Blake’s 7 survived major changes of crew, the destruction of the Liberator and now, forty years later, it marks its anniversary with a touching story penned by Mark Wright. Fans will know Blake himself (Gareth Thomas) passed away in 2016 and this release stands as a tribute not only to the show, but to Gareth himself and the character he created.
The Way Ahead is a pair of stories, standing alone from the many other Blake’s 7 titles Big Finish has released, and no less essential for that. The first story, Project Aquitar, sets up a reminiscent Avon (Paul Darrow), and introduces other characters such as Magda (Glynis Barber, who was Soolin in the TV series) a character from Paul Darrow’s own books, and Avalon (who appeared in the TV episode of the same name, now played by Olivia Poulet) a terrorist with her own views on how the resistance should fight the Federation. Of course, Zen and Orac (Alistair Lock) are also present.
The story tells of Federation experiments into yet another superweapon, and alongside Travis (Stephen Greif) and Servalan (Jacqueline Pearce) also gives us Vila (Michael Keating), Jenna (Sally Knyvette) and Cally (Jan Chappell) whilst keeping Olag Gan and Blake himself offstage. It’s a pacey tale with some interesting ethical questions, and plenty for the crew to do as they seek to escape from the clutches of the Federation once more and rescue Avalon from Travis.
The second story, Dissent, switches events forward into later TV series territory, as Avon reminisces about meeting Avalon again, and this time the Liberator crew of Vila and Cally is supplemented by Tarrant (Steven Pacey) and Dayna (Yasmin Bannerman). This time Avalon has the upper hand, and the story centres more on trust and loyalty than the deeper water of the first story. At the end Avon also faces his thoughts about Blake full on, and the last few minutes will strike a chord with any fan of the show.
As a pair the stories tick lots of boxes without being nostalgic. Instead we have two stories given us insight into various subsets of the Liberator crew, revisit key milestones in the TV series arc, and most of all they entertain.
This is really a well-conceived and executed tribute to the show, and highly recommended.