Reviewing this tape is incredibly difficult as it's very hard to pour cold water on something when you've wished for years that the BBC would revive Blake's 7 on radio. Brian Lighthill, the producer, deserves credit for convincing the powers-that-be that there was a demand for Blake's 7 on the radio and was proved right when it rapidly outsold virtually every other audio tape the BBC has ever produced.
Unfortunately, it isn't terribly good.
It's a tribute to Michael Keating, Paul Darrow and Jacqueline Pearce that they gave a good performance in spite of the script.
The script was dire.
Barry Letts, the scriptwriter, was not familiar with the show, and it showed. Some of the characterization was bad. Some of it was very bad. It was at the point where a panicked Soolin cries out for Tarrant to help her that I finally admitted that 'Dr Who companion syndrome' had destroyed her and Dayna as characters. If you thought the women got a raw deal on screen, then think again. It was unfortunate that Glynnis Barber was unavailable for recording due to conflicting theatre work, though whether she would have been able to request changes to the script, I don't know.
Steven Pacey had problems recreating Tarrant's voice and sounds very different on different parts of the tape. (This relates back to when he was originally cast as Tarrant. Tarrant was intended to be in his mid-thirties and Steven was much younger. He auditioned using a deeper, rougher voice than his norm and was then stuck with it.)
The script is full of silly names. eg. Tarrant had a Yamazuki flivver car when he was younger. (Come to that, it's a pity no one told Barry Letts that the Federation had banned personal leisure transport or that most Earth citizens weren't allowed outside the dome in any case.)
Federation weaponry is up the creek. The battle cruiser has every weapon under the sun except plasma bolts.
There's a major continuity flaw in the plot. Vila steals a document from Servalan which relates to the origins of the Sevenfold Crown and was compiled for her by an archeologist. When Orac studies the ancient language on the document he is able to deduce that the diadem in on Torella because the king's name 'Geblacon' is in the same ancient tongue.
Unfortunately, we discover that Geblacon stole the crown from priestesses on Devetec - thus making a nonsense of Orac's findings as Orac should have been led to Devetec.
Character stupidity is a essential to keep the plot going along its improbable course. Thus Geblacon is totally convinced when Tarrant (with nothing at all to back his claim) claims to be the son of an old friend. Servalan and Geblacon both fail to use the powers of their artifacts at key moments. After all, how could the good guys steal them otherwise? <heavy sarcasm>
There are some good bits. Vila generally gets good lines, though the writer didn't know he was a drunk and made him a compulsive eater instead. Any scene between Avon and Servalan can never be totally wasted - they convey an amazing sexual attraction even when there's no actual sex. However, the good bits have still not been enough to persuade me to sit through the entire tape a second time. I keep getting about ten minutes in and losing interest.
If you want to hear the cast again, go and buy one of Sheelagh Well's interview tapes. If you want a new Blake's 7 story, go and buy a good fanzine. If you really must go out and buy the Sevenfold Crown, console yourself with the thought that you are helping to convince the BBC that there is a market for Blake's 7. If this story had been submitted to me as a fanzine editor, I'd have sent it back for a serious rewrite. Bring Back Chris Boucher!
The good new is that there will be at least one more radio play and that Brian Lighthill (who is something of a fan himself after directing two of the original 4th season episodes) has taken on board many of the comments made by fans at Deliverance. The bad news is that Barry Letts will be writing it. I just hope he watches a few more episodes first.
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