Written by Simon Guerrier, Nigel Fairs and Peter Anghelides
Published by Big Finish
Roj Blake is back, with his eponymous band of freedom fighters out to thwart the diabolical plans of the Federation and keep a few standard units ahead of the law. Set during the first series of the TV show, this box set trilogy of ?enhanced audiobooks? is the closest fans of the series have come to a full return, from Dudley Simpson?s original theme music and performances from several of the TV cast.
First story, The Turing Test, is narrated by Paul Darrow in character as Kerr Avon. Alongside him, Vila Restal’s lines are also delivered by original actor Michael Keating, and Simon Guerrier’s delightful script makes full use of the opportunities this presents. The basic plot is essentially a two hander for Avon and Vila, as they teleport down to a pre-terraformed planet to investigate the work of a group of Federation sponsored scientists. Their ruse to gain entry to the secret base is for Avon to pose as an android, and Vila as his creator.
This set up allows both actors to play to their and their characters’ strengths. Vila is cocky and stays just the right side of blowing his cover, while Avon gives voice to his cold, analytical personality. Yet Guerrier also gives Darrow a chance to probe deeper into Avon’s soul, when he discovers that the scientists are developing their own seemingly artificial lifeform. The scenes with the two ‘droids’ are joyfully full of repressed emotion that bubbles tantalisingly close to the surface. Could Avon make a good father figure?
Guerrier can’t resist a few nods towards that other great android puzzler – Blade Runner – but these moments are played lightly, and despite Vila’s presence The Turing Test is a dark tale that doesn’t come with a happy ending.
The middle tale is Solitary, placing Vila firmly to the forefront, with support from Anthony Howell as the enigmatic Nyrron, who makes an appearance during a recee of Dulcimer 4. Vila is soon suffering from amnesia and placed in solitary confinement, seemingly aboard the Liberator, as Nyrron, a telepath from Cally?s homeworld, helps him to work out what went wrong on the planet?s surface.
Nigel Fairs? script takes us on a thrilling ride through Vila and Nyrron?s brief adventure together ? with several hideous discoveries on Terrulis Major particularly well delivered ? and also takes time, as did Guerrier before him, to explore a character that fans think they know so well. Scenes from Vila?s early life really resonate here.
Sadly, so powerfully performed are these first two stories, that the return of Gareth Thomas to the role of Roj Blake in third drama Counterfeit is a disappointment by comparison. Peter Anghelides? script is not helped by its frequent shifts into third person narration, which are sometimes difficult to distinguish from Thomas? first person performance in an identical voice. Neither has time been as kind to his voice as to those of his two contemporaries, with Thomas often sounding more like the Sixth Doctor than Roj Blake of old.
Paul Darrow gets a supporting role as Avon, but the scenes between the two of them are less than compelling. A succession of increasingly implausible twists and turns – the clue is in the title ? also failed to get this listener?s heart racing. ?One is left feeling that this tale is more missed opportunity than great success.
All three dramas benefit from typically polished Big Finish production, and the first two tales are more than worth the price of the whole box set. The bar has now been set very high for a second box set in the autumn, with a promised return of Jacqueline Pearce to the role of Servalan. Blake?s 7 fans should get their pre-orders in now.