Written by Simon Guerrier, Eddie Robson and Nigel Fairs
Published by Big Finish
Following Vol 1 earlier this year, this new trio of audio plays take us back into the universe of Roj Blake and his fellow resistance fighters, as they seek to hit back at the very core of the Federation.
Simon Guerrier’s The Magnificent Four is up first, as Avon and Cally find themselves in league with space pirates. And not just any space pirates – this new crew are escapees from the System, the mysterious network built by the alien creators of the Liberator. When Avon and Cally join Trent and his crew on sister vessel, The Libertine, they think they have found kindred spirits. But a simple robbery shows a darker side to these newcomers.
Narrated, and acted in character, by original cast members Paul Darrow and Jan Chapell, this is an engrossing tale, which delves deeper into the mythos of The System. It shines a very harsh light on the effects that Blake’s rebellion has on those he leaves behind. These System slaves have become cold blooded killers, and Avon is left to clean up the mess.
Second tale, False Positive, by Eddie Robson, puts a wounded Blake in the hands of a therapist-cum-scientist – Doctor Lian – who believes he is delusional and affected by experimental drugs. As Blake relates a mission with Avon to release the planet from Federation control, Lian struggles to come to terms with the truth, and the tables are cleverly turned.
Gareth Thomas gives a much stronger performance here than in his outing for Volume 1, and his scenes with Beth Chalmers’ Lian are particularly effective, especially as the story threads start to bind together. My only gripe is why Paul Darrow does not voice Avon in this tale – he has significant dialogue, and while Thomas makes a good fist of Avon’s inflections, surely Big Finish could have tempted Darrow to a few more hours in the studio.
The final story, Wolf, sees writer Nigel Fairs return to an original character, Gustav Nyrron, which he created for the first volume’s Solitary. Here, Cally pays a ‘social call’ on Supreme Commander Servalan to find out how fellow telepath Nyrron died. What follows is another tale which, like False Positive, sees roles slowly reversed as Nyrron is tortured and broken by the Federation.
This is the strongest of the trio, not so much due to a better story or script than the preceding two plays, but thanks to the powerhouse delivery of Jan Chapell, Anthony Howell, and last but not least Jacqueline Pearce, returning to her landmark role as Servalan. The thirty years since her last TV performance seem to disappear as Pearce gives her all to the performance, and is rewarded with a story that probes a little into the character’s untapped background.
In my previous review of Vol 1, I said Big Finish had set a high bar for these collections. The writers, actors and production crew here have cleared that bar with ease. With a full cast audio drama – Warship – ready for release next February, Volumes 3 and 4 of the Chronicles in production, and Paul Darrow penning a novel about Avon’s life set after the events of the final TV season, there is much to look forward to for all Blake’s 7 fans.