Blake’s 7 – Audio Series 5 “Restoration – Part 1” Review

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It’s been a little while, but we’re back with more Blake’s 7 from Big Finish. Following on from the three-box series “Crossfire”, the first box of “Restoration” not only settles the cliffhanger from the end of the previous set, but also puts us on an interesting course going forward, as any good follow up should do, while not forgetting plot points already set in motion… So let’s take a closer look at these four episodes, and kick off “Audio Series 5”!

Official Synopsis:

Damaged beyond repair, the Liberator is hurtling out of control. With Zen down, Avon injured and Tarrant losing his mind, what can the crew hope to achieve in the time they have left?

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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I do wonder how many pictures of Yasmin Bannerman they took, she seems to be using her communicator an awful lot…

Kerr Avon (Paul Darrow) – Avon has had a tough time leading the Liberator crew without Blake, but just when it seemed they might survive the up-coming Civil War unscathed, they start to plummet into a Blue Star…

Vila Restal (Michael Keating) – Vila is a coward at the best of times, but when it seems like the Liberator is unrepairable and about to be sucked into a deadly star, his panic is well justified…

Cally (Jan Chappell) – Cally is doing her best to not only remain calm, but to try and calm everyone else… that is, until she suddenly passes out…

Del Tarrant (Steven Pacey) – Tarrant has just recently killed his sister-in-law (who, as it turned out, had killed his parents) and then watched his only other relative in his brother die alongside her… In other words, he’s a bit distracted, mentally…

Dayna Mellanby (Yasmin Bannerman) – Dayna can do nothing but watch on as the Liberator tares itself apart and heads towards a Blue Star…

Orac (Alistair Lock) – Orac is a super-intelligent A.I., but despite that it can’t help when the Liberator is so damaged its self repair systems won’t even kick in…

Zen (Alistair Lock) – Zen is the A.I. on board the Liberator, but it’s having a tough time, unable to convey any messages as its very being slowly falls apart…

The President (Hugh Fraser) – The Former President is now The President again, his biggest rival in Servalan nowhere to be seen. Now he needs to show the people a sign of good faith, and to do that he’ll need some specialist equipment…

Zeera Vos (Rebecca Crankshaw) – Zeera was an underling of Servalan, and she’s picked up a few of her tricks along the way. While she claims to help the Federation, she isn’t against working with anyone for the right reason, or right price…

And more!

The Good:

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Love the CG ships to the right, especially given neither are based on things that appeared in the TV series. Shows some proper effort for these covers!

On the whole, Restoration Part 1 is a strong set, no episode is bad by any means, though two stand out more than the other half…

Episode 1, “Damage Control”, sees the crew manage to slingshot themselves out of the way of the Blue Star, but the Liberator is still beyond repair. Zen manages to communicate with Avon by using Cally’s telepathic mind, which is an interesting idea, and eventually they make it to the planet which has similar technology to that of the trademark ship. While Avon, Vila and Dayna search some caves full of mysterious creatures, Cally and Tarrant try to keep the ship from falling apart. It’s good, and I do appreciate that Del Tarrant is an emotional wreck, it would have been so easy to have him just wave off the trauma he went through (just look at Cally!) but they’re making a proper story arc out of it. In the end they manage to keep the ship from exploding, but they’re far from out of the woods…

Episode 2, “The Hunted”, is probably my favourite of the boxset. Avon and Vila are pretending to be space pirates meeting their clients while the rest of the crew strip the actual pirates clean, but the duo are shocked to find that the buyer was the President himself! The whole episode is a good cat-and-mouse game between the smaller craft with the clever Avon, and the massive cruiser that doesn’t want to open fire as The President really wants the special kind of radio that was going to be sold to him (he wants to recreate “Star One”,  the core transmitter destroyed at the end of TV Series 2) It has plenty of great Avon and Vila banter (the rest of the crew is never heard from, minus a quick radio call), plus some good scenes of on-the-spot repairs and asteroid escapes. It’s never dull, that’s for sure!

Episode 3, “Figurehead”, similarly focuses only on Cally and Tarrant (making Dayna the odd one out this set!) and sees them sent to a planet where the resistance leader Avalon is seemingly killing innocent family members of Federation employees, something very uncharacteristic of her. Zeera Vos is one of the people involved, which sets alarm bells off in the Liberator crew, but their contact Kestra leaves them no choice. Turns out the Avalon doing the killing is a digital construct, and actually ex-Federation officer Jaryss Vull is the one behind it all, despite being easily teased and generally not the most inspiring leader… It’s a good, twisty-turny story where, of course, Zeera and the Federation planned it all, and Cally and Tarrant barely get away with their lives…

Finally, Episode 4, “Abandon Ship”, takes place almost entirely on what’s left of the Liberator as Avon brings a notorious technician on board who once had experience with the same kind of technology that the Liberator is made out of, but at the same time the crew is informed that they’re running out of air, and that two people will need to leave the ship permanently. This leads to some great in-fighting, except for Tarrant who is willing to leave and get his head straight, and it really keeps you guessing. Avon is seemingly scheming (as he tends to!) but it actually turns out that Orac is the one who is pulling the strings, manipulating the crew into thinking there was limited air in order to get itself off the ship, the A.I.’s main priority being its own survival. There is a great scene where Orac has managed to get itself in a capsule with Avon and then vents the air so it can get picked up by a Federation ship (the technician, Orac’s original plan, having been shot dead by Avon for betraying him…), with the logical schemer Avon complimenting the A.I. on its plan before passing out.

It ends with Orac getting found out and Avon being saved, the artificial intelligence now has a self-destruct command activated by a single word only Avon knows, meaning keeping him safe and happy now falls in line with its core directive to stay safe. Avon then reveals the next plan: find “The System”, the original builders of the Liberator, no matter how dangerous that will be… Great stuff, especially given how rarely used Orac is, and a good look at what will come next.

The Bad:

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What’s that? A lot of the setting of this story looked like an old Earth power plant? Shocker!

Not much! While I’d put Episodes 2 and 4 above 1 and 3, none were bad, or even average. I do have to say that having a whole 12-episode arc about the Liberator nearly coming apart and getting destroyed, and how desperate Avon is to keep it together, is odd given this series’ close proximity to the finale of TV Series 3, which sees the Liberator get damaged eventually to the point of no return, and sees Avon sacrificing it’s last moments to take out Servalan with a smile, not seemingly too bothered about the ship’s fate…

Overall Thoughts:

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Love the colouring on these covers, by the way. Very clean and yet retro at the same time…

Restoration – Part 1 is a top notch set, unlike most of the others there wasn’t a weak story on it, and in fact two of them were properly great. The overall story of the Liberator being on the verge of destruction is an odd choice given where it lays in the series, but it doesn’t take away from some good storytelling. If the next two boxes keep this quality, we’re in for a real treat!

Episodes 2 “The Hunted” and 4 “Abandon Ship”:

5 Star Listen

Episodes 1 “Damage Control” and 3 “Figurehead”:

4 Star Listen

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