Big Finish’s new run of full cast Blake’s 7 audio adventures premieres with the thrilling and thoroughly convincing four story The Spoils of War. Set within the timeline of the third TV series, these stories unfold in a universe in which the authority of The Federation is unravelling in the fallout following the Galactic War. In the battle to repel the alien invaders, the crew of the Liberator has also been scattered and new recruits brought on board to take up position on the flight deck.
The reassembled original cast are all on excellent form, as is Alistair Lock who deserves particular praise for his impressive vocal portrayal of both Zen and Orac. All of the stories on offer here capture the style, motifs, pace and atmosphere of the original television show very convincingly, and sound design and dramatic realisation are both strong.
Set after the events of Powerplay, Steve Lyons’ opener “Liberation” is a complex tale of political intrigue, espionage and thwarted rebellion which sees the crew of the Liberator plunged into the pressure cooker world of an isolated Federation colony facing overthrow from an armed uprising. Following a lead on Jenna’s whereabouts, newcomers Tarrant and Dayna are paired with Cally and Vila on a mission that brings them to the attention of the ruthless and perceptive Captain Rokon. Yasmin Bannerman excels in her debut as the youthful and feisty Dayna, delivering everything you could hope for: bringing her own vocal interpretation to the role while staying true to the nature of the character as originally played by Josette Simon.
At this point in her story, Dayna is bristling with impetuous anger and out for revenge, which ensures that Bannerman’s interactions with Michael Keating’s risk-averse Vila make for some sparking exchanges. There’s rare validation for Vila, as his timidity keeps Dayna’s recklessness in check and averts disaster. The interactions of Cally and Del Tarrant are altogether calmer, although Cally does quiz Tarrant about his Federation background, eager to judge if he is someone who can be trusted. Yet as the two headstrong, confident characters attempt to weigh each other up, their attempts to deceive the authorities fail with potentially fatal consequences.
Tarrant and Vila come under the spotlight in the witty and dramatic “Outpost” by Christopher Cooper. The duo is dispatched to recover a Federation “data core” from a technician desperate to escape a secret supply base that is now falling apart. Shuuna (a great turn by Sophia Hannides) proves to be an unreliable trader, and another group of smugglers are soon closing in on the vital intelligence; a development that soon poses unexpected perils for the reluctant Vila, as a dominant “old flame” seeks to reignite former passions.
Avon acquires some new mental capabilities in Sophia McDougall’s thoughtful “Close Enough”, after he and Cally are tricked into becoming the subjects for a series of unethical medical experiments involving telepathic connection; a process that brings a revealing new perspective to the already complex dynamic between the pair.
The third series Liberator’s crew, and their perennial nemesis Servalan, all reassemble in the series’ finale, George Mann’s taut and innovative “Solus”. The only story in the series set in space, rather than on alien terra firma, this delivers the necessary punch required of the set’s closing story as battle resumes for control of the vessel. The fantastic premise is to have the two biggest egos aboard The Liberator take command of the ship’s computer systems through a process of digital injection, only to clash with the flesh-and-blood versions of themselves. The story ends with a memorable audio “image” of Servalan, alone and thwarted once more.
The stories of Crossfire, three further sets of Blake’s 7 box sets set in the timeline of the third TV series, promise more stories from an intriguing moment in this universe: a time in which The Federation is in retreat and the rebels (though deprived of their figurehead) try to press home their advantage, against the odds and with no idea of the fate that ultimately awaits them. The Spoils of War is a cracking start to the new phase of Blake’s 7 audios.
BLAKE’S 7: THE SPOILS OF WAR / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / DIRECTOR: JOHN AINSWORTH / WRITERS: STEVE LYONS, CHRISTOPHER COOPER, SOPHIA MCDOUGALL, GEORGE MANN / STARRING: PAUL DARROW, MICHAEL KEATING, JAN CHAPPELL, STEVEN PACEY, JACQUELINE PEARCE, YASMIN BANNERMAN, ALISTAIR LOCK / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW