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Audio Review: Caged – Ep 1.6 of Big Finish's Classic Audio Series

BLAKE'S 7 - THE CLASSIC AUDIO ADVENTURES - Episode 1.6: Caged

Review by Jackie Emery

Starring: 
Gareth Thomas (Blake), Paul Darrow (Avon), Michael Keating (Vila), Jan Chappell (Cally), Sally Knyvette (Jenna), Brian Croucher (Travis) and Alistair Lock (Zen and Orac)
with Hugh Fraser as The President

Written by Mark Wright and Cavan Scott
Sound Design and Music by Alistair Lock 
Cover Art by Damien May
Directed by Ken Bentley
Produced by David Richardson for Big Finish Productions


"This is Space Commander Travis. I'm on board the Liberator and have taken Blake and his crew prisoner."
Vila has betrayed his former crew mates, and is now Travis' right-hand man. The Liberator is taken to a Federation facility, where Blake and the others are imprisoned and await their ultimate fate...

And so we come to the final episode in this Series-within-Season B, as Caged picks up from the cliffhanger of the previous episode. There is no pre-title sequence, and I actually prefer it that way - episodes that open with the theme tune leading into the action seem more in keeping with the style of the original series.

Caged is a very satisfying mixture of action and psychological drama, and all the crew get a fair share of the story. Michael Keating gives a chilling performance as a cold, indifferent Vila who has changed sides and now cares nothing for his former companions. Even though I was aware that there had to be some sort of twist, Michael was so convincing that along with Blake and the others, I could believe that Vila meant every word he said.

Paul Darrow's Avon is a bit growly and Season 4-ish in this episode, but he has some marvellous scenes with Brian Croucher, who is in top form as the sadistic Travis. The girls get plenty of action and dialogue, with spirited performances from their respective actors. Blake spends most of the episode in a state of gloom and guilt-ridden introspection, until he finally comes face to face with the President, played by Hugh Fraser with smooth, charming menace. The confrontation between the Rebel Leader and the head of the Terran Federation is very interesting indeed and dovetails beautifully with the Liberator Chronicles stories President and Spoils.

The sound design and music are top notch, as ever. It was a clever scripting idea to have painful sound used as an instrument of torture in the interrogation scenes, though I imagine Alistair Lock had to strike a careful balance between conveying what the victim was hearing and actually torturing the listener! After eight volumes of Liberator Chronicles and seven full-cast dramas, one could start to take for granted the rich soundscapes and subtle effects, as well as the excellent music. But you only have to listen to a standard BBC radio drama to realise how much work and loving detail goes into the Big Finish productions.

What a ride this series has been! From the claustrophobic Fractures to the action-packed and thought-provoking Caged, there have been quests, battles and adventures, new allies and old enemies, character studies and witty dialogue, all brought together in a superbly crafted story arc that fits perfectly between Voice from the Past and Gambit, without straying from canon. It is not a spoiler to say that the series ends with all the players back in place to continue the Season B story arc of the search for Star One, and there is even a nice touch of costume continuity for Jenna and Cally in Gambit.

This full-cast series is a fantastic achievement. It's what B7 fans dreamed of, and thought would never happen, as the years since Blake lengthened into decades. And the best news of all is that there is another series on its way!

Extras:
Interviews with writers Mark Wright and Cavan Scott, director Ken Bentley, Gareth Thomas, Sally Knyvette and Michael Keating. Together they provide a fascinating overview on the making of the series.

Vortex issue 64 is also included, which is a special tribute issue in memory of Paul Spragg.

Caged is available from Big Finish on CD and digital download.
The other episodes in this series are here: B7 Classic Audio Adventures, and you can already pre-order series two!
The full range of Big Finish's B7 range is here: B7 from BF.

Photograph of Hugh Fraser courtesy of Big Finish

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