Books & Literature

Audiobook Review: Blake’s 7: Allies and Enemies, by Big Finish

SCI-FI: From the start of the rebellion to its brutal conclusion, Arlen has hunted for Roj Blake. Cally fights beside her. Jenna Stannis works for her. Space Commander Travis is her mentor. As she plays each side off against the other, how will Arlen decide who are allies and who are enemies?

An action-packed set that follows the path of a young special agent is a welcome addition to the Big Finish range.

Feature image credit: Benjamin Voros (via Unsplash)

A young gun for hire impresses a high-level Federation official named Travis. She is remarkably good at her job and now she sets her sights on the biggest prize of all: the fugitive Roj Blake. To get to him, though, will mean finding him and that is a job all in itself …

The finale of Blake’s 7, which aired in December of 1981, is still considered one of the most powerful finales ever recorded. It left viewers deeply angry but after the dust settled, many considered it the only way a series like this one could end. The episode featured a young character named Arlen, played at the time by Sasha Mitchell, who was herself finishing off school. She would play a vital role in that episode, and this latest set from the World’s of Blake’s 7 series looks at that character and how she found herself face-to-face with the man called Blake.

Mitchell reprises her role some 40 years after playing her onscreen and her voice has only slightly changed from that of her younger self. She is the glue that holds this set together despite some outstanding contributions from Jan Chappell (reprising her role of Cally), Sally Knyvette (Jenna) and Brian Croucher (Travis). In a bittersweet moment for the series, Stephen Greif (who originated the role of Travis and also contributed to this set wonderfully) passed away only a few days after this set was released, making this his final appearance for Big Finish.

Saurion Major by Lizbeth Myles opens the set. In this story the young Arlen seeks her fame by helping Travis quell a rebellion led, in part, by Cally (before she joined up with Blake’s crew). This story rips along with many twists and turns and captures the urgent feel of the early series of Blake’s 7 well. Author Myles is a diehard fan of the series and it shines through in her on-point writing for the established characters. Christopher Brand (Haban), Jacqueline King (Kovic), and Samuel Lawrence (Tomal) deliver strong performances to help round out the cast.

No Name by Simon Guerrier is a wonderfully noir piece that finds Arlen hunting Blake on a remote outpost called Vanstone. There is a pair of twins who seem to be intent on buying up all the land and then there is a strange person proclaiming to be Blake but who Arlen knows better as Travis. Her curiosity will see her in a pretty wild fight for her life towards the end of her time here. Croucher is perfectly devious in this as Travis as is Nigel Lindsay in the dual role of Stor and Lux. Victoria Alcock also lends her not inconsiderable talents as the very Coronation Street-esque Mac. This is a little slower than the previous story but still an intriguing one. It has a wonderful ambience thanks in no small part to the stellar sound design by Alistair Lock (who also provides the music for this episode).

Sedition by Jonathon Morris rounds out the set with a complicated story where you don’t really know who knows what until right at the end. Arlen has tracked down smuggler, and former crewmember of the Liberator, Jenna Stanis. She employs her for one final smuggling mission but when Travis is involved, Jenna has to question everything. Wasn’t he killed by Blake on Star One? Greif returns one more time as Travis and he imbues this character with more light and shade than is usual. It is a great send-off to his interpretation of the role. Knyvette again is more than capable in bringing Jenna back to life after all these years and in many ways this is her story as much as Arlen’s. Lauren Fitzpatrick (Faro) and Paul Panting (Cary/ Velkrov) help move the story along as well in their respective roles.

This cracking set is directed superbly by Lisa Bowerman who absolutely knows how to keep the listener’s interest up. Jamie Robertson, Naomi Clarke, and Simon Power also provide music and sound for the outer episodes and these are, as always, a major strength of these releases.

Fans of the original series will enjoy this exploration of a minor, but important, character. Let us hope this is not the last we’ll see of Arlen!

Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Twitter:  @Wagnerfan74

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: December 2022
Approx RRP: $30 Digital Download, $35 CD

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