“It seems odd…that a place like this even exists anymore. It does seem rather…decadent.”
Dayna’s trail leads the Liberator crew to the pleasure planet of Solace…and more specifically, to information broker/snitch Karl Ranking (Hywel Morgan). But his price is a service, one that involves Avon and company in a rash of disappearances, in search of Rankin’s missing wife Eva (Jo Howarth)…
With the former recreation paradise dilapidated to the level of one of those scummy looking, overgrown Herschell Gordon Lewis, Doris Wishman, Barry Mahon or Sande Johnsen-lensed early 60’s nudist colonies, Tarrant’s questioning of the locals leads to his being added to the list of the vanished…
Can Avon, Del Grant and…of all crewmen, Orac rescue Tarrant and locate Eva Rankin…and perhaps even Dayna herself?
“Two of my crew are now missing on this decrepit backwater of a world…and I want to know why.”
The faded holiday destination of Solace proves anything but, with a strong twinge of the horror film arising from its ruined, rat infested environs, creepy carnivals and half-operating ghost trains haunted by scavenger children. And did we mention the secret laboratory, with its unusual waxworks? Yeah, it’s taking the Liberator crew a bit far afield of the standard futuristic science fiction milieu.
And just what is the link between back to nature environmentalists Gaia and the politically motivated xenophobic extremists of Fortuitas?
“A haven for bigots and xenophobes. They believe that Solace should close its borders, isolate itself from the Federation and rest of the galaxy. They preach purity for the human race…
Support for them is growing. People are voting for them because they’re scared. The spectre of the Federation looms large, the traditional parties are floundering…people want change, and this is the only way they can get it.”
“By lending strength to extremists?”
With some very timely warnings about right wing nutjobs such as the Tea Party and National Front gaining unprecedented political ground and support among the less enlightened (and more frightened) among us, Fortuitas represents one of the more directly profound episodes of Big Finish’s Blakes Seven series…and more particularly, the Classic Audio Adventures, in some time.
Deftly weaving a suitably tense and atmospheric bit of intrigue around a strong wake up call to the listener, author George Mann sagely spices this already tasty dish with an interesting twist that shows the circularity of extremism by pointing an equal finger at the “fascism of the left”.
While the story feels constrained a tad by the Classic Audio Adventures’ comparatively brief running time, Mann nonetheless manages to hit all the right bases and provide sufficient touchpoints to cover the seemingly disparate (but actually quite complementary) strains of sci-fi, horror, intrigue and political commentary while still allowing enough breathing room for the leads and guest walk ons to imbue sufficient characterization to keep listeners interested.
“Extremists trade on fear. Innocents going missing, they could use something like that. Twist it to gain support from the locals by laying the blame at the feet of the tourists.”
“Alienating people. Driving the strangers out. Setting everyone against one another.”
Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield, Jago & Litefoot, the Companion Chronicles, Osiris, The Scarifyers) offers her typically character-driven yet fast paced touch to the production, and both Paul Darrow (Avon) and Tom Chadbon (Del Grant) deliver their usual high level of performance in the co-leads, with a few unexpectedly amusing bits of business from Alastair Lock’s Orac as well.
Despite (or perhaps because of) the shift between the respective Blakes Seven First/Second Series and Third/Fourth Series cast and crew, the second season of Blakes Seven Classic Audio Adventures would seem to be shaping up as a noticeable improvement over the first, with more of an evocative, mystery in space approach than the more politics and intrigue bent of the Roj Blake-led iteration (most particularly evident in the often heavy handed Liberator Chronicles).
And by proving that the two approaches need not be mutually exclusive ones, Fortuitas points the way to what appears to be an even more exciting future.