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Blake's 7 Box Set 1: The Liberator Chronicles by Simon Guerrier, Nigel Fairs and Peter Anghelides

01/03/2012. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Blake’s 7 Box Set 1: The Liberator Chronicles in the USA - or Buy Blake’s 7 Box Set 1: The Liberator Chronicles in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 7 CDs 180 minute story. Price: CD: GBP 25.00 (UK), Download: GBP 20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-624-9)
cast: Gareth Thomas, Paul Darrow, Michael Keating and Anthony Howell.

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The Turning Test by Simon Guerrier

As Avon is the main narrator in ‘The Turing Test’, the first part of ‘The Liberator Chronicles’, we must be guided by his emotions. He’s an interesting fellow and the situation that he is placed, leads to a deal of soul searching, not least to see if he has one. ‘The Turing Test’ was devised by scientist Alan Turing, father of computing at Bletchley Park, to see if a machine can mimic human response, fooling us into thinking we are conversing with a person rather than a machine. It was used in a complex way as a version of a lie detector in the film of ‘Blade Runner’.

Turning it on its head here, writer Simon Guerrier sets up Avon (Paul Darrow) as a human mimicking an android to fool a scientist. The joke is almost an obvious one that cold, calculating Avon seems the ideal candidate. His emotionless responses to most of the events on the Liberator have fooled us all into thinking he is only out for himself.
It has fooled him, too, but he is challenged in this story by an emotion we never thought to experience; love.

Throughout the story of Avon and Vila’s attempt to gain some vital information which will give Blake’s Seven the upper hand over the Federation, Avon gives himself away. It’s a lovely twist on the idea of the unreliable narrator.

What actually happens is almost incidental to the revealing words about Avon. Darrow is master of the understatement and Guerrier cleverly gives him enough rope. It couldn’t be better if he was lying on the couch of a friendly psychiatrist.

With the addition of ‘Blake’s Seven’ to the Big Finish output, it highlights more than ever the flexibility and strengths of their bank of writers. We are used to master classes from Simone Guerrier in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe and it’s great to see his muscles being exercised in this new area.

Solitary by Nigel Fairs

Vila (Michael Keating) is in solitary confinement but he doesn’t know why. His friends are out of contact and it takes him sometime to remember their names. He starts to tell the story to try to explain to us and himself how he has ended up here.

He has beamed down to a factory with Callie to steal something but he’s not sure what. Then they both start hearing voices and it’s not through the communicator. The person talking to them is called Nyrron and Callie knows him. It’s Nyrron who visits him in his confinement. He wants to know what Vila can remember. He remembers everything but he can’t pin point what his problem is and why the others have left him alone.

We get into to the deepest parts of Vila’s brain. You might think he is the cowardly member of the team but as a child he wanted to be Robin Hood. It’s all about survival and Vila really wants to survive. It’s only later we get to find out what he is hiding inside that cowardly skin.

Nigel Fairs develops this self-analysis beautifully whilst actively telling us what happened to Vila on the jungle planet. There are some gruesome images and some revealing details about our cowardly lion.

Counterfeit by Peter Anghelides

The final story is told by Roj Blake (Gareth Thomas). The one they all follow, some reluctantly. Blake is the idealist. Despite being brainwashed by the Federation and witnessing friends being massacred, Blake still believes in the cause of freedom. He is the one that drags the bunch of rag-bag personalities and criminals, raising their standards to that of rebellion rather than larceny.

Told there is something at the Bovee Mining Facility that could help the cause, Blake devises a plan to infiltrate it. The scientists there report they have found a mineral called Illisium which could make the Federation impossible to beat and could be turned into any substance in the universe sounds like the Alchemist’s dream. Avon remains sceptical.

Needless to say, nothing is as it seems and as we follow Blake through the dark tunnels of the mine, there is a clever twist which is only possible on audio.

With all the experience that Big Finish writers have with their ‘Companion Chronicles’, it is no surprise that these audios for ‘Blake’s Seven’ are so accomplished. The three stories have addressed the unique qualities of their different protagonists and used them to spin out a story about them with incorporates both action elements

It’s full of reminders of why we loved the characters. They are the strongest out of all the ‘Seven’ and offer good pickings for new stories. There is also a lightness of touch that includes the sarcastic and deprecating humour I remember that lifts it from being another ponderous space saga.

With music and sound effects, it’s easy to forget this is effectively a dramatic reading not a play. All three plays have their moments of darkness and although the plays are separate adventures the tone remains cohesive throughout with the writers using their individual strengths to weave the motifs throughout.

Its’ thoroughly enjoyable stuff and with the original theme music opening it you too can fly the Liberator again.

Sue Davies

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