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Being the ripe old age that I am and having recently embarked upon a re-watching of the entire Blake's 7 TV series on DVD, I was intrigued to find several Blake's 7 full cast audio stories recently produced. The format of these newer releases such as Warship and the other full cast audio episodes like Fractures 1.1 and Battlefield 1.2 etc are essentially TV episodes in purely audio form. In other words, of a quality and length to be effectively new TV episodes the fans always wanted to see.
Warship was my first foray into this new format since a release many years ago which I cannot remember what it was called and it was indeed pleasing to find all the regular cast in attendance here. Warship is a story that bridges the gap between TV seasons 2 and 3 and tells us the events that led to the defeat of the alien fleet seen at the finale of season 2. The story is satisfying and in the spirit of the episodes we've come to love on the TV series albeit it on a rather grander scale as something in audio format can do relatively cheaply. It begs the question just how good a new Blake's 7 TV series could be with the sorts of special effects possible now. Of course, the key strengths of shows like Blake's 7 that were subject to the tiny budgets of the BBC back then were the stories themselves and the strongly defined characters. Many things on TV and indeed in the cinema today depend rather less on good stories and interesting characters and more on eye candy in the form of dazzling special effects and explosions.
As this was the first Blake's 7 full cast audio I'd heard in many years what did surprise me was how the age of some actors had affected their voices. Hardly recognizable is Gareth Thomas as Blake who unfortunately due to no fault of his own sounds rather more like a granddad with age having robbed his vocal chords of the deeper tones. There are occasional remembrances of his voice as we knew it but the years have perhaps been the most unkind to him. Paul Darrow too although still very recognizable as Avon has also had the years alter his voice and I think as can happen with people of a certain age, it sounds like his palette has softened or he's got badly fixed false teeth as he has difficulty pronouncing the "S" sound. Jacqueline Pearce has done rather better in this respect but even so her Servalan isn't quite the clipped arrogant delivery it once was. Those that come out best are the actors playing Villa, Jenna and Cally with perhaps Jan Chapel's Cally being just about indistinguishable from her performances of over 30 years ago with Michael Keating's Villa also up there. Sally Knevette's Jenna is pretty much as it was too but a very slight change I detected but only very marginal.
Still, having said all that, these observations are just that and are not a criticism of the product at all. All the essential elements are there and the new voice of Zen and Orac are very close to the original late Peter Tuttenham's rendition of these two parts. Production is excellent and sound effects of top quality. An explanation of why the original BBC Radiophonic workshop sound effects were not used was given in the behind the scenes feature that followed the main story. This feature also has cast interviews and other interesting behind the scenes information. This additional documentary was interesting and worthy of inclusion and makes for a neat packaged product on these new full cast releases.
One could indeed point out that for the length of these audio features that the purchase cost is very high but as another reviewer remarked, there isn't a huge audience for these and I'd rather pay for the quality of these and keep production standards high than opt for a cheaper and inferior product with less of the original cast used.
If you're a Blake's 7 fan then you will enjoy this story and find that it is something you will listen to and enjoy again and again.
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Blake's 7 fans will love this episode that fills in the gap, and recreates the atmosphere, of the events surrounding destruction of Star One, the alien invasion of our galaxy, and the loss of the Liberator. What's not to love? Loss of the Liberator I guess... Whatever happened to those airfix kits? The cast are great including an award-deserving Orac.