This year sees Big Finish productions celebrate 20 years of creating original audio dramas. As a sign of how hard they work, there are 40 separate releases planned until June alone! Most of these are connected to Doctor Who, but they also branch out into other sci-fi territories – one of them being Blake’s 7, which premiered 41 years ago on British television and went on to become a cult favourite.
This set (the first of three planned for this year) continues on from last year’s successful Crossfire series which saw the former Earth president stage a civil war and wrestle power from Servalan with the Liberator crew stuck in the middle of it. At the conclusion of that set the Liberator itself was badly damaged and was last seen plunging to its imminent destruction. This series picks up where Crossfire left off.
Set in the midst of the third season of the televised series it features most of the original cast from that series: Paul Darrow (Avon), Michael Keating (Vila), Jan Chappell (Cally) and Steven Pacey (Tarrant). Continuing to play the other crew members are Yasmin Barrowman (Dayna) and Alistair Lock (Zen/Orac). As with previous releases, whilst some of the voices have not aged particularly well, the performances are riveting throughout.
They are supported by an excellent supporting cast which includes Rebecca Crankshaw (Zeera Vos), Hugh Fraser (The President), John Green (Mordekain), Harriet Collings (Kestra), Jonathan Christie (Jaryss Vull), Olivia Poulet (Avalon), and Ian Brooker (Ozaban).
The four scripts by Trevor Baxendale, Iain McLaughlin, Steve Lyons and Scott Harrison are some of the best that Big Finish have presented for Blake’s 7 and feel as close to the original series as can be achieved in the audio form. Cleverly, the stories do not all feature the entire crew and this allows for some character development – something the original TV series struggled to do. While they are all separate adventures, there is a story arc for this set as well as an ongoing storyline which will play out over the course of the other releases this year.
The action and pacing are skilfully directed by John Ainsworth and, as usual, there is an exceptional sound and music design by Simon Power, Nigel Fairs, David Roocroft, and Luke Pletnik which not only brings the stories to the life but evokes many of the sound and music cues from the original series. The set also includes a bonus disc of interviews with cast and crew.
This is an exciting release with much to praise and enjoy. Fans of the original series will be delighted at the feel of this set while newer fans may see this as a reasonable jumping on point. After the disappointment of the anniversary set from last year, this feels like a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Part 2 will be released in July and Part 3 in November 2019.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Rating out of 10: 9
Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: January 2019
RRP: $50 CD, $25 Digital Download