It seems like Big Finish cannot win a trick with this three-part season.
The Liberator is drained of power and the crew need to find an energy source to fire up the computer and repair the ship. Their search will take them to the outer reaches of the galaxy and the wreckage of a planet the crew once visited before. By the end of it however, loyalties will have been stretched to breaking point and a new danger will await them.
It seems like Big Finish cannot win a trick with this three-part season. Before Part 1 was released in January the team had to deal with the loss of Jacqueline Pearce who had played Servalan so well for the past 40 years. Then, just prior to the release of Part 2, Paul Darrow, who had so uniquely played Avon, passed away, forcing the need to make changes once again. This very sombre mood seems to permeate this set and Darrow’s final episodes find Avon at odds first with Michael Keating’s Vila and then Stephen Pacey’s Tarrant. While Darrow does his level best to keep the momentum up it is hard not to hear the feebleness in his voice for the first time.
Sadly, this set lacks a lot of energy and excitement with the lengthy running time of each episode being a hindrance rather than a help. There is way too much padding and too many dead spots in the action to hold the listener’s attention for the whole distance. As with Part 1, the scripts see the crew split for two of the episodes and joining forces for the outer episodes. These scripts, by Mark Wright, Steve Lyons, Sophia McDougall and Trevor Baxendale, are full of great ideas but suffer from too many extra scenes that really achieve little in the way of action or character development. Only Baxendale’s final script provides the listener with any sense of peril or excitement.
The remaining cast do an admirable job with what they have. Yasmin Bannerman (Dayna), Jan Chappell (Cally) and Alastair Lock (Zen/Orac) round out the main cast. Chappell, especially, relishes her character’s moments with much pointedness. The supporting cast also work well within their particular scripts with Carolyn Pickles (Vulkris), Evie Dawnay (Selene Shan), Heather Bleasdale (Illyne), and Richard Reed (Krent) being the standouts.
Director John Ainsworth lets his actors wallow in their dialogue a little too much without giving a sense of urgency to proceedings. This is very much the exception rather than the rule when it comes to Big Finish. Despite this, there are many well-paced segments dotted throughout this release where he clearly seems more in his element. In this, he is aided by the excellent sound and music design of Luke Pietnik, Nigel Fairs, Simon Power, and David Roocroft. There is also a bonus disc that includes extended interviews with the cast and crew as well as a lovely tribute from cast members to Paul Darrow.
As much as this set serves as final testament to the wonderful Paul Darrow, it is sad that this set – as with much of the Blake’s 7 audio adventures – has not quite succeeded at capturing the excitement and tension of the original TV series. Nevertheless, Part 3 will bring this chapter to a close and will be released in the new year.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: November 2019
Approx RRP: $51 CD, $20 Digital Download