Review: Drones – Blake’s 7 / Author: Marc Platt / Publisher: Big Finish / Starring: Gareth Thomas, Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Jan Chappell, Sally Knyvette, Alastair Lock, Tim Treloar, Sara Powell / Release Date: Out Now
Drones is the third in a series of full cast Blake’s 7 audio releases from Big Finish. It is the direct sequel to February’s Battleground and starts with the Liberator badly damaged and the crew having to face imminent destruction. The only answer is a return to the planet Straxis.
In the previous story, we learned how the Federation dumps malcontents on planets such as Straxis, tags them, then leaves them to fight for their survival while they are used as target practice by better-armed Federation troops. With the Liberator damaged, the crew return to the planet while the ship auto-repairs. This splits the crew, leaving Blake, Vila and Cally to make contact with another would-be rebel leader in the form of Bru Renderson (Treloar), who is aided by Dr Cara Petrus (Powell).
One of the perennial problems for Blake’s 7 (and it isn’t unique in this) is the Liberator. Having a super-ship makes things too easy and writers are continually searching for ways to leave it badly damaged, under attack and just managing to repair itself in time. Marc Platt finds a new way to do this which could almost have been a complete plot in itself. Rather than do that, he takes advantage of the world that Andrew Smith created previously and gives us another taste of Federation trickery in the form of the drones of the title that seek out and infect specimens as a way of testing new bio-weapons. In a similar fashion, Avon and Jenna find themselves and the crippled Liberator also attacked by more drones.
If this weren’t all, there is a further thread setting up the next episode – Orac, the portable super computer, is developing fear and has become a true character in this story, which is on some levels actually all about him. All very clever!
The recording, music, effects and performances are all to the usual high standards and Sara Powell does a good job of realising her character; Tim Treloar’s rebel is somewhat less innovative than everything else in this story. Overall, Drones is an excellent counterpart to Battleground and the series is continuing to meet the standards of excellence it has set for itself.