Review: Blake's 7 - The Liberator Chronicles - Box Set One / Author: Simon Guerrier, Nigel Fairs, Peter Anghelides / Publisher: Big Finish Productions / Release date: 29th Feb
After the cancelation of the television reboot of Blake’s 7, fans have felt a little lost. Into this void step the remarkably well equipped people at Big Finish. To provide us with a consolation prize of the highest standard, rather than taking the basic principles behind Blake’s 7 and starting again as the new television series intended, we have a faithful continuation and gap plugging collection of tales.
The Blake’s 7 relaunch will contain novels and a host of other media but the range opens with a box set of three stories all taking the Doctor Who: Companion Chronicles format as their inspiration; where one original member of the cast takes the lime light and acts as both narrator and protagonist, while a second cast member plays their own roll.
The first story is the Avon centric Turing test. A tale of Android life which leaps from audio with such authority as to startle the listener into believing that this is a missing story from the television show itself. Paul Darrow was born to play Avon and has the sort of understated dislike for the human race that gives him more depth than we saw on screen.
In the second story,Solitary, Michael Keeting's Villa is firmly at its centre with a secondary character who, like Fourteen in the first story, has all the makings of a seventh crew member. Villa awakes to find that he is in the ships brig and has had his memories scrambled. An equally dark and atmospheric tale about federation power and the use such power is put to with the intimately human level that was the trademark of the most moving of Blake’s 7 tales.
With the third and final tale, Counterfeit, the crew infiltrate a Federation mining complex with a buried secret - Roj Blake takes the stage and Gareth Thomas gives his interpretation of a roll that has dominated his career for over thirty five years. Time has, understandably, changed Thomas' voice and he sounds the most different from his 1970’s persona than the other performers. More a RADA reading than channelling a desperate dissident. However he may simply have had a cold. The third story is the weakest of the three as some of the action takes place away from the central reader and removes the listener from the immediate action, just enough to show the medium's short comings.
Big Finish have an unwritten remit to provide the atmosphere of the shows they are continuing while using the audio medium's strengths to tell tales that work better than if we could have seen them circa 1978. They have succeeded on practically every level. The only downside of this is that these are not full scale audio dramas; sadly, licensing issues mean that the ‘enhanced reading’ style is the best we can hope for, for the time being.
These stories all fit so perfectly into the first series of Blake’s 7 that this reviewer has gone back to his trusty (and dusty) VHS and started a rewatch of this classic show. A show where the Federation was evil and the dark side of humanity reigned supreme.
There will be more Blake’s 7 in the coming years and I hope that Volume Two is more slanted at the female members of the cast/crew and helps develope more than the small screen ever allowed. If there aren’t releases that features Servalan, Callly, Jenna and the others, then I for one will be disappointed.
Special Features: According to the producer there are no extras on this release due to a tight work schedule and the hectic nature of the recording. This is a shame but should not distract from the overall enjoyment of these three enormously strong and atmospheric tales.