AUDIO REVIEW: Blake’s 7: Avalon, Volumes 1&2

Rating: 3 out of 5.
  • Takes place during Series A
  • Full cast, including Olivia Poulet, Sally Knyvette, Stephen Grief, and Colin Baker
  • Approximately 3 hours each
  • Volume 1 released May 2021
  • Volume 2 released June 2021

On Earth, revolutionary leader Roj Blake is about to be put on trial. But the resistance against the Federation is far larger than any one man. Avalon is one of many cell leaders, and her methods are more extreme than most . . .

Blake’s 7 was dark and gritty before it was cool. Due to the budgetary restraints of the BBC, it had a truly unique mix of grimdark and camp. One of the most remarkable things was how unheroic the main characters could be. They were protagonists, and fought for a noble cause, but they weren’t necessarily heroes. If they weren’t at each others throats, then they were resorting to ever more violent means to get what they wanted. And if things were bad with the egotistic Blake in charge, they only got darker once the increasingly paranoid Avon took the lead.

Avalon makes Roj Blake look like a cuddly teddy. She’s not as self-serving as Avon, but she is as ruthless. When we meet her, she planning to poison the civilian population to incite an anti-Federation riot. Not only is this perfectly in keeping with the darkness of the series, it also ramps things up to the inevitable next level. Because wars, especially insurgencies, escalate over time. There’s only so far you can push a population before they break, and the Federation is almost at breaking point. The Avalon audios aren’t afraid to explore the violence of the rebellion, and there are times when Avalon and her team cross that hazy line between freedom fighter and terrorist. The question left is not if their actions were right, but if they were necessary?

Avalone marks the first in a growing range of series (so far trilogies) falling under the label The Worlds of Blake’s 7. While the expansion of fictional universes is a good thing, this one does grow from sombre roots. With both Gareth Thomas and Paul Darrow deceased, Big Finish felt unable to continue the adventures of the Liberator. In fairness, those adventures already have a set ending (the TV episode ‘Blake’), and there was only so many adventures that could reasonably fit into the timeline of the show. The Worlds of Blake’s 7 focus on side characters, or unexplored parts of the universe. As well as Avalon, there is Bayban the Butcher and Terra Nostra. But there’s still a chance for a few familiar faces.

In the first of these volumes, Blake’s pilot Jenna Stannis becomes involved in Avalon’s attacks, and the events here lead directly to her incarceration in the show. The first volume of Avalon takes place in the days leading up to Blake’s 7 proper. The presence of Sally Knyvette serves largely to ease listeners into a world without the Liberator crew, with the focus firmly on the new characters. Later on, in the second volume, Avalon crosses paths with the notorious Bayban the Butcher, played with magnificent glee by Big Finish regular Colin Baker. Space Commander Travis appears throughout as a reassuringly villainous presence. Among all these familiar voices, it’s hard for a new one to stand out, but Olivia Poulet puts in a strong performance, and can more than hold her own.

Avalon does what the start of an expanded universe should. It takes a handful of old names, a fair few new ones, and mixes them into a plot that is new but familiar. Avalon might not go out of its way to establish a unique identity for itself, but if this is the new band of rogues we’re going to follow, we could be in worse hands.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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