Counterfeit

Blake's 7Using the communications decryption equipment stolen from the Federation base on Centero, Avon learns of a top-secret mining facility where the Federation is putting some of its smartest prisoners to work on a project to mine an ore that can transform into any other element. Keen to keep this from being used as a weapon, Blake decides he must investigate and interfere if possible. Under the assumed name of Galloway, Blake teleports down to the mining colony and passes himself off as one of the laboring prisoners. But things don’t add up: two years were spent mining a seam of the ore that proved to be useless, a failure on a scale that usually convinces the Federation to stop sending more resources and start sending firing squads. And yet the mine still operates, and Blake has to operate undercover without being able to contact the Liberator. Blake’s cover is quickly blown and his identity becomes known to the senior Federation officer, and worse yet, Blake is told that Space Commander Travis has arrived to personally take charge of the situation. The resistance leader steels himself for a reunion with the one man in the Federation most eager to see him dead, only to discover that it’s not that simple.

written by Peter Anghelides
directed by Lisa Bowerman
music by Alistair Lock

Cast: Gareth Thomas (Blake), Paul Darrow (Avon)

Notes: This is the third of the three stories comprising the first Liberator Chronicles box set produced by Big Finish Productions. All three stories take place between the first season episodes Project Avalon and Breakdown.

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: In its early Doctor Who audio releases, Big Finish kept trying to achieve a story that justified its existence: a story that could be told only in audio. Counterfeit is the Blake’s 7 equivalent of that as well, but this time it could only be told as an audiobook.

The sleight-of-hand that makes Counterfeit a joy is also a cheap trick: it’s very late in the proceedings before we learn that Travis isn’t Travis, except that we’ve been hearing about Travis throughout the story. The surprise twist couldn’t have happened in a full-cast audio drama, only in an audiobook – because hearing “Travis” speak would’ve given away the switcheroo on which the entire story hangs. As if to hammer it home, the story then pulls another one on us right at the end, except this time the audience should be well aware that all is not as it seems. I can’t decide if this is clever writing, a cheap trick, or a little bit of both.

Gareth Thomas, he of the resonant voice and everyman charisma, sounds much, much older than he did in 1978. This sounds like it should be one of those “No, really? It’s only 35 years later!” statements, but whereas Darrow and Keating manage to sound almost as they did in 1978, Thomas’ voice has changed enough that even the untrained ear would be able to pick out the different. Don’t get me wrong, I love his voice now and then, but it sounds like Blake has a bit of a cold here.

Blake's 7As the closing story of the first round of Liberator Chronicles, Counterfeit finally sells me on the idea of sticking around for more. Of the three stories in the first box set, this one simply feels the most like Blake’s 7 – give or take a few modifications for the medium it’s in, I can imagine this one on TV. Tyrannical wanna-be dictators lording over far-flung Federation colonies, noble and naive dissenters among the staff, Blake and Avon waging their own polite but chilly cold war between themselves, and the ever-present spectre of Severalan and Travis? You betcha. Make more like Counterfeit and I will be happy.