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Review: Crossfire 2

BLAKE'S 7 - THE CLASSIC AUDIO ADVENTURES - Series 4: Crossfire Part Two

Review by Jackie Emery

Paul Darrow (Avon), Michael Keating (Vila), Jan Chappell (Cally), Steven Pacey (Tarrant), and Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan) with Yasmin Bannerman (Dayna) and Alistair Lock (Zen and Orac)

Hugh Fraser (Former President), Imogen Church (Niner), Tam Williams (Jay), Tania Rodrigues (Captain), Issy Van Randwyck (Eve / Nada), Anthony Townsend (Commander / Robot), John Green (Mordekain), Toby Longworth (Lockwood), Kerry Skinner (Zheanne)

Writers: Trevor Baxendale, Cavan Scott, Paul Darrow and Steve Lyons
Sound Design: Luke Pietnik and Nigel Fairs
Music: Simon Power,
Cover Art: Lee Johnson
Produced, Directed and Script Edited by John Ainsworth for Big Finish Productions

This is the second of the three boxsets in Crossfire, Big Finish's 12-part series-within-Season C, set between the episodes Death Watch and Terminal.
Crossfire Part One established the power struggle between Servalan and the former President whom she deposed. With the post-Galactic War Federation embroiled in civil war, the Liberator and its crew cannot avoid being caught in the crossfire as the former and current Presidents battle for supremacy. Crossfire Part Two continues the story with four more full-length episodes, together with an hour of behind-the-scenes interviews.

4.5 Funeral on Kalion by Trevor Baxendale
Starring: Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Jan Chappell, Steven Pacey, Jacqueline Pearce, Yasmin Bannerman and Alistair Lock
Featuring: Hugh Fraser (The President) and Trevor Littledale (Maldor)

Thern Sorron, the ruler of Kalion, is dead. Both the former and incumbent Federation presidents attend the funeral, ostensibly to pay their respects, but are also vying for possession of the powerful Seal of Kalion. And of course, if there's a powerful item up for grabs, Liberator won't be far behind...

Funeral on Kalion is a great opener to the new boxset. Re-establishing the story arc set up in Crossfire Part One, the funeral of the former ruler of Kalion provides an opportunity for the warring Presidents to come face to face, where etiquette and the neutrality of the planet force them to contain their seething enmity under veneers of politeness. It's pure joy to listen to; the dialogue is brilliant and beautifully played by Jacqueline Pearce and Hugh Fraser. Special mention should go to Trevor Littledale for his portrayal of Maldor, Chancellor of Kalion. Maldor is responsible for the funeral arrangements and successive possession of the Seal of Kalion, and Trevor Littledale imbues the character with a quiet, steely dignity. I particularly liked the music for this episode, which included appropriately funereal organ riffs. For all its sombre setting, Funeral on Kalion is very entertaining and left me with a huge smile on my face.

4.6 Shock Troops by Cavan Scott
Starring: Yasmin Bannerman and Paul Darrow
Featuring: Imogen Church (Niner), Tam Williams (Jay) and Tania Rodrigues (Captain)

As the war between the presidents escalates, new recruits are urgently required for the military, and Dayna gains first-hand experience of life as a Federation trooper.

This is an extraordinary story. It's one that I felt was long overdue, and huge credit goes to Cav Scott for writing it. Shock Troops depicts the human faces beneath the familiar black visors; revealing what it must be like to serve as a Trooper fighting on behalf the Federation. Told mostly from the point of view of Trooper 229-R ('Niner'), through recorded letters to her father and interactions with fellow Trooper 971-J ('Jay'), Captain 492-M and Dayna (Trooper 817-A), the story is powerful and moving, but leavened also with the bleak humour that is often found in these situations. I particularly liked that Niner and the Captain were female. Together with Dayna, this story is very much 'one for the girls', but it doesn't feel like a gratuitous choice of gender. Each character is very real, sympathetic and believable, and with Supreme Commander Servalan having been taught by Kasabi, it's credible that women serve at all ranks in the Federation military. All the performances are fantastic, but special kudos to Imogen Church for making Niner so appealing.
My only minor nitpick with this episode is to wonder whether Cav Scott has been doing too much Star Wars recently, with the inclusion of a cutesy robot that has bleep-blooping conversations with Niner, and a line not far removed from Luke Skywalker's description of the Millenium Falcon!

4.7 Erebus by Paul Darrow
Starring: Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Jan Chappell, Steven Pacey, Yasmin Bannerman and Alistair Lock
With: Issy Van Randwyck (Eve / Nada), Hugh Fraser (The President) and Anthony Townsend (Commander / Robot),

The Liberator is lured to the planet Erebus. There, the former Federation president is colluding with an old acquaintance of Avon’s who is eager for a reunion.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of this episode, which seems to have been written and played mainly for laughs. Paul Darrow has a superb sense of humour which shines through everything he writes, but this story is at odds with the tone and canon of both the original series of B7 and the Big Finish continuations. Taking as its starting point the dialogue in Space Fall in which Avon is introduced as the 'number two computer expert in the Federation', with number one having been 'the guy who caught him', Erebus reveals that the 'guy' was actually a woman - Eve Adams, Avon's lover – each of whom is seeking revenge on the other. Despite Erebus taking place after Countdown and, significantly, Rumours of Death, poor Anna Grant doesn't even get a passing mention! Avon is portrayed more as he appears in Lucifer rather than B7 Season C, while Tarrant and Vila spend their time trying to out-quip each other. However, this story could be regarded simply as a lighthearted interlude after the intense Shock Troops. As long as one ignores the series' canon and characters, Erebus is an amusing listen, with its over the top performances and fun-to-spot contemporary quotes and plays on words.

4.8 The Scapegoat by Steve Lyons
Starring: Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Jan Chappell, Steven Pacey, Yasmin Bannerman and Alistair Lock
With: Hugh Fraser (The President), John Green (Mordekain), Toby Longworth (Lockwood), Kerry Skinner (Zheanne).

On the Federation world of Astra Valadina, the former President is hatching a plan to discredit his successor and turn the tide of the war in his favour. The unwitting pawns in his scheme are the crew of the Liberator.

This story could be subtitled: "The Man Who Would be Vila", as confidence trickster Lockwood (played by Toby Longworth with great energy and charm) has been hired to impersonate our resident thief as part of a plot by the former President to discredit Servalan and turn public opinion against the 'heroes' of the Liberator. It's a hugely enjoyable episode, full of twists, turns and reversals of fortune. All the performances are great, including John Green who returns as the former President's right hand man General Mordekain, and Kerry Skinner as Zheanne, a pretty, but staunchly pro-Federation young woman with whom Tarrant finds himself trapped. But as a Vila fan, I confess that I most enjoyed the scenes between Lockwood and the real Vila, as each tries to prove that they are a more convincing version!

The Behind the Scenes interviews are fun, and once again, the entire production is of the highest quality, with consistently outstanding performances, sound design and music.

Blake's 7 – Crossfire Part Two is available now on CD and Digital Download

You can catch up with Blake's 7 – Crossfire Part One, which is available HERE.

The full range of Blake's 7 audio dramas and original novels can be found here: Blake's 7 from Big Finish many of which are reviewed on this website: here

· Posted by Travisina on 20 January 2018 4068 Reads ·