Whereas adventures in the Blake’s 7 – The Audio Adventures range featured a full-cast production of all of the Liberator’s crew, including Travis and Servalan, and had the feel of a TV episodes, Blake’s 7 – The Early Years feels a little bit more like a budget-conscious affair akin to Big Finish‘s “Companion Chronicles” range.
Having previously heard from Vila and Gan in When Vila Met Gan and then Travis Point of No Return, Eye of the Machine is a Kerr Avon story by Ben Aaronovitch. In this story, Travis is played by new actor Colin Salmon, and not Paul Darrow (from the TV series). This works only if you’ve already listened to the first three Blake’s 7 – The Audio Adventures which featured the new cast. Colin Salmon is great in the part of Avon here but, if you’re expecting Paul Darrow, you’re in with an awakening.
The story is told in a haphazard style, from characters recording some kind of “testimony”, to current events (Avon interrupting a presentation), to the bulk of the story which is “flashback” style. It’s this bulk of the story that’s of most interest. We’re treated to Avon’s back-story with Anna Grant, from his first meeting with her, through their active relationship, and to a revelation. At the same time, we join Avon as he tries to present his theories regarding Artificial Intelligence to the foremost mind on the subject, Professor Ensor, and as he works with Ensor, to a final revelation again. In both instances, we see Avon’s character develop and change.
The reason this story works so well is that it not only gives us background to Avon, but it also explains more about who Anna Grant is/was (background to a particular TV episode), and also gives us insight into the kind of person Professor Ensor was (he who created Orac). Professor Ensor is portrayed by Geoffrey Palmer and he does a great job, despite not being much like the TV version. Keeley Hawes is Anna Grant.
Whilst the previous adventure would have worked better as a full-cast adventure, this one works precisely because it is just Avon’s interactions with two key supporting characters of the TV series. As before, the adventure is followed-up with a music suite.