I thought I might as well repost my comments from the Lyst B7 mailing list here since we've moved on to discussing 'Space Fall' there.
And also: Happy Birthday to jhall1!
Thoughts on 'The Way Back'
Establishment (in more ways than one)
I thought the opening shot was a brilliant touch: a surveillance camera, immediately establishing the sort of society the Federation is--and, I believe, years before CCTV. Then we hear a PA announcement about closed walkways and cardholders having to report to Central. None of this seems to bother any of the people moving quietly and calmly through the corridors, and almost immediately Ravella tells Blake about the suppressants in the food and water. The world Blake lives in seems clean and sterile and ordered--and he's quite happy in it.
One question I had was: why was Blake unaware until then of his own past when others obviously knew it? After all, he'd been on TV, publicly recanting. I think people were too afraid to mention it in case they were taken in for questioning--or worse: "Don't mention the rebellion!". This is a very strong indication of what a fear-driven and controlled society this is.
He's a law-abiding and seemingly quite content citizen with little curiosity, and a strange passivity until he begins to get his memory back. He's also not yet the brave and dashing rebel, hiding cautiously out of sight when the troopers turn up. I would assume that all citizens learn from an early age to stand back and look away. He only begins to be the Blake we know as the London leaves Earth.
Crime and punishment
The vistapes sent home from Blake's executed brother and sister are an obvious parallel with the postcards sent from the Nazi death camps. Why would the Federation spend money to send people to other planets, just to kill them on arrival? I'd say so that people have no idea what's doing on. It's so much easier to hush up when it's far away.
Why wasn't Blake killed? My theory is that he is a living, walking deterrent to others. He was forced to recant, then mindwiped, and I'm sure many would consider this to be worse than a quick and heroic rebel's death. However when Blake broke his conditioning, he was in danger of becoming a figurehead again, so they had to discredit him for good. And how they did that is incredibly cynical and immoral: they deliberately ruined three boys' lives. I still cannot believe that this series was promoted as a family one and shown fairly early in the evening.
Obviously not everyone in the legal system is corrupt because we have Tel Varon who is first willing to defend a man he believes to be guilty, then when he realises that there's something very wrong going on, does his best to find out what it is, willingly helped by Maja.
People sneer at B7 special (or not) effects, but I thought the Dome was very well done. I was also impressed by Cell 3 morphing when Varon went to interview Blake.
I have no objection to the way women are shown here; quite the reverse. Alta Morag is powerful and clever, Maja is not just willing not only to accompany Tel but asks important questions of iPod Man too, and Jenna is tough and capable.
As I said, she's tough and capable, and given her billing directly below Blake in the credits, I'm pretty sure Terry Nation intended her to be Blake's second in command. Pity that didn't happen, just as with the female Number One from the pilot of Star Trek whose role was considered too strong for a woman [rolls eyes]
Vila's sly and almost sinister here. I have to fit this in with the rest of the series, so I explain this by him playing the crazy card to make people give him a nice wide berth on the London. I also have to explain his petty and not very skilful thefts from Blake in the light of his obvious skill later. I think he did it in plain sight of Jenna to look incompetent so that any much more clever thefts later wouldn't be blamed on him. He also says he's compulsive, but though many fic writers have picked up and run with that, there's no evidence for this outside this ep. I think he has a drive to prove his cleverness as a cracksman because it's the one thing he's better than anyone else at, but the actual stealing seems to be almost incidental.
"They literally took your mind to pieces and rebuilt it." No, they didn't. I mourn the loss of this once useful word that is coming to mean 'metaphorically'.
This is a very clever SF story that could stand alone. It describes a society depressingly well, and all the characters are well-drawn and distinctive. I remember watching it for the first time in 2001 (that I remember; I must have seen it as a kid) and being quite appalled by the last scene. I thought they'd settle for Varon being too late with his evidence, but right there they're showing us how much chance anyone has of fighting the Federation and winning.
Definitely not a 'family' series despite the slot it was originally shown in.