Audiobook Review: The Worlds of Blake's 7: The Rule of Death

The Worlds of Blake's 7: The Rule of Death

Written by Trevor Baxendale
Produced by Xanna Eve Chown
Narrated by Glynis Barber

Review by M1795537 OC Virn

When Orac picks up information about a Clone Master living in secret on an outlying planet, Blake is intrigued. Then, a message from the freed bond-slave, Rashel, makes visiting the outpost a priority: the Blake Clone is dying. But things are never as straightforward as they seem, and with psycho-strategist Carnell lurking in the shadows, this visit soon becomes a life or death battle for all the Liberator crew…

Joni Mitchell sang: "You don't know what you got 'til it's gone", but it works the other way, too. I didn't realise how much I'd missed Glynis Barber until I heard her reading Trevor Baxendale's story.

The Rule of Death ties in to the full cast audio The Clone Masters, as a follow-up and an extension to what we know about the mysterious and powerful Clone Masters. It's also a direct descendent of the Blake's 7 episode Weapon, featuring the ex-bond slave Rashel and psychostrategist Carnell. These are characters that fans have wanted to hear from again, and Big Finish have fulfilled that wish.

Another loose end from the episode Weapon concerned Blake's clone - no, the other one; the one Travis didn't shoot. What happened after he and Rashel set up home together? Will the second Blake be allowed a peaceful existence, or will the Federation have other ideas? Above all, what happens if you disregard the Rule of Life? Exploring such questions makes for an action adventure-cum-murder-mystery reminiscent of Baxendale's other work, notably the Big Finish audio Outlaw, and his writing for Doctor Who.

True to form, the crew of the Liberator can't help following up an intriguing message they receive, even though Avon suspects it's a trap from the start. But then, Avon always says that, doesn't he? Yet as the story unfolds, we discover more and more layers of deceit and manipulation that could easily lead us to premature conclusions. This story isn't over until it's over, with a couple of twists in the tail that epitomise Trevor Baxendale's style. There are some good descriptive passages amongst the narrative, and a satisfying conclusion.

Personally, I found the interactions of the Liberator's crew a little stereotyped, particularly casting Vila as sole comic relief, played against Avon's complete lack of sympathy. In my opinion, all their relationships were more complex than what is portrayed here. I think this is partly because text lacks the immediacy of live empathy. On screen, most of this comes from the actors themselves: unscripted moments - that slight change in expression, or the fleeting touch that convey so much meaning. Perhaps writing every detail takes too long: the story must move on.

I'm not a visual person, but I was impressed by the cover art. Mark Plastow has created a cunning blend of organic shapes - honeycomb, or scales, or perhaps the outer shell of a building, or a ship? Neatly reflecting the Clone Masters' genetic manipulation. Great stuff.

(Just for the record, Forum People, I didn't notice any Red Dwarf or Blackadder references, but there is some Beatrix Potter).

Finally, it was so good to have 'Soolin' back, sounding exactly the same, giving us all the excitement and pathos of a new Blake’s 7 adventure. I wish there was a longer interview with her. Let's hope she can be persuaded to join us again very soon.

Cover art by Mark Plastow
Photo of Glynis Barber courtesy of Big Finish

The Worlds of Blake's 7: The Rule of Death is available from Big Finish in the following formats:
Audiobook read by Glynis Barber, on Digital Download and Hardback novel and eBook

The full cast audio drama, starring Sally Knyvette, Jan Chappell, Brian Croucher and Stephen Greif is available here: The Clone Masters

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