Some people think that the story of Blake's 7 starts
with the pilot episode, The Way Back. Other, more insightful individuals notice that, as that very same title strongly
indicates, the story must have started some time before. They believe therefore, that it started between four and seven years
earlier, when Roj Blake made his first attempt to end the tyranny of the Federation. *1*
Certainly nearer the truth. But I'd argue that this is also
not going far enough back, as none of this even begins to cover the biggest development of all between now and then - how
does the world we live in today become that nightmare world of the future where an immense Federated spacegoing Empire rules
most of the human race with a grip of iron that is unbreakable, almost to the point of unchallengeable (even if the walls
of its spaceships appear to be made of fibreglass and held together with drawing pins)?
In other words, just where did the modern world go? Where did
the Federation come from? How was it born? And how did it evolve into such a vast, unconquerable Empire?
It must have been a complex, traumatic process, but it's not
an easy one to describe because information about it, be it from the books or the TV series, is not very substantial. In order
to draw any conclusions about it, we need to exhaustively examine the few facts we do have, and then to fill in the gaps through
the powers of deduction, or where that fails, imagination.
Where do we start though? Well, there must have been some turning
point that brought our current world order to an end, so we should try to find that. Fortunately, we do know what that was.
The Terran Federation was born out of a disaster that the entire human race seemed perpetually to live in fear of from the
early 1950's to the end of the 1980's - a nuclear holocaust.
The Atomic War
This nuclear horror is referred to by the future historians
of the Federation as "The Atomic Wars". Again, information as to what brought them about, who the main protagonists were,
what allegiances there were, and their exact outcome, is very sketchy. We can't even say with the slightest degree of confidence
when it is due to happen. Tony Attwood, in his ever-unreliable Programme Guide, appears to suggest that it must be
at least six hundred years ahead - from what was said in the episode Killer, interstellar travel must be seven centuries
old by Blake's time, and, according to Attwood anyway, we at the beginning of the third millennium must be at least a century
from achieving interstellar travel. We also know that in Blake's era, the Federation's "New Calendar" has progressed to some
time around the beginning of its Third Century. *2*
I doubt Attwood's conclusion though. I suspect it's likely to
be more than a thousand years ahead, with Blake's time therefore being over twelve hundred years away. I say this because
although it is (just barely) possible that we would discover how to travel between star systems within the next century,
I don't think we'll be putting it into practice for a long time afterwards, because we wouldn't be able to find a worthwhile
and cost-effective way of managing it without further, enormous advances in technology. So, if only because it's a nice round
number, we'll say that The Atomic Wars that give rise to the Federation will take place some time around the year 3000 AD
on the Old (Christian) Calendar.
During the five hundred years or so of interstellar travel beforehand,
it goes without saying that mankind would start to colonise and terraform any number of new planets they can find - parts
of our home planet are dangerously overcrowded even today and the population is still growing, so goodness knows what life'll
be like five centuries from now. Indeed these demographics may well play a part in the causes of the Wars, but the bottom
line is that a mass exodus of people to other worlds would not only provide much-needed living space, but also reduce pressure
on the Earth's stretched resources, so we can take it as read that it will happen.
This would account for both the apparent freeze in the Earth's
population growth by Blake's time (although that would also be heavily affected by the Wars of course) and how the Earth has
so many colonies stretching so far from the Sol system. How so many of these colonies are independent of Earth is perhaps
a little more difficult to explain, but again the Wars themselves, both in their cause and their outcome, look the
Let's not get ahead of ourselves though. We haven't yet finished
building up a workable scenario that gets us from our time to the brink of The Atomic Wars, let alone to a time beyond them.
Another thing we have to remember is the political situation
in our present era, and explain how it changes into the one that exists in the future. In many ways, in fact, it's not all
that different from what we have now. The Federation could be cast as a Superpower like the modern United States of America,
and all the differently-aligned/Neutral worlds in the Outer Planets as smaller nations on the lines of Latin America or the
Middle East. *3*
My suspicion is that the world order between now and the Wars
won't change all that much. The introduction of Space travel causes some major changes in the parameters, and would certainly
make countries who have a big head-start in the Space race, like the USA, Russia and, to a much lesser extent, Britain, even
more powerful than ever, but the map of the world would remain much the same.
Other planets would therefore not be identified as Terran colonies
yet, so much as colonies of individual nations - a little like the way that Australia and New Zealand were seen several centuries
ago as British colonies, rather than Terran or even European ones. So, not only do national differences still exist on the
very brink of the Wars, they will be at the very heart of the Wars.
This is because the world order provides no real unity. There
never has been unity before, and a thousand years into the future there still isn't. The human race is made up of many different
groups that remain, not just culturally distinctive, but ethnically divided. These divisions are usually peaceful, but every
time these groups face a difference of interests this can change, and it frequently does. There's nothing remarkable about
that - it's simply the continuation of a pattern established long before our time. Remember this word: UNITY. For that is
what is lacking in the neverending cycles of war that have gripped humanity since leaving the caves, and after the Wars it
will become a single dominating obsession.
So the demographics, the politics and the technology have been
identified and are all in place. Having gone to all that effort to establish these details, what we now have to do is work
out how it to get rid of them all. Because that's the only way to get from there to the Federation.
So, it is the year 3000 (or thereabouts) and everything starts
to change. It is a long, fitful process that will, by the end, change the human world entirely and forever. These changes
are not all instantaneous. They set in instead in occasional bursts of violence, quick, dramatic and dizzying.
The first of these is certainly violent, but also simple and
predictable. A war breaks out. This is nothing very unusual in itself - as we've just established, wars happen all the time,
they have done since our earliest primitive days. No one is actually expecting this particular war any more than they were
expecting any other, but it is still unremarkable. People shake their heads, make all the traditional noises that we hear
at any time of war, the usual self-righteous disgust at man's inhumanity to man. But most nations and their people are not
really affected by the war directly, and so they can just get on with their ordinary lives. So they do.
Something different does happen this time though. Something
so dreadful that it causes the war to escalate, to grow beyond the usual, localised, tolerable conflicts that people can allow
themselves to ignore. This time, nations from every continent on the face of the Earth are caught up in the struggle, and
the whole world shakes from crust to core. It becomes that most dreadful horror that no one can just cover their eyes and
ears to and pretend isn't going on - a World War.
What is this terrible turning point? What has caused this manageable
conflict to turn into the sort of catastrophe that threatens an entire world? Perhaps it's just the classic scenario of a
war between two nations so closely-matched that neither can defeat the other. So the conflict wears on, with the two factions
enlisting aid from allies who are dragged in, slowly spreading the war across the globe.
To be honest I doubt that very much. Mankind can be dreadfully
slow to learn the lessons of its own history, but ever since the pointless havoc of the First World War this sort of scenario
is rare. If two nations are so closely matched that there is no real hope of either of them winning, the likelihood is that
they would settle their differences and make peace. No, my theory is that the war is so one-sided that there will be an act
of desperation on the part of the loser.
Consider this; computer technology is already bewildering today.
A thousand years from now it will be beyond imagining. It will be able to create and do practically anything. However, this
means that man will become so dependent on it that if anything goes wrong to a computer network, entire nations could grind
to a halt.
So, the war goes well for the stronger country, let us call
it "the aggressor", which is soon on the brink of conquering its weaker enemy, "the defender", entirely. The secret of the
aggressor's success is that its military has the better computer system, and as a result it has a far more efficient network
co-ordinating its armed forces. However, the defender, on the brink of annihilation, manages to launch one last desperate
counterattack - it succeeds in feeding an advanced virus into the control network of its enemy. This virus programs the computers
to launch many of the aggressor's nuclear arms against as many of its neighbouring nations as possible.
Outraged by these unprovoked attacks on their sovereignty, and
failing to recognise their true cause, the nations all retaliate by invading the aggressor's borders. The whole region is
soon at war, which soon escalates further when the aggressor takes revenge on the defender for its dirty chicanery with a
fresh nuclear assault.
Several other nuclear powers, disgusted by the initial use of
atomic weapons, can tolerate no more when they see the offence repeated. They launch a nuclear attack of their own against
the aggressor, which is now utterly destroyed. Unfortunately, all the other nuclear powers not yet involved take exception
to such a response, and mobilise against them, while the fallout from the attack affects many of the aggressor's neighbouring
countries. Already at war with each other, they retaliate against the nuclear powers.
The whole world is soon in the grip of an Atomic War. World
Worse, it soon spreads to the colony planets across Terran Space.
In many cases it's a matter of simple allegiance - colonies of the United States of America do battle against colonies of
France, while colonies of Britain do war against colonies of China. But these matters are complicated when hundreds of thousands
of refugees flee the havoc on Earth to resettle on other worlds, and they find that they are not welcomed by the natives,
who, terrified by the explosive atmosphere of the mother world, have become paranoid towards all off-worlders. Disagreements
spill over into confrontations, confrontations into riots, riots into battles. The overstretched authorities cannot protect
the opposing communities from each other. War breaks out on world after world after world.
Soon, hundreds of planets are being ravaged by The Atomic Wars.
War of the Worlds I, you might say.
The New Order
One of my theories that may provoke comment, and even strong
disagreement, is that I don't accept the idea that the Federation is intrinsically evil. It has certainly become corrupt by
the time we see it, especially in its highest echelons, but corruption exists in any society. Did the USA become an evil nation
when Richard Nixon became President, just because he was a corrupt individual leader? As in any society, where corruption
in the Federation is born of greed it tends to be because of opportunist individuals only, rather than in the regime as a
whole. Where the Federation and, for instance, the United States differ quite sharply, is the Federation's fascist, totalitarian
practices of maintaining order. These practices are even more corrupt of course, but I do see a key difference in terms of
motivation, because they don't appear to be born of greed at all, but paranoia.
This paranoia takes root in the fertile emotive soil of
The Atomic War, buds in the blazing heat of the years of civil unrest that follows, and flowers to full bloom in its shining
rise to supremacy over humanity. Yes, there are individuals like Servalan who are power-hungry, but looking at the Federation
as a whole, its determination to cling to power and extend it is caused by a fear of another conflict on the scale of The
Atomic War. It genuinely wants to spare human society a resumption of such horrors. Suppression is therefore about a misguided
desire to maintain order at any cost. Military conquests are about a misguided desire to achieve absolute unity, even if it
must be achieved by force. It's a mixture of arrogance and insecurity, for sure, but it's not necessarily evil. Whether you
can accept that or not, I have no doubt that the Federation was founded as an entirely noble Government, meant to defend the
people and provide for their prosperity. When Servalan claimed that the Federation existed to protect its people, there was
a germ of truth in it. *4*
This is not an attempt to exonerate the Federation. That would
be pointless, as there's no doubt whatsoever that things went wrong somewhere along the line, and in most respects it became
a brutal and oppressive regime. But it is an attempt to recognise the time of desolation that brought it into being,
and how that would forever colour its leaders' outlook, even long after the time of desolation had come to an end. From this,
even if we can't sympathise with it or even forgive it, we may understand the nature of the Federation better.
To do that, we have to establish how the Federation came into
being, and where its paranoia comes from. For me, this must go down as one of the most poignant and frightening aspects of
the entire Blake's 7 mythos, as there is only one explanation that makes sense to me - the Federation was corrupted
not by greed or irresponsibility, but by trying too hard to do the right thing. In other words, in its determination to
protect its people from any threat that might emerge from without or within, it became so paranoid that it ended up oppressing
them. It was as though the Federation's existence as the greatest line of defence for the human race had actually become more
important than the race it was defending.
Therefore the oppression was not so much malice as a combination
of well-intentioned, but bad, habits that the Federation fell into over the course of many generations. To see exactly how
this happened, let's resume our story and try to deduce the consequences of the conflict that brought an end to the old world.
Being a thermonuclear conflict, the war probably doesn't continue
for a very long time. *5* In fact it's more or less over on Earth within a few months of the first
nuclear launches. And the identity of the winner will not be a surprise - no one. Even as the war continues to rage all across
the rest of Terran Space, the world at the heart of the conflict, Earth, has been totally ravaged. Hundreds of millions have
died, and more than seventy per cent of the planet's surface is left completely uninhabitable by a mixture of radioactive
fallout and geological devastation triggered by the conflict - for instance California, never the most seismically relaxed
region of the Earth, is now a flattened wasteland hit daily by enormous earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The survivors of the conflict see in the start of a futuristic
Dark Age. Practically nothing is left. All infrastructure is in ruins. At its most abundant, food is scarce. There's little
or no Government or leadership anywhere. There's no law, and what urban life that still exists is racked by anarchy, chaos,
and disorder - gangs of mutants, of the hungry, and of the dispossessed battle in the streets like tribal warriors for what
little food or shelter they can obtain. There is no trace of community, only conflict and disintegration. People are living
in destitution and misery.
This post-apocalyptic era of flux continues for some years.
Most people can barely remember anything from the time before the Wars, and they know nothing but deprivation and pain.
However, out of the chaos, something new starts to take shape,
something that can be built on for the future. Somewhere in the far Northern Hemisphere, some kind of workable, if primitive,
community has been formed. A group of nine families have grouped together to form a development council, with the aims of
restoring order and overseeing the building of a new, if localised, society. They manage to gather most of the local people
into a coherent community, and as one they begin the slow, heart-wrenching task of reviving the shattered infrastructure of
the old world. They start by founding a new, if perfunctory, settlement, which they call Lupus, saluting the spirit of the
people as they "fight like wolves" to rebuild their world.
This community, or Federation of the People as it calls itself,
faces many dreadful obstacles in their battle to rebuild, but after several years, they begin to reap the rewards. Mass food
production has resumed, a workable, and very strictly enforced, law code has been implemented to restore order, and the community
has been cleverly marshalled so that they can collectively defend their territory from any of the many lawless outside groups
who may - and frequently do - try to attack it. The Council even introduces a New Calendar, back-dated to the last day of
The Atomic War, as a tribute to the young history of the New Order they have built together.
And the remarkable thing is, it's all working. This tiny Federation
has found a way forward, enabling it to protect its people and to rebuild. The key is unity. By forcing everyone to pull on
the same rope, the Federation has started to undo the damage done by all the divisions of the old conflicts.
But everything that the Federation builds becomes an object
of jealousy for others, and the small scale conflicts with Outsiders increase in frequency, inducing paranoia in the still-vulnerable
young society. Once the Federation has grown strong enough, it reorganises a core of its defenders into a permanent army.
Initially defensive in its stance, the Council of the Federation soon loses all patience with the attacks that never seem
to come to an end, and decides to put a stop to them at source. The new army is sent beyond the Federation's borders into
Outsider territories to confront numerous militant enemies. The army, superior in its organisation, successfully defeats the
Outsider groups time and again, and even succeeds in taking over their lands. These lands are then absorbed into the Federation,
which extends its protection to the inhabitants, who are so hungry and downtrodden from all the chaos they've lived through
that they welcome the troops with open arms.
After twenty years, the Federation has spread all across the
globe in this haphazard fashion. Frequently, the growth of their territories is brought about by peaceful unification with
Outsider lands that willingly join in an ardent desire for stability. At other times it's through the reluctant application
of military force to restore peaceful order in ungoverned territories. But however it's achieved, with each expansion the
Federation gains more resources and widens its population, while also reducing its potential opposition. It now rules over
three quarters of the Earth's habitable land, such as it is, and is now the most significant power on the planet. In recognition
of this new planet-wide status, it renames itself "The Terran Federation". The remaining usable lands are left to the last
of the Outsiders, a mixture of mutants and recusants who are unwilling to conform.
With the radioactive fallout on the planet still high, disease
remains rife, and so the Federation embarks on a new campaign to rehouse its people. It builds a gigantic, multi-layered city,
protected by a Dome, in each of eight of the habitable zones. These Dome Cities provide security, shelter, protection from
the poisoned atmosphere, and comfortable living conditions for the population. They are so vast that they could, in theory,
house hundreds of millions of people.
The Rot Sets In
A lot of elements are in place, but the Federation still bears
little resemblance to the one that we know. In fact, it all sounds distinctly wholesome, as it appears to have done nothing
but good. The question therefore is, how did it change from the saving grace of humanity to that unspeakable haven of corruption
and control freakery that would enslave it?
Well, this would have been a slow process, and doubtless another
conflict would have triggered it. A sad truism is that no one is evil until they have had a strong enemy, and the only enemies
the Federation had had up until this point were eminently beatable. What would have changed the Federation would be to encounter
a new enemy that was more than a match. This would have made it wary and twitchy. What would have made it frantic and paranoid,
was if that enemy were to emerge without warning, out of absolutely nowhere, and at a time of reasonable peace and prosperity
During this time, The Atomic Wars have ended everywhere. Many,
many worlds have suffered the same fate as Earth, ravaged to the brink of oblivion - some even beyond it. With all central
Government from Earth long since gone, all of the colony worlds have become, whether they wished it or not, independent planets.
Some of these societies were not well enough established at the time the Wars broke out, so they have collapsed and reverted
to primitivism, if they have survived at all.
Others manage to stabilise and form workable local Governments.
Some of these planets become isolationist, some form unions with other worlds, others become aggressively expansionist. In
such a fractured climate, new minor wars break out periodically, particularly when expansionist forces encounter isolationist
So by the time The Terran Federation has risen to prominence
on Earth, the many other worlds have become divided into countless, very different regimes. This includes the Sol System,
which has colonies on Venus, Mars, and the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. All of these colonies are independent.
But the Administration on Mars, wishing to quell growing unrest among its people by finding enemies to unite them against,
has decided to build up its fledgling military to invade neighbouring colonies. They succeed in conquering Venus and two of
the moons of Jupiter. Then they turn their attention to Earth.
The fate of the occupants of Earth is largely a mystery to off-worlders,
who haven't dared to set foot on the mother planet for fear of the, often mythical, post-apocalyptic dangers that lurk there.
The Martian Forces dare go where others will not though, and mount an invasion. The Federation, still largely confined to
ground-level technology, and enjoying a time of simple prosperity, had never imagined that it might face an attack from off-world,
and is therefore completely unprepared. The Martians discover two of the Dome Cities and launch devastating attacks, killing
thousands and doing untold harm to local infrastructure, before the reeling Federation can even marshall their own forces
to fight back.
But the Martians themselves are not really prepared for what
they've found here either. They'd expected to find a world of absolute ruins, maybe a basic subsistence community here and
there, and probably a lot of savages, mutated by the fallout from the Wars - in short, a quick, easy conquest. Instead, they
are shocked to find that Earth's technology has not only been restarted, but is rebuilding rapidly. Worse, a powerful, resilient
central heirarchy is in place. But the worst part of all they are still unaware of - the Terrans have a powerful, disciplined
Once they have recovered from the shock of two dreadful early
defeats, and knowing that another such defeat would mean the end for the Federation, the Terrans muster a full-scale counterattack,
mobilising the might of their entire defence force. This army is at least ten times larger than the Martians allowed
for in their most pessimistic contingency plans. In a ferocious battle that will be celebrated by Federation propagandists
for centuries to come as "The Battle On The Brink", Martian armies attempting to take the West Europ Dome City are taken by
surprise and totally destroyed by the Terran Army.
The victory is riotously celebrated by the Federation's citizens
all across the Earth, but their leaders aren't complacent. Instead, they're dismayed at how many people were killed, and at
how close the Federation came to destruction. This anxiety develops into acute hysteria when, within two years, the Martians
return with a bigger army.
This time the battles are much smaller and pretty indecisive,
and the invaders are soon driven off again, but it's still more than enough to change the Federation's outlook. The self-satisfied
view of its previous achievements is replaced by a growing terror about enemy plots. Initially this is eerily, even comically,
reminiscent of the Orson Welles phenomenon of the 1950's, with people by the thousand gripped by a hysteria about Martian
invasion plots. Anything that goes wrong, even the most innocent and unpreventable accident, is blamed on Martian invaders
and Outsider plots.
Soon things get worse when apocryphal rumours start spreading
that Martian sympathisers may have infiltrated the Earth's Dome Cities. Now the anxiety is as much about enemies within as
Security is stepped up urgently in every conceivable way. Electronic
surveillance is mounted in all areas under Federation control, and strict control of the movements of all civilians is implemented,
including a summary ban on stepping beyond the walls of the Dome Cities, all to allow the Federation to monitor for any trace
of internal plots. These measures are unpopular of course, so the High Council in Lupus, not wanting to offend its citizens
by implying a lack of trust, tries to justify them with white lies - for instance, they announce that going Outside was banned
purely as an attempt to protect the citizens from radioactive poisoning, which sounds reasonable enough, all things considered.
To oversee the sudden flood of information, and to co-ordinate
the rapidly-enhancing military forces, the Federation sets up a sophisticated new Computer network in a heavily-protected
secret location in West Europ. They call it Central Control - or sometimes just Control.
The Martians attack again two years later but, in the face of
the improved security and military prowess of the Terrans, they suffer an even worse defeat than at The Battle On The Brink.
The tide in the war turns for good, for the Federation has been developing other new technologies that will allow it to take
the war to the Martians, just as it had done to the Outsiders half a century before. It's started building a small but powerful
Space Fleet. The leaders of the Federation have a new desire that they will pursue with zeal - to bring the war to a swift
end and establish unity, not just on Earth, but all across the Sol system, and so prevent the war from starting up again.
The Terran counter-invasion comes only five years later, and
again the Martians are taken completely by surprise - they hadn't imagined that the Terrans could get a powerful enough fleet
to Mars so quickly. The war for Mars is brief, with the exhausted and unprepared defenders caving in quickly in the face of
the Terran onslaught. The Federation scarcely pauses for breath before moving on to occupy Venus, then heads toward the outer
reaches of the system.
Within seven more years, be it through peaceful unification
or violent conquest, virtually the whole of the Sol system has been brought under the rule of the Terran Federation. However,
this did not put an end to external opposition, far from it, for the rise of the Federation does not go unnoticed by the occupants
of neighbouring star systems, whose Governments become agitated and wish to prevent it growing further. This generates fresh
hostility between Sol and its neighbours. More disunity.
There's little point in going into close details on this particular
track, as it's very obvious how things proceed from here, and it's also pretty monotonous. The Federation's paranoid obsession
with unity as a form of self-defence shifts from merely the Sol system to the entire human race, and so it embarks on a long,
aggressive, and overwhelmingly successful campaign to conquer and subjugate all human-occupied worlds that might potentially
pose any form of threat to the stability of the Federation.
Within Federation society, security and controls tighten further.
The desperation to maintain human unity is so great that more and more extreme methods are used to prevent disorder and enemy
infiltration. All forms of crime are punished with the harshest severity, all forms of political opposition to the High Council's
policies are discouraged, then intimidated, and, with all media now brought under the direct control of the Civil Administration's
Information Bureau, there is constant propaganda to keep the citizens' thinking in line with that of their leaders. The Administration
has virtually wiped out the political spectrum. There is no intellectual pluralism, therefore no argument. There is only one
way, the Federation way.
The upshot of all this is that, internally, the Federation is
a closer-knit society than ever.
After over a century of relentless external progress, almost
half of all Terran worlds are ruled over by the Federation. Then, a large group of worlds bordering with its Empire, understandably
fearing for their future, forge The Frontier Alliance and declare war on the Federation. The war lasts only a few years, at
the end of which the Alliance is soundly beaten and swallowed up into the Empire in a prolonged violent gulp.
The annexed Alliance worlds are treated as second class additions
to the Federation as punishment for their "unprovoked" attack at the start of the war. Their needs are treated as the last
priority by the Terran Government at all times, and the people themselves are governed, if not cruelly, then certainly with
far less consideration than those on previously-Federated worlds.
The separation of the wartime zones eventually becomes a permanent
Administrative boundary. Those worlds in Federated sectors in the war become known as the Inner Worlds of the Federation,
while those worlds in Frontier Alliance sectors become the Outer Worlds of the Federation - two Administrative hubs, very
unequal in size and Federal considerations. (Those planets beyond the Outer Worlds, and therefore still outside the Federation
altogether, are now often referred to as the Outer Planets.)
This is the first serious social division in the Federation's
history, and it doesn't go unnoticed that it has been created, quite deliberately, by the Federation itself. There are many
loud and angry protests, even on Earth, about this inequality, and how it contravenes the principles of unity that the High
Council has always espoused. Alarmed when one of these protests spills over into a riot, the Administration clamps down ruthlessly.
Without exception, the rioters are all gunned down by Federation troopers. Then, to curb the clear threat of further disorder,
the High Council passes a new law banning all political assemblies not formally endorsed and regulated by the Administration.
More opposition lurks below the surface of course, and individuals
still choose to speak out whenever they can against the poor treatment of the people in the Outer Worlds. The Administration,
losing patience with the incitement of malcontents that the protests may cause, now goes even further and outlaws all
forms of spoken or active opposition. Hundreds who violate these restrictions are put to death, thousands more are forced
into slavery, but this only angers others and generates more opposition. In the longer term this will lead to violent uprisings.
More years pass. The Federation continues to expand and conquer.
Any further Outer Planets absorbed into the Federation of course become part of the Outer Worlds, not the Inner Worlds,
and as a result they too are treated unfavourably. Sensitive to the resentment that these occupations cause, the Federation
starts using subtler and more sophisticated methods of taking control of independent worlds. Federation agents start to infiltrate
rival societies and Governments, and attempt to destabilise them and cause unrest from within. This creates an atmosphere
of such chaos and misery for the inhabitants that when the Federation send in a force of "peacekeeping" troops, they are rapturously
Maintaining control of this increasingly overstretched Empire
proves difficult. Several conflicts in succession break out in the Sol system itself when rebellions start on the moons of
first Uranus and then Neptune. The Uranian uprisings are put down easily, but the Neptunian rebellion succeeds - the moon
of Nereid is largely valueless so the Federation chooses not to expend resources on retaining it.
The humiliation of the defeat is still tangible though, and
the Federation wants to tighten controls on its civilians even further. Therefore it starts to drug the food, the water, and
even the air supplies that it feeds to its people, especially the lower classes, hoping to induce in them such a sense of
false contentment that the very idea of rebellion will never occur to them. Furthermore, propaganda is taken to the ultimate
degree, as many of the highest-profile political prisoners within the Federation are forced to undergo physical brainwashing
and memory revision, successfully repressing their rebellious activities without creating any more martyrs.
This widescale program of heavy security, information restraint,
and universal mind-control is powerfully successful.
The Way Back
So this is where things stand by the time of Blake's emergence.
It offers a workable explanation for where the Federation's oppressive practices came from, as well as for why opposition
to it seems ultimately to be futile. I think it's certainly far more interesting than the usual arguments about naked greed
and power hunger, which you can get from virtually any storyline - the Empire from Star Wars for example. Blake's
7 is always ambiguous, not least in characterisation, and the traditional absolute-good-versus-absolute-evil scenario
has no place in it. Even the Federation itself would bear testament to that.
However, what the above theory doesn't make much reference to
is the significant personal corruption, which certainly plays a large role of its own in the higher reachers of the Federation,
and is even born from the same root as the political corruption.
While all the oppression is born of well-intentioned efforts
to maintain security, there are undoubtedly evil people in the Federation who simply abuse the enormous power that these efforts
give them, to enrich themselves. But we shouldn't confuse the cause with the effect. It's a chicken and egg scenario perhaps
- corrupt people do seek power, but power is frequently what corrupts these people in the first place.
This sets in over the course of years, possibly even generations.
It starts with the heightened security of the Martian war, and the emergency powers that the High Council takes up. There
is no self-interest or greed at this stage, it is purely about protecting the Earth. But during this time the High
Councillors are answerable to none. No matter how dutifully and diligently they conduct themselves for the most part, eventually
one or two of them are going to do something illegitimate, simply to make their job a little easier for themselves. It's then
that it finally sinks in - they can get away with it. So a little while later they bend the rules again, and again they get
away with it. So they do it again and again, and each time it gets easier, because all fear of retribution has gradually evaporated.
They start to do other things they shouldn't, even suggesting to colleagues that they should do the same sort of thing so
that they can knock off work early for the day. And each time there is no penalty.
At first these habits are just casual laziness, but as the years
pass, they become more serious. Those in authority become used to unchecked power, and have even grown rather to like the
convenience of it, to enjoy being able to do all sorts of things other people cannot, to like behaving irresponsibly without
redress. So they start to behave like that more often and more widely, testing more and more of the water. After a while,
they are not only taking opportunities to behave idly, they are indulging themselves. Even enriching themselves, cynically
exploiting opportunities that their positions present. Still there is no redress. And with each passing generation the problems
worsen, as the officials become even bolder in their transgressions.
Furthermore, this also adds to the totalitarian nature of the
regime as a whole. With most of its leaders growing fat on power, they will of course be very reluctant to relinquish any
of it. They will thus resort to more and more extreme methods to cling to it, and be all the more suspicious of anything that
might disturb it.
This is how, after two centuries, there are many officials who
are decadent and corrupt in their conduct - within a Federation that is paranoid and aggressive in its own.
In the final analysis, both sides of the argument, Blake's and
the Federation's, have a legitimacy at their core. We can't say that the final outcome endorses the Federation's position
of course, as the society they built became so horrendous. But by the same measure, can we say that Blake's argument is endorsed?
I don't see how it can be, for we never get to see the kind of society that he would've built. Would it have been any better?
You'd think so at first, just through the sheer horror we feel at seeing what the Federation became. But I'm not convinced
that Blake would have had the sheer patience necessary to build anything better - seeing how short-tempered and dictatorial
he could be, it seems all too possible that he would have made a very harsh ruler in his own right.
The Federation rejected the very kind of society that it was
born out of, because it had ended in unmitigated disaster, which is indisputable - The Atomic Wars were caused by the disunity
of a free world. By contrast, Blake endorses that old kind of society, because the new one is so joyless and oppressive, also
indisputable - the people of the Federation have no freedom, and what few rights they have can be violated by their leaders
with neither hesitation nor repercussion. Both arguments therefore have their merits, and for the most part are mutually exclusive.
But both do share one important nugget of wisdom, which lies at the heart of the real problem. If only the people on both
sides could recognise it they might be able to resolve what really matters, instead of arguing over the organisational details.
The problem in all worlds, and not just the Federation,
is abuse of power by individuals. In a liberal, free society, people can abuse their rights - their freedom of speech, their
freedom of movement - and cause harm accordingly. The Federation makes the mistake of blaming the rights themselves, rather
than the individuals who manipulate them dishonestly. It also cannot identify the distinction between unity and conformity.
In an enclosed, heavily-regulated society on the other hand, leaders can abuse their authority - the tight, intrusive security,
the easy access to riches and information that is denied to everyone else - and enrich themselves, while oppressing everyone
else in order to retain their ill-gotten gains. Blake makes the mistake of blaming the structure of the society, rather than
the individuals who manipulate it dishonestly.
In other words, neither society, old or new, was intrinsically
wrong. They just had flaws and loopholes in them that were exploited by individuals who should have been trying to fix them
instead. Therefore, neither side of the argument is less true or valid than the other.
And so, while Blake's 7 is unusually ambiguous when compared
to the likes of Star Wars or Star Trek, in my opinion it is far clearer and more accurate in its truth than
other examples of the genre. For it demonstrated, especially in Season Two, one of the great historical truths - that political
struggles are rarely a simple case of Good versus Evil. There is no absolute right, and there is no absolute wrong. It wouldn't
be the world otherwise would it?
My Ever-Popular Footnotes
*1* This detail, incidentally,
can be seen as proof of something that many fans believe - that the central character of Blake's 7 is not Blake, but
Kerr Avon. After all, the series only relates the story of the second half of Blake's career as a resistance fighter (in fact
you could even argue that it's only the third quarter, considering he only appears in about half the episodes anyway), whereas
it tells the entire story of Avon's, who appears in the series practically all the way through. I'm not sure I'd go
along with that, if only because that little equation overlooks Vila, who was the only character to appear in every
episode, but it's still an interesting thought.
*2* So, to sum that up. One
hundred years ahead to the birth of interstellar travel, forward another seven hundred years to Blake's time means we've gone
forward eight hundred years. From then, go back two hundred years to the Atomic Wars, and that would therefore be roughly
six centuries from now. Remember though, this is Tony Attwood's theory, not mine.
*3* A note of apology to any
Americans reading this who might regard the comparison as unfair on their home country. I do recognise that it's harsh, but
at the same time I also recognise that people in both Latin American and Middle Eastern countries do not appreciate intrusive
American policies in their territories, so there are clearly significant parallels between the USA's and the Federation's
external ambitions. Also, this comparison could be looked at another way. As you'll notice if you read the rest of this essay,
I don't look upon the Federation in quite such an overwhelmingly critical light as some people do. Therefore, you might regard
this as less a description of America today, and more a warning about what it may become, especially given the right-wing
nature of its current Government.
should also keep in mind when watching Blake's 7, that we generally get only the rebels' side of most arguments, and
that perhaps there is a side to the Terran Federation that is different to the uncompromising picture of it painted by Blake.
I'm not going to go to the extreme of arguing that the canon is unreasonably biased, but I do find that the balance, especially
in the first season, is questionable.
*5* One of the most famous
theories of the Twentieth Century was that, so enormous are the nuclear arsenals of the modern world, if and when the Third
World War takes place it could end within half an hour. I don't think even the human race could be quite so pointlessly sledgehammer
(although I do wonder whether I'm just being kind in that attitude), but at the same time I acknowledge that such a war wouldn't
Source materials providing the plot-details that were adapted for this
Blake's 7, by Trevor Hoyle
Blake's 7: Project Avalon, by Trevor Hoyle
Blake's 7: Scorpio Attack, by Trevor Hoyle
The Blake's 7 Programme Guide, by Tony Attwood
Avon: A Terrible Aspect, by Paul Darrow
Blake's 7 TV episodes; -
The Way Back, by Terry Nation
Time Squad, by Terry Nation
Seek-Locate-Destroy, by Terry
Bounty, by Terry Nation
Horizon, by Allan Prior
Pressure Point, by Terry Nation
Trial, by Chris Boucher
Killer, by Robert Holmes
Voice From The Past, by Roger
Star One, by Chris Boucher
Aftermath, by Terry Nation
Powerplay, by Terry Nation
Death-Watch, by Chris
Traitor, by Robert Holmes
Warlord, by Simon Masters
And a fair amount from my own head!