Other than their first full-cast Blake’s 7 adventure Warship, this is my first proper experience of Big Finish’s range of Blake’s 7 audio adventures. Released in January 2014, Fractures sees the return of as many of the original cast members of Blake’s 7 as were available at the time. We are so fortunate that we have this opportunity to revisit Blake’s era of the series before the untimely death of Gareth Thomas.
Written by Justin Richards, Fractures opens with the Liberator embroiled in the midst of a space battle with Federation forces surprisingly commanded by Travis (Brian Croucher). Why is this surprising? Fractures positions itself towards the end of the second season of the TV series – prior to the crew locating “Star One”, but after Travis fell out of favour with both the Federation and Servalan.
Smuggler/ace-pilot Jenna (Sally Knyvette), with tactical help from Zen (Alistair Lock) and the rest of the crew – Blake (Gareth Thomas), Avon (Paul Darrow), Vila (Michael Keating), Cally (Jan Chappell) and Orac (Alistair Lock) – breaks through Travis’ trap. The presence of legitimate Federation forces steers them towards an unknown and foreboding part of space, wherein they have to navigate slowly through a ship’s graveyard. Whilst there, something, or someone, boards the Liberator.
With self-repair underway and mysterious power fluctuations apparently caused by a traitor in their midst, the crew work through an atmosphere of increasing trepidation and dread. Who is telling the truth? Who is lying? And who is the traitor?
Given the title of the adventure, and that the crew split up, and are separated into different areas of the ship, it probably isn’t going to be the biggest surprise to work out what’s going on. I’ve only listened to the first half of this one-hour adventure so far, so I’m not going to speculate too wildly right now.
What I will say is that Fractures is proving to be a fantastic first adventure for Big Finish‘s first season of full-cast Classic Audio adventures. Some of the cast members sound older and more world-weary than their characters of the TV series, which is only to be expected, but some – such as Jan Chappell, Michael Keating, and Paul Darrow – are more successful at transporting you back to their younger selves. Having already done Warship, both Gareth Thomas and Sally Knyvette have more success recapturing their younger voices here, but the years are still noticeable.
Standing in for the late Peter Tuddenham again, Alistair Lock brings Zen to life with very similar vocal intonations of the man with the great voice. His Orac takes a little adjusting to, but is acceptable enough. So far, Travis’s participation has been short but Brian Croucher is instantly recognisable as Blake’s nemesis. I truly hope that we hear more from him. Blake’s 7 is about more than just Blake vs Travis, of course, and Travis was served well by some of the TV episodes, but a hero is only as good as his primary antagonist and it’s only right that we should hear more from Travis.
In short, the atmosphere of the adventure and the claustrophobic feel of this mostly Liberator-set story, is successful in recapturing the spirit of the original TV series. In fact, this could easily have been an audio recording of a televised adventure. Whilst Warship‘s strength was its budget-defying action sequences that couldn’t be created on a 70s’ BBC TV series budget, the strength of Fractures is its faithful recreation of the televised series. I’m looking forward to the rest of the adventure and the next episode, Battleground.