Blakes 7 – The Liberator Chronicles – Remnants

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After a disastrous mission to the planet Laresh, most of the crew has been wiped out. Avon and Jenna are the sole survivors, reunited aboard the Liberator.

But what happens next? With their plans in tatters, do Blake’s Two stay together… or go their separate ways and seek refuge in a galaxy pitted against them?

Writing stories set during the run of a television series isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do if you’re planning to throw the characters into a life-or-death situation. It instantly robs power during the more dramatic moments if we know from the outset that the characters will get out of this just fine – after all, we’ve already seen their later adventures. Writing a story that specifically deals with the consequences of their deaths knowing that there’s no way they can possibly have been killed (not yet, at least) is even more difficult, but there’s still merit in producing such a tale to explore the effects on the survivors and how they move on from the tragedy. The key is to find a writer skilled enough weave together an engaging enough story that doesn’t leave you feeling cheated at the end when the inevitable reveal comes and you find out – gasp! – oh, they’re not dead really!

Fortunately Simon Guerrier is such a writer, as his vast back catalogue of Big Finish work proves. One of the most prolific writers on their roster, his work includes some of the best and most popular stories in the Blakes 7 Liberator Chronicles range since it began in 2012. As with the Doctor Who Companion Chronicles these stories feature a minimal cast (usually just two actors, either both from the main cast or a main cast member with a guest voice) and here we get mostly a two-hander set early in the show’s second season with Paul Darrow’s Avon and Sally Knyvette’s Jenna, along with Alistair Lock providing Zen and Orac’s lines where necessary.

Avon and Jenna are a great choice of characters for this story, as unlike most of the rest of the 7 each is strongly independent and fully capable of surviving on their own away from Blake’s leadership. We’ve seen them share scenes together before where it seemed like there was an unspoken understanding between the two of them that Jenna would stop Avon if he ever moved against Blake – and that he really did believe she could do it – so it’s nice to get a story that explores how their relationship might go without him around. They’re polar opposites where the question of morality is concerned, and while you’d rather have Jenna by your side than Avon the story doesn’t shy away from the fact that she’s not entirely unambitious either. Examining what she might be tempted to do if released from her ties to Blake and the others is a great idea for a story, well-explored here, and shows off one of the strengths of the Liberator Chronicles series; the greater focus on the characters.

At first it kind of threw me off a little that she wasn’t more upset by the loss of the others, but I quickly remembered – no, this is Blakes 7. These people may be on the same ship together (and technically on the same side, although they’d be the first to debate that) but they aren’t friends by any stretch of the imagination. It’s entirely in keeping with the nature of the characters that if most of them did wind up getting killed the survivors would just kind of shrug and say “Right, that’s that then. So, pub?” Each of them has had to fight to survive in a corrupt and hostile universe, and it follows that they’d learn not to get too attached to anybody under those circumstances – which makes it all the more touching when, just occasionally, they do let their guard down for a moment and reveal that maybe there is genuine human emotion lurking just beneath the surface after all.

If I had one minor issue with this release it would be the length of time Avon spends with a female guest character during the middle of the episode. It’s a character who plays a significant part in the story – and yet remains mostly silent throughout. Considering that Darrow plays other minor male guest characters during the story it’s strange that Knyvette, who is otherwise absent throughout this section, couldn’t have filled in with her lines, but instead the couple of lines the character does get are delivered by Paul and Avon just tells us what she’s doing the rest of the time. It’s one of those odd problems these Chronicles occasionally have with such a small cast, and while it wasn’t enough to bring me out of the story it may just have started to had it gone on longer.

Luckily the episode quickly builds towards a gripping confrontation with the Federation’s forces  – and yes, when the reveal of Blake and co’s true fate comes it doesn’t feel like a cheat in the slightest. The acting of Darrow and especially Knyvette here is top-notch, and manages the remarkable accomplishment of feeling like it’s progressed the relationship between their characters – which like I said at the start is not easy to do when you’re writing a story set in between other already-existing stories! – while sitting comfortably within the series as a whole.

Sadly the Liberator Chronicles range comes to an end in April with volume 12, and if those three stories are as good as this one then it’s going out strong. Recommended!

Remnants is now available for download from the Big Finish website.