Tuesday 21 September 2021

Blake's 7 Annual 1982

For years I've tried and failed to coax Grahame Robertson, friend and fellow sci-fi geek, to write a blog post about Terry Nation's Blake's 7! The beloved BBC TV sci-fi series debuted in 1978 as Star Wars blasted its way onto cinema screens across the UK.

Finally, that day has arrived ahead of the 40th anniversary of the series finale that traumatised a generation of children (myself included) and ruined Christmas 1981.

Guest post by Grahame Robertson

My earliest memories of primary school from 1978 - 1980 were playing Blake’s 7 in the playground with friends. We made teleport bracelets out of strips of cardboard and replayed every episode in minute detail the following morning. I was always Blake.

By the time the show ended in 1981, I had moved on to high school, and the programme had become even more important to me. An official Marvel Comics magazine became a highlight of the month, sparking an interest in magazine design and graphic design that was to be instrumental in my future career path.

As with many shows at the time (Doctor Who, The Tomorrow People, Sapphire & Steel), World Distributors produced a 64-page hardback annual that was to be a staple of every kid’s Christmas. Containing fiction that sometimes only loosely resembled the programme - bizarre articles on astronomy, terrible artwork and even worse attempts at humour. But we loved them and poured over every page.

Blake’s 7 ran for four series, and thankfully World Distributors graced us with an annual for each of the first three series. An annual had been planned, and quickly shelved, for the fourth series - and until now it’s been a source of frustration to fans who like their collections to be complete.

40 years later, now we have one! It began when I sent a joke tweet out last December with a mock-up cover of how the missing Blake’s 7 1982 Annual might have looked. A day later I was inundated with messages asking if it was available to buy, so in a fit of lockdown pique, I thought ‘Why not do it? I’m stuck at home and I’ve nothing better to do!’ My background is in graphic design and magazine design, and to be honest as a fan of Blake’s 7 it was a dream project to take on.

The original plan was to produce a 64-page annual in the style and tone of the original World Distributors annuals from the 1970’s. When it was discovered that there had been tentative plans to produce a Blake’s 7 Annual in 1982, eager fans pointed me towards Mike Wild, a prolific writer for the old World annuals in the 70’s and 80’s.

Mike had written stories for the Doctor Who annuals, and previous Blake's 7 annuals. It turned out he had two Blake’s 7 stories that had been written for that shelved 1982 annual and he kindly agreed to let us publish them. What a coup, and what an incentive to make the annual happen!

After I put a call out for submissions on social media, the response was overwhelming. World-class author Dr. Una McCormack (Doctor Who, Star Trek, Firefly) and novelist Trevor Baxendale (Big Finish, Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Torchwood) both offered to submit new short fiction, along with dozens of other fans of the show.

The annual also features a number of contributions from Jonathan Helm (better known as @MakingBlakes7 on Twitter). Jonathan has been incredible, and so helpful in making the annual more than I ever hoped.

Fans will learn brand new things about Series D and see pictures that had long been confined to the archives, unseen. Longtime fan Andy Spencer has also given us access to incredible amounts of information and archive material about the location filming of the final series. We’ve been so lucky to have all these amazing contributors and fans on board.

Everyone who has contributed has poured so much enthusiasm and passion into their work.

The annual also features brand new interviews with Dicken Ashworth (Gunn Sar in the episode Power), Sasha Mitchell (Arlen from the episode Blake) and Vila himself, Michael Keating. Both Sasha and Michael have nominated charities who will benefit from the sale of the Annual. It’s hugely important that nobody makes any financial gain from this project.

From the start, it’s been a passion project to celebrate the cast, crew, and writers of Blake’s 7 and to give fans something - hopefully - that they will genuinely enjoy. With that said, we felt it was important that this project benefit charity. Michael Keating has chosen Save The Children, and Sasha Mitchell has chosen Axminster & Lyme Cancer Support. £1 from each sale will go to each of these nominated charities.

The fan-created, non-profit Blake’s 7 Annual 1982 will be available to buy from 28th September 2021 at 7.20pm - 40 years to the minute that the final series of Blake’s 7 aired on BBC 1 in 1981. It’s a print-to-order hardback publication (using the Lulu platform) with 252 pages, at a cost of £43.72 (including £2 charity donation). For details of how to order, follow @cult_edge on Twitter, or visit the Facebook page: Blake’s 7 Annual 1982.

Blake's 7 is available to stream exclusively on BritBox and currently airing on Forces TV.

What are your Blake's 7 memories? Let me know in the comments below.

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