Review by Ian McArdell
Restoration Part 3 is comprised of four episodes, which conclude the current Blake’s 7 mini-series. Set towards the end of the on-screen Series C, the story has seen the crew of the Liberator undertake desperate measures to repair their ship, critically damaged during the recent power struggle between Servalan and the President of the Federation. While the title references the crew’s goal, it also fits the aims of the President; in the wake of recent conflicts, he is striving to re-establish his grip on power.
As we left the crew at the end of “Hyperion“, the Liberator’s systems were restored but it had fallen under the control of the Quonar technology introduced to repair it. With Avon lost, feared dead, and System specialist Selene Shan (Evie Dawnay) onboard in his place, tensions are running high…
Without Avon, the crew attempt to deal with their new situation – all the while the Liberator hurtles across the galaxy, unresponsive to their commands. As Vila takes solace in the bottle, Selene attempts to wrestle control of Zen back from the invasive Quonar parasite and the rest of the crew try to decide if they should trust her. It is fair to say that Dayna (Yasmin Bannerman) is well-rooted in the no camp!
Meanwhile, on the far-flung planet of Tronis, a failing remnant of alien technology is all that keeps the residents of a doomed underwater city alive. Unless the “Deep Space People” return, that is.
Setting up this final sequence of stories, writer Trevor Baxendale gives room for the apparent loss of Avon to sink in. Vila seems the most affected, and both he and Cally consider their positions as the last of the Blake’s original band, and what their purpose is. In the guest cast, Trevor Littledale and Becky Wright entertain as the worthy old Primus and his irritatingly shrill, earnest protégé Zoriah.
Del Tarrant (Stephen Pacey) wakes to find himself trapped underground and shackled to his nemesis General Enton Mordekain (John Green), the Federation President’s right-hand man. The manacles dig into the prisoner’s nervous system, connecting the pair with a neural link, so that when one is wounded, the other feels the pain too. Forced to cooperate, assumptions are tested; while the injured Mordekain insists he is loyal to the President, Tarrant suggests there is a greater scheme at work.
A clever script by Steve Lyons kept me guessing throughout, as the pair, as well as the President, Dayna and Selene, attempt to escape their situation, while hemmed in by local resistance fighters. We enjoyed the interactions between the manacled duos and once again Hugh Fraser’s performance as the urbane and deadly President sparkles.
Writer David Bryer returns us to two early locations from the television show as we visit first the site of the battle where Blake’s crew gained possession of the Liberator, then the prison colony where the passengers of the London, including Vila, were sentenced to end their days.
With Vila separated from the others he encounters Zeera Vos, his one-time partner in crime, while trying to break into an underground vault. At the same time, Tarrant and Dayna come under fire, while Cally (Jan Chappell) and Selene fight with the parasite on the ship, which has begun to use Zen’s voice – a development which allows Alastair Locke to have some fun with his performance.
The story is a showcase for the talents of Michael Keating, who gives a lovely performance demonstrating Vila’s compassion and strength, as well as his ingenuity, and delivering great comic lines. His scenes with Rebecca Crankshaw’s Zeera, as they confront their shared history, are quite touching.
Trevor Baxendale returns to scripting duties as all roads lead to Callax for an epic showdown (I was only slightly distracted that the name is shared with a popular IKEA shelfing unit!). Callax is the home of the Imperium project, the President’s endeavour to re-establish his grip on the Federation worlds by reinstating the Star One protocols.
In an appropriately climatic story, I loved the scene between the President and the duplicitous Selene, over lobster and fine wine, where he lays out his monstrous regime in an alarmingly matter of fact manner. As we reach the end of this audio series, it is reassuring to hear the reason for our heroes continued resistance validated once more.
While keeping relatively spoiler-free, it ruins nothing to say that it was great to hear Shelia Ruskin reprise her role as Alta-One too, after some forty-one years (even if the Extras reveal that she does not recall all that much about filming ‘Redemption’!)
For his final appearance, Paul Darrow’s dialogue has been judiciously complied from previous appearances – a method previously employed to grant a final posthumous appearance for Trevor Baxter in ‘Jago and Litefoot Forever’. It works effectively here, granting Avon centre stage for the denouement: at the heart of the action and as ruthless as ever! Satisfyingly, it also sees Restoration dovetail neatly into the start of the Series C finale, ‘Terminal’.
“I’ll tell you a fact of life, Blake! Change is inevitable!”
Recorded in the wake of Paul Darrow’s death, and with this box set retooled to encompass his absence, we understand that these will be the last full-cast audios for the Blake’s 7 – The Classic Adventures in this form. This storyline judiciously manages the absence of Avon, but it is an unsustainable position. Darrow’s character was the lynchpin of the show, first as the counterpoint to Blake’s idealism and later as a charismatic and dangerous leading man; it is impossible to see how they could go on without him, Gareth Thomas or the matchless Jacqueline Pearce.
Under the supervision of producer/director John Ainsworth, working within some tight narrative constraints, both the Restoration mini-series and its predecessor Crossfire have entertainingly expanded the story of the Liberator crew and granted us further time with our heroes, fighting the good fight against a resurgent Federation. Through them, some questions have been answered about both Servalan’s fall from power and now the history of the System, both unexplored fully on-screen. As ever, the stories have been enriched by an immersive score and terrific sound design, with an attention to detail which roots these stories in the Blake’s 7 universe.
Encouragingly, during the comprehensive Extras interviews on this release, John Ainsworth reports that are tentative plans for future full-cast audios within this universe. These would feature members of the cast, but not be based around the Liberator. Equally, the partially narrated audio series The Liberator Chronicles have successfully told tales which focus on solo missions, featuring core cast members and returning guests. I look forward to seeing what they come up with.
Rating: Standard by 10 out of 10. Confirmed.
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