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Audio Review: Liberator Chronicles Volume 7

The Liberator Chronicles – Volume 7


7.1 Spy by Simon Guerrier 
7.2 Disorder by Eddie Robson
7.3 The Hard Road by James Swallow

Sound Design by Martin Montague

Music by Alistair Lock

Directed by Ken Bentley (Spy) and Lisa Bowerman (Disorder, The Hard Road)

Produced by David Richardson for Big Finish Productions

Review by Jackie Emery


Typical. You wait a year for another Liberator Chronicles story narrated by Vila, and then two come along at once! Although he appears in the full cast audios and played secondary voice to Jenna in Epitaph, the last time Vila was a main narrator was in Part Two of The Armageddon Storm, which was released a year ago. Now Liberator Chronicles 7 has given us two stories in which he is joint narrator - and they have proved to be worth the wait. In both Spy and Disorder, although the initial set ups are similar (Vila and another crew member go undercover to fulfil part of Blake's mission / steal Federation data), the two stories are quite different in tone and style, and indeed were helmed by different directors. The third episode in this collection, The Hard Road, is a powerful story narrated by Blake, but even in this tale, although unheard, Vila plays a critical part in the action.

Set during Season 1, the narration places these episodes soon after Project Avalon. There are plenty of mentions of Gan and the impression is that the crew have not been together all that long.

7.1  Spy  by Simon Guerrier 
Performed by Jan Chappell and Michael Keating with Gemma Whelan as Arta

Cally: "It was fun, being married to Vila!"
In this tale, Vila and Cally are undercover on the Federation-controlled world Cortol Four. In order to hide in plain sight, as it were, they pretend to be a hen-pecked husband and nagging wife. It's all great fun and a bit of a romp, until things start to go very wrong indeed...

This is another excellent story by Simon Guerrier, who is one of my favourite Big Finish B7 writers. With the narration shared equally between Vila and Cally, as well as dialogue scenes with additional characters Arta and Hartley, this feels more like a small-cast play rather than an enhanced audiobook. It seems entirely credible that the rest of the Liberator crew are busy elsewhere while Vila and Cally are carrying out their part of Blake's mission. Vila could never be called heroic, but in this story he comes across as resourceful, loyal and – in his own way – quite brave. The easy camaraderie between him and Cally fits well with the characters as seen on screen, the dialogue feels completely natural and the performances are great. Jan is perfect as Cally, and the new character Arta is convincingly played by Gemma Whelan. Michael is terrific, playing Vila acting the part of the unfortunate husband in the dialogue scenes, then reverting to his normal 'Vila voice' for the narration. In addition, Michael plays the character Hartley with a Scots accent and a voice that sounds so different from Vila that I had to check with the Producer whether it was Michael or another actor playing that role.


7.2. Disorder by Eddie Robson
Performed by Michael Keating and Paul Darrow


Vila: It all seemed very straightforward. So of course, it wasn't...
Avon and Vila go to a space station that's in the process of being decommissioned. Avon's plan is to steal valuable Federation data; Vila is reluctantly there to open doors for him. However, when contact with the Liberator is lost and their crewmates are presumed captured or dead, Avon and Vila have to decide what they're going to do next...

Although set in Season 1, the overall tone of this episode feels more like Season 2 – possibly because that was when Robert Holmes started writing episodes that teamed Avon and Vila, such as Killer and Gambit. However there's nothing in Disorder that actually contradicts canon, and I guess if Holmes had written Season 1 stories, they may well have had a similar theme. As with the Liberator Chronicles 2 story False Positive, Eddie Robson's writing displays a really good understanding of the characters and their motivations. Again, the narration is equally shared, and the story is driven by the characters' respective strengths and apparent weaknesses. In terms of performance, Paul and Michael are both great, but I especially liked Paul's delivery which was brisk and clipped and sounded much more like Season 1 Avon, rather than the Avon of Season 4.


7.3. The Hard Road by James Swallow
Performed by Gareth Thomas and Andrew Whipp


Blake: If we win, then when I'm gone I want them to remember it all. Not just the victories; I want people to remember the choices that I made, the mistakes as well as the successes...
This story has Blake making contact with the rebel Trel Dekkan (very well played by Andrew Whipp) in the hope of forging an alliance against the Federation. Dekkan is actually name-checked at the end of Disorder, creating a nice internal continuity within this collection. However, not all rebels share Blake's principles, and events become very unpleasant as the moral high ground clashes with 'the hard road'. James Swallow previously did 'dark and nasty' for Liberator - the third episode of B7 Media's rebooted audio series, and perhaps that is his forte, because this story is also quite dark and nasty. However, it's a terrific script and I think this is Gareth's finest Liberator Chronicles performance to date.

The sound fx on all three episodes were excellent; the atmospheres, soundscapes and spot fx all adding to the impression that these were small-cast dramas rather than enhanced audiobooks. I liked most of the music, although there were a few electronic-sounding pieces for some of the action sequences that I found distracting rather than complementary.

In summary, Liberator Chronicles 7 is a real treat; not just for fans of Vila, but for those who enjoy hearing really good stories featuring Cally, Avon and Blake.


Liberator Chronicles Volume 7 is available from Big Finish on CD and digital download here: LC7

You can listen to a trailer here: LC7 Trailer


Full details of the current range of B7 audio dramas, audio books and original novels available from Big Finish can be found on their website here:  B7 from Big Finish


Box set cover artwork by Grant Kempster

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