We’ve had various returns for Blake’s 7 over the years – Tony Attwood’s interesting novel Afterlife, Paul Darrow’s prequel Avon, Barry Letts’ Radio 4 plays, as well as the revamped audio series – but this is the first time that anyone’s officially brought out new stories set during that first season when the Seven were an unknown commodity, and Blake was fired up with his vision to free the galaxy from the Federation.
Big Finish’s entry to the B7 saga comprises three stories, told in a similar way to their Companion Chronicles series of Doctor Who tales and the Dark Shadows audiobooks, with a single narrator – here Paul Darrow as Avon – accompanied by an extra voice. To kickstart the series, we get perhaps the best known pairing of the entire show, with Michael Keating’s Vila sparking off Avon in Simon Guerrier’s appropriately downbeat script.
Give this script to another actor, and you’d have a very different story, but Guerrier clearly knows that Darrow will imbue the narration with the appropriate inflections. Lisa Bowerman’s direction ensures that this recalls the Avon of the first year, rather than the rather more melodramatic character of the later seasons. Descriptions of Blake as a “visionary leader” have exactly the right blend of contempt and hollow humour that was always clear from Darrow’s performance, and throughout the tale, the reactions are spot on.
Intriguingly, a throwaway line seems to alter the timeframe of the series: Avon refers to experiments from the 20th Century as being seven centuries earlier – yet the episode Killer suggested that the show was set 700 years after the first Earth deep space mission, something that’s still some way off.
Verdict: A cracking start with both Darrow and Keating recreating their roles brilliantly. 8/10
The Turing Test is available separately on 2nd / 3rd January 2015 as part of Big Finish’s Christmas offers. Click here for more details