the final two without Blake, as actor Gareth Thomas left the show after season two) and while the fourth season was a bit disappointing in comparison to what had gone before, the final episode went some way towards redeeming it by delivering one of the most shocking, powerful and gut-wrenchingly tragic series finales ever screened.

You’ll find the final few minutes of the final episode in the clip below. The story of the episode so far is that Kerr Avon (Paul Darrow), who has been leading the group of freedom fighters in their battle against the evil Federation in Blake’s absence, thinks he has finally tracked Blake down. The crew set out to find their missing leader but as they approach the planet he is thought to be hiding on, their ship is attacked and crashes.

Most of the crew teleport off before the impact, taking supercomputer Orac with them, leaving only pilot Tarrant (Steven Pacey) to go down with the ship. Injured but alive, he is discovered by a badly scarred Blake, who offers to take him to safety.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew (Avon, Vila (Michael Keating), Dayna (Josette Simon) and Soolin (Glynis Barber)) home in on Blake’s suspected location…

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Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – Blake’s 7


Okay, enough messing around – all the theme tunes spotlighted in this weekly feature are good… but only one can be the best.

And the best is Blake’s 7. I may have mentioned in other posts that Blake’s 7 is my all-time favourite TV show. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best TV show ever made, cardboard sets, dodgy special effects and all.

It’s easy to be snide about the show, and plenty of people are, but considering it debuted 31 years ago and was clearly made on a shoestring BBC budget, the producers did a great job in making something so entertaining, compelling and memorable that it’s still fondly recalled and there is frequent talk of a revival/remake.

Despite all the budgetary and technical limitations, what elevated Blake’s 7, particularly in the first two seasons, was the overall quality of the writing and the characterisation. Even when an actor was chewing the (flimsy) scenery, the interaction and verbal sparring between these very complex, flawed characters was riveting.

For once, TV sci-fi heroes were not whiter-than-white and did not exist in some cosy, idyllic Utopian future (I’m looking at you, Star Trek) – the heroes were rebels and criminals, living in a future in which a subservient human race, controlled by drugs, is ruled over by a corrupt dictatorship.

And, as I said, the show had the best TV theme tune ever, written by Doctor Who veteran Dudley Simpson. It remained constant in the opening titles throughout the show’s four seasons, although the visuals did change a couple of times – and were mostly pretty ropey, even I must admit.

Here is the original version of the opening titles, which was used in seasons one and two. It’s preceded by a rather cool little CGI sequence of the Blake’s 7 spaceship, Liberator (the best-looking spaceship ever designed) which, I believe, was created for the DVD release:

Here is the season three title sequence, in which the visuals are much improved:

And finally here are the completely revamped season four opening titles, redesigned to take account of the fact that the crew had a new spaceship, Scorpio:

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Blake’s 7 Teleports Back Onto BBC1


The Beeb’s classic sci-fi series Blake’s 7 is heading back to BBC1, possibly as early as this Winter.

The revival of the fondly-remembered drama had been a closely guarded BBC secret but the news leaked out early this morning.

Blake’s 7, which ran for four seasons – 52 episodes – between 1978 and 1981, was created by Terry Nation.

Set in a dystopian future in which Earth is ruled by a oppressive, dictatorial Federation that keeps the population in a drug-induced subservient state, the show told the story of a group of criminals who, under the leadership of idealistic rebel Roj Blake (played by Gareth Thomas), become a team of intergalactic freedom fighters battling to liberate humanity from their oppressors.

Nation also created Doctor Who’s deadliest foes the Daleks and the 1970s post-apocalyptic drama Survivors, which was itself given a 21st-century makeover last year on BBC1 (a second series will air later this year).

That show’s success, and the massive popularity of the revived Doctor Who, is said to have convinced Beeb bosses that a Blake’s 7 revival could be another ratings-winner.

With satellite channel Sky One’s new version of Blake’s 7, announced almost a year go, in limbo, the BBC were able to reach a licensing agreement with the current rights holders and move ahead with their own updated version.

Producer Paolo Rilf said: “Doctor Who showed the BBC that not only is there an audience with a renewed appetite for TV sci-fi but also that some of their classic shows still have a lot of life left in them. Survivors provided further proof of that and Blake’s 7 was the obvious choice for the next revival.

“The production team are also big fans of the new Battlestar Galactica, which was a revolutionary update of a TV show that took the relatively shallow, superficial  original series and transformed it into a show with amazing depth and social relevance to our own present-day world. What they achieved with their show has been a big influence on our development of and plans for the new Blake’s 7.

“On some level, Blake and his crew were terrorists, albeit fighting for a just cause against an evil regime. Their struggle gives us a a mirror in which we can reflect and examine our own struggles in a post 9/11 world where the war on terror is an all-too-real part of our lives.”

He added: “Our plan is for a two or three-part miniseries to reintroduce the show to viewers and, depending on how that performs, a full series could follow. We hope to start casting in the next few weeks and film during the summer, with broadcast sometime before Christmas.”

Stars believed to have been approached about roles in the show include Stephen Fry, comedian Peter Serafinowicz, Peep Show’s Robert Webb and Red Dwarf actor Robert Llewellyn.

Rilf was cagey about revealing any plot details “as the initial scripts are being polished as we speak” but, in news that will delight long-time fans, he said: “We hope to have more than one of the stars of the original series reprise their roles and play a major part in the new version.”

It seems likely that Paul Darrow, who played amoral cynic Kerr Avon (right) in the original version of the show, will return as he was most fans’ favourite character and has been heavily involved with a number of aborted revival attempts over the years.

Other possibilities include Michael Keating as cowardly thief Vila Restal, another fan-favourite, and Jacqueline Pearce as the ruthless villain Servalan (below).

It also means that the revival will be some sort of sequel to the original rather than a remake or reboot that ignores the previous show’s continuity. That means the writers’ first challenge will be to resolve the ending of the original show, which was one of the most shocking TV cliffhangers ever seen.

First, Blake returned after two years’ missing from the show, only to be shot and killed in a tragic misunderstanding by a paranoid and increasingly unstable Avon, who had been leading the crew in Blake’s absence. Then Vila and all of Avon’s other crewmates were apparently gunned down by Federation guards.

Only Avon himself was left standing at the end, surrounded by armed guards, and as he raised his gun, the screen faded to black, several shots were then heard being fired and the credits rolled for the last time.

Blake’s 7 is the Choob’s all-time favourite show and I’ve long dreamed of the day when it would return but, of course, with filming not even started yet, it would be extremely foolish to get too excited about a revival just yet, given how often we’ve been disappointed by similar announcements over the years.

But if this does pan out, then this day could prove to be one of the best in the history of TV. Mark it in your diary and keep your fingers crossed!

EDIT: Okay, so since this page is still picking up quite a few hits, I feel obliged to remind all readers who stumble upon it to remember that it was written a while ago (look and see the date at the top if you don’t believe me) and bear in mind that timing is everything. That is all.

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Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – Space: 1999


September 13, 1999. A date that will live in… geeky sci-fi history.

Why? Because that was the day that the moon was ripped from Earth’s orbit by a nuclear explosion, of course, sending it – and the crew of Moonbase Alpha – speeding out of control into the unknown universe. You may have missed it on the news…

Ah, yes – Space: 1999. Along with Star Trek and Starsky and Hutch, it is one of my earliest memories of watching proper, grown-up TV.

It was another cheesy,sci-fi classic from the fertile mind of Gerry Anderson. Like its predecessor, UFO, it was a live-action show, rather than a puppetry series like the ones that had made his name (Thunderbirds, Joe 90, et al).

Although it was a British show, financier Lew Grade insisted on American stars, to make it easier to market in the US, and so the then-married Martin Landau and Barbara Bain (left), who had previously appeared together in Mission: Impossible, were hired to play the lead roles of Moonbase Commander John Koenig and doctor Helena Russell.

Space: 1999 ran for two seasons, beginning in 1975, and to a six-year-old Choob it was jaw-dropping stuff. It was a while ago, so you’ll forgive my hazy memory, but I’m fairly sure I saw Space: 1999 on ITV before I saw any Star Trek reruns on BBC1, so it was truly unlike anything I had ever seen.

People living on the moon! Then speeding through space on the moon! Meeting aliens! And flying around in their uber-cool Eagle Transporter spacecraft (right)! What wasn’t to love?

Sure, the costumes and sets look dated now, though not quite as badly as Star Trek, but back then they were cutting edge.

As were the cool “knuckle-duster”-style laser guns they used and the communicators with the built-in tiny TV screens (which also, I seem to recall, doubled up as remote-control door openers – why the doors didn’t just open as they approached, a la Star Trek, I have no idea, but there you go).

Nowadays, of course, I am all-too aware that the physics of the show made no sense whatsoever – an atomic explosion powerful enough to shift the moon’s orbit would have reduced it to rubble and, even if you ignore that problem, the moon would not travel fast enough to get very far before everyone on the base died of old age.

[More pragmatically, it is slightly depressing, looking back, that given the post-moon landing 1970s optimism about the future of space exploration, we are now another decade further into the future than the 24 years Space: 1999 envisioned and even something that seemed so mundane and attainable within a quarter of a century back then, a base on the moon, is still the stuff of science fiction and no closer to reality.]

But I don’t care about how ridiculous the premise was. It looked cool and it was pure, glorious, escapist sci-fi fun at a time when there was very little genre TV being produced.

Star Trek had ended a six years earlier and it would be two more years before Star Wars would kick-start a revival of interest in the genre – with the original Battlestar Galactica in the US and Blake’s 7 in the UK the first major, successful attempts to cash in. So Space: 1999 was an ambitious show that was, in some ways, ahead of its time.

And, of course, the reason we are here, is that it had one of the great TV theme tunes. Well, it did for one season anyway. The brilliant, bombastic, mega-dramatic original theme by long-time Gerry Anderson collaborator Barry Gray was replaced by a more contemporary theme by Derek Wadsworth. The new theme wasn’t dreadful – it just wasn’t a patch on the original.

That said, the visuals of the season two opening titles were arguably an improvement on the season one effort, which mainly featured dull fairly static portraits of the stars, together with a montage of scenes from the coming epiosde (a once-common US TV tradition recently revived by the reimagined Battlestar Galactica).

Anyway, make up your own mind about which was best. Enjoy!

Season one opening titles:

And here are the opening AND closing titles from season two:

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British Shows Invade US TV


BBC America will broadcast three British fantasy/sci-fi shows later this year.

Survivors, which completed its first, six-episode season on BBC1 in the UK just before Christmas, is an remake/update of a 7os BBC show of the same name, created by Terry Nation, who also created Blake’s 7 and co-created Doctor Who’s deadliest foes, The Daleks.

The post-apocalyptic drama, follows a small group of strangers who band together to survive in the aftermath of a virus that wipes out 99.9% of the human race.

As they struggle to start over they face not only a struggle to find food and water, but also find themselves under threat from other survivors and, in some cases, their own troubled pasts.

A second six-episode season has been ordered by the BBC and will air in the UK later this year.

Being Human is a quirky drama/horror about three 20-something flatmates, a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf, as they struggle to live normal lives and avoid their secret double lives being exposed.

The first six-episode series is currently airing on BBC3 in the UK.

Finally, BBC America will broadcast the 10-episode season three of Primeval, which is due to air on the UK’s ITV1 in the Spring.

The first two seasons of the show, 13 episodes in total, about a team of experts who battle dinosaurs that emerge into modern-day London through a time anomaly, aired last year in the States.

BBC America has already announced it will be screening the first season of Ashes To Ashes, the sequel to the BBC version of Life On Mars, later this year. Season two of Ashes To Ashes is due to air on BBC1 in the Spring.

 

 

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