Review of Blake’s 7 – Point Of No Return and Eye Of The Machine

August 25, 2009
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Blake's 7 - Point Of No Return and Eye Of The MachineSFFaudio EssentialBlake’s 7 – Point Of No Return and Eye Of The Machine (Vol. 1.2 & 1.3)
By Ben Aaronovitch and James Swallow; Performed by a full cast
2 CDs – Approx. 70 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: B7 Media
Published: November 2008
ISBN: 9781906577063
Themes: / Science Fiction / Politics / Crime / Artificial Intelligence / Terrorism / Noir /

‘Blake’s 7 draws much of its inspiration from the legend of Robin Hood. It follows a small band of outlaws, under a figurehead leader, leading a rebellion against a tyrannical regime.’

A History and Critical Analysis of Blake’s 7 by John Kenneth Muir

This is the second release in the first season of Blake’s 7 prequel stories. For more information on the original the Trilogy Box Set and Volume 1.1 of the prequel series read our reviews HERE and HERE.

Point of No Return and Eye Of The Machine are two more rousing and unconventional adventures in the Blake’s 7 reimaginging. As is typical with most excellent series the music, sound design and acting are absolutely stellar. But, it is the writing which amazes me the most. There are two ways you can go with remakes of old television series. One is to write it so that the dumbest people in your audience won’t have any trouble following it (New Doctor Who I’m looking at you). The other is to re-imagine, re-construct and re-engage with those who loved a smart Science Fiction series for its intelligence. I’m happy to say that this new Blake’s 7 series is in the latter category. Feelings of surprise and utter engagement followed from the opening moments of a rainswept city soundscape to the final credit sequence. I was rapt, imagining the goings-on as vividly as if they were projected onto 1,000 foot screen. Here are my thoughts on each of the two episodes in this set…

Point of No Return – (Episode 1.2)
Written by James Swallow, directed by Andrew Mark Sewell

Point of No Return depicts a critical juncture in the life of Major Stefan Travis. Travis is a Blake’s 7 baddie, the Guy of Gisborne to Roj Blake’s Robin Hood. In this prequel story we find Travis assigned to investigate Carl Varon. Varon is a kind of proto-Blake – a political troublemaker who claims to have been setup by the powers that be. The evidence is against Varon is damning. There’s a laundry list of horrific charges against him. Plus, there’s all the video evidence. So what’s Travis’ problem? Just that Varon may be entirely innocent. Travis has two duties. 1. A duty to the state. 2. A duty to the truth. Which will he choose?

Actor Craig Kelly plays Travis. To my ears his voices sounds pretty similar to the original TV series actor Brian Croucher. What benefits Kelly here is that he gets a much meatier role than poor Croucher (the TV Travis) ever got. He also benefits by playing against a veteran like Peter Guinness. Guinness has a Jekyll And Hyde-like role in this story, we get him as the innocent man in jail and as a political terrorist (during some video playback sequences). Jake Maskall has the least to do here, playing Sub-Lieutenant Garcia. His role being to mostly act as a naive assistant to Travis.

Eye Of The Machine – (Episode 1.3)
Written by Ben Aaronovitch, directed by Andrew Mark Sewell

Eye Of The Machine also follows a baddie (but one of the less bad baddies). Kerr Avon (the Will Scarlet of Blake’s 7) in this prequel story is a brilliant and geeky post-graduate student at Oxford in 2230. The university’s campus, like so many on Earth, is roiling with political protest movements. Avon wants nothing to do with politics, but a fellow student is hot for two things – political change and Kerr Avon. Meanwhile Avon’s brilliance in his chosen studies has caught the eye of a respected cyberneticist professor. Professor Ensor is working on an artificial intelligence breakthrough – he needs a mind like Avon’s. Will Avon’s attendance at Freedom Party meetings or the ambitious Professor Ensor be his undoing?

Colin Salmon (playing Avon) is a movie star with stage acting chops. Anna Grant (played by Keeley Hawes) is fast talking and passionate. She’s terrific. Ensor, is played by Geoffrey Palmer, a veteran of virtually every television series made in the U.K.. In this he’s slimy, mean-spirited and perfect. The script jumps back and forth between the events as they unfolded chronologically and sometime shortly after ‘what happened’ wherein Ensor and Grant give one sided answers to an interrogator’s questions. Both Episode 1.2 and 1.3 use just three actors each but we don’t need even more. These scripts are perfectly polished audio drama gems. Highly recommended.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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