Solitary

Blake's 7Vila awakens, locked in a cabin on the Liberator and struggling to remember how he came to be there. He is eventually contacted telepathically by a man named Nyrron – a man who Vila and Cally teleported into the middle of a Federation weapons factory to find. Nyrron, an Auron, tries to talk Vila through his recent memories of that mission, including finding Nyrron to be the only living person in a sea of burned corpses after an accident at the factory. Though Cally feels Nyrron is a promising candidate to join the cause of freedom, Avon and Jenna are less sure; Blake gives Nyrron a chance to prove his loyalty to the rebellion. Nyrron and Vila are sent to another Federation facility to find the communications component that had already been destroyed on the factory planet, but this world has another problem: a non-corporeal life form has taken hold here, capable of inhabiting any mind and copying its memories, essentially assuming its identity. The reason Vila has been locked up after this mission is simple: he isn’t really Vila. But is Nyrron, free to mingle with the Liberator crew, really Nyrron?

written by Nigel Fairs
directed by Lisa Bowerman
music by Alistair Lock

Cast: Michael Keating (Vila), Anthony Howell (Nyrron)

Notes: This is the second 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. Nyrron returns in Wolf, a story in the second Liberator Chronicles box set.

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: It’s been all the rage in recent years to touch every possible setting and character with zombie stories. Comics publisher IDW managed to stretch a single zombie-related story strand across many of its major franchises, including Transformers and classic Star Trek, and zombies have managed to push their way into other stories and series as well, swarming like… well, like persistent zombies, naturally. Solitary brings the zombie vibe to Blake’s 7, though fortunately we don’t really get to that part of the story until about two-thirds of the way in.

Much of Solitary is a two-hander between Michael Keating (now reprising his role as “our” Vila, having already played the part of the “reimagined” B7 universe’s Vila in a one-off B7 Enterprises audio, When Vila Met Gan) and Anthony Howell. As the only performer in the first Liberator Chronicles audio box set who isn’t a member of the original Blake’s 7 cast, Howell has a lot to live up to. Fortunately, he fits in seamlessly and he’s up to the task of interacting with Keating for their scenes (and he can even fill in as the voice of Zen). Keating himself hands in a virtuoso performance in a rare, Vila-centric tale (of which the original TV series delivered very few).

Alistair Lock’s music and sound design is top-notch, though some of his sound effects are slightly “off” from the originals. Lock had already done his best to approximate the original sound effects for the B7E plays, but one wonders why the original BBC Radiophonic Workshop effects couldn’t have been used for audio plays attempting to recreate the original TV series; approximations were fine for Blake’s 7 tales one universe removed from the ’70s series, but why not use the real deals here? (The effects do still exist – I’ve got a CD of Radiophonic Workshop effects from Blake’s 7, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and the radio series Earth Search; surely, unless the fees to license those effects were exorbitant, Big Finish has access to the same material.)

Solitary is slightly predictable – the alien threat is nothing that you haven’t already run into in the Star Trek or Doctor Who universes – but the performances raise it above that and make for a memorable listen.