, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


“The Desolation…right on the edge of the galaxy, light years from any of the major stellar routes…six D-class planetoids were completely destroyed, and their remains form a massive cloud of asteroids surrounding a dying star. 

There is no life to be found there at all – in fact, nothing, apart from rocks and hard radiation.”

“Sounds delightful.”

There are big changes in store for veterans of last season’s Classic Audio Adventures.

Swapping roles with regular director Ken Bentley comes Jago & Litefoot, Companion Chronicles and Bernice Summerfield standby Lisa Bowerman, who in tandem with new producer Cavan Scott brings the audio series into the latter end of the original teleseries, where the more idealistic and ideologically motivated Blake, Jenna and Gan were replaced by newcomers Del Tarrant, Dayna Mellanby and eventually Soolin. 

A darker pair of seasons, Series Three and Four left the cynical computer genius Kerr Avon in charge of the Liberator, which itself was destroyed and replaced by the final season’s Scorpio.  Even the Federation suffered some major setbacks, losing serious ground and prestige during an offscreen battle against alien invaders.

While seeming a dash odd on paper, Series Three was actually our introduction to Blakes Seven, back in the days where my father and I shared both discovery and appreciation of such series as Doctor Who and Blakes on the public television of the early to mid-1980’s. 

While the often cheapjack special effects provided some unintentional amusement (even by comparison with JNT-era Who, those fried eggs eating away at the hull of the Liberator proved memorably hilarious), the often taut drama and attention to characterization among this unlikely, somewhat hardscrabble crew of adventurers was quite unlike anything aired to date, with Darrow’s Avon in particular becoming something of a lifelong (anti)hero.  And though the airings would soon cycle back through the earlier seasons (which of course proved quite gripping, albeit in a very different way), the unusual dynamic of Series Three left it as one of our lasting favorites.

“No sign of anything…unless you count the corpses.”

Replacing this era of the teleseries’ underlying search for the missing Blake and Jenna with a more purposeful search for Dayna (as Josette Simon declined to participate in the audios), Avon (Paul Darrow), Vila (Michael Keating), Cally (Jan Chappell), and Tarrant (Steven Pacey) are joined by newly minted audio companion Del Grant (Tom Chadbon, of Liberator Chronicles 9) in hunting down their mysteriously departed compatriot throughout the deepest recesses of unknown space.

With a splendid mix of archaeological mystery and taut character interplay, returning author Trevor Baxendale takes a step aside from the more political intrigue cum philosophical diegesis of many recent Blakes Seven offerings into a wide eyed, almost Star Trek-like delve into deep space adventure. 

Drawn into a dangerous sector of space, the Liberator crew trace Dayna to a strangely anomalous Federation starship invisible to computer sensors and still intact amidst an area marked by high levels of radioactivity and interplanetary devastation.  Teleporting down to the mysterious wreck, the crew discovers a secret that could offer a significant advantage in their struggle against the Federation.

Buffeted by debris and facing radiation based interference to communications, Avon, Cally and Grant find themselves trapped aboard a rather precarious haven, with scavenging salvagers and Federation forces closing in…

Despite appearing in one lone episode of the original series (Series 2’s Countdown), Tom Chadbon continues to impress, with his Del Grant melding quite well with the original Liberator cast.  Given the character’s past ties to Kerr Avon, one can only presume some interesting new dynamics may be in store for listeners in the future.*

* for a brief discussion of Del Grant and his sister Anna, see the aforementioned Liberator Chronicles 9.

Darrow, Keating and Chappell offer their usual assured level of performance, with Alistair Lock continuing his often uncanny take on both of the non-human Liberator crewmembers (ship computer Zen and the far haughtier appropriated “master computer” Orac).  Pacey doesn’t appear to have as much to do this time around, so it’s a bit hard to comment, but he’s been enough of an asset in prior audio appearances to expect good things from him in the new series.

Bowerman’s directorial touch is evident in the more dynamic, quite human approach of the story.  While things move at a brisk pace and the plot is essentially driven by its atmosphere  rather than the more boardroom-style political intrigue of many past Blakes offerings (whether televised, Liberator Chronicles or Classic Audio Adventures), there is a warmer feel to be found herein, which is quite welcome in a series oft noted for its Spaghetti Western-style emotional chilliness.

While Simon’s absence is noticeable (particularly as Dayna was one of our favorite characters of the original series), Scimitar offers a promising setup and strong start to what appears to be shaping up to be a very different series in the Classic Audio Adventures.