Blake’s 7 Full Cast audio reaches Series 4, and this time the series isn’t consisting of a single boxset, instead it’s spread over three, four-story boxes! Once again we’re set in the third TV series (due to Blake being off limits due to death and the rights to TV Series 4 being complicated, this is likely to continue…) and we see the beginning of a civil war, with the crew of the Liberator in the middle of it! How do these four stories fare? Well…
Synopsis (of Episode 1 “Paradise Lost”):
Erewhon was a legendary vacation planet – until it was ravaged by acid storms. A new friend brings the Liberator crew here, their objective: to assassinate an old enemy. But what they find beneath Erewhon’s surface will plunge the galaxy into turmoil.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
Resurgence in more ways than one!
Kerr Avon (Paul Darrow) – Avon, previously (and secretly) happy to follow Blake, he now finds himself in command, but that doesn’t mean he has to stop treating people like crap though!
Vila Restal (Michael Keating) – Vila is an unashamed coward, but a master thief. Easily manipulated, but also invaluable to the crew… A handy catch 22 for Mr. Restal!
Cally (Jan Chappell) – Cally is from the planet Auron, and as such has psychic abilities like telepathy, though more often than not it gets her into trouble than it lends a hand…
Del Tarrant (Steven Pacey) – Tarrant used to be a top pilot for the Federation, with ties to the former President no less, but has joined the rebellious forces in the wake of the Galaxy-wide war that tore much of the Federation apart.
Dayna Mellanby (Yasmin Bannerman) – Dayna is handy with building things, mostly weapons, which is good because her currently sole reason to live is to get revenge of Servalan, as painfully as possible.
Orac (Peter Tuddenham) – Super-intelligent A.I. housed in a clear plastic cube, Orac is one of the main reasons everyone managed to stay away from the Federation all these years…
Zen (Peter Tuddenham) – Zen is the on-board A.I. of the Liberator, the alien ship that is one of the other main reasons everyone managed to escape from the Federation all these years…
Servalan (Jacqueline Pearce) – Servalan managed to become President in the days leading to all-out inter-galactic war, which means she eventually inherited a broken shell of an empire that needs serious rebuilding, rather than getting to command most of the known galaxy…
The Former President (Hugh Fraser) – The man who was simply known as “The President” is now simply known as “The Former President”, as he builds an army of his own in the hopes to over-throw Servalan and take back what’s rightfully hers.
I wonder how many pictures of the new Dayna they took…
Before looking at the individual episodes of this box, I have to say that the over-arching theme of this series, that being the former President forming his own army to fight Servalan in a galactic civil war, is a great idea for a setting, and I have high hopes for the concept moving forward.
Episode 1, “Paradise Lost”, sets up the plot by having the Liberator crew arrive at a former hotspot for high-ranking Federation types that was apparently playing host to “The President”, but as it turns out it was the old President, and he was there to recruit a legion of thousands that had gone missing during the Galactic War in his first step towards reclaiming his past glory. It works really well, with the leader of the 13th Legion being actually quite sympathetic in that he finally refused orders when it was clear that Servalan held no regard to his or his men’s lives, and now he’s happy to serve the man who actually respected him. I mean, we know full well that the former President wasn’t a nice man by any means, but it’s a great first step in setting up the Civil War. Avon is the star of this one, even though it does have roles for the whole crew, as he once again secretly kills a former ally due to cold-blooded logic, in this case the former Federation employee who showed them to the planet in the first place.
Episode 3, “Resurgence”, is a good one. It’s a sequel to TV Series 2 opener “Redemption” and once again features The System, the A.I. logical “people” who created the Liberator and all its technologies. Avon, Cally and Dayna accidentally wake up a member of the System and once again have to deal with the Liberator being under its control. If you’re unfamiliar with the TV story then it’s all filled in during the course of the episode thanks to Dayna and Tarrant not being around at the time. A satisfying ending occurs with the crew regaining the Liberator, but it does tease that there was a large, empty bay in the System base they were just at which looked like it once housed a ship much like the Liberator…
Episode 4, “Fearless”, falls somewhere in the middle. Basically Vila and Cally have to negotiate with an old “ally” of Vila’s who has several hundred Federation Pursuit Ships to sell to the highest bidder. In order to have the bravery to face her Cally uses her telepathic abilities to suppress Vila’s cowardess, leading to a brave and suave Vila to arrive at the negotiation table. It’s funny, particularly when another buyer ends up being President Servalan and Vila starts to hit on her, much to the latter’s confusion. As you can imagine it all goes tits up and Servalan finds out about the ex-President and the 13th Legion before leaving, setting up Set 2. All in all, it’s fine, and sometimes funny, but it’s also not as gripping or interesting as 1 and 3. It’s no 2 though…
The fact there was nothing to put on the cover tells you all you need to know…
Episode 2, “True Believers” is pretty awful. Not sure what happened her, but Cally is sent to a planet after receiving horrible and painful telepathic commands to do so. This leads to a whole hour-plus of Cally alone with a plain religious woman and her cheesily American-voiced former lover travelling across a desert and eventually defeating a man-made God that had been tormenting the populace. There is more to it than that, well… just about more to it, but it ends with religious woman questioning whether she really did hear her God or whether it was the evil man-made one, and then she finds an infinite food source for her people and her faith is restored. A greedy but sort-of good in the end guy who gave his life to defeat the man-made God is seemingly greeted in the afterlife by the same Goddess who had been talking to the religious woman, meaning … God is real? I guess… in Blake’s 7? … It all just doesn’t connect well. Cally isn’t the most interesting cast member, the new characters were all pretty bad and the religious themes were too overbearing and just not a good fit for the series. This would have to be the longest episode as well! If you buy the set, I’d skip this, it’s not even mentioned again.
Just a little cringey moment, at the end of Episode 1 everyone speculates about what the former President having an army might mean, with someone stating it will be Civil War, with Cally then saying “Yes, with us in the crossfire!” … It was so close to fourth-wall breaking that I almost imagined everyone looking towards a camera and nodding with a smile “Get it? That’s what this series in called Crossfire!”
A lot of Jacqueline Pearce on audio this month!
So two really good stories, an average one, and a pretty damn bad one… not too bad for the £25 I spent on the download version, though given I spent £20 on the Doctor Who: The Time War set, which had the same amount of story in it and was overall better, it’s a bit annoying (I assume the large cast accounts for the extra money, to be fair). Anyway, as a starting point it works really well, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this “Galactic Civil War” goes, and if we finally get a full stop on the former President. Roll on Part 2!
Episodes 1 “Paradise Lost” and 3 “Resurgence”:
Episode 4 “Fearless”:
Episode 2 “True Believers”: