- Take place between Series 1&3
- Full cast, including Gareth Thomas, Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Sally Knyvette, Jan Chappell, Jacqueline Pearce, Stephen Grief, and Steven Pacey
- Approximately one hour in length
A ragtag band of criminals hopping around space causing problems for a corrupt government, outrunning vicious military patrols with the help of a sarcastic and misanthropic artificial intelligence? Blake’s 7 did all of this before it became cliched. From 1978 to 1981, these misfits were the terror of the Federation. Then, one cold December day, the entire roster of characters was gunned down and killed. And that was the end of that. One of the most brutal endings ever to grace science fiction, and one that (intended fifth series or not), provided a perfect ending to a tale of vengeance and death. It’s hard to get more final than everyone dying.
Enter Big Finish. Not content with bringing back Doctor Who of years gone, the British audio production company set its sights on Blake’s 7. Bringing back all but a handful of the original cast (Dayna, Gan, Slave, and Soolin do not appear in these volumes, while Orac and Zen are recast), these audio originals breathe new life into an often forgotten great of British science fiction. But with everyone dead, where is there to go for more stories? For the Liberator Chronicles and The Classic Adventures, the answer is to fill in a few gaps. Adding new stories to the middle of a narrative is always a risk, but it pays off here. It helps that each story is largely standalone, so you can dip in and out without worrying too much about continuity. A few elements are added that run throughout, such as the devastating weapon known as the Armageddon Storm, but each story stands well on its own.
One problem reunion efforts such as this often face is the sheer number of years that have passed since the original. Even if the audience is there, are the actors able to recapture that spark after more than thirty years. For Blake’s 7 the answer is a satisfying yes. Both Gareth Thomas and and Jan Chappell have aged noticeable, but you get used to the change after a while. Paul Darrow’s voice is far more worn, but as soon as those clipped, British stage-production tones kick in, there’s never any doubt that this man is Kerr Avon. As for Sally Knyvette and Michael Keating? The pair’s voices have barely aged a day. Keating in particular is spot on in his recapturing of Villa’s anxious wittering. As with the original show, every scene between Villa and Avon is nothing less than delightful. Alistair Lock provides the voices of both Zen and Orac so seamlessly, you’d think Peter Tuddenham were still alive. The only noticeable absence is David Jackson’s Gan, who after the actor’s death is not recast. Likewise, following the passing of Gareth Thomas, the role of Roj Blake is gently retired.
The Liberator Chronicles are a series of audio short stories with single narrators, and are a great way to ease yourself back into the mythology of Blake’s 7. They also make a great introduction to audiobooks in general, being on the shorter side, with more dramatic readings than most. Only with the Classic Adventures does Big Finish make the jump to full cast audio dramas. These twin volumes are the start of a long saga for the Liberator crew, and one I’m looking forward to following. each one is a series into itself, balancing serialisation and episodic stories rather well. By the end, everything is in place for more adventures. I for one can’t wait to get to them.