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Audio Review: Crossfire Pt3 – Series 4 of Big Finish's Classic Audio Series

BLAKE'S 7 - THE CLASSIC AUDIO ADVENTURES - Series 4: Crossfire Part Three

Review by Jackie Emery

Paul Darrow (Avon), Michael Keating (Vila), Jan Chappell (Cally), Steven Pacey (Tarrant), and Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan) with Yasmin Bannerman (Dayna) and Alistair Lock (Zen and Orac)

Hugh Fraser (Former President), Rebecca Crankshaw (Zeera Vos), John Green (Mordekain), Dan March (Verner), Susie Riddell (Chella Bowkan), Bruce Alexander (Galon), Malcolm James (Dev), Charlotte Strevens (Reeva) and Peter Aubrey (Kimar)

Writers: Una McCormack, Trevor Baxendale, Christopher Cooper and Steve Lyons
Sound Design:  David Roocroft, Luke Pietnik and Simon Power
Music: David Roocroft and Simon Power
Cover Art: Lee Johnson
Produced, Directed and Script Edited by John Ainsworth for Big Finish Productions

As the galactic civil war rages and the former and current Presidents fight for supremacy, it's time for the Liberator crew to choose a side and bring an end to the war. But whose side will they choose?

Crossfire Part 3 is the third and final box set in this full cast 12-episode series. It all feels so very, very Blake's 7: the season-spanning story arc and stand-alone episodes, large scale battles and personal struggles, action, humour and heartbreak. We have the returning characters of the Former President, his right hand man General Mordekain, and Servalan's right hand woman Zeera Voss. There is also a wealth of new characters, with the potential for at least some of them to return in further stories.

4.9 Ministry of Truth by Una McCormack
Starring: Paul Darrow, Jan Chappell, Steven Pacey and Alistair Lock
With: Rebecca Crankshaw (Zeera Vos), Dan March (Verner) and Susie Riddell (Chella Bowkan)
In a special facility, Federation propagandists are hard at work. When first Zeera Vos, and then the Liberator crew arrive, their work is disrupted. It seems that a traitor has been busy in their midst...

Propaganda is a powerful tool in war, and what better way to spread its message than through mass entertainment? And what could be more entertaining than a Blake's 7 type drama – but one in which the Federation are the good guys?

This is an excellent episode, seeded with fan-pleasing references, in-jokes and nods to B7's internal continuity. In addition to the welcome return of Zeera Voss, the episode features two new characters: Bowkan, the idealistic young drama writer (or 'dramaturge' as she would have it) and Verner, the studio head. All the performances are great, but special mention has to go to Steven Pacey for his portrayal of the actor Terrett playing the rebel leader in Space Command Series C!

This is the second Big Finish script for which Una McCormack has taken inspiration from George Orwell's 1984. Channelling Tanith Lee, who referenced her Season C episode Sarcophagus in her Season D episode Sand, Una harks back in this episode to her earlier Liberator Chronicles story Ministry of Peace. The Federation is indeed Orwellian, and I hope Una has more Ministries of... stories in the pipeline.

4.10 Refuge by Trevor Baxendale
Starring: Paul Darrow, Jan Chappell, Michael Keating, Steven Pacey, Yasmin Bannerman and Alistair Lock
With: Bruce Alexander (Galon), Rebecca Crankshaw (Zeera Vos)
"It takes a thief to appreciate a thief."

The Liberator encounters a haulage supply ship, piloted by Galon, a former acquaintance of Vila's. However, nothing is as quite as it seems, as layer after layer of devious double-dealings and triple-crossing are revealed...

I love episodes that focus on Vila, and this one is no exception. Trevor Baxendale is rapidly becoming one of my favourite writers for Big Finish, providing cracking dialogue for the regular crew and introducing engaging new characters. Galon is great fun, and his scenes with Vila are pure joy.

The episode is highly entertaining, but like the best of Blake's 7, has serious undertones and a dark streak: examining the effects of war on ordinary people, the rise of opportunists and the desperation of refugees.

4.11 Kith and Kin by Christopher Cooper
Starring: Paul Darrow, Jan Chappell, Steven Pacey and Alistair Lock
With: Peter Aubrey (Kimar Laratesh) Malcolm James (Dev), Charlotte Strevens (Reeva)
"How many more Tarrants are out there?"

This story opens with a scene that echoes (or foreshadows?) the beginning of Terminal: Tarrant teleports down to the planet Corrolos, insisting that nobody follows him. He is there on a personal mission; to fulfil the last request of his brother Deeta. Tarrant is befriended by the endearingly annoying Kimar Laratesh, a character who is both amusing and tragic, played brilliantly by Peter Aubrey. As this is a spoiler-free review, I won't reveal any more about this storyline, but check out the name of the character played by Malcolm James...

In this episode, we again see the effect of the war on ordinary citizens of the Federation; how major events like the destruction of Star One can affect folk a vast distance away. This is an excellent, multi-layered story: a tale of love, vengeance, brothers and lovers, with a whole new insight into the background of Del Tarrant.

My one nit-pick is a reference to Del and Deeta Tarrant having been twins. In Death-Watch, the impression is that Deeta is older, not least because he calls Del his "little brother". However, being generous, perhaps Deeta is older only by twenty minutes?

4.12 Death of Empire by Steve Lyons
Starring: Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Jan Chappell, Steven Pacey, Jacqueline Pearce, Yasmin Bannerman and Alistair Lock
With: Hugh Fraser (The Former President), John Green (Mordekain) and Rebecca Crankshaw (Zeera Vos)
Servalan is Supreme Empress of the Galaxy – but the man whose throne she usurped wants it back. The final battle of the Civil War begins – and it’s time for the Liberator crew to take a stand.

And so we come to the final episode in this 12-part series. All the story strands are drawn together: the Liberator crew have made their decision about which side they should support in order to bring an end to the Civil War, and it's time for them to join the battle. With great performances from all the regulars, as well as the returning characters played by Hugh Fraser, John Green and Rebecca Crankshaw, it's a high octane, action packed end of season finale.

And it defied my expectations. I was anticipating this episode to dove-tail comfortably into Terminal, as Warship did with Aftermath. But Blake's 7 is anything but comfortable, and... put it this way... remember how you felt the first time you watched Orac or Star One. Hold that thought. And listen out for a casual remark by writer Steve Lyons at the end of the Behind the Scenes CD!

Crossfire is an absolute triumph, a towering achievement by John Ainsworth, the writers and all the cast and crew. It is the very best of B7 - rich in stories and characters, and deeply satisfying.

Blake's 7 – Crossfire Part Three is available now on CD and Digital Download here.

Blake's 7 – Crossfire Part One is available here. Our spoiler-free read our review is here.

Blake's 7 – Crossfire Part Two is available here, and you can read our spoiler-free review here.

The full range of Blake's 7 audio dramas and original novels can be found here: Blake's 7 from Big Finish and are reviewed on this website: Horizon Reviews.


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