Survivors Series Four (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 21 October 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Survivors - Series Four (Credit: Big Finish)
 

Written by Ken Bentley, Louise Jameson, Christopher Hatherall,  and Matt Fitton

Directed by Ken Bentley 

Cast: Ian McCulloch (Greg), Lucy Fleming (Jenny), Louise Jameson (Jackie), Fiona Sheehan (Molly), Zoë Tapper (Evelyn Piper), Ramon Tikaram (Theo), Jane Maud (Mildred Sanderson/Sarah), Paul Panting (Colonel Stephen Adams), Jonathan Oliver (Lewis Bartholomew MP), Terry Molloy (John Redgrave), Sean Murray (Dr Stewart/Terry Levinson), Alex Lanipekun (Roy), Vinette Robinson (Davina), Laurence Dobiesz (Michael), Enzo Squillino Jnr (Stan)

Big Finish Productions – Released June 2016

With the release of Series Five only a few weeks away, it seems an appropriate time to catch up on the fourth boxset of Big Finish’s extremely successful, dark, gritty and powerful audio revival of Terry Nation’s original 1970s TV series Survivors. It is terrible thing to admit, but when contemplating this release this reviewer finds himself to be at a loss for words. The problem being that whilst, taken on its own merits, this box set is just as strong as the three box sets that preceded it, there is a real sense of déjà​ entendu in terms of the repetition of the format which links the four stories of this box set.

That being said, The Old Ways by Ken Bentley is a very strong opening entry which takes us back to the original outbreak of “the death”. As well as providing a welcome cameo from Terry Molloy reprising his character of John Redgrave from the first audio series, this gives a great introduction to new character Evelyn Piper, played by Zoe Tapper who starred as Anya in the re-imagined Survivors of 2008-10. A neat way of squaring the circle by uniting actors from both TV versions. There is also a strong central turn in this episode from Jane Maud as the Prime Minister’s widow Mildred Sanderson. Having had a paramilitary group of thugs calling themselves the “British Government” in the last audio series, it is a neat contrast to now discover the fate of the surviving remnant of the actual government. It is however to be hoped that having revisited the starting point of the original TV series now in the opening stories of three separate box sets (with only series two having opened several months later), Big Finish will allow the series to move on a little in future releases.

For the Good of the Cause by Louise Jameson returns us to original series regulars Greg and Jenny (Ian McCulloch and Lucy Fleming on great form throughout) who are visiting a potential ally community with a quasi-religious outlook, The Belief Foundation, headed by an idealistic leader called Theo, played with great charm as charisma by Ramon Tikaram. As someone who was a teenager in the 1990s, Tikaram’s performance as Ferdy in the series This Life was extremely influential, and so this reviewer is delighted to hear this actor being regularly employed by Big Finish. I was also go as far as saying that of the four principal antagonists who have appeared in the audio series to date, Theo is by far the most compelling performance and after the chilling performance given by Paul Thornley in series three that is really saying something. However, herein the thorny issue of repeated formula begins to raise its head. Before moving on, some praise for Jameson’s excellent portrayal of Jackie, particularly in the scene where learns of the death of her friend Daniel whose loss is still felt by this reviewer.

The third episode Collision is a welcome contribution from a new writer Christopher Hatherall, who played Tyler in last November’s third series. It starts to become apparent that all is not quite as it seems in Theo’s utopia (this will ring bells for those who remember the villainous Gilligan from series one) as the survivors of the Tartarus bunker from the opening episode struggle to integrate with the Foundation. Meanwhile a young man called Michael seeks to make amends but a revelation about his past sets the scene for confrontation as Theo’s true motives become more apparent (although not especially surprising). There is a still plenty of tension as events build.

Forgive and Forget  by Matt Fitton brings about the expected crescendo. Perhaps the highlight is that the listener may not necessarily find themselves always supporting the decisions of the protagonists. There is, as expected, a predictably enjoyable confrontation between Greg and Theo but also some powerful scenes for Fiona Sheehan as Molly who continues to impress as she confronts her past head on.

Overall, this is another very strong entry to this audio series. However, having ended up with a very similar story arc to the three previous series each revolving around a single antagonist, it ends up losing something. It is to be hoped that the next couple of series can be less formulaic whilst maintaining the powerful storytelling and strong characterisation which continue to mark this series out as a must listen.

 

Survivors Series Four is available to buy now from amazon.co.uk





Dark Shadows: Echoes of the Past (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 6 October 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Dark Shadows: Echoes of the Past (Credit: Big Finish)
 

Written by Jerry Lacy, Ian Farrington, Philip Meeks & Paul Phipps

Directed by Ursula Burton

Cast: Jerry Lacy, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker & David Selby

Big Finish Productions – Released June 2016

Echoes of the Past is the second of two special releases to mark the 50th anniversary of the original television series of the supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows. Unlike the full cast anniversary tale Blood and Fire, this is a collection of four separate, standalone stories, each narrated in character by a surviving member of the original cast.

Big Finish’s previous Dark Shadows audiobooks have usually featured two characters in a semi-narrated format similar to their Doctor Who range of Companion Chronicles. It is perhaps a slight disappointment that for this and the next release expected later this year, they have only used a single narrative voice for each story.

The opening story Trask the Exorcist is both written and narrated by Jerry Lacy, who probably knows the corrupt Reverend Trask better than most. It is an enjoyable tale of temptation with some great dialogue between Trask and a possessed girl which the author/narrator delivers with great relish.

The second story is The Missing Reel by regular Big Finish scribe Ian Farrington and read by David Selby as Quentin Collins, a character much missed from the previous anniversary release. This story finds the long-lived werewolf in 1950s Los Angeles on the trail of a missing reel of film from a horror film, only to cross paths with a super-fan who is determined to see the footage from his favourite film. This is another enjoyable well-told tale if not hugely original.

Next up is Lunar Tides by Philip Meeks. This finds Kathryn Leigh-Scott as Maggie Evans in the aftermath of the departure of Barnabas Collins during the period of the original 1970s series, struggling to make sense of strange events caused by unusual tidal behaviour and coinciding with the arrival of a young English girl. Again, whilst Leigh-Scott gave a strong portrayal of matriarch Patience Collins in Blood and Fire, this is a very welcome opportunity to hear her back in her usual character role.

Last, but by no means least of these four stories is Confession by Paul Phipps, narrated by Lara Parker as the ever popular witch Angelique Buchard. Angelique is alone apparently writing her final confession, but as ever the witch is not always to be trusted. This is a neatly twisted final tale and definitely the highlight of this particular boxset.

 

Overall, it is a pleasure to have four of the most memorable original series characters appear in these stories. It also serves to remind that whilst all four actors appeared in the full-cast anniversary special Blood and Fire, only one of their original characters appeared in that story meaning it was perhaps not as much of a celebratory release as it might have been. It might perhaps have been nice to have a set of stories with a linking thread (although this reviewer notes that something similar was accomplished with an earlier anniversary release, The Crimson Pearl  in 2011) but this is still good stuff and bodes well for the next release, another collection of short stories entitled Haunting Memories, just in time for the Christmas ghost story season.

 

Echoes of the Past is available to buy now from amazon.co.uk





Survivors - Series 3 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 1 July 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Survivors - Series Three (Credit: Big Finish)ritten by Jonathan Morris, Simon Clark,

Andrew Smith, Matt Fitton
Directed by Ken Bentley

Cast: Carolyn Seymour (Abby Grant), Richard Heffer (Jimmy Garland), Chase Masterson (Maddie Price), John Banks (Daniel Conner), Fiona Sheehan (Molly), Andrew French (Dalton Roberts), Paul Thornley (John Vincent), Damian Lynch (Marcus), Miranda Raison (Janet), Lisa Bowerman (Gloria), Christopher Hatherall (Tyler), James Joyce (Jonathon), Louisa Clein (Pam), John Voce (Walter)

Big Finish Productions – Released November 2015

Big Finish’s acclaimed continuation and expansion of the original 1970s TV version of Survivors continues with another excellent set of four interlinked stories, although listeners should be warned that the darker adult tone established in the first two series does not let up here. Once again, the action is moved away from the rural setting of many of the TV episodes with the audio medium being put to full advantage through the use of a range of settings from a cross-channel ferry through to the Post-Office Tower in Central London amongst others.

The opening episode, Cabin Fever, consists mostly of flashbacks as Jonathon Morris delves into the back story of Molly played by Fiona Sheehan, probably the most interesting of the new characters created for the audio series. Revisiting the horror of the outbreak of the deadly virus proves just as effective as it did in series one, it also serves to introduce the cruel character of John ‘Vinny’ Vincent, and his group of mercenary thugs who call themselves “the British government” (the irony of listening to this against the backdrop of current events was not lost), whose story runs throughout this box set, and is excellently portrayed by Paul Thornley. His chilling charisma gives The Archers’ notorious manipulative bully Rob Titchener a run for his money. The episode concludes with a shock twist that makes listeners realise that Vinny is not to be messed with.

The second episode, Contact, is written by Simon Clark who is the author of Night of the Triffids, the sequel Wyndham’s post-apocalyptic classic and therefore he feels very much at home writing for this series. This episode reintroduces Chase Masterson as Maddie Price, the American Lawyer from the first audio series who ended up stranded in the UK following the virus outbreak. This reviewer confesses that he may have been rather hard on her character in his review of that series as she seems a lot more agreeable in this box set. The story also marks the return of another original TV character Jimmy Garland as played by Richard Heffer, who slots back into his old role effortlessly after forty years.

The action of Contact segues almost seamlessly into regular Big Finish scribe Andrew Smith’s episode Rescue which sees Jimmy reunited with the only other original TV series character to feature in this box set, Abby Grant, once again effortlessly reprised by Carolyn Seymour who is fast becoming a Big Finish regular thanks to several appearances in their Doctor Who range. The rescue which the episode title refers to is not without cost as Vinny claims another victim and the scene is set for a serious reckoning.

Leaving by Matt Fitton who also script edits the series is a suitably epic finale, whilst one character does indeed achieve their ambition of being able to sail off into the unknown (albeit with a pleasing hint in the behind the scenes interviews that we may not have heard the last of them), the final confrontation is not without cost and one of the most likeable of the new characters created for this audio series is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice. This reviewer is still in two minds (as it seems was producer David Richardson) as to whether the right choice was made to kill off a character which a large swath of the audience would have identified with but in the final analysis this is a dystopian future in which survival is not guaranteed for anyone, and at least they get to go out in a blaze of glory.

To reiterate my introduction, this is an excellent third box set even despite the shocks there is still some hope left at the end. Listeners can only hope that the chances of a future coming to pass where a right wing group such as Vinny’s “British Government” might wreak havoc over a decimated country are a lot less likely than they might have been forty years ago. However, there is a worryingly believable quality to the story and in particular to the performances of the more extreme characters. It is a sign of the audio series’ strength that despite only two of the original TV cast appearing, one of whom was not even a series regular, this reviewer is still eager for more.





Survivors: Series TwoBookmark and Share

Thursday, 23 July 2015 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Survivors: Series Two (Credit: Big Finish)
Survivors: Series Two
Written by Ken Bentley, Louise Jameson, and Matt Fitton
Directed by Ken Bentley
Starring: Lucy Fleming , Ian McCulloch, Carolyn Seymour, John Banks, Louise Jameson, Bernard Holley, Tim Treloar, Fiona Sheehan, and Tim Bentinck
Released by Big Finish Productions – June 2015
The second audio series based on Terry Nation’s original series first broadcast in 1975, picks up events immediately following on from the last episode of the first TV series and approximately five weeks after the climax of last year’s first audio series. The audio series runs concurrently with the TV version, successfully allowing original TV characters Greg and Jenny to interact with new characters such as Daniel and Jackie, whose stories are picked up for this second series which exploits the rather generous continuity gap between the end of the first TV series and the start of the second. With most of the first audio series having taken place in the London area, the second returns to the West Country roots of the TV series with stories set mostly in the West of England and Wales. This provides the arc of this boxset with a more satisfyingly contained feel and yet some of the remote locations come across as being very dangerous thanks to some excellent sound design. It is also pleasing that having had the first series written mostly by regular Big Finish contributors this series has allowed two new writers to contribute, which adds a fresh feeling to the proceedings.

The set opens with Dark Rain, the first of two contributions from regular director Ken Bentley, who has a clear grasp on the characters’ voices from having directed the previous series. This cleverly serves to set the scene as we are reintroduced to Daniel and Jackie, the two main protagonists introduced for the first audio series, both sympathetically portrayed by John Banks and Louise Jameson. Simultaneously this story returns to the Grange community of the TV series, bringing with it the proper reintroduction of Carolyn Seymour as Abby Grant, alongside fellow original series actors Ian McCulloch and Lucy Fleming as Greg and Jenny. Having only heard her fleetingly in the first audio series, it is great to have Abby return to a central role in the proceedings as her ongoing search for her missing son forms a crucial part of the arc of this second audio series. The culmination of the A and B plots bring all the regular characters together before sending them off to new adventures whilst also adding Tim Treloar as Russell into the mix.

The second story, Mother’s Courage, features an all-female cast as Abby, Jenny and Jackie continue the journey to look for Peter and find themselves at an all-women community with extremely hostile views about men. They are joined on their way by another new regular, Molly, played very sympathetically by Fiona Sheehan. Sheehan makes a powerful impression in this and the subsequent episodes and will hopefully return although apparently not in series three. This unique episode is extremely well written by Louise Jameson, and provides an opportunity to delve deeper into the views and attitudes of the women survivors.

As a direct contrast, Ken Bentley’s second offering, The Hunted, features the male characters, who are joined by Big Finish and The Archers regular Tim Bentinck as survival expert Irvin Warner. This story really pushes the boundaries of how dark this series is capable of being with some scenes particularly towards the conclusion which are all the more distressing for being on audio. There are also some more pleasant surprises including a very touching scene, played with great sensitivity by John Banks and Tim Treloar.

The scene is neatly set for the finale, Savages by Matt Fitton, which brings together perfectly all the strands from the mini-arc that has run through this boxset. Without wanting to give too much away a special mention must go to Bernard Holley for his key role in the proceedings.

Survivors returns with a third audio series in November, with two further series already confirmed for 2016. On such strong form as this, long may it continue.





Blake's 7 - The Classic Audio Adventures: Vol 1.1 – FracturesBookmark and Share

Saturday, 1 March 2014 - Reviewed by Damian Christie

Blake's 7 - The Classic Audio Adventures: Vol 1.1 - Fractures
Writer: Justin Richards
Director: Ken Bentley
Producer: Big Finish
Released: January 2014
"Five! Did he say five? Five! That's the whole of my left hand! One, two, three, four, five!"

Vila Restal babbles - Blake's 7: Fractures

Regardless of what your favourite TV programme is - eg, Doctor Who, Arrow, Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead - you know that each new season opens with all barrels blazing from the get-go. It's a time-honoured tactic among TV series that's vital to rebuilding the audience after months off-screen. Once the viewers are hooked, the TV programme can afford to be more experimental with later episodes, slowing down the pace, injecting romance or contemplation, or creating an atmosphere of the claustrophobic or psychological. 2012's Asylum of the Daleks, for example, was Doctor Who's answer to delivering a season-opener with impact; it would have been a risk to have started with The Power of Three.

Even Big Finish is no stranger to this philosophy, as it's shown time and again with many of its mini-trilogies of Doctor Who tales with specific Doctor/companion combinations. So it's surprising that for its first full season of eight full-cast Blake's 7 audio dramas, it has opted for something more like a "mid-season" episode than an adrenaline-fuelled, fist-pumping opener.

Fractures, written by veteran Doctor Who and B7 scribe Justin Richards, marks (in the author's own words) the start of the "extension" to the second season of the Blake's 7 TV series (first broadcast in 1979). Unfortunately, he also seems to have treated this "season within a season" approach too literally. Richards has delivered a story that perhaps could plausibly have been a mid-season episode in B7's second series - but it certainly isn't a story that (to this B7 fan's mind) would have been a worthy one even if it had been produced for the TV series back in the day, and certainly not as a curtain-raiser.

The story starts with an exciting prologue that puts Blake (Gareth Thomas) and the Liberator crew in a stand-off with five Federation pursuit ships commandeered by Space Commander Travis (Brian Croucher). It's the kind of pulsating confrontation that you would expect of a new series-opener and brings back fond memories of early B7 episodes such as Duel that saw a similar confrontation on-screen (albeit with Travis being played by Stephen Greif). In yet another nod to the TV series, the preface even ends with Travis repeating his vow to hunt down Blake to the very end (Croucher recites a speech made more famous by Greif in the character's first episode Seek Locate Destroy).

To escape Travis's grasp, the Liberator retreats to a region of space that is off limits to Federation ships and littered with derelict spacecraft. It is from this point that the proper story begins. The Liberator is suddenly struck by what appears to be a systems crash and members of the crew are inevitably separated and trapped in different sections of the ship. It soon becomes clear that the Liberator has been incapacitated and that one of the crew may be responsible.

In the events that follow, Richards aspires to create a tense psychological mystery. This is achieved through ongoing dialogue between the regular cast members (and no other guest stars) to create suspicion and suspense. Richards has always been adept at making sound an important narrative device in his audio stories (his early Doctor Who serial Whispers of Terror is a great example) and with Fractures he makes the immediacy of the aural experience - with the characters talking to each other across the Liberator's communications channel - critical to the story. Although it becomes patently obvious the longer the story goes on that the Liberator crew are being manipulated, the cast all deliver believable and occasionally intense performances. Furthermore, the actors reprise their roles again as effortlessly as if they've never left them. Thomas is steadfast as Blake, Sally Knyvette cool and calm as Jenna, Jan Chappell inquisitive as Cally, Paul Darrow sardonic and dry as Avon and Michael Keating's Vila as nervously comical as ever.

Unfortunately, the central premise and climax of the story is as clichéd as some of B7's least popular episodes. As a TV series, B7 is most fondly remembered for its epic political and dystopian commentary on the future, not for its occasional and less successful forays into pure or hard science fiction. Fractures unfortunately belongs to the latter, although it would be grossly unfair to say it is as diabolical as The Web, Trial, Sarcophagus or Ultraworld - TV episodes that were endlessly derided by fans for being poorly written and unsuccessfully realised on screen. Nevertheless, the threat in this serial proves to be very generic and rather unimaginative and could belong just as easily in a Doctor Who serial or a Star Trek episode as a B7 one.

The serial ends with the Liberator crew learning information that has ramifications for the next seven instalments of this audio series. To me, this reinforces why Fractures is a weak and disappointing start to what may otherwise be an enthralling and tense saga. Perhaps this episode should have appeared in the middle of this run - certainly, if it had been part of B7's original television run, it would have been a mid-season episode and a forgettable one at that, with little relevance to the overall story arc. Let's hope the next instalment - the dramatic-sounding Battleground – is a major improvement.




The Liberator Chronicles Vol 6 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 24 December 2013 - Reviewed by Damian Christie

Blake’s 7: The Liberator Chronicles, Vol 6
Produced by Big Finish
Written by Peter Anghelides, Steve Lyons, Mark Wright & Cavan Scott
Directed by Ken Bentley
Released: October 2013

... Because that’s how we measure success isn’t it? People like us! By how long we can get away with it! You’re about to learn the same lesson I did ... It doesn’t matter how successful you once were ... Not once it’s over!
Jenna Stannis

It's well over 30 years since the TV series ended and to this day Blake’s 7 fans have debated what happened to the titular character between the second season finale Star One and the program finale Blake. Many theories have been championed in fanzines and unofficial audio adaptations over the decades – and now Big Finish, with an authorised licence to produce B7 adventures, has offered its own take on Blake and Jenna’s whereabouts in the third and fourth series. It also surmises why Avon was in no rush to welcome them back to the bridge of the Liberator.

Long-term fans’ questions about what immediately happened after Star One were partly answered earlier this year in the brilliant full cast release Warship. The sixth volume of B7: The Liberator Chronicles offers us more answers about what may have happened after Warship – and also tantalisingly throws up some questions which challenge our memories of established history. Could Avon and Tarrant have found Jenna and Blake long before the program’s finale? Contrary to what Blake says in the final episode, could Jenna have survived the blockade above Gauda Prime? And did Avon meet with Blake at some other unspecified point in the program’s final season?

All these answers and questions are considered in a trilogy of episodes - Incentive, Jenna’s Story and Blake’s Story – which, in the spirit of earlier Liberator Chronicles, are told from the perspective of at least one protagonist. Incentive cleverly sets up an interrogation of Avon (Paul Darrow) and Tarrant (Stephen Pacey, reprising his role for the first time in a Big Finish B7 adventure) by Federation psychostrategist Bracheeni (Adrian Lukis). Jenna’s Story sees the woman of the hour (Sally Knyvette) seemingly under siege and playing nursemaid to an injured rebel leader Correl (John Banks). And Blake’s Story sets up an unexpected fireside chat between Blake (Gareth Thomas) and Avon.

As is the standard that we’ve come to expect of Big Finish, all three episodes are thoroughly written, convincingly performed and supported by excellent sound effects and incidental music. Incentive is the best of the three episodes and feels the most as if it is happening in “real time”, ie with little expository narrative (although the middle of the story is told in flashback by Avon and Tarrant). Jenna’s Story and Blake’s Story involve more exposition and flashbacks but are less formulaic and more experimental than Incentive which is the closest in structure to a regular B7 episode in the program’s third season.

What is most interesting about the Jenna and Blake instalments is the traumatic journeys, trials and eventual transformations that their characters undergo upon leaving the Liberator. Jenna witnesses the brutal, dehumanising and unjust treatment of refugees by the Federation (a scenario not unlike the way some Western nations treat asylum seekers!) while Blake is again duped by the Federation in a manner reminiscent of his original treatment before the events of the first episode The Way Back. These two instalments emotively reinforce the broad power of the Federation against the fractured cause that Blake and Jenna represent. Blake’s 7 is not and never was Star Wars – the rebellion of the B7 universe lacks unity, purpose, resources and manpower to seriously challenge the Federation. Indeed, it seems B7’s Federation is nowhere near as fragile as Star Wars’ Empire – it will take something extra special to topple the regime, which seems even beyond Blake and the Liberator crew.

Strong characterisation always underpins two- or three-hander plays such as these. The three episodes hold up a mirror to the established protagonists to show us previously unseen facets of their personalities. Bracheeni demonstrates that for all their bluster and bravado, Avon and Tarrant are more loyal and altruistic than they would have everyone believe. Similarly, we see whole new aspects to Jenna and Blake which were barely hinted at in the TV series. Jenna’s Story marks a 360-degree shift in the character who, like Avon, was a pragmatist at the start of the TV series. By the time of her story, Jenna has become as much of an idealist as Blake himself. By contrast, Blake has become more of the pragmatist that Jenna was.

Indeed, while quite dissimilar, the three episodes carry a common theme – that of characters aspiring to be like their heroes and role models but little realising that their perception of these champions rarely lives up to the reality. Bracheeni accuses Avon and Tarrant – “the leader and the pilot” – of needing to prove they are better than the “legendary” Blake and Jenna they begrudgingly admire. Similarly, Jenna holds Blake and the crew of the Liberator in such high esteem that she even tries to build a rebel team in the Liberator crew’s likeness. Ultimately her unshakeable faith and belief in Blake and his cause (little knowing that he has given up on it himself) seals her fate. In turn, Blake draws his strength from his own deep respect for Jenna and Avon – although the blind faith Blake and Avon have in one other proves to be the hallmark of their demise in the final TV episode. Inevitably, all the major characters draw inspiration from each other, even if they are loathe to admit that and even though their admiration of the others is more romanticised than real.

As can be expected, all of the performers in these plays are exceptionally good. Gareth Thomas and Paul Darrow are predictably solid as Blake and Avon respectively, and Stephen Pacey, most likely due to Peter Anghelides’ excellent writing and handle on the character, nails down Tarrant almost perfectly (something that could not be said when he last portrayed the character for BBC Radio in the 1990s, due to poorly written scripts and characterisation). Sally Knyvette again delivers the goods in her solo story. Warship marked something of a renaissance for Jenna and in Jenna’s Story Knyvette again relishes the opportunity to flesh out Jenna and show us just how independent, feisty and resourceful she is. In particular, it is generally assumed by fans that it was Blake’s idea to set up an army on Gauda Prime – writer Steve Lyons ingeniously turns this assumption on its head.

But the best performer of the trilogy is undoubtedly Adrian Lukis as the villainous Bracheeni, a man who proves to be a foil for Avon. Lukis’ voice is captivating and commanding from the outset, rivalling Darrow’s for charm and dry wit, and he conveys a character that is duly cunning and manipulative beneath a veil of humour and amicability. It is a great pity that Bracheeni does not survive the story. As a psychostrategist (similar to Carnell in the TV episode Weapon), Bracheeni would make a great recurring villain for the B7 audio series and partly atone for some of the naff villains that we had to suffer through in the third and fourth series of the TV show!

Volume 6 of The Liberator Chronicles offers an absorbing insight into the lives of the key characters in the B7 saga post-Star One and how they view each other and judge themselves. While the episodes may not completely answer fans’ questions about Blake and Jenna’s whereabouts in the third and fourth seasons or fill in the gaps completely (in fact there is a massive continuity blunder in Blake’s Story*!), they are entertaining and thought-provoking tales that enable us to crawl inside the characters’ heads and appreciate the joy, despair and anguish they feel. Of course, long-term fans will always prefer other versions of the B7 saga that have offered up explanations that are as valid and plausible as this volume (eg how Blake got his scar) but based on the quality of the writing and the performances, The Liberator Chronicles is the superior product. There is potential for Big Finish to continue investigating this hitherto unexplored era of the TV series in future instalments. Give us standalone adventures for Blake and Jenna rather than just the edited highlights, and if the writing and performances are as accomplished as they are in this trilogy, they will be eagerly anticipated by fans.

* Post-script - In Blake’s Story, Blake learns about the destruction of the Liberator before his death is faked by Bruler’s rebels on Jevron. However, in the TV episode Terminal, Servalan reveals to Avon that Blake is dead and she has already attended his funeral on Jevron. She then teleports to the Liberator and it is destroyed. Go figure!