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caged

“You’re just a weak man, hiding behind a gun.  Come too close to me, and I’ll…”
“I’ve had all that from Cally.  It’s boring.  Jenna, I wanted to say this to you for a long time.  Shut. Up.”

Vila’s turned tail and defected to the fascists.  With his help, Travis is now on board the Liberator and in control of Zen.  And they’re about to meet face to face with a very high level nemesis…

“I’m sure Travis will give you everything you’ve ever wanted.”
“Perhaps he already has.  He treats me with respect.”
“You always had my respect.”
“Really?  Is that why you left me behind?
…you treat me like a fool, all of you.  Vila the coward.  Vila the idiot.
How far would you have got without me?  You’d have been chained up years ago, with no one to crack the lock.”

Boy, Mark Wright and Cavan Scott have been quite busy lately.  After sporadically drafting up the occasional Doctor Who or Iris Wildthyme, the pair seem to have settled in to a more regular rotation, not only alternating on the new Pathfinder Legends line, but now taking over the Blakes 7 line, with both last month’s Cold Fury and this month’s Caged falling under their credits.

Has Vila truly turned traitor?  It certainly looks that way, and he’s delivered his former crew mates right into the hands of their greatest enemy…and I don’t mean Travis, either.

“You’re about to meet the important person you’ll ever encounter.  Apart from me.”
“That’s good…isn’t it?”
“Better than you could imagine.”

Hugh Fraser is clearly the star of the show this month, bringing his best Captain Hastings to the fray, far more believably assured, even pompous and regal than the highly strung neurotic paranoiac of Cold Fury.  If you prefer, this time around, the President appropriates the vibe of a Caesar, where in his last appearance, he was more of a Richard Nixon.  And how appropriately Hitlerian a twist ending…perhaps they should have checked dental records!

“And you must be Vila Restal.”
“Guilty as charged.”
“You’re a traitor.  Tell me why I shouldn’t have you shot where you stand.”
“uh…I…”
“Come on, let’s have it…”
“I’d make a terrible mess of the floor.”

Positively serpentine in his manipulations, Fraser evokes a sort of uppercrust tea time garden party take on Jacqueline Pearce’s Servalan.  Wholly absent of any sensual aspects, he manages to come off as both quite charming and intellectually wily, superior in the sense of being well seasoned and in control of his slippery semantics, and insidiously “logical” (if actually quite self-serving and deceitful) in defense of his own rather backward political-philosophical position.  Just pleasant enough to set you off guard, as he goes in for the kill, with lightning precision and virulence of venom.  It’s an impressive performance.

“This is an opportunity to get your point of view across.”
“Spoken like a true politician.”
“All I want to know, Blake, is why.”
“Why what?”
“It’s a simple question.  Why are you fighting?”
“To end the tyranny of the Federation and bring about freedom for its worlds.”
“Fine words.  But what do they mean?  Freedom.  Tyranny.”
“Our actions show what we’re fighting for.”
“Your actions show you are murderers.  Tell me, Jenna.  Do you remember the last Federation trooper you gunned down?  Easy to shoot, when it’s just a blank faceplate.  Have you ever thought of those you have butchered?  Their lives?  Families?
…What happens if you win?”

Let’s be honest, here: there’s really not a hell of a lot happening in terms of plot and ostensible “action” this time around.

Instead, you get what Blakes 7 is rather more noted for – a strong dose of biting political discourse, wrapped in science fiction trappings.  A large scale chess match between opposing forces, marked by alternating moments of heated intensity and disarmingly civil discourse.  In short, a higher level of political intrigue.

“You will not sway us from the path we have chosen.”
“You’d be poor freedom fighters if I could.  I just wish everything didn’t have to be so painful.  You rebels, you’re so…angst ridden.”

Decadent in the sense of arrogance and privilege, rather than aesthetic or thoughfully deliberated metacognitive choice, he practically channels James Earl Jones’ Thulsa Doom at one point, trying to convince the miscreant opposition that what they fight for is illusion…and only the trappings of wealth and power are “real”.  For the Federation President, flesh is indeed stronger than steel…

“Why don’t you just have us executed?  Only a coward would delay in killing us.”
“A coward would pull the trigger without thinking.  Look at the Liberator, Blake.  She is a symbol.  Like all of you.
If I am to truly bury your crusade, the people need to see those symbols crushed.”

While this sort of thing can get a bit dry in larger doses, the genius of Blakes 7 is in how Terry Nation and subsequent series authors (both televised and here at Big Finish) manage to balance the strongly philosophical bent that drives the narrative with some very humanistic interplay between realistically flawed, intrinsically quite different character types united as much by expedience as a common mission.

Layer on regular spy film style “missions” to gain new support, assist likeminded resistance forces or sabotage Federation initiatives, and you have a series more gripping (and influential) than nearly any other in the realm of cult science fiction.

And taken in this light?  While the fireworks and excitement are kept to an unusually dull roar this time around, Caged provides a strong example of what the furor is all about.

http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/caged-952

 

 

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