Worlds of Blake's 7: Tarrant
The Worlds of Blake’s 7: Tarrant
Review by M1795537

Cover Art by Tom Newsom
Written by James Goss, Andy Lane and Gary Russell
Directed by John Ainsworth
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Music by David Roocroft, Alistair Lock
Producer Peter Anghelides
Script Editor Peter Anghelides
Sound design by Benji Clifford, David Roocroft and Alistair Lock
Senior Producer John Ainsworth

Soldier, Federation Space Commander, smuggler, freedom fighter. Del Tarrant has challenged convention throughout his many careers in a hostile galaxy.
These are the stories of his choices and challenges, his friends and family and foes, on an unpredictable journey to the Liberator and beyond.
This release contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners

1. The Authorised Version, by James Goss
(Rosalyn Landor, Steven Pacey, Peter Anghelides, Rav Ghatak)
The Authorised Version attempts to reconcile the fact that for a young man, Del Tarrant seems to have fitted a lot more into his life than most. There are references in the TV series that sometimes don’t make sense, viewed chronologically. Using the device of the Dream-Makers, originally introduced in the Liberator Chronicles story Spoils, also by James Goss, perhaps some of those inconsistencies can be resolved.

Instead of the usual choice of having the Dream-Makers reveal the future, Tarrant insists that they re-write his past, as long as he can tweak it a little. The story moves rapidly through the segments of Tarrant’s life, with well-written and believable dialogue from his time at the Space Command Academy and his family relationships to the events that led him to become a mercenary and eventually life as an outlaw.

It is so good to have Steven Pacey once again playing Tarrant, and he is ably backed by Raj Ghatak and Rosalyn Landor who, as the Dream-Makers, personify all the other people closely involved in his account.
However, for me, Tarrant’s projected interactions with so many other characters and events from the TV series began to seem almost like name-dropping. It does hold together but felt forced. I also found myself wondering whether creating his Authorised Version was no more than a cathartic exercise on Tarrant’s part and if not, what audience he had in mind for what was - technically - this Revised Version of his life.

As with previous Big Finish productions, the cast and backstage discussion at the end add so much to the finished product. I would have liked more from James Goss, always my favourite B7 writer, and expert at perceiving and developing characters in unexpected ways. Here that kind of analysis was necessarily limited by what fans already knew of Tarrant, and I wondered how he approached a story where the focus was on how that personality played out in differing roles, from younger brother to killer and all points in between.

As a fan of Jacqueline Pearce’s Servalan, it was interesting to note that apparently no Blake’s 7 story is complete without some mention of her. It was deeply reassuring, therefore, to hear them agree that Jacqueline herself could never be replaced, and that Rosalyn aspired to bring just a flavour of that unique talent to this recording.

2. Behemoth, by Andy Lane
(Caleb Frederick, Margaret Ashley, Steven Pacey, John Sackville)

The Blake’s 7 TV episodes gave little detail about either Tarrant’s service career or how and why he left Space Command. The second story in this trilogy presents a single incident, a plausible – if somewhat gory – scenario that might reveal why he questions his commitment to the Federation.

The tale begins with Tarrant in command of a group of soldiers on a mission to explore a large, abandoned ship – the Behemoth. What follows is a thriller as full of suspense and shocking revelations as you could want. As a vehicle to expand our understanding of Tarrant it works quite well, showing how he relates to his crew, leads from the front and has the intelligence to manage tricky situations to his advantage, but it’s not the kind of situation that brings out either his charm or that engaging smile.

Listeners are drawn into the increasingly tense search, while they absorb insights into Tarrant’s changing loyalties. It is exciting, edgy and well-constructed. The sound effects add depth to the illusion, with lots of echoey spaces, metallic gratings, footsteps, and unidentifiable noises at the edge of hearing.

The behind-the-scenes discussion afterwards explains how the story developed away from its original brief, resulting in a narrative that could stand up as well as any Blake’s 7 adventure. Ultimately, though, the only new thing I learned about Tarrant was how he proved himself thoroughly unlikeable, a typical Federation killer.
Interestingly, a mutoid is used as a substitute computer, as if humans have become dependent on referring to some kind of artificial intelligence for information. Some of the ideas presented in Behemoth reminded me of the genetic manipulations of the Clone Masters series, where surface impressions mask an underlying malevolence. Here similar themes apply to the Federation itself, facing Tarrant with a moral choice.

Clearly, much thought and analysis – ably led by director John Ainsworth – went into understanding the background and motivations of the various characters. It is good to hear them describe how they tackled their individual roles – especially in Esmonde Cole’s case the discipline of playing an unfeeling mutoid, when an actor’s job is usually about conveying emotion.

3. Bomb, by Gary Russell

(Ian Brooker, Steven Pacey, Joe Jameson, Yasmin Bannerman, Tania Rodrigues)
After the autobiography and the thriller comes a Tarrant story that’s lighter, with a hint of comedy and a return to the gallant, charismatic Tarrant that fans know and love.

Set early in Series Three of the Blake’s 7 TV canon, Bomb explores some of the trust issues that both Tarrant and Dayna face as newcomers to the crew. Cynical, experienced Tarrant meets impetuous, naïve Dayna. Neither has yet decided whether their commitment to Liberator's crew is long-term, but these two are beginning to develop a respect for each other.

With his usual caution, and perhaps as a test of their loyalty, Avon has sent his new crew members on a mission. They teleport into a disused mining station used as a base by Lon-Vessi (played by Tania Rodrigues) and her associates. What follows is a series of revelations proving that few of those involved are exactly who they seem. Somewhere in the base a bomb is primed to explode and kill them all. Time is running out, and escape seems unlikely.

Again, humans are seen depending on an artificial intelligence: apparently Ensor created more than one computer imbued with aspects of his own personality. For the audience, the character of the Matron device (played by Alastair Lock) becomes something of a familiar face in a strained situation where we are not sure who, if anyone, can be relied on. Whereas the previous story used overt bloodthirstiness, here the horror is perhaps all the more chilling because it derives purely from self-interest. It’s a matter of survival.

The atmospheric but unobtrusive soundscapes set the scene for encounters between a group of desperate people confined in a small space, enhancing the illusion of the listener being in there with them.

The character of Brel appears in all three stories, cleverly tying them together, since Tarrant seems fated to meet Brel on several occasions. We know little of Brel’s backstory, other than that he is a Federation operative with connections to Servalan, a person with no qualms about doing whatever it takes to achieve his aim.

Again, in the behind-the-scenes chat, we hear more about how each actor contributed to the whole. Especially welcome is Yasmin Bannerman’s description of her reaction when offered the part of Dayna. It is always encouraging to hear the creators admit to being long -time Blake’s 7 fans!

Thanks to Alastair Lock for all his hard work on the sound and music, as well as voicing both Orac and Matron. I particularly liked the music at the end: it was suspenseful, almost lyrical, until the speed picked up with a martial beat and brassy overtones, finishing with more of a question than an ending - the epitome of Blake’s 7. Well done.

Overall, I think Tarrant is a valid addition to the Worlds of Blake’s 7. It won’t please everyone, of course, but it’s three hours of fun and games that we didn’t have before. And I love the fact that they couldn’t quite bring themselves to leave Servalan out of any of these stories!

(Cast photos:Big Finish)