January may be the cold heart of winter but thanks to Big Finish it’s also Blake’s 7 season and that warms the heart. Picking up immediately after the events in the stellar and tense conclusion of ‘Crossfire: Part 3‘, ‘Restoration: Part 1‘ manages to up the ante. The crew of the Liberator, and the Liberator itself, must scratch and claw for survival.
As mentioned in ‘Vortex Magazine’, ‘Restoration’ is intended to be a trilogy of box sets containing four stories each. Thinking of each series like a season with ‘Crossfire’ being Season One, ‘Restoration’ is Season Two. That would make ‘Spoils of War’ a prelude, of sorts and a terrific place to start listening. However, if you’re a new listener and only jumping in now, you should be good to go. Big Finish always does a tremendous job of keeping listeners in the loop and filling in any blanks without over indulging in exposition.
Praise must be showered upon the actors that have reprised their roles and continue to give them depth and love. A series like this could never work if the original cast weren’t giving it their all and boy, do they deliver. As do the new cast members like Yasmin Bannerman who has taken on the role of Dayna like a champion. She’s fierce and strong though not without weakness and it’s wonderful to see her character grow beyond simple revenge.
The guest cast are all fantastic as well. It’s great having a Big Finish character like Zeera Vos still appearing, though I hope we get more of her in future box sets.
It’s heartbreaking that Jacqueline Pearce has recently passed and can’t be a part of future adventures. She’s such an iconic element of Blake’s 7. Her absence here is missed, though I’m not sure she was ever intended for this box set. Regardless, Servalan will never be forgotten and will always have a presence in these stories.
As mentioned earlier this box set picks up exactly where we left off in ‘Crossfire: Part 3‘ and the repercussions are felt. Despite being a rag-tag group of characters, who rarely see eye to eye, never have they felt so disjointed and lost. We’ve spent a year waiting to see what happens and though the initial threat is dealt with quicker than expected, it feels like a quick death may have been better for them all.
Trevor Baxendale opens up this set and really puts these characters through the ringer. It’s not often we have the full cast involved in a story. Typically we focus on one or two characters, but here we have the lot of them and it’s wonderful! The tension between each character is dynamic and the stakes are high.
What’s most exciting is that it feels like at any moment it could finish. It’s a full story of cliffhangers and, in the best possible way, it felt like it went on for ages. It kept me focused and my toes curled, wondering what could come next. A positively extraordinary way to pick up from Crossfire.
Iain McLaughlin may have had the best task as he writes, almost exclusively, for Avon and Vila. If not the two best characters in Blake’s 7, surely they are the most fun. Paul Darrow as Avon is cold, calculating and almost mechanical while still being charming and exciting. Michael Keating as Vila is anxious, comical and cowardly while still being relatable and charming. Pairing the two, no matter what happens, is going to be worthy and this is no exception.
The two least likely characters to jeopardise their own lives for others, do just that. Sure, it’s for their own benefit as well, but it’s a great way to see two characters constantly bickering while needing to rely on one another. This is handled excellently while still progressing the major plot. The side adventures are the heart of what makes Blake’s 7 in audio format so endearing. The moments we get which would never have worked on TV can be realised here and it’s done so well.
Fans will enjoy this story, if not for the adventure and tension, which are well executed, than for the pairing of two of Blake’s finest crew.
Figurehead is a story of strategy, different from the previous two. While the first stories had elements of strategic thought, this one relies on it even more. In this adventure the focus has shifted to Tarrant and Cally and the Federation. While Cally is always a rather safe and likeable character, Tarrant has his struggles.
Tarrant is the one character this reviewer just can’t get behind and a story like this is why. It has some great writing though and what helps make him such a fascinating character. Teaming up these two characters who have little to nothing in common creates great drama. Writer Scott Harrison does a good job of keeping us guessing on what our lead characters will do. It’s a solid script that goes by quickly and requires your full attention and/or a second listen. That’s bang for your buck!
Steve Lyons does an absolutely superb job at concluding this set. The Liberator is falling apart, the team is falling out and Orac is not helping. ‘Abandon Ship’ is the perfect title for this story, especially in a series titled ‘Restoration’.
We have another full cast adventure and the crew’s true colours are showing brightly. Any fan of Blake’s 7 is going to devour this perfectly worked story. There’s so much to be said, but in a spoiler free review it’s difficult to do anything but gush. We know another season is still to come but how they get there, what happens between now and then is incredibly exciting.
The cover art by Lee Johnson, is again and always, gorgeous. His work on Crossfire will forever be my benchmark for great covers but these are beautiful images. They’re more sparse and evoke the drama and desperation of what the crew is going through. With muted colours and a less is more design style these images are wonderful companion pieces to the stories.
Blake’s 7 fans will want/need this. Four solid stories that are gripping and engaging with character development and jeopardy. An outstanding feat for a show that is 40 years old. Who thought the stakes could get higher after the conclusion of ‘Crossfire: Part 3′? This is one of those ranges that only seem to get better as they go on. Director/Producer John Ainsworth has a strong grasp of what works and how to carry a long story arc. It’ll be thrilling to see how the rest of Restoration play out.
This title was released in January 2019. It will be exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until February 28th 2019, and on general sale after this date.
Four new brand-new full-cast Blake’s 7 adventures set during the TV series’ third season, following directly on from events in the Crossfire trilogy,
5.1 Damage Control by Trevor Baxendale
Damaged beyond repair, the Liberator is hurtling out of control. With Zen down, Avon injured and Tarrant losing his mind, what can the crew hope to achieve in the time they have left?
5.2 The Hunted by Iain McLaughlin
In a stolen ship, Avon and Vila try to hold off a fleet led by the President of the Federation, buying time for Dayna, Tarrant and Cally to scavenge parts to save the Liberator.
5.3 Figurehead by Scott Harrison
With the Liberator crippled and vulnerable, Tarrant and Cally are given just twenty-four hours to end the violence on Gamma Vynos II or kill the person responsible: Avalon.
5.4 Abandon Ship by Steve Lyons
The Liberator is falling apart. Its life support systems are failing. The ship can no longer sustain five crewmembers. But who will stay and who will leave? Both options seem equally deadly…
Written By: Trevor Baxendale, Iain McLaughlin, Scott Harrison, Steve Lyons
Directed By: John Ainsworth
Paul Darrow (Kerr Avon), Michael Keating (Vila Restal), Jan Chappell (Cally), Steven Pacey (Del Tarrant), Yasmin Bannerman (Dayna Mellanby), Alistair Lock(Zen/Orac), Rebecca Crankshaw (Zeera Vos), Hugh Fraser (The President), John Green (Mordekain), Harriet Collings (Kestra), Jonathan Christie (Jaryss Vull), Olivia Poulet (Avalon), Ian Brooker (Ozaban). Other parts played by members of the cast.