Recipe for an hour of captivating Blake’s 7 drama, as devised by Simon Guerrier and the Big Finish B7 production team: take a different approach to the series (political rather than space opera); stir in the most devious character devised for the show (Servalan) and give her an opponent who’s equally as tricky (Secretary Rontane), link it to the current ongoing serial by providing valuable backstory for one of its key new characters, and then add two actors at the top of their game – Jacqueline Pearce, whose tones are almost blood-curdling in this, and Peter Miles, channelling his inner Nyder – and complete with some excellent direction by Lisa Bowerman and sound design by Martin Montague with music by Jamie Robertson. Result: one of the best pieces of Blake’s 7 I’ve heard since James Goss’ Three.
It’s adult drama in the proper sense of the word: the sexual references are part and parcel of the air of realpolitik that infuses the whole piece, and it’s grounded in a way that the space opera version of Blake’s 7 simply can’t be. As with Three, this could easily be shorn of its science fiction trappings and become a drama set behind the scenes in any dictatorship, or perhaps twentieth century Communist regime. This means that, rather like the first hour of Batman Begins where the fighting is as vicious as it is once Bruce Wayne dons the costume but somehow seems worse, the terror at the heart of the Federation really strikes home in the way that troopers firing wildly (and usually missing – one of the blacker pieces of humour in here comments on that) simply can’t do.