Big Finish are treating Blake’s 7 fans very well this month. Recently we received the 40th anniversary release ‘The Way Ahead’ and now we’ve got ‘Crossfire part 2’! Is it all too much? Impossible!
If you’re just catching up, ‘Crossfire’ is a trilogy of box sets. Each set contains four individual adventures, all of which take place at the end of the third season. This 12 story arc is chronological but the stories also stand on their own as individual stories. It’s recommended to give as much of your hard-earned cash as possible to Big Finish and pick up ‘Crossfire Part 1’ (read our review for that here), and ‘The Way Ahead’ (we have a review for that as well) but if you’re eager to jump in now, you’ll be just fine, so long as you’re familiar with the series and/or the characters of Blake’s 7.
This is a spoiler free review.
Funeral On Kalion
The first story is written by Trevor Baxendale and what a fantastic way to start things off. In many ways this is an understated story on a set on a big time scale. It sees the old president and the new president facing each other in an exciting, and tense, way. There was no real guessing as to what the outcome could be as it was so wonderfully executed. It felt like anything could happen and what a wonderful experience to be had in a classic series with characters we all know.
Avon and the gang also do their part to gain a bit of leverage and though they’re very present in this story they’re almost secondary characters as we’re pitting presidents against one another in close quarters. It’s wonderfully smart, fun and tense while setting this series of stories up to a high standard.
Cavan Scott writes the second story in what may be the sleeper hit of this set. We spend a majority of our time with someone outside of the regular cast. She is aware of Avon and the Liberator gang, but she is also against them. Dayna takes the lead as far as regular characters go and she is even more intense than usual. Yasmin Bannerman does a truly wonderful job in what must have been a difficult script to play.
Not wanting to spoil any twists, this story just sucks the listener in. It’s the more experimental adventure of this set but it’s not so far off that it would lose anyone. In fact it’s because it skips a lot of the action that this story works so well, it’s personal, but also seems to advance the wider scope of the plot.
Paul Darrow isn’t in this story much but somehow his presence is exquisite. Cavan Scott did a wonderful job using our expectations both for and against us and Bannerman and Darrow nailed tricky performances. High Praise to Imogen Church for leading us through this story as Niner. This wouldn’t have worked without her superb performance.
Paul Darrow, Avon himself, pens our third adventure in what is a surprisingly humorous story. More than that, it’s a more personal story for Avon as we learn a bit more about his past. It’s very well told and while one may imagine that a writer would write themselves a juicy part it doesn’t feel Avon-centric. In fact it’s Vila that really steals this show.
It’s evident that Darrow cares for Blake’s 7. Not only does he reprise his role with Big Finish, and not only has he written books, which take place after the series, but he really gets the characters and knows how to build upon the world.
Erebus is clever, sneaky and entertaining. All things you would want from a Blake’s 7 story, and we get to learn a little more about Avon.
Rounding out the box set, Steve Lyons takes us on a wild ride which gets complicated and messy. Messy in a good way, because of all the stories this is the one where things feel the least stable. The Former President is doing his best to make Servalan look bad of course the crew of the Liberator get caught up in things and it gets rough, especially for Vila.
This is another rather fun story which does a great job balancing the dark grit of Blake’s 7 while adding humour and humanity to our crew. Everyone has a moment to shine in this story , even Del Tarrant feels less severe.
Toby Longworth as Lockwood really does a wonderful job of luring in listeners and playing a Vila like character. It’s something to be heard and no doubt long time fans will be very pleased with this story, and of course this entire set.
One thing that goes unrecognized, or unmentioned, too often, is the cover art. Lee Johnson has done a stellar job with these releases. His work on Crossfire Part 1 was incredible but the cover for ‘Erebus’ is stunning! This is the kind of piece you want framed on your wall. Which shouldn’t be surprising coming from a man who does just that for Doctor Who Magazine.
You wouldn’t even need to be a fan of Blake’s 7 to want this! Combining all the individual covers together, to make the ‘Crossfire Part 2’ cover art, just seals the deal for a beautiful package on an all around incredible set. Stunning!
As a newcomer to Blake’s 7 I’ve become quite familiar with the cast of characters almost entirely through Big Finish’s audio plays. Crossfire Part 2 is truly an exciting set of stories which remains consistent while somehow improving. Clearly they’re doing something, if not everything, right.
Director John Ainsworth expertly steered his cast and crew through a very strong set of stories. Everything from sound and music to scripts and performances there’s no dip in quality. There are no weak links. Any fan of Blake’s 7 is bound to enjoy this set of stories immensely. It feels like their finest yet!
As great as ‘Crossfire Part 1’, and ‘The Way Ahead’ are, this set somehow raises the bar and expectations. They’ve developed a wonderful sort of format where no two stories are alike even though it’s evidently the same world. What’s perhaps most fun with this trilogy of box sets, is that it does feel like we’re being guided in a certain, unclear, direction. It’s evident that the creative team is in control and we, the listener are happy to be guided through our headphones/listening device.
Don’t forget that Big Finish are nearing the end of their Blake’s 7 sale. 40% off most of their titles, in celebration of the 40th Anniversary! Offer goes until the 11th of January 2018, 23:59 (UK time)
This title was released in January 2018. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until February 28th 2018, and on general sale after this date.
Four new brand-new full-cast Blake’s 7 adventures set during the TV series’ third season
4.5 Funeral on Kalion by Trevor Baxendale
Thern Sorron, the ruler of Kalion, is dead. Federation presidents, both old and new, attend the funeral ostensibly to pay their respects, but whoever possesses the Seal of Kalion, controls the vast Kalion shipyards.
4. 6 Shock Troops by Cavan Scott
As the war between the presidents escalates, new recruits are urgently required. Dayna gains first-hand experience of what life can be like as a Federation trooper as she confronts insurgent forces on a frontier world.
4. 7 Erebus by Paul Darrow
The Liberator is lured to the planet Erebus. There, the former Federation president is colluding with an old acquaintance of Avon’s who is eager for a reunion.
4.8 The Scapegoat by Steve Lyons
On the Federation world of Astra Valadina, the former President is hatching a plan to discredit his successor and turn the tide of the war in his favour. The unwitting pawns in his scheme are the crew of the Liberator.
Written By: Trevor Baxendale, Cavan Scott, Paul Darrow, Steve Lyons
Directed By: John Ainsworth
Paul Darrow (Kerr Avon), Michael Keating (Vila Restal), Jan Chappell (Cally), Steven Pacey (Del Tarrant), Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan), Yasmin Bannerman(Dayna Mellanby), Alistair Lock (Zen/Orac), Hugh Fraser (The President), Trevor Littledale (Maldor), Imogen Church (Niner), Tam Williams (Jay), Tania Rodrigues (Captain), Issy Van Randwyck (Eve / Nada), Anthony Townsend (Commander / Robot), John Green (Mordekain), Toby Longworth (Lockwood), Kerry Skinner (Zheanne). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer John Ainsworth
Script Editor John Ainsworth
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs