The Audio Adventures

Review by Judith Proctor

This is good, in fact, it's very good!

I started listening to the new Blake's 7 audio adventures on the Sci Fi channel's web site. They were okay, but I found listening to them in five-minute chunks irritating and I wasn't organised organised enough to keep going back for all the latest bits.

So, I was very glad when the first CD was released. I've found it far more enjoyable listening to the story this way. I've already listened to the CD twice and expect to listen to it several more times yet.

The script is written by Ben Aaronovitch and his familiarity with the original series shines through. Many elements of the plot are different, but the key dilemmas remain the same. Blake no longer has to face a situation in which prisoners on board the London are threatened with death by sub-commander Raiker, but he still has to make a decision whether to choose freedom when it will mean the death of a hostage.

Another noticeable homage to the original series is in the sound effects. If you are keen-eared, and familiar with the original series, see how many sound effects you can recognize. Alistair Lock did a good job -- and I also got a real buzz when I heard the Liberator theme tune at appropriate points in the plot.

Many of my favourite lines of the original dialogue occur in the present series - Villa still objects to personal violence, especially when he's the person... But this is not a slavish copy of the original. There are many changes, and some are for the better. Jenna comes over as a much stronger character and has some good dialogue of her own -- "There are two rules to remember when landing a shuttle on a strange planet. One -- do not leave your shuttle unguarded. Two -- do NOT leave your shuttle unguarded."

Yes, that's right, Liberator has a shuttle rather than a teleport. This makes excellent sense. TV SF shows went though a period of having transporters or teleports for budget reasons.Building the set for a shuttle acquired extra money. Also, showing the crew entering and leaving the shuttle took more time than simply showing them arriving via a teleport. As everyone knows, the visual effects are better (and cheaper) in audio.

The teleport was a handicap in many ways in the original series. It was very difficult to pin the characters down in a dangerous situation without having to devise a way for the teleport bracelet to become lost or broken. Using a shuttle should make it much easier to set up dramatic situations.

The cast are well chosen. Daniella Nardini reminds me of Jacqueline Pearce in her performance of Servalan, Carrie Dobro gives Jenna confidence and grit (I wasn't sure about her American accent at first, but in fact it helps to have distinctly different voices in audio), Derek Riddell's Blake is buoyant and confident (and appears to have Avon's measure). Colin Salmon as Avon is self-centred and sarcasic and has no difficulty insulting Blake's decisions.

It looks as though the characters may get more developed backgrounds. We already have hints that Vila and Gan have worked together in the past, and Travis has a fiancee! (I wonder if she's going to get killed...)

Servalan appears aware of the internal corruption that is damaging the Federation and is concerned about it, but not so concerned that she didn't use her family influence to get where she is now.

My favourite character of all is probably one who will never appear again (though I can hope). Frances Barber, as the judge at Blake's trial, gave a brilliant performance and left me wanting to know more about this determined, elderly woman.

It's clear that the Auronar are going to be more developed than they were in the original series. Hints are being dropped about them - and this is before Cally has appeared on the scene. They're a force that worries Servalan and we wonder whether their society is potentially even more repressive than the Federation - or is that just political spin?

Last, but not least, because I'm picky about scientific details, the series won my heart about the time the Commander of the London ordered a thrust of several million Newtons. Yeah! I love SI units and I hate technobabble. I'm hearing plausible sounding stuff about ship courses and accelerations and they appear to have determined the basic rules of the way space flight operates in this universe. And Blake is an engineer who actually gets to use his engineering skills!

It's fun.

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