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Audio Review: Fractures - Ep 1.1 of Big Finish's Classic Audio Series

Review by Jackie Emery

Starring: Gareth Thomas, Paul Darrow, Sally Knyvette, Jan Chappell, Michael Keating and Brian Croucher, with Bethan Walker as Mutoid and Alistair Lock as Zen and Orac

Written by Justin Richards
Sound Design and Music by Alistair Lock
Directed by Ken Bentley
Produced by David Richardson for Big Finish Productions

After the huge success of the stand-alone episode Warship, fans were thrilled to learn that Big Finish were producing a whole series of full-cast episodes. After much anticipation, we now have Fractures, the first of six stories set during Series 2; a season-within-a-season that takes place between Voice from the Past and Gambit.

Fractures gets off to an action-packed start; the whole crew on the flight deck facing an attack from Federation pursuit ships led by Travis. The Liberator's engines are damaged, and Blake is forced to take the ship into uncharted territory off-limits to Federation ships – the Derelict Zone. After the straightforward action-adventure of the opening scene, the story evolves into a twisting, gripping mystery and psychological drama.

In my view, one of the main strengths of Blake's 7 has always been the interaction between the crew members, and this tale is an examination of the different characters and their skills, their loyalties – and their mutual suspicions. How much can any of them trust the others, especially when one of them seems to be sabotaging the ship and endangering their lives? Who is doing it – and why?

Another compelling aspect of the original series was the audience's awareness that no-one was safe – major characters could be killed off at any point. However, as we already know their eventual fates, there is inevitably less tension in this new series in that respect. But when a story is as well-written and performed as this is, it's easy to suspend disbelief and feel that the peril to our heroes is real.

I thought this was a terrific drama, and was utterly gripped. The dialogue was great, complete with the flashes of humour that typify even the darkest episodes of B7. The original actors return to their roles as if they'd never been away, although Paul Darrow does sound more like Season 4 Avon than he did in Season 2. It was great to hear the return of Brian Croucher as Travis. Although he only appears at the beginning of this episode, the cast listings for future releases confirm that we've by no means heard the last from him! The sound design, which includes the Liberator sound FX, inventive use of multi-layered voices and subtle music were excellent; created again by Alistair Lock, who also provides very credible performances as the voices of Zen and Orac.

There are CD Extras in the form of very enjoyable cast and crew interviews, and a copy of the latest issue of Big Finish's magazine Vortex which includes an interview with Gareth Thomas.

Warship raised the bar so high that it's hard to see how anything could equal it. But on a scale of 1 to Warship, I would rate Fractures very highly!

Cover art by Damien May
Photograph of Brian Croucher, Paul Darrow, Michael Keating and Gareth Thomas courtesy of Big Finish

Fractures is available from Big Finish on CD and digital download here: 1.1 Fractures
Details of forthcoming episodes in this series are here: B7 Classic Audio Adventures
The full range of Big Finish's B7 range is here: B7 from Big Finish


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