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Audio Book Review: The Palluma Project by Tim Gambrell


Blakes 7 The Palluma Project by Tim Gambrell
Produced by Xanna Eve Chown
Narrated by Sally Knyvette

Review by M1795537 OC Virn


When the Liberator discovers a mysterious penal outpost in an obscure part of the galaxy, the crew soon find themselves fighting for their lives - not only against the convicted criminals the Federation are using as scientists, but against the horrifying results of their experiments. What is the deadly secret of the people of Palluma 25 and why is it so valuable to the Federation? Only Gan holds the key to unlock what is really going on...

We're told that the story is set in the second series of Blakes 7, and since the character of Olag Gan is given what author Tim Gambrell describes as 'a chance to shine', it must come before episode five, Pressure Point. It's an interesting time, when the stress of fighting the Federation is beginning to hit home aboard the Liberator.

At more than six hours long, it's not a tale to be undertaken lightly, but with Sally Knyvette reading, it hardly seems long enough. It is so good to hear her again, tackling the daunting task of creating not only Jenna's voice and persona, but reflections of the rest of Blake's crew and many other characters besides. The Q and A with her gives us some idea of the amount of work she did in preparation, and the difficulties of recording under the conditions imposed by the UK's COVID lockdown. Well done, Paul Midcalf at Audio Sorcery!

Gambrell has previously written for Doctor Who, and there are sequences in this story strongly reminiscent of that genre - action adventure against a scientific-sounding background, with touches of fantasy and real horror thrown in.

There are some interesting ideas here, craftily woven into a coherent whole as Blake and his crew attempt to discover what the Federation are up to in the Palluma system. What might seem predictable at first sometimes leads into situations from which it's hard to see a way out. The tension builds slowly, and details matter, as we begin to understand just how nasty things can become for anyone the Federation doesn't like.

The author poses few moral dilemmas or profound relationship issues: we know exactly what to expect from each of the crew of the Liberator, and from Supreme Commander Servalan. On occasion, Vila's trademark humour lightens the mood, while Avon, for once, doesn't steal the show. This time it's Jenna who wields the proddy tool, and it's good to see Gan being given more responsibility. Orac creates problems (shades of the series three episode Dawn of the Gods) but I found only the occasional anachronism (arc lights in the third calendar?) and much to enjoy.

That said, it's a lighter treatment of the Blake's 7 universe, with the focus on the dramatic, allowing for only minimal reflection before the next problem presents itself.

The cover art is by Mark Plastow: it's nice to see the Liberator take centre stage, and the significance of his design becomes increasingly apparent as the story unfolds.

Congratulations and many thanks to Sally Knyvette, and to Big Finish, for giving us another chance to join the crew of the Liberator on their adventures.

***

The Palluma Project is available from Big Finish on Digital Download here: Big Finish: Blake's 7 The Palluma Project
The full range of original Blakes 7 novels, audiobooks and audio drama series from Big Finish can be found HERE

Cover artwork by Mark Plastow
Photo of Sally Knyvette by kind permission of Big Finish













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