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Review: Blake’s 7: Mediasphere by Kate Orman and Jon Blum September 27, 2015

Posted by sjroby in Blake's 7, Book reviews.
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Mediasphere by Jon Blum and Kate Orman

Big Finish Productions has done a wonderful job bringing back the cult series Blake’s 7 as audio stories, with its Liberator Chronicles and Classic Audio Adventures lines. It also started a line of new Blake’s 7 novels, but I think it’s reasonable to say those haven’t been quite as satisfying. For one thing, there haven’t been a lot of them; for another, they’ve tended to range from enjoyably competent to appallingly wrongheaded. At the moment, it isn’t clear whether they’ll even be doing any more, and the audio line is going through some changes of its own.

If Mediasphere turns out to be the last B7 novel, which I very much hope is not the case, at least it’s going out on a high. Blum and Orman may be best known for their contributions to Doctor Who, but Blum also coauthored (with Rupert Booth) a Prisoner tie-in novel that feels like a precursor of sorts to this one.

One of the key problems with writing tie-ins to old SF is that you’re working in a superseded future. We may not have spaceships, but we have information and communications technology that tends to be far beyond what TV shows predicted in many respects, and there’s been a lot of social change, too. But it’s possible to balance a faithful approach to the source material with awareness of how the world has changed since the source material was created. Blum’s The Prisoner’s Dilemma was, on the surface, entirely faithful to the original TV series, but it was also very clearly a 21st century take on the show. Likewise, Mediasphere doesn’t make any changes to the core of Blake’s 7; the characters, setting, and technology are entirely consistent with the TV series. Even the idea of a centralized media facility is consistent with TV creations like Star One — the Federation is not big on decentralization. But the idea of a B7 character becoming a contestant in a reality TV show as a way of gaining access to the central media facility is very 21st century. Mediasphere presents a cynical view of the media, with “reality” entertainment broadcasting and “news” propaganda being part of the same machinery. Even at its most meta — Vila working with the writers of a Federation propaganda show that satirizes Blake and his team — the novel keeps its portrayal of the characters believable and consistent with their TV originals, and also keeps the plot moving. It’s a caper novel, a satire, a meta exploration of Blake’s 7 and its characters.

One thing that the book has that the audios don’t: Dayna. Josette Simon hasn’t appeared in any of the audios, but that’s not a problem for the novels. She and Vila are the primary characters in the book, each being well developed and given the chance to do a few things they never did on TV.

Blake’s 7 fans haven’t had a lot of good novels. We haven’t had a lot of novels, period. But this is one of the highlights.

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