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Audio Book Review


Blake’s 7
Project Avalon


Author: Trevor Hoyle
Read by: Jacqueline Pearce and Paul Darrow
Publisher: AudioGO
RRP: £16.99, US $29.95
ISBN: 978 1 4713 1872 6

Release Date: 01 May 2013

Alone against the might of the Federation, an army of androids – and Project Avalon… From the arid wastes of Amersat, the Planet of the Dead, to the oceans of acid on the planet Aristos, Roj Blake and his crew on board the Liberator wage a deadly war against the forces of galactic oppression. But now the Federation’s Supreme Commander, Servalan, and her lieutenant, the evil and embittered Space Commander Travis, have launched a plan that cannot fail. Their aim – to capture the Liberator, to trap and destroy Blake’s Seven and to defeat for ever the freedom fighters of the universe...

For some years now, AudioGO has been diligently dusting off out-of-print novelisations of Doctor Who stories and giving them a new lease of life as unabridged audio books, often read by members of the original cast, and with exciting sound effects and music. More recently the company has given a similar treatment to Blake’s 7, though there aren’t nearly so many novelisations of this series to choose from – just three, of which Project Avalon, originally published in 1979, was the second.

This volume adapts the television episodes Seek–Locate–Destroy, Duel, Project Avalon, Deliverance and Orac, though most of Deliverance has been omitted in order to keep the original book to length. In other words, these are all the Series One episodes featuring Space Commander Travis, whose presence provides a handy linking theme to the narrative. In fact, more could have been done by novelist Trevor Hoyle to blend the material from Seek–Locate–Destroy with that from Duel, by having Travis immediately set off in pursuit of Blake and his crew.

It’s hard to be objective about the effectiveness of Hoyle’s adaptation of Terry Nation’s original scripts, because I have such strong memories of the VHS and DVD releases of the episodes, so recollections of the screen version kept on flooding back to me as I listened. However, the author does impress with his gruesome descriptions of the fungal infection in Project Avalon and Travis’s eye patch, which is likened to a growth fused with the villain’s living flesh. I lost count of the number of times Hoyle describes Travis as swarthy or mentions Jenna’s lustrous blonde locks – I suspect that he had a bit of a crush on Sally Knyvette! The only difference I noticed is that in the novelisation Travis prefers to have androids working for him, whereas on television they were called Mutoids.

Essentially, these are straightforward adventure stories, with lots of gripping action and peril – which suits Nation’s style down (and safe) to the ground. Throughout, the strength of Nation’s dialogue shines through, such as Supreme Commander Servalan’s description of Travis in Seek–Locate–Destroy: “Don’t be afraid of the word, Secretary. Ruthless. Committed. He does his duty as he sees it, and he sees it clearly. He has no time for the dirty grey areas of your politics.”

Of course, it helps that the narrative is brought to life by arguably the two most important voices from the BBC series, Jacqueline Pearce (who played Servalan) and Paul Darrow (who played Avon). Curiously, the narration chores are split straight down the middle, with Pearce reading the first three discs and Darrow doing the final three of this six-CD set. I had expected that they would alternate the episodes a bit more than that. Perhaps this is an indication that the original plan was to divide the novelisation into two, as happened with the previous one, which became the audio books The Way Back and Cygnus Alpha. Pearce gives a beautiful reading, delicately adapting her tone depending on the mood of the narrative at any given point. Darrow is less subtle, sometimes delivering a sustained note of doom-laden drama when it isn’t really warranted, but is generally effective in his own way.

Unlike AudioGO’s Doctor Who releases, none of the sound effects are the original ones from the television show. I would have greatly appreciated hearing the authentic blast of the Liberator guns or the distinctive shimmer of the teleport process.

Nevertheless, Project Avalon provides plenty of listening pleasure – almost seven hours, appropriately enough. A most worthwhile project.


Richard McGinlay

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