Review by Ian McArdell
Across four further tales, the crew of the Liberator return to witness the conclusion of the Crossfire story arc; episodes 9 – 12 chart the final stages of a civil war for control of the Federation, with Servalan and the former President vying for supremacy. Nestled as a sub-season within the continuity of late Series C, Crossfire Part 3 follows the same format as the previous two box sets, mixing arc-heavy stories with lighter ones and using various combinations of the cast; Avon, Cally, Vila, Tarrant and Dayna, along with Orac and Zen.
Ministry of Truth by Una McCormack
While The Scapegoat in Part 2 featured an attempt to discredit the Liberator crew through news, Ministry of Truth takes another angle on the media, looking at Infotainment; programmes made with a heavy dollop of propaganda and spoon fed to bolster the Federation’s grip on its citizens. Arriving at a production facility, Avon, Cally and Tarrant, believe the base also houses a transmitter vital to the coordination of Servalan’s war effort. This belief is soon bolstered when they discover Zeera Vos, Servalan’s aide on site – ostensibly to meddle with the programme output and have a sympathetic, young female president character weaved into the storyline; apparently, Servalan is a fan!
With divided loyalties and some entertaining satire, thanks to an obliging producer Verner (Dan March) and his principled writer – or as she prefers “dramaturge” Bowkan (Susie Riddell) – Una McCormack’s script has immense fun with the idea of a show within a show, and the writer’s desire to show some nuance. Paul Darrow is at his brutal best here looking for a traitor within the base, and Avon is well matched by Rebecca Crankshaw‘s slippery Zeera Vos. The others fare well too, with Tarrant granted some witty asides and Cally (Jan Chappell) cast in the role of peacemaker between the pair, as well as Avon’s conscience.
I particularly enjoyed the snatches of Stephen Pacey voicing the fictional rebel Kervin; a terrorist out to disrupt the peaceful lives of the Federation, but foiled by the heroes of Space Command. The name of the base too provided a laugh out loud moment, as it appears to namecheck the BBC’s infamous Acton rehearsal rooms.
Refuge by Trevor Baxendale
We are back on board Liberator for Refuge, for an adventure with the full crew who have some difficult decisions to face. As the war between the Presidents rages, so a humanitarian crisis is developing as planets are destroyed and innocents killed. Should the Liberator crew follow Vila’s instinct for self-preservation and flee or should they lend their support to one or other of the combatants to end the war quickly? When Avon calculates the odds, he comes up with an answer which the whole crew find unpalatable. Deliberations however are interrupted as they come across a freighter, piloted by an old acquaintance of Vila’s, whose cargo soon becomes a point of contention.
After starting with an epic space battle, and kudos to sound design team for creating a scene so evocative of the original series, Trevor Baxendale’s story settles into this rather wonderful debate of the Liberator’s place in the civil war. I loved the accusations of Avon missing opportunities to kill Servalan and it seemed as though Tarrant was really the voice of the viewer in those moments – and the reaction of Dayna (Yasmin Bannerman) was perfectly played. For his part Galon, played by Bruce Alexander (A Touch of Frost), is an entertaining creation and his scenes with Vila (Michael Keating) are super, especially as the layers of double dealing are revealed.
Kith and Kin by Christopher Cooper
The penultimate story revolves around a personal mission for Tarrant, and one which revels in tying up an age old question of continuity as we find the Liberator visiting the remote retirement planet of Corrolos. With Tarrant beaming down to honour the final wish of his late brother Deeta, he finds himself saddled with the company of Kimar (Peter Aubrey) – a retired accountant who becomes an unlikely ally in his quest to track down the community’s administrator, as well as lightening the mood too. Sadly, Jeremy Wilkin who played Dev Tarrant in ‘The Way Back’ is no longer with us, but Malcolm James is ably cast as the older Tarrant brother, with writer Christopher Cooper knitting up a fan theory born from Terry Nation’s fondness for reusing certain names.
I particularly enjoyed the fact that the story looked at the fallout of the destruction of Star One, and its impact on this remote world which had relied on the Federation System for its climate control and food production.
Death of Empire by Steve Lyons
Now the self-styled Supreme Empress, Servalan’s final stand against the Former President happens as we knew it must, knitting into established continuity as she makes her final stand on Geddon. As the battle plays out, Steve Lyons provides both a face to face confrontation between the two leaders, with Jacqueline Pearce blistering form facing Hugh Fraser’s urbane former President, as well as an epic space battle persecuted by General Mordekain (John Green) against Servalan’s forces.
With Avon taking a side, the crew beam down to the planet and there are some terrific action sequences, while Tarrant – still reeling from the events of the previous story – is goaded into an ill-advised space duel with Mordekain above. Death of Empire is an all-out, epic conclusion to the Crossfire story and it does not disappoint. Naturally, it left us on a tremendous cliff-hanger too!
When reviewing the Part Two box set, I grumbled that Cally has spent a fair amount of time operating the teleport controls, but it was a little unfair because, taking a wider view across Crossfire, it has in fact been an incredibly well balanced series. Each of the central players have been granted stories in which they were the focus, interweaving the more personal character stories with the larger, arc heavy ones, and the credit for this balance must go to producer, director and script editor John Ainsworth.
Expecting the outcome of the civil war and Servalan’s future as Commissioner Sleer has not detracted from the enjoyment of hearing it play out, and the conflict has spawned some memorable new characters, such as General Mordekain and Zeera Vos, both of whom we hope to hear more from. I almost wonder if Crossfire could have sustained a further set of stories, but we have been promised – in the pages of Vortex magazine – a further trilogy of releases entitled Restoration, coming later in 2018.
Until then, I can’t recommend Crossfire highly enough; the sound design is perfectly pitched and the stories are compelling. I am happy to rate this final box set a thrilling Standard by 10 out of 10.