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Audio Review: Warship

BLAKE'S 7 - WARSHIP

Review by Jackie Emery

Starring:
Gareth Thomas (Blake), Sally Knyvette (Jenna), Jan Chappell (Cally), Paul Darrow (Avon), Michael Keating (Vila) and Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan) with Alistair Lock as the voices of Zen and Orac

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


The Liberator Chronicles series of enhanced audio books works extremely well as two or three-hander narrated stories, set between various episodes. However, the all-cast audio drama Warship ambitiously set out to be a full episode that would bridge the gap between the events we see at the end of Season B and the beginning of Season C. I was reasonably confident that the production would be good – Big Finish’s track record with their B7 range so far has demonstrated the quality of their writing, directing, acting and sound design - but could they pull off an actual episode, with all the implications of canon, continuity and 35 years of fan speculation?

Well, I’m very happy to say that they’ve succeeded. From the pre-title sequence, set at the end of Star One, to the end scenes that tie into the beginning of Aftermath, Warship fits in perfectly.

There’s action and battles, and the risking of life and limb as the Liberator makes its stand against the alien invasion. However, the real strength of Warship – as with the original series – lies in the interactions between the Liberator’s crew. All the moral ambiguities and questionable motives that made the original series so compelling are present in Warship. There are some outstanding scenes between Blake and Cally, and between Avon and Blake, with dialogue lines and performances equal to anything we saw on screen. Vila is very much his usual self and has some great exchanges with Avon, while Jenna for once gets a good slice of the action, shining as the ex-smuggler and expert pilot we always knew her to be - and which was sadly neglected in the real Season B. The arrival of Servalan and her dialogue with Blake also fits in well with the story and the progression of her character between Seasons B and C.

The actors reprise their roles perfectly, apparently with great relish. It did seem a bit strange to have a different-sounding Zen together with the original crew, but Alistair Lock did well to capture the cadence and intonations of Peter Tuddenham’s voice and the background sounds and effects helped sell his performance. Inevitably, the actors sounded a bit older (and Zen somewhat younger) but after a few lines of dialogue, I was so engrossed in the story, I stopped noticing. It felt as if I was watching an episode with my eyes closed.

I have only one nit-picky comment (well, two actually, but one is a spoiler so I won’t air it here) - the recurrence of the Liberator’s observation deck. This was first introduced by Simon Guerrier in The Turing Test, but was never seen in any actual episode and does not appear in Paul Holroyd’s Technical Manual – the best reference to the plans of the Liberator available (albeit fan made). However, as the continuity over Liberator’s layout fluctuates over the course of the series (eg the extra teleport bay in Cygnus Alpha that’s never seen again), I’m prepared to accept a previously unseen, Enterprise-style, observation deck. To be honest, the dialogue that takes place in that particular scene is so good, I’d have accepted it if it had been set in the Liberator’s gym, ballroom or video games arcade.

The second CD is a thoroughly enjoyable, comprehensive behind-the-scenes documentary, featuring interviews with all the cast and crew during the making of Warship.

When I gave Volume 1 of The Liberator Chronicles 9 out of 10, my husband warned, “Don’t give it such a high rating, if they get better and better you’ll run out of numbers!”

This has indeed proved to be the case with Warship, so I’ll give it 9.5 out of 10. I look forward to Big Finish’s B7 range continuing to go from strength to strength, and “turning it up to 11”!


*** SPECIAL OFFER - APRIL 2015 ***
Warship is now available from Big Finish on CD (while stocks last) and digital download for only £5.00!


The novelisation by Peter Anghelides is available as an eBook.


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