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Blake’s 7: The Liberator Chronicles January 20, 2016

Posted by sjroby in Blake's 7.
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b7 set1_disc1_the-turing-test

If you’re not familiar with Blake’s 7 and didn’t read the previous post, here it is in a nutshell: Star Trek crossed with Star Wars made by people with Doctor Who connections and Doctor Who budgets in the late 1970s. The heroes are a political prisoner and a group of criminals sent to a prison planet who end up in an abandoned but powerful alien spaceship. They fight the Federation, they sometimes fight among themselves, main characters sometimes die or disappear. Not bad for a show that started in the late 1970s.

Big Finish is a British audio production company that’s been doing new audio adventures based on Doctor Who and other TV series for quite a few years now. Most of the productions are full cast audio, like old time radio shows, where you’re getting basically a TV episode — dialogue, sound effects, music — but no visuals. Others are more like conventional audiobooks, in which someone reads a story. And some are in between.

Big Finish has released eleven Liberator Chronicles box sets. You can get them as actual sets of three CDs each, or buy them as downloads from their website. (I go for the downloads. Great price, no shipping, no clutter.) A typical box set has one story per CD, with one or two actors from the original series cast and a guest star or two. Depending on the story being told, some lean more towards audio drama, some a bit closer to audiobook, with exposition from a character’s viewpoint along with the dialogue. Sometimes the three stories are standalones, sometimes two or three are linked through a situation or guest character.

The main thing is, they’re really good.

Blake’s 7 gets knocked for its special effects and sets (which could be painfully unconvincing even decades ago). They can detract from even the best episodes. That doesn’t happen here. The stories aren’t limited by budget constraints as far as space battles, aliens, futuristic cities, and other elements are concerned. And there are some good writers with experience writing in the Doctor Who and Star Trek universes who know and love Blake’s 7 (including Una McCormack, James Swallow, Steve Lyons, Iain McLaughlin, Cavan Scott, Simon Guerrier, James Goss, and more). Plus, of course, many of the original cast.

People have tried to bring the show back to TV. In an age where you can see hints of it in shows like Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5, and a lot in Farscape and Firefly, it seems like an obvious thing to do. But we’ve already had a few dozen really good new episodes in the form of these audios. They may even be an easier path into the show than the TV episodes. I recommend them highly.

I’m almost done listening to the Liberator Chronicles, though more are planned. In the meantime, fortunately, there’s the second Big Finish range of Blake’s 7 audios, the Classic Audio Adventures, which are full cast dramas rather than the hybrid format used here.  I’m looking forward to them.

(Remind me to chat about the short-lived reboot audio series one of these days.)

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