The Turing Test by Simon Guerrier is the first adventure from the first box-set, released in February 2012, of The Liberator Chronicles, a range of enhanced Blakes 7 audios from the stables of Big Finish. This first episode was released in standalone format during the 2014 “12 Days of Big Finish-Mas” – a kind of daily sale in the run up to Christmas, and this was when I obtained it.
I’ve been listening to, and mostly engrossed in, Big Finish‘s full-cast audio adventures of Blakes 7 recently and, having reached the end of the full-cast audios I have available, now is the ideal time to check out the single The Liberator Chronicles adventure in my collection.
The Turing Test is an enhanced audiobook, not dissimilar to the range of Doctor Who Companion Chronicles from Big Finish. One main voice tells a story primarily involving their character, with a secondary voice offering enhancement along the way, together with sound effects and music.
The primary character in this adventure is Avon, as voiced and played by Paul Darrow. We’re blessed to also have the company of Michael Keating voicing his character, Vila.
At great risk, Blake and his crew have appropriated a technological device from some pirates and, with this, Avon is to impersonate being an android The idea is to go undercover in a Federation project, one which they’ve heard a little about but aren’t sure what it is they’re going to find.
Vila goes with Avon, as the creator of the android, using his quick-wittedness to outwit the scientists whilst leaving all of the difficult questions to be answered by his creation.
Avon successfully convinces the scientist of Vila’s genius in creating a near human android and it isn’t long before he encounters a similar android – one that looks female, called Fourteen, but that doesn’t talk. Avon spends some considerable time with Fourteen, convincing her to trust him.
Avon realises that it’s the other android that they need to steal, which requires some clever computer programming on his part and some slieght-of-hand from Vila to convince the scientists that their base is being targeted by pirates.
They’re able to get the android away and to the Liberator but, the further away they get, the weaker Fourteen gets.
The Turing Test is a great story for the character of Avon as it utilises the fact that everyone thinks of him and his cold attitude as being akin to a computer. He uses this to sell the con but, when he comes face to face with the very thing he’s pretending to be, he’s not completely sure how to react. Playing the cold aloof logical one against irrational emotional humans is one thing, but playing that card against someone who isn’t an irrational emotional human, but exhibits signs of being such a thing, is quite another.
The episode ends with Avon realising where his own emotions are at, that they can be a weakness, and why he will be forever the way that we see him.
For one of the most emotionless characters on Blakes 7, Avon goes through an emotional journey without actually requiring his emotions. It’s quite cleverly done, and nicely played by Darrow.
That Fourteen can’t talk, presumably a prerequisite of having no other voice actor involved, ensures that we stay in Avon’s head at all times on this journey.
The only downside to this approach is that I was forever reading more into the characters, the story, and the title, than was actually there. I kept expecting twists, such as find out that Fourteen was actually a real person trying to trick Avon-the-android, or that it was all a scheme to get her on board the Liberator as a Federation trap, or any one of a number of other devious schemes the Blakes 7 crew have encountered before. But there wasn’t any of that, it’s just a straightforward story dealing with what makes Avon tick without dragging out an interminable back-story for the character.
Paul Darrow is quite a wonderful narrator when he’s voicing the thoughts and words of his own character. He clearly has a comfortable relationship with Avon, which comes across on the audio.
The Turing Test also benefits from the inclusion of Michael Keating, who is not only a delight when delivering Vila’s words, but also in that he gives us a break from the constant Avon voice. What also helps is that, having listened to the full-cast audios recently, it’s quite clear to me that Paul Darrow and Michael Keating are the two original cast members who most accurately deliver the voices of their characters from back in the late 70s. There’s no distraction from other voices that are older, or that don’t sound like themselves. It’s just Avon and Vila, a pairing we know were underused in the TV series, who always work so well together.
And so ends my currently collection of Blakes 7 audio adventures. I believe I have an excerpt from a more recent adventure that I shall doubtless listen to soon, and I believe I may have the non-Big Finish audio The Syndeton Experiment to round out my Blakes 7 listen-athon. These will be coming up next.