Writers Simon Guerrier, Una McCormack and James Goss have produced three hour-long audio plays that make up volume five of Liberator Chronicles, the Big Finish series of Blake's Seven audio plays. Here, four of the original actors - Gareth Thomas, Sally Knyvette, Paul Darrow and Jacqueline Pearce - are joined by guest stars Louise Jameson and Joseph Kloska.
Blake’s 7: Review of Liberator Chronicles Volume Five
The fifth in the Big Finish series of Blake's Seven audio plays contains three stories featuring Blake, Jenna, Avon and Servalan.
Liberator Chronicles Volume Five
The fifth volume of Big Finish’s Liberator Chronicles Blake’s 7 audio dramas sees the return of Gareth Thomas as Blake, Sally Knyvette as Jenna, Paul Darrow as Kerr Avon and Jacqueline Pearce as Servalan. Guest stars are Louise Jameson as Pol and Joseph Kloska as Cullen.
Big Finish is continuing with the format of three independent stories. Recorded at the Moat Studios in London, the three hour-long plays were directed by Lisa Bowerman and Ken Bentley and are set during the second season of the television series.
“Logic” by Simon Guerrier
Pol is an ordinary Federation citizen whose only transgression to date had been an illicit kiss, at least that’s what she remembers. So why has she attracted the attention of the Liberator crew and been kidnapped by Avon? Or was the name of whom she kissed not the only memory that the Federation erased? Avon and Jenna take turns to try to find out.
“Risk Management” by Una McCormack
Blake and Jenna visit the independent space station XK17 to meet the new people’s revolutionary government of the planet Sutskar. The Federation had bombed the planet in revenge for being thrown off and now the new rulers wanted to raise money to rebuild by selling some rare jewellery. They needed some firepower to back up the planned auction, and that’s why they asked for Blake’s help. But the person responsible for the bombings in the first place was claiming that the crystals were, in fact, her property. Tensions ran high.
“Three” by James Goss
Journalist Dav Cullen has the job of interviewing Servalan, but he sees himself as a crusader for the truth, which is not the safest belief when up against the Supreme Commander. Like all politicians, she dodged his questions and told him only what she wanted to tell him. But how far was he willing to press her? Or was he just a little too over-awed by being in her presence?
Are they any good?
This was a brave decision in “Logic” not to have one of the Blake’s 7 actors as the main narrator but instead to go for Louise Jameson, most famous for her portrayal of Leela in the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who. She is, though, a good narrator and as the point of this story is to get inside her character’s head, then it works despite Avon, Jenna and Servalan being relegated to the role of support players, but Avon has some good lines such as: “I was trying to be nice, which wasn’t easy.”
The story itself isn’t nice, but enjoyable because of that. This takes the lid of how the Federation behaves to an individual citizen and how she responds to what she believes is right, producing a strong psychological play with an unpleasant ending. Just what Blake’s 7 should be about.
Talking of good narrators, there are few better than Gareth Thomas and his skill brings “Risk Management” to life, making it one of the most enjoyable of the Liberator Chronicles so far. It is also one of the most political, as revolutionary politics come up against bureaucracy while people back on Sutskar are starving. The outcome would also have ramifications beyond that.
This is audio storytelling at its best. The plot, while simple, and maybe because of its simplicity, holds the listener. The frustration of Blake at the delays in the auction dominate everything else that happens, not letting the goal be forgotten. As such, the difficulties in holding the audience’s attention, a common problem with audio-only plays, are removed. McCormack seems to have a knack for this; let’s hope she does more.
An intriguing naivety is the first impression of journalist Cullen in “Three” as he thinks he is flirting with Servalan while she is clearly playing with him as a cat with a mouse. And that is the problem with this story, it is all a bit predictable and it takes a long time to get to where we all know it is going, even though it is slightly nastier with a more vicious twist than expected. And it gives us some interesting insights into Servalan’s background, though we don’t know how true they are. There is also a bit of humour, such as when Cullen says he wants a human-interest element to his story, Servalan replies: “I’ve never found humanity particularly interesting.”
In summary, this is the darkest of the Liberator Chronicles so far, capturing well that mix of humour and horror that we saw in the original TV series. All three stories have something going for them, whether the psychological drama of “Logic”, the political manoeuvrings of “Risk Management” or the evil manipulating Servalan in “Three”.