B7 1.05 – Cold Fury

BLAKES 7 : Cold Fury

Following on almost directly after the previous adventure, Mirror, Cold Fury opens with Vila having apparently escaped Travis’ grasp just long enough to send an audio signal with location beacon to the Liberator.  He’s then locked up again, and suffers Travis asking him to tell him something which Vila is reluctant to do.

Using Orac, Blake discovers that Travis is on Horst Minor and surmises that Vila must be there, too.  This is confirmed when they pick up Vila’s signal.

Cally receives a telepathic mayday from an Auron and, when Blake discovers that the President is on Horst Minor as well, rescuing Vila doesn’t appear to be everyone’s priority.  Avon is the only one who insists that Vila should be top of everyone’s list.

The President is on Horst Minor to inspect some confidential and secret experiments, leading to Avon meeting himself, and it’s not the mutual admiration society encounter he might have expected.

Blake has the opportunity to kill the President, but the Presidential guards fight back and it takes Jenna’s cool-headedness and Avon’s forward-thinking to save his life.

With everyone trying to get an injured Blake back to the ship just before a whole host of Federation pursuit ships ambush them, Vila calls for transport only for Travis to arrive instead and insists that Blake surrender unconditionally.

It shows the high standard of adventures in this season of Blakes 7 adventures when this is, other than Fractures, the weakest one of them all so far. Cold Fury has two writers, so it’s difficult to understand how this one can be a bit of chaotic and lacking in much substance.  Lots of things are going on, but those things are not exactly cohesive with everything else.  Almost as though someone put a lot of ideas in a pot, wrote scenes for them, then didn’t spend an awful lot of time figuring out how they work.

Although the episode opens with Vila trying to escape and then being interrogated by Travis, we then hear very little from Michael Keating for the rest of the episode.  What should have been a good Vila episode hardly features him at all.

The interrogation, such that it is, just has Travis telling Vila to talk but at no time does he say what he wants Vila to say.  It’s like cheat story-telling that keeps the listener detached from the motives of the characters.  You can’t pose questions and then abandon those questions for the rest of the adventure if you want the reader/listener to invest in those characters.

The highlight of this adventure is that the President, who has been heard from before in this series, is given much more story time.  It’s fairly predictable what’s going on with him but, like everything else, it’s a question posed and then left hanging.  Why leave it hanging when it’s pretty obvious what’s going on?

Hugh Fraser as the President is fantastic.  Initially playing the part as before, all calm and considered with estimable charm, before swapping into a manic state of paranoia.  Nicely done.

The only question is over Blake’s sudden determination to kill the President.  Surely Blake’s problem is the Federation, not just one person?  Assassinating the President so boldly will not accomplish Blake’s mission.  It’ll just create a martyr and a dead terrorist in Blake himself.  Surely Blake wouldn’t throw up his whole mission for this irrational killing spree?

Apparently Horst Minor is an ice world, something you only pick up on when someone occasionally says “oh, it’s a bit nippy” but, other than that, this story could have been set anywhere.  It’s almost as though this is an ice world just to satisfy the title “Cold Fury”.

So, although there’s a lot going on in this episode, and most of the cast has something to do (except, for the most part, the criminally missing Michael Keating, and the woefully underused Brian Croucher), I can’t recommend it as highly as the previous episodes.  I’ve read a review elsewhere that cites it as being the best episode so far but, I’m afraid, I just do not agree.

The next episode, Caged, the final adventure in this first season of Big Finish full-cast audio Blakes 7 adventures, is written by the same duo as this episode.  I can only hope that they’ve come up with something a little more cohesive to bring the season to a close.  It could well be that they had to stretch a one-episode story into two episodes, and that’s why Cold Fury feels like an hour in the waiting room between Vila being kidnapped and what happens next.  Let’s hope so…