Blake's 7 - Chosen

Blake’s 7: Chosen review

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With Big Finish compelled to call time on full-cast Blake’s 7 audios with the conclusion of the Restoration trilogy, the company’s new range of single-voice audio books has already delivered some impressive stories (in the guise of Outlaw and Uprising, both voiced by Stephen Greif) offering new insights into the efforts of Roj Blake and his band of rebels to overthrow the tyranny of the Federation.

Latest instalment Chosen unfolds in the early phase of life aboard the Liberator, as Blake and his allies continue to test their mettle in early skirmishes with their mortal foes. The story of Chosen splits the on-board crew into three, as different elements of the plot unfold on board the ship and on the planet below. A fourth strand introduces the character of Chana, a mysterious figure confronting a life-changing decision on an abandoned planet.

Malevolent robots

Writer Niel Bushnell’s characterisation of the Liberator crew rings true throughout the story: with Avon as razor-sharp and calculating, and Vila as skittish and risk-averse, as ever. And as in Christopher Cooper’s Uprising, Chosen provides some intriguing insights into Gan’s inner-monologue, as his mind strains against the limits of his cranial implant. Bushnell offers a particularly pleasing reading of Blake, who appears here as a recognisably flawed hero. He is an impatient freedom fighter – a leader reluctant to consult his comrades, and far too impulsive and instinctive for his or his crew’s own good.

On TV, Jenna often found herself stuck on the flightdeck, or sat patiently behind the controls of the teleport, while her male compatriots risked life-and-limb in the perils of deep-space. Chosen provides Jenna with a more active role in proceedings, as she is pitched into battles with malevolent robot sentries planet-side. Cally experiences a fate her character is more familiar with. She spends most of the story in an incapacitated state aboard ship, a conduit for the memories and thought patterns of others.

Bushnell keeps the momentum of his plot moving through the continual switches in focus between the different crises with which crew members are grappling. There’s an energy and robustness to the prose in a story that comes across as an authentic and recognisable extension of the Blake’s 7 canon. This is the kind of action and adventure piece that aligns itself closer to the storytelling beats of Terry Nation and Chris Boucher than to the more reflective musings of Tanith Lee.

Speech patterns

Voicing an audiobook in which the patterns of the characters’ speech are known to every viewer of the original television series presents the narrator with an obvious dilemma. Should you attempt a direct impersonation of each actor’s performance; or instead chose a style of vocalisation that differentiates each member of the ensemble, but with sufficient reference to their original timbres to be recognisable? Olivia Poulet wisely opts for the latter approach. Hers is a focused and textured reading that navigates the different tempos of the parallel story lines with the kind of commitment and clarity that will keep listeners engaged.

In the context of Covid restrictions, Big Finish’s producers have shown complete confidence in the ability of their audiobook narrators to ‘self-direct’ their home-studio recordings. It was a decision vindicated by the impressive Omega Factor tale Divinity, narrated to great effect by Louise Jameson, and a decision reinforced here by Poulet’s engaging reading of Bushnell’s confident text. This is a rip-roaring Blake’s 7  adventure, complete with an inventive did-not-see-that-coming twist that is the well-earned pay-off of some clever plotting.

Four Stars

Blake’s 7: Chosen is available to buy as a digital download from the Big Finish site.