Review by Ian McArdell
Of the many iconic moments across the four-year run of Blake’s 7, the closing moments of the Series B finale ‘Star One’ ranks high. Finally tracking down the heart of the Federation’s control system, a series-long quest, the rebels achieve their objective… only to find that they are opening the door to a larger, interstellar threat. After Travis ultimately betrays humanity, the episode ends with Avon ordering Liberator into the breach against a flotilla of alien invaders.
When the show returned, much had changed – not least the cast line up. The rebellion continued without its leader Roj Blake, and the Liberator without its expert pilot Jenna Stannis too. While Gareth Thomas returned as Blake a couple of times, we heard little more of Jenna (Sally Knyvette) save that she had returned to her former life as a smuggler. Later, Blake reported her death in a self-destructing blaze of glory.
While the show moved on, ‘After the War’ returns us to that period to fill in some of the details…
Despite being part of ‘After the War’, the first episode bends the premise a little. Technically told from a post-war standpoint, through the framing device of a debriefing, it actually fills in the gaps on the path Travis (Brian Croucher) took to get to Star One.
We find him after his encounter with Blake on Goth (in ‘The Keeper’) and seeking to get a vital brain print decoded. On the volcanic planet of Amerinth, Travis deals with an amusingly plummy tech wizard named Hallicus (Owen Oakeshott) and it is fun to hear him murdering his way through the tale as only he can. The officer on his trail is Keel (Niall MacGregor), who is both competent and determined to track the rogue Travis down.
With Travis caught and under interrogation, writer Trevor Baxendale brings another character into the mix; Federation Commissar Ura Lekta, who he wove into Travis’ backstory during his 2019 novel ‘Outlaw’, makes a full-cast appearance here. She’s brought to life by Gesella Ohaka.
An engaging game of cat and mouse ensues, which serves as the backdrop for plenty of backstory. Travis’s motivations for betraying humanity are laid bare and the Andromedean cause is fleshed out too: they were out for the survival of their civilisation (albeit at the cost of ours).
Jenna Stannis, fleeing from the war, lands on an agricultural world called Treadmill. She’s not the only one however, numerous pods and ships have fallen on this world, as does acid rain.
Rescued by a native, Katherine Press’s Galeen, Jenna tries to assist. She forms an uneasy alliance with Federation soldier Jovak (Jake Fairbrother), but there’s a fragile peace to be kept until a medical rescue ship arrives.
Writer Steve Lyons creates a tense environment into which he unleashes a shape changing Andromedan who is desperate to survive. I felt shades of The Thing as it became difficult to know who to trust.
Finally, Katharine Armitage brings us a tale of Cally (Jan Chappell) – who’s also fleeing the conflict – attempting to rescue Jenna. The pair end up at a quirky space hotel/service station, run by telepathic staff who have been augmented thanks to a chip in their brain.
Of course, this is a reunion that didn’t happen onscreen but the story fits neatly into established lore. Cally is challenged on her role in the war and we’re again prompted into reconsidering the actions of our heroes.
I enjoyed the supporting cast Wayne Forester (Welcoming), Kate O’Rourke (Trainee) and Ella Smith (Technical), each named for their role in keeping the station operational.
Addressing the consequences of the interstellar war, and especially the motivations of humanity’s enemies, this is a fascinating idea for a boxset. It also makes good on the shape changing abilities of the Andromedans, which weren’t really explored in the show onscreen.
For me, ‘Andromeda One’ particularly appealed as it filled in that vital gap in the path of Travis. While we know Cally found her way back to Liberator, it would be fascinating to hear Jenna’s post-Liberator story developing from here.
As ever, all three stories are up to Big Finish’s usual high production standards, with assured direction from Lisa Bowerman. Mark Plastow’s terrific cover, dominated by a hooded Travis, is striking too.
Next up, in December, Allies and Enemies promises three more stories with action for Jenna, Cally
Order on CD/Download from Big Finish.
Audio Review: The Worlds of Blake’s 7 – Zero Point
Audio Review: The Worlds of Blake’s 7 – The Terra Nostra
Check out the rest of our Big Finish reviews!