In 1981 the dystopian BBC TV Space Opera Blake's 7 ended with a bang. The fans wiped away a tear or two and withdrew to their rooms to write bitter fanfiction for the rest of their lives. Well, not quite...
BBC Radio: The Sevenfold Crown and The Syndeton ExperimentThe first Blake's 7 audio drama was broadcast in 1998 on BBC Radio 4. The Sevenfold Crown is one of those legendary works that few people have heard but most have heard of, mainly because it was so legendarily bad. Barry Letts had been responsible for some of Doctor Who's most well-remembered episodes, but he was unfamiliar with Blake's 7 - the play was a replacement for a Doctor Who story which fell through due to Jon Pertwee's death - and the result was a story that in tone, characterisation and plot bear little resemblance to the original. (His Doctor Who audio dramas have a poor reputation, too, though.) Nonetheless it seems to hold a special place in the hearts of many who have sat through it, perhaps because once you abandon any hope at canonicity the script has enough cheese for a small moon and enough ham to give BRIAN BLESSED heartburn.
The Syndeton Experiment, also by Barry Letts, was broadcast the following year. Research happened at some point, resulting in better characterisations for everyone but Servalan, who was transfigured into a seductive housewife: Jacqueline Pearce hammed it up with joy. As in Sevenfold Crown, all the Series 4 regulars were portrayed by the original cast save for Dayna and Soolin, who were replaced by new actors.
B7 Productions: A Rebellion RebornIn 2007, B7 Productions, who own the rights to Blake's 7, announced three hour-long episodes to be broadcast on BBC Radio. Rather than wedge the stories into gaps in the canon timeline, as is common in expanded universes, "Rebel", "Traitor" and "Liberator" would be an Alternate Continuity retelling of the first series with detailed world-building and a new cast. Despite the changes (Jenna is American! Shock!) they were well received, and were followed up by a series of eight half-hour prequels, "The Early Years".
The episodes star Derek Riddell as Blake, Colin Salmon as Avon, Carrie Dobro as Jenna, Daniella Nardini as Servalan and Craig Kelly as Travis; among the guest stars are Jan Chappell (Cally) and Michael Keating (Vila) from the original series. The entire series is available from Big Finish as a box set and download, while individual episodes can be found on iTunes.
Big Finish: The Liberator Chronicles, The Classic Audio Adventures and The Worlds of Blake's 7All this excitement finally came to a head in 2011 when the much-loved Big Finish, producer of Big Finish Doctor Who and many other audio adaptations, announced The Liberator Chronicles, starring the original cast. A basic episode focuses on two characters, with e.g. Avon narrating and Vila joining in on the dialogue; however, several Chronicles have a cast of four or five.
Two years later, to much rejoicing, the cast was reunited in Warship, a one-hour special set in the Intergalactic War between Seasons Two and Three. Effectively a pilot release, it proved so popular that Big Finish greenlit a series proper. Where the Liberator Chronicles are character-driven, The Classic Audio Adventures are longer and more dependent on plot. Five six-episode series were produced, the first taking place during Season B and the subesquent four taking place during Season C.
Not all cast members returned. David Jackson (Gan) had passed away in 2005. Peter Tuddenham (Zen and Orac) had died in 2007, and his parts were played by Alistair Lock. Josette Simon (Dayna) has distanced herself from Blake's 7, as she felt that her character embodied an unpleasant "exotic warrior" sexual and racial stereotype; her absence was written into the S2 audios (set during Season C) as a plot point, before Yasmin Bannerman took up the role. Glynis Barber (Soolin) has said on Twitter that she would return if asked - it eventually came to light that rights reasons prevented Soolin's return, but Barber did indeed return in a new role. Gareth Thomas did return, but passed away in 2016 - all subsequent stories were set during Series C, when Thomas was no longer a regular cast member.
After the deaths of Jacqueline Pearce in 2018 and Paul Darrow in 2019, The Classic Audio Adventures was wound up, and replaced by The World's Of Blake's 7, a new set of full-cast dramas taking place away from The Liberator, each featuring a few of the surviving original cast members (including a return from Colin Baker as the legendary guest character Bayban the Butcher) without recasting anyone other than Zen/Orac, who Alistair Lock continued to voice.
List of Big Finish Blake's 7 episodes
Volume 1Set during Season A.
- "The Turing Test"
Volume 2Set during Season B.
- "The Magnificent Four"
- "False Positive"
Volume 3Set during Season C.
- "The Armageddon Storm: Part 1"
- "The Armageddon Storm: Part 2"
- "The Armageddon Storm: Part 3"
Volume 4Set during Season A.
Volume 5Set during Season B.
- "Risk Management"
Volume 6Set during Season C.
- "Jenna's Story"
- "Blake's Story"
Volume 7Set during Season A.
- "The Hard Road"
Volume 8Set during Season B.
- "The Sea of Iron"
Volume 9Set during Season C.
Volume 10Set during Season A.
- "Ministry of Peace"
Volume 11Set during Season B.
- "Escape from Destiny"
Volume 12Set during Season C.
- "Corners of the Mind"
Series One:Set during Season B, between "Voice From The Past" and "Gambit"
- "Cold Fury"
Series TwoSet during Season C, after "Rumours of Death". Follows up on plot threads from some Liberator Chronicles stories.
- "Ghost Ship"
- "Devil's Advocate"
- "Truth And Lies"
Series Three - The Spoils of WarSetduring Season C, after "Powerplay", meaning some happen before Dayna's S2 disappearance. Has an overarching title "The Spoils Of War".
- "Close Enough"
Series Four - CrossfireSeries Four, a single Story Arc titled "Crossfire", set during Season C, between "Death-Watch" and "Terminal".
- "Paradise Lost"
- "True Believers"
- "Funeral On Kallion"
- "Shock Troops"
- "The Scapegoat"
- "Ministry Of Truth"
- "Kith And Kin"
- "Death Of Empire"
Series Five - RestorationSeries Five, a single Story Arc titled "Restoration", set during Season C, immediately following on from "Crossfire", leading up to "Terminal".
- "Damage Control"
- "The Hunted"
- "Abandon Ship"
- "The New Age"
- "Happy Ever After"
Avalon Volume 01
- "Terra Firma"
- "Black Water"
Avalon Volume 02
- "Bayban's Bounty"
- "Heart of Ice"
The Clone Masters
- "The Rule of Life"
- "The Conclave"
Bayban the Butcher
- "The Butcher's Wife"
- "Vengeance Games"
The Terra Nostra
- "The Offer"
Heroes and Villains
- "The Amagon Queen"
- "The Deal with Dorian"
- "Everyone Talks to Shrinker"
At the moment much of the trope page is empty, so help add to it if you can.
Tropes found in the Blake's 7 audio plays, split according to producer:
- BBC Quarry: "The Sevenfold Crown" contains a line where a disgusted sounding Tarrant complains that the planet they've just teleported down to "looks like a quarry".
- Depending on the Writer: Or, in this case, Depending On Whether The Writer Has Watched The Show (he hasn't). The result is a severe case of character derailment for the entire cast, including a gluttonous Vila (an accidental substitute for his alcoholism?), a helpless Soolin, and an Avon who wants to take over the galaxy, apparently.
- Dismantled MacGuffin: The titular Sevenfold Crown (I think?)
- Alternate Continuity: The first three episodes are a retelling of Series 1. While the basic outcomes and characterisation remain more or less the same (Blake is sent to Cygnus, then escapes on the Liberator), there are major changes to the setting and science fiction elements. Chief among these is the elimination of the teleport, which is replaced by a shuttle as budget is no longer a restriction, and the placement of the series in the 2200s (Blake's 7 had 700-year-old pioneer ships, assuming Federation history is to be trusted).
- Lighter and Softer: The Federation is pragmatically evil rather than cartoonishly evil in this continuity. For example rather than planting memories in children’s heads to frame Blake they use “computer generated puppets” to give evidence by video link in the court case.
- Ace Pilot: Jenna in "Warship"."You'd better know what you're doing with this smuggler's stunt, Blake."
"Don't worry, Avon. He knows someone who does."
- All Crimes Are Equal: The detainees sent to die on Battleground 9 include murderers, thieves, rebel dissidents, and a medical student who complained about unfair hiring practices. It's less about punishment and more about getting new cannon fodder.
- Androids Are People, Too: Central to "The Turing Test". The researchers avoid moral dilemmas by refusing to see Fourteen as what she is - a young girl - while Avon, of all people, begins to find similarities between Fourteen and himself, even resolving to leave the Liberator with her when he sees that Blake will use her in the rebellion.
- Army of Thieves and Whores: While the fake rebel forces on Battleground 9 do contain some genuine resistors as well as the odd political embarrassment, the major component is ordinary criminals.
- Ascended Extra: Tom Chadbon's character Del Grant (brother of Avon's The Lost Lenore Anna Grant) returns for a few episodes set during Series C and becomes a de facto member of the crew, after making just one appearance in the original series. This was partially to fill out the cast since Josette Simon didn't return.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: A serial case in "Counterfeit". Blake bluffs his way into a scientific work camp as a new prisoner. Above ground, Avon uses the power of sheer arrogance to impersonate Space Commander Travis (a man, let us remind you, with one eye and an artificial hand). Eventually, however, they're both unmasked and Supreme Commander Servalan herself arrives to take the prisoners off the Governor's hands. They recognise her at once of course - the way she dominates the room, the white dress, the hair. It's Jenna.
- Continuity Nod: At the end of "Warship", as Blake's life capsule drifts away from the Liberator he laughs and murmurs, as he did in another pilot episode many years ago, "Oh no, I'm coming back."
- Canon Foreigner: Gustav Nyrron, a renowned Auron scientist, is introduced on the Liberator in "Solitude" and promptly dumped at Avon's insistence. He returns in "Wolf".
- Divide and Conquer: The conflict in "Fractures" comes from the pre-existing weaknesses in the Liberator crew, with a shapeshifting alien sabotaging the power system so they must split up to fix it and then slowly pushing each one into paranoia.
- Drowning Pit: combined with Trapped In A Sinking Spaceship in "Drones".
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The dwarf planet Megiddo is a bomb. All of it.
- First-Person Perspective: The style of The Liberator Chronicles, backed by a second character in a supporting role.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Blake shoots a mosquito-sized drone out of the air. Justified: the local fighters are implied to be using rounds, but Liberator guns are some sort of energy weapon and can presumably fry anything if they get close enough.
- The Inquisitor General: An interesting twist on this trope appears with the Battle Tracers in "Battleground", who seem to be picked from the lower social classes (Alexa is a Delta) but also hold no military rank, making them both impartial and immune to bullying from the upper-class commanders that they assess.
- Multiple-Choice Past: "Solitary" gives us snippets of Vila's backstory, including a book-loving grandmother who read him Robin Hood, the fact that he used to sell amulets on the black market, and a childhood memory of Federation troops rounding up his schoolteachers and shooting them all. At the very end we learn that "Vila" is a gestalt being that absorbs identities, and all those memories are other people's. Or are they?Vila: To hangovers! Here's to getting merry! Here's to Roj Blake and his merry men!
- Outrun the Fireball: In "Warship" the Liberator just barely gets ahead of the shockwave, but getting clipped by the outer edges was enough to bork up the remaining systems and require evacuation.
- Persecuted Intellectuals: A flashback in "Solitary" where Federation troops march into a school, round up the students and the teachers and then execute the teachers for perverting the students against the Federation. The kids are sent off to "correction camps".
- Pilot: "Warship" was the pilot for the full-cast audios.
- Psychological Thriller: "Fractures". The crew, split up as they try to repair a power failure, start getting disturbing and contradictory information over the comms. Blake ordered the power cut. Blake is trying to kill Vila. Vila is going mad. Jenna ordered the power cut. Cally is going mad. By the end of the episode, nobody trusts anybody, which suits the hate-feeding alien in the comms system down to the ground.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Josette Simon didn't want to return to the series, so Series 2 of the full-cast audios starts with Dayna's mysterious disappearance. Tom Chadbon's Del Grant joins the crew for the duration to bring the number to seven again.
- Space Is Noisy: Averted in "Warship". The progress of the plasma explosion is given by Zen's countdown and by the sudden silencing of the Andromedan transmissions. (Played straight earlier, though, when we hear Megiddo explode.)
- Story Arc: Big Finish episodes often have their own story arcs independent of the televised series. Series one had the "Federac" story and the machinations of the President.
- Tested on Humans: Battleground 9 is an entire planet devoted to wargames in which Federation trainees are sent against human targets. The sequel episode, set in the same place, features "biter" drones that inject people with artificial viruses and then hang around to record their deaths.
- Tomato in the Mirror: The narrator in "Solitude", Vila, is actually a shapeshifting alien gestalt. It's handled rather cleverly, since the story is set to make the other character seem suspicious.
- Turing Test: In "The Turing Test", unsurprisingly enough, but with a twist. Avon, masquerading as an android, is given the test with what he assumes is a human scientist at the far end. His opponent turns out to be a real, advanced android, which is why the scientists were so willing to accept Avon as one - but he's human. So what is she?
- Ungrateful Bastard: Did you really think Servalan would not take advantage of a crippled Liberator? That it was crippled holding the line against the Andromedan invasion is irrelevant.
- Unreliable Narrator: In the Liberator Chronicles each story is told by one of the Seven(ish), who are not the most trustworthy people.
- Unwanted Rescue: Cally teleports Jenna out of a suicide run in "Warship" and gets shouted at for her trouble, because Jenna had been planning a slingshot orbit around the alien fleet.
- Western Union Man: In "Dawn of the Gods", as part of the episode's Anachronism Stew, Groff dresses like a stereotypical western telegraph officer.
- Why Am I Ticking? The end result of the artificial pyrokinetic virus in "Drones".
- You Are Number 6: The android 14 in "The Turing Test". Avon wonders what happened to the earlier thirteen versions - turns out they were all sacrificed as distractions whenever the station was raided.