Blake's 7
The Radio Adventures

Starring: Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Steven Pacey, Jacqueline Pearce and Peter Tuddenham
BBC Audio
RRP 16.99
ISBN 0 563 52586 X
Available 04 October 2004

Raiding Servalan's HQ, the Scorpio crew discover that she possesses a jewel from a long-lost circlet, a mystical artefact with the power to control minds. Soon Avon is as determined as Servalan to acquire the Sevenfold Crown...

This attractive package, which reflects the design of the DVD box sets of the television episodes, unites both of the Blake's 7 radio dramas from the late 1990s, The Sevenfold Crown and The Syndeton Experiment.

Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Steven Pacey, Peter Tuddenham and Jacqueline Pearce all re-create their familiar roles (Avon, Vila, Tarrant, Orac/Slave and Servalan). Josette Simon and Glynis Barber were unavailable to reprise the characters of Dayna and Soolin, but Angela Bruce and Paula Wilcox step into their shoes more than adequately, sounding remarkably like the original performers. If any member of the cast seems unfamiliar, it is Steven Pacey as Tarrant, who sounds almost unrecognisably nasal.

For some reason Barry Letts, former Doctor Who producer and writer of the Who radio serials The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space, was drafted in to pen these stories, rather than a writer associated with Blake's 7. As a result their tone, especially that of The Sevenfold Crown, seems overtly comical. Several members of the cast, Jacqueline Pearce in particular, seem to revel in the innuendo inherent in words such as "organ", "back door" and "penetration". Or maybe I'm just used to hearing her as Madame Deephole in Soldiers of Love!

The Sevenfold Crown is double the duration of a regular Blake's 7 episode, and its plot (though I use the word loosely) is a rambling affair, involving teleport malfunctions of the type that usually only affect Star Trek's transporters. This story doesn't truly capture the magic of the television series, but I must admit it's nice to hear Avon, Vila, Orac et al together again.

Tired of running, Avon and company plan to settle down on the planet Syndexia. But Servalan is ahead of them, on the trail of Dr Rossum, a man who has invented a device that offers total control over human beings...

The Syndeton Experiment works rather better. First of all, the running time (just over an hour) is closer to that of a television episode, so the plotting is tighter and the whole affair feels more like "proper" Blake's 7. Secondly, the comical moments are fewer and farther between, and the dialogue is more in the style of the series: for instance, Avon expresses his concern that if Vila were captured by the Federation, he would "crack like a soft-boiled egg".

There are a couple of downsides to this production, though. First of all, Servalan's plan hinges upon mind control, just as it did in The Sevenfold Crown. Secondly, there is some rather obvious doubling up of the cast, with, for example, Angela Bruce and Peter Tuddenham as a couple of Federation officers and Michael Keating playing a tour guide. (Also, I can't help thinking of cinder toffee whenever anyone mentions Syndeton!)

However, Syndeton retains its crown over Sevenfold.

This three-disc collection is augmented by interview material from the original cassette release of The Sevenfold Crown plus extracts from BBC7's Zen and the Art of Blake's 7. With a total running time in excess of three hours, this box set is great value for money.

Richard McGinlay

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