Big Finish have released another set of Blake’s 7 stories: ‘Restoration Part 2‘. This is a 4 story set featuring the crew of the Liberator looking for their way back home after the conclusion of Restoration Part 1. It has everything one would expect and hope from Blake’s 7. Drama, adventure, thrills and jokes. It sadly is also the last recordings of Paul Darrow as Avon.
From the word go this was going to be a difficult release. The one and only Jacqueline Pearce had passed away only last year and now, the star of these box sets, Paul Darrow has also passed. The good news is that these stories are always so much fun! It’s impossible to deny that listening to Darrow as Avon is always pleasurable. It’s also difficult listening to this knowing that he won’t be a part of the ongoing stories after this.
There are plans to continue on, and that’s great news for fans! There are still quite a few of the original cast members left and plenty of stories to be told. Besides, thanks to Big Finish we have plenty of exciting Avon stories to listen to over and over again. But enough about the past and future. Let’s look at the now.
As it has been, these stories are taking place in succession of one another and between the television show’s third and fourth seasons. Restoration 2 picks up directly after the events of Restoration 1 meaning the team is still attempting to repair the Liberator.
The New Age
First up is the series highlight, for me at least, thus far. The New Age is written by Mark Wright and he does a fantastic job of pitting Vila against, just about everyone. Yet Vila is the voice of reason. This entire set is less about plot and more about character building, as often is the case. Why they stop on Eloran is less important than the tension between the lead characters. Even that isn’t what’s most enduring, it’s the ideas that Vila ponders.
Eloran doesn’t have the same kind of technology that the Liberator has at their disposal. It’s simple, mostly forgotten and attempting to rebuild itself. There’s something attractive about that when you’ve been on the run for as long as Vila has.
It’s a poetic story which the following stories all share similarities with. Perhaps it’s because it’s the first of the lot, or because it’s Vila and Michael Keating being brilliant, that makes this drama so good.
Happy Ever After
Steve Lyons tackles story number two with a focus on Tarrant. Continuing their split up searches, Del Tarrant finds love on Zareen, a planet of people who can see the future. It seems a simple choice really. Destiny has been written.
Lyons does a grand job of continuing the theme of retiring to the quiet life. Each crew member who finds something comfortable is tempted and considering their options. The plot is, again, only a means to an end here. We care more about how the characters feel than what actually happens because as listeners we know it doesn’t end here. There’s very little forward progression of the plot but it’s a good little story full of heart.
Del Tarrant has never been an enticing character to this reviewer but Steven Pacey is great. Here, perhaps more than ever, you feel the honesty of his character. He’s confident but bullied. There’s something deeply sympathetic about Tarrant here.
Siren by Sophia McDougall unfortunately suffers from being third in a set of stories with similar concepts. Thankfully it highlights two terrific characters with Cally and Dayna. It’s good to have the two female on one adventure for once. It allows these two strong characters to have moments of weakness without appearing so. Certainly not around the macho men.
What’s best about this story is that it’s almost entirely female yet doesn’t take centre stage. It was only upon listening to the special features at the end that I even realised that this was a female heavy story. The least appealing part to this story is that it feels repetitive. The words ‘Alta’ and ‘System’ are said so frequently it feels as if dialog is being repeated too frequently. Staying focused as a listener was sometimes challenging, not just because of the two above mentioned words. I wondered if I had missed something and would go back to relisten to parts I had missed and yet never felt entirely like I had caught on, or missed anything.
There are some really great moments though and it’s such a pleasure to have Dayna be vulnerable and not focused entirely on her revenge. In many ways it’s the closest to the televised show and it’s the only story that really progresses the plot towards the concluding story. Sadly, it’s not quite as engaging as the previous two stories but still has its merits.
Concluding this set is Hyperion by Trevor Baxendale. It feels more like stories from other sets and of course, unites our team with a common goal. We finally meet Selene but is she friend or foe?
Whilst this may not be be the most thrilling boxset, it always feels good to get to that final story knowing that things will be projected once again towards an upcoming set of stories. We’re told in the behind the scenes that Selene was originally meant to be Servalan but had been reworked since the sad passing of Jacqueline Pearce. Selene feels like she’ll be a worthy and interesting counterpart to our crew moving forward.
This box of stories is a more relaxed set. It has everything you would want from Big Finish’s Blake’s 7. Yet, after some of the super exciting releases that have come, this goes back to basics and allows listeners to rediscover some of our favourite characters as they reflect upon their time aboard the Liberator. It feels more like a reboot or a good jumping on point than an exciting follow up.
The very last making of segment is a truly lovely addition. It highlights some lovely moments and insight into Jacueline Pearce and Paul Darrow. Two of the most iconic and important characters to come from this beloved series are gone but never forgotten. It’s both very sad and exciting to know that Blake’s 7 will continue on in audio form with ‘Restoration part 3’ concluding this run of stories with more likely to follow down the line.
You can pick up your copy of Blake’s 7 Restoration Part 2 from the Big Finish Website.
Four more brand-new full-cast Blake’s 7 adventures set during the TV series’ third season, following directly on from events in Restoration Part 1.
5.5 The New Age by Mark Wright
The dying Liberator arrives in orbit of Eloran, a world Avon believes could offer respite from their current trials. All that stands in the way is a primitive society, a charismatic leader and the fracture lines threatening to destroy the crew from within.
5.6 Happy Ever After by Steve Lyons
The people of Zareen have seen the future. Their queen will be married to a handsome stranger, and they will enjoy a blissful life together. So, how can Tarrant possibly refuse…?
5.7 Siren by Sophia McDougall
In the wreckage of a ruined world, Dayna and Cally encounter Mida and Veskar, who must escape the attention of those who once ruled them. Although defeated, the System still seeks to take control.
5.8 Hyperion by Trevor Baxendale
Avon must convince the mysterious Selene to reveal the secret of Hyperion and save the Liberator – but the Federation is closing in on the crew, and what Selene knows could change everything…
- Paul Darrow (Kerr Avon)
- Michael Keating (Vila Restal)
- Jan Chappell (Cally)
- Steven Pacey (Del Tarrant)
- Yasmin Bannerman (Dayna Mellanby)
- Alistair Lock (Zen / Orac)
- Catherine Bailey (Mida)
- Heather Bleasdale (Illyne)
- Sophie Bleasdale (Alta Nine)
- Lisa Bond (Queen Janylle)
- Phillipe Bosher (Veskar)
- Cliff Chapman (Tyrric)
- Evie Dawnay (Selene Shan)
- Richard Keith (Remek)
- Dawn Murphy (Karna)
- Vincenzo Nicoli (Sherna)
- Carolyn Pickles (Vulkris)
- Richard Reed (Krent)
- Ruth Sillers (Alta Ten)