Following on from Blood & Earth, the previous adventure in the Blake’s 7 – The Early Years series from b7media, Flag & Flame by Marc Platt is another “Cally” story. Unlike the previous one and despite what the CD sleeve would have you believe, Flag & Flame doesn’t feature Jan Chappell reprising her role as the Cally we know.
Like the previous story, Flag & Flame plays on the concept of telepathy. There are two primary characters – two Callys – working for Auron defence. One Cally is piloting a “Flame”, which is sort of a single-seater combat spacecraft, whilst the other is back at base on the mothership – “Flag”. Their mission is for the Flame-Cally to investigate reports of Federation activity in a nearby asteroid cluster whilst running radio silent, meaning the only method of contact is via telepathy to the Flag-Cally.
The mission is a success as far as information gathering goes, but then the Flame is detected and under attack leading to trauma for the Flag-Cally when the Flame is destroyed. Is the Flame-Cally still alive, surviving on a diminishing air supply in space, or is it all in Flag-Cally’s head?
As with the previous story, a big problem with this one is the necessity to have the key characters being the same gender because they sound the same. Whilst this is probably necessary to support the “twins” aspect of the telepathy, it doesn’t make it easy to distinguish between the two “voices”.
Despite being only about 35-minutes long, this story feels interminable. It’s 90% “head-talk” between a Cally that we don’t know or care about and other Cally that we don’t know or care about. The space action livens things up a bit, but then it returns to form. I found myself just wishing the story would be over and I’m sure that, if I hadn’t been intent on listening to all stories in this collection, I would have given up on it much sooner.
Flag & Flame is the kind of story that the TV series might have had success with if it had been, say, Vila in the one-man craft and Avon being the only voice he could talk to. That would involve two characters we know and love, and their fractious relationship. It would undoubtedly have been a marked improvement over the version with the two Callys that we have no interest in.
It might have been better as a story that explores Auron, its defences, and its relationship with the Federation, rather than just being a half-hour of two similar sounding voices talking to each other.
In short, this is one to miss.
Following this adventure are two short music suits, one for each of the Cally stories.