I’ve been rewatching Blake’s 7, and blogging about each episode on LiveJournal, but this is the episode I wanted to talk about from a writing point of view.
The episode itself is clever, full of witty lines.
Avon and Dayna open the cell door and find the guard outside is dead with a knife in his back.
AVON That’s a difficult way to commit suicide.
DAYNA Maybe he was cleaning it and it went off.
But the really interesting element is the introduction of Tarrant. It led me to propose The Blake’s 7 Syndrome: The characters stay the same even if the actors are changed.
It’s an important rule, particularly if you are writing fiction. To state it differently: if you have a committee, you get the same personalities. Every role-playing party has a magic user, a healer, a fighter. Every shared student accommodation has a moaner. And so on.
I noticed it at University. Lots of students were put in five people flats and they all had the same characters. It’s simply really: whoever suggests the pub first becomes the Leader, whoever wished it had been them becomes the Cynic, whoever trips over the mess first becomes the Moaner, whoever sorts out the first argument becomes the Healer, whoever does the first thing asked of them becomes the Helper. They are then slotted into these roles. The Leader, buoyed by their success, suggests the cinema, the Cynic is slighted again, the Moaner sees that nothing has been done and goes off on one again, the Healer sorts out the next argument and the Helper gets lumbered again.
So, taking the classic SF series:-
Blake’s 7, Series 1-2: Blake, Avon, Vila, Cally, Zen, Jenna and Gan.
Black’s 7, Series 3: Avon, Tarrant, Vila, Cally, Zen, Dayna and Orac.
Andromeda: Dylan, Anazai, Seamus, Trance, Andromeda, Beka, Rev Bem.
Farscape: John, Aeryn Sun, Dominar, Zhann, Pilot, Chiana, Ka.
Star Trek: Kirk, Spock, Scottie, McCoy, Uhuru, Chekov, Sulu.
Magic Roundabout: Dougal, Zebedee, Brian, Florence, Ermintrude, Dylan, Mr Rusty.
Remarkable similarities in abilities too: Woman with strange powers (Cally, Trance, Zhann, Florence), blonde who can pilot a spaceship (Jenna, Beka), heavy (Gan, Orac (he’s carried around), Rev Bem, Ka, Mr. Rusty), communes with machines (Zen, Andromeda, Pilot…)
So, if you shuffle people around, you get the same types appearing, because of how teams naturally fit together.