When Vila Met Gan

Blake's 7: When Vila Met GanYears before the joined the Liberator, Vila and Gan weren’t even friends – though they did become uneasy allies when Gan, a hired hand for the wealthy owner of a secretive business venture, recognized that Vila’s lockpicking skills could help him (albeit indirectly) win the affections of the girl of Gan’s dreams. Gan and Vila set out to pull off a daring heist that could make them both rich – but it involves stealing from Gan’s own employer. Two things happen that Vila and Gan weren’t counting on: Gan’s employer turns out to have top-secret Federation military ties, and a taste for lethal automatic defense systems to match. The other wild card is the rioting that begins when the results of the vote for the President of the Federation are overturned to keep a man called Roj Blake from winning the popular vote. With chaos looming in the background, Vila and Gan have found either the best possible cover to pull off their caper, or the increased police presence will make it much easier for them to be caught and shot on sight…

Order this story on CDwritten by Ben Aaronovitch
directed by Andrew Mark Sewell
music by Alistair Lock

Cast: Michael Keating (Vila Restal), Owen Aaronovitch (Oleg Gan), Alistair Lock (Zen)

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: An interesting two-character (three, at a stretch, if you count the voice of Zen) piece that serves as a mini-prequel to the new Blake’s 7 audio series, When Vila Met Gan automatically got fans’ attention with the rather surprising announcement that an aged Michael Keating – who played Vila in the original television incarnation of Blake’s 7 – would be playing a younger Vila against the backdrop of the new series.

The only question is…why? Keating doesn’t go out of his way to emulate the performance of the new series’ regular Vila actor, any more than the other actor tries to bend over backwards to emulate Keating’s original character. Don’t get me wrong – Keating remains one of my favorite British actors to this day, and I count myself lucky anytime I get to spot him in anything – but it all smacks of stunt casting just to get the doubters in. But despite what anyone might have hoped, this isn’t a meeting point between old series and new; it’s just…well…stunt casting. Other prequel one-offs are in the works at B7 Media, all of which will contribute to the overall backdrop re-imagined for the new audio series, but I don’t see members of the original cast being called out of retirement for those stories.

The story itself is a nice little self-contained piece, with just enough connecting tissue that it does add something to the “present day” stories (this story being set several years earlier). It doesn’t resolve the cliffhanger we’re left with at the end of Liberator or plant any new information for future stories, other than to reinforce the re-imagined series’ notion that Blake’s original rebellion came about when the popular vote placing him the office of the President of the Federation was thrown out. When Vila Met Gan works best as a lively, funny character piece – which is a good thing to have, by the way – but anyone looking for major advancement of the ongoing storyline may find it lacking in that department.