Blake's 7: LiberatorIn the wake of the Liberator’s attack on a Federation fuel refinery, and with no idea who is aboard other than Mezin, Travis is given more authority by Servalan to find the ship and protect Federation interests. But Travis’ idea of containing the threat is very different from that of his superior: Servalan wants the Liberator captured so she can use it as her personal flagship, ruling the Federation with an iron first. Travis simply wants the ship and its crew destroyed – a more effective way of dealing with the threat, and one that won’t involve the loss of men and equipment that a boarding party and a running firefight with an unknown crew armed with unknown weaponry would entail. But in Travis’ next attack on the alien ship, Liberator’s true commander is revealed – and by default, his mission can be nothing less than toppling the Federation. Aboard the Liberator, Blake has problems of his own as Avon and Vila put a plan in motion to mutiny against him, angry that they’ve effectively been branded for life as members of Blake’s revolt. Jenna quashes the mutiny just in time, and Avon and Vila are given the opportunity to leave Liberator with no questions asked…though now that their names are linked with Blake and his ship, they know there’s nowhere to run. Travis mounts a surprise attack with devastating results, but both he and Blake are surprised when new ships join the battle – alien ships, just like the Liberator. And they’ve come to recover their lost property.

Order this story on CDwritten by James Swallow
directed by Andrew Mark Sewell
music by Alistair Lock

Cast: Derek Riddell (Roj Blake), Colin Salmon (Kerr Avon), Carrie Dobro (Jenna Stannis), Dean Harris (Vila Restal), Owen Aaronovitch (Oleg Gan), India Fisher (Lora Mezin), Daniela Nardini (Servalan), Craig Kelly (Travis), Doug Bradley (Nico Ballantine), Jake Maskall (Lt. Jorge Garcia), Alistair Lock (Zen), Daniel J. Geduld (Councillor Adrius Singh), Evangelo Kioussis (Lt. Rix), Barbara Joslyn (Security Monitor voice), Robert Maloney (Operator)

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: In the concluding chapter of the first “season” of Blake’s 7 audio adventures, we effectively skip past much of the remainder of the story from the first season of TV B7, and wind up with a cliffhanger that seems like a love child of the original series episodes Duel and Redemption. There are really only two major new wrinkles in the story – other than that, we’ve gone back to retelling the original series with a new cast at lightning speed (or “standard by twelve,” to use vintage B7 jargon).

There’s one new wrinkle that’s a bit obvious and seems to be glossed over just as quickly, and there’s another that portends major changes in the storyline as we know it…if only the writers can exploit it successfully. The Avon/Vila mutiny is something that one can imagine happening between stories in the original series, perhaps somewhere toward the end of the second season, but it’s brushed off and the reasons for these two characters to not try a repeat performance are laid out clearly…and so it becomes a mutiny with little in the way of consequences. By the second half of Liberator, Blake’s asking Avon to go on his next mission with him, no questions asked.

The far more interesting innovation in the storyline is the clear hint that Travis may be quietly building his own power base to prepare for a grab at Servalan’s office. This puts a whole new spin on Travis’ tendency to verbally snipe at Servalan in private but ultimately to obey her orders; where the original series’ Travis began to look ineffectual and weak, in this case Travis’ obedience is a cover for his true motives. This could portend some very interesting future developments…assuming the writers have the leeway, or the guts, to branch off from the main Blake’s 7 storyline to which they’re adhering so slavishly.

The sound design and music by Alistair Lock (late of Big Finish Productions) are dynamic and interesting; if there’s one sonic problem here, it’s that Colin Salmon and Craig Kelly’s voices are quite similar in pitch, and in a few instances toward the end of Liberator in which Avon and Travis are in the same scene, it becomes a little bit difficult (to my ear at least) to tell who’s saying what. The sound design hints enough at the signature Radiophonic Workshop sound effects of the original series without copying them outright; if there’s really much in the way of homage to classic B7, it’s in the sound effects.

So ends the first season. As I said in my review of B7E’s first audio episode, selling me on a recast, reimagined Blake’s 7 is an uphill battle, but honestly, once we’ve replaced the entire cast and it’s obviously not a continuation, I’m more relaxed about the idea of reimagining things more broadly and going to new places with the story…and so ironically, that’s naturally what hasn’t really been done here. The Liberator has been reimagined in terms of Moya from Farscape, there’s a new twist on a couple of characters, there’s no Cally, and there was briefly a new character who died so early in the story that I’m surprised not to have seen the redshirt writing on the wall from the word go. Other than that, it’s a retelling, not a reimagining, and given what’s happened to differentiate between audio Blake and television Blake, that winds up being the greatest disappointment.