Blake’s 7 The Early Years: The Dust Run / The Trial

SFFaudio News

Blake's 7 - The Early Years - The Dust Run / The TrialBlake’s 7 audio drama writer Ben Aaronovitch is showing off the the latest addition to the Blake’s 7: The Early Years series on his blog. Sez Aaronovitch:

Amazon [UK] are already taking pre-orders for The Dust Run/The Trial, the latest addition to the Blake’s 7: The Early Years audios. This one, featuring Carrie Dobro as Jenna and is written by the frighteningly fecund and swift Simon Guerrier.

As readers of our production blog can discover script editing is not the non-stop round of glamour and excitement that you might imagine it to be but it’s always a thrill to see the covers out there in the world.”

And it looks like has it too HERE.

Hmmm, that makes me think about B7 yet again. I’ve got the current release, Blood & Earth / Flag & Flame, sitting in front of me here. I’ve listened to it twice already. Yep, I’m going to give it one more listen before I review it.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Recent Arrivals – Blake’s 7 – Cally: Blood & Earth / Flag & Flame

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

Hey, look what showed up in the Canadian PO Box today…

Blake's 7 - Blood And Earth and Flag And FlameBlake’s 7 – Cally: Blood & Earth / Flag & Flame
By Ben Aaronovitch and Marc Platt; Performed by a full cast
1 CD – Approx. 60 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: B7 Productions
Published: August 24, 2009
ISBN: 9781906577070
“It’s a source of utter bewilderment that Cally is still part of my life, but delighted to embrace her return. It’s astonishing to be playing the character thirty years on and to know that Blake’s 7 still has such an ardent following. Who would have known that back in 1978 we were making television history.”

This is going to the top of my “to be listened to stack”!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Commentary: SFFaudio needs more Audio Drama

SFFaudio Commentary

SFFaudio MetaPetri Salin of the Tricrepicephalus blog seems to think we’re doing good work – and I have to agree. There’s never been a better time to be an audio fan. But his comments aren’t all praise. For instance, he thinks we’re a little short in the audio drama department (he keeps mentioning it). And, I guess I have to give him credit for spotting that too. We do lean a little more towards audiobooks than AD. Part of that is because personally I tend to listen in high noise environments – while shopping, in the car with the roof out, while riding a lawnmower – places where the subtleties of the art might be injured. Audio drama just doesn’t work as well under those conditions. I also tend to listen to audio drama and radio drama when I’m at home, especially in the evening or at bedtime. I treat audio drama, especially the downloaded stuff, as a treat, something I need not make notes about. Hence the less reviewage of it here.

So, given those limitations, I’ll try to add a bit more AD to the mix over the coming months. For now I’ll drop a few names of productions and podcasts I’ve been listening to lately…

BBC Audio - Venus In Copper - based on the novel by Lindsey DavisFALCO, or more specifically, Falco – Poseidon’s Gold – BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Drama (2009)
I’m about half way through this, the latest adaptation of Lindsey Davis’ series of novels centering on the life of “private informer” Marcus Didius Falco (private investigator) Circa 72 A.D.. It’s a terrific show, as are they all, with stunning production values, top notch acting and a real different narrative voice (lots of voice over giving us what Falco is thinking). I’m a big fan of anything to do with history, and this period of the Roman Empire is full of plenty of intrigue. Anton Lesser, the star of the production is someone I’d like to follow the career of. He’s that good.

Jake Sampson: Monster Hunter – Broken Sea Audio Productions (2007 – 2009)
I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed this show properly, and I doubt I ever will. That is a shame because I really do enjoy it. It’s exactly what you would think given the title. Basically it’s a bastardized cross between Indiana Jones and The Call Of Cthulhu role playing game. It won’t make you think any deep thoughts, but it certainly hits the sweet spot between adventurous fun and historical drama. They’ve done four complete serials so far. I wouldn’t cry too hard if they never do another, but I’d certainly be up for another just the same.

Vanishing Point CBC Radio (1980s)
I’ve been listening to a lot of these lately, many of them are absolutely not to my taste. They do however feature stellar production, and make use of many excellent actors. This means that when they do hit a solid story, it usually turns out pretty damn well. I’ll post a bigger story on this series at some point as I’ve made a ton of notes on most of the episodes I’ve listened to.

And, I also did do a big post, just the other day, on the BBC World Service adaptation of Pontypool.

One series that I plan to start listening to sometime soon is…

Cold Blood – BBC Radio 7 (January 2005)
This was done by Simon Bovey, the same guy who wrote Slipstream, which I thought was absolutely smashing. BBC Radio 7 describes Cold Blood as “[a] Chilling drama set in 2015 at an Antarctic research station” and apparently listeners have loved it too saying:

‘The writing and acting is marvellous….a sumptuous production!’

Sounds good hey?

My friend Julie Davis, of Forgotten Classics, recently suggested I try out a couple new mystery series…

The Teahouse Detective BBC Radio 4 (1998 – 2000)
Based on the stories of Baroness Orczy, dramatised by Michael Butt.

Colvil and Soames BBC Radio 4 (1996 – 1998)
Mysteries investigated by intelligence officers Henry Colvil and Alex Soames.

I’ve now gotten both of these via Radio Downloader. Now I just have to make time to listen to them.

Another BBC series that’s piqued my interest is Saturday Night Theatre. Someone over on has been posting a few of these up as torrents and everything I’ve heard from it has been excellent. Bill Hollweg’s raves about The Tale Of The Knight, The Witch And The Dragon, for instance, prompted a post on it, and I know a lot of folks loved that one.

I also mentioned the BBC radio adaptation of Tiger Tiger, based on the novel Alfred Bester on a recent podcast. Similar-wise, I’ve recently got my mitts on Saturday Night Theatre’s version of Arthur C. Clarke’s 1961 novel A Fall Of Moondust (it’s available in a 2 CD set from BBC Audio) and I’m really looking forward to hearing that.

Blake's 7 - Point Of No Return and Eye Of The MachineOn the commercial front there’s been a couple reviews that I’ve done of the new Blake’s 7 series |HERE| and |HERE|. Those come with our highest recommendation, the “SFFaudio Essential” designation.

Similarily, I’ve got another highly recommended series for you: - Bradbury 13 - A Sound Of Thunder is now offering the ever elusive and highly sought after so called “BRADBURY 13” produced in the early 1980s by Brigham Young University.

Who cares about Mormon Audio Drama?

Well my friends, even if you’re no latter day saint, you really should!

See the Mormon church loves AUDIO DRAMA. Just ask Orson Scott Card.

As a consequence of doing so much of it Mormons do it very well. And thus the BRADBURY 13 is arguably the best audio drama ever produced in the United States Of America.

The series is based on 13 unconnected short stories by Ray Bradbury. They are full 3-D sound productions, with quality acting, and ultra-rich soundscapes. 12 of the 13 had been made available in the 1990s on cassettes (email me if you want to buy these – I’ve still got some left) but now, finally, all 13 are available in a modern digital format. This, combined with the fact that’s new “Audible Enhanced Audio” format is in STEREO! This means that many audio drama fans are going to be extremely happy.

There are a couple of other things I can recommend for fans of Audio Drama who still find us wanting.

1. Listen to our podcast. Scott and I listen to more than we review. A lot of that is audio drama – we talk about it, and many other things, on the podcast.

2. Make some recommendations yourself. I don’t mean just drop the names of these shows, I mean really tell us what you’re listening to and why you like it, or don’t like it. Post it up as a comment, write it up on your own blog, or send me an email.

So, that’s what on my audio drama plate. What audio dramas are you folks listening to?

Posted by Jesse Willis

BBC Audiobooks America: New stock in from the UK

SFFaudio News

BBC Audiobooks America has just brought in a bunch of previously U.K. only BBC audiobooks. For North American customers this means a big savings on that crazy overseas shipping price. Among the available titles is the first in the series of radio dramatizations of Lindsey Davis books (Shadows In Bronze)! This is the “FALCO” series that I’m always telling everyone to try. Here’s the big list:

Posted by Jesse Willis

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

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

Review of Blake’s 7 – When Vila Met Gan (Vol. 1.1)

SFFaudio Review

Blake's 7 - When Vila Met GanSFFaudio EssentialBlake’s 7 – When Vila Met Gan (Vol. 1.1)
By Ben Aaronovitch; Performed by a full cast
1 CD – Approx. 50 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: B7 Media
Published: October 2008
ISBN: 9781906577056
Themes: / Science Fiction / Crime / Dystopia /

Earth. 2230 AD. A time of social and political turmoil. Olag Gan wants to marry the woman of his dreams. Vila Restal wants to steal anything that isn’t nailed down. When they form a partnership, a perfect combination of strength and skill, it seems that nothing stands between them and the easy life. But fate hates to give a sucker an even break and the course of true love never did run smooth.

Though set after the events of the Blake’s 7 – Audio Adventures (Trilogy Box Set) |READ OUR REVIEW| When Vila Met Gan is primarily a prequel showing Gan and Vila back on Earth. There they work in the criminal underworld, Vila as a burglar and Gan as syndicate muscle. This is where the show shines, with Ben Aaronovitch having carefully constructed even more of the world he illustrated in the Trilogy Box Set. Very little of Earth was shown in the original television series – so Aaronovitch makes the tyranny of Earth actually tyrannical by drawing heavily upon the culture and lexicon of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The story on Earth is set within a framing sequence in which a post-Trilogy Box Set Vila and Gan are visiting a colony world. They are there to take some much needed shore leave – but after they’ve spent all their money boozing up the planet Gan gets misty, and pines for his lost love back on Earth. It is at this point the narrative jumps back to Pre-Trilogy Box Set London (Rog Blake is still just a reformer candidate in upcoming planetary elections).

The story itself runs 30 minutes. The writing is fresh and funny with Gan and Vila make a terrific pair. Michael Keating, reprising the role he created in the original TV series, sounds just like he did on the show (even 30 years on). Owen Aaronovitch plays Gan. Also noticeable in this script is Ben Aaronovitch’s addressing of the original TV series “teleport” capabilities. The TV B7 “teleporter” and Star Trek‘s “transporter” technologies have been seen by SF fans as a kind of deus ex-machina. I think that’s why they were left out of the Trilogy Box Set. But, in When Vila Met Gan, our stranded heroes bemoan the lack of teleport technology. It verges on self-parody, but in the context of the framing story it works very well. This is a serial audio drama series of the highest caliber.

Also included on the CD are the Season 1 trailer, and the Season 2 trailer!

Posted by Jesse Willis