Blake’s 7’s (that’s an annoying this to write, visually…) audio series continues, and thanks to getting into the series less than a year ago, I haven’t had to wait! Hooray! “Series 3” is actually just a single boxset of four stories, where as the next series with be three boxsets! Well… whatever! Let’s take a look at “The Spoils of War”, which contains a recasting of Dayna, with Yasmin Bannerman taking over the role… which is good news after the awkwardness of Audio Series 2…
Synopsis (for Part 1: Liberation):
In the aftermath of the Galactic War, everything has changed for Blake’s former associates. Having lost their leader, they are forced to work with new allies – people they can’t trust. And that may just get all of them killed.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
Check out those furry shoulder pads! That’s the future for ya!
Kerr Avon (Paul Darrow) – At first glace Avon’s stoic and uncaring personality gives you the impression he cares for no one, and although that may be true to a degree, he does at least look out for his crew… so long as they’re still of use to him!
Vila Restal (Michael Keating) – Cowardly and sarcastic, Vila is the master thief and lockpicker, and therefore often finds himself in the thick of it anyway…
Cally (Jan Chappell) – Cally comes from Auron, which (among other things) gives her slight telepathic abilities… and that’s about all that’s interesting about her. Otherwise she’s just a nice person.
Del Tarrant (Steven Pacey) – Formally an arrogant pilot for the Federation, Tarrant now finds himself as a crew member of the Liberator, a ship known for its revolutionairy actions.
Dayna Mellanby (Yasmin Bannerman) – Weapons expert who has a bit of a short temper, but otherwise a nice person to be around… so long as you’re on her side, obviously!
Orac (Peter Tuddenham) – Super intelligent A.I. housed in a clear plastic box. Can be a bit full of itself, which is further proof of how advanced he is…
Zen (Peter Tuddenham) – The A.I. onboard the Liberator itself. It’s handy for informing the crew about on-coming threats… and steering the ship, as well, obviously!
Servalan (Jacqueline Pearce) – Arrogant and cold-hearted President of the remnants of the Earth Federation, Servalan will do anything to rebuild the empire in her image…
The odd couple of Blake’s 7… Well, Series 3 anyway…
Episode 1, “Liberation”, is a good story, and in classic Big Finish fashion, is set just after Dayna and Tarrant have joined the crew, giving everyone a “can I trust them” storyline that was skipped on the show in favour of getting on with the next plot. Tarrant impersonates a Federation officer, and Dayna ends up leading a group of violent revolutionaries that eventually attack where Tarrant is held up! The story has some good scenes with Vila (especially his interaction with some less-than-friendly and oddly mute thugs) and Cally, who manages to use to telepathy to guide Dayna into helping Tarrant. During all of this Avon sits on the ship alone, wandering if it’s time to leave everyone and strike out by himself like he always said he would if Blake was gone, which was a good character piece. Overall it was a good story that filled in a little gap quite nicely.
The next two episodes happen simultaneously, as Episode 2 (Outpost) sees Tarrant and Vila sent to an abandoned outpost full of unsavoury types and end up meeting their contact, only for everything to go tits up, as it normally does. The episode is pretty much examining Vila’s reaction to Tarrant as a crew member and their relationship, which is good because Tarrant treated Vila like crap in his first few TV stories before pulling back, this story is a nice reflection on that, maybe even is retroactively the reason then end up liking each other a bit more. The main “villain” in the story ends up being an old “friend” of Vila, and that leads to some properly funny dialogue and scenes between the two…
While all that’s going on Episode 3 (Close Enough) sees Avon, Cally and Dayna fall for another trap, this time by scientist Imra who ends up injecting Avon with a serum that gives him telepathic powers like the Auronare… only it begins to get out of control, leading to Cally and Dayna kidnapping Imra in hopes she can reverse the effects. It’s a great story, mostly for the relationship between Avon and Cally, with Avon unable to hide his thoughts and the two sharing several really nice and well acted scenes together. It’s a vulnerable Avon we see so rarely, and it’s done really well. There are a few more twists and turns before the plot gets resolved, and when it does you feel a much stronger bond between Avon and Cally.
Yasmin Bannerman’s Dayna is good, by the way. It captures the voice and role of the original without any distracting “sounds nothing like her” or equally distracting “sounds like someone doing an average impression of her”.
In case you can’t tell, she’s a baddie!
Bad is pushing it, really it’s “alright, but not very original”, Episode 4 “Solus”, is another one of those Blake’s 7 stories set entirely on the Liberator (with the exception of some brief scenes at the start) and sees Servalan ending up a prisoner on board the ship who then proceeds to accidentally create an A.I. copy of her self that replaces Zen at the helm of the ship. She thought the device she had would allow her to control the ship, but it went wrong, and now the A.I. Servalan tries to kill not only the crew, but her original fleshy self. While we’ve had the “wandering around the ship, fighting against killer doors and running out of air” several times both on Audio and in the original series, the Servalan A.I. is at least a bit of a different spin on it. Still, it does feel very samey at times.
I’m not sure about Yasmin Bannerman being on the cover amongst the original cast’s photos from back-in-the-day. It sticks out like a sore thumb… *shrugs* Minor complaint, I know, as I really liked her performance… just looks odd is all!
The new Dayna, who is actually the Dayna we see on TV in-story-wise… confusing!
The Spoils of War is a good boxset of four stories, with three really good stories in a row, followed by an average one. That’s not a bad hit ratio at all, and I look forward to the far longer Series 4 spread out over the coming year. Series 3 was my favourite period of the TV show, so getting more episodes with the full cast (well, Dayna is replaced, but you know what I mean…) is great fun already!
Episodes 1 – 3:
Episode 4 “Solus”: