Audio Review: The Worlds of Blake’s 7 – Bayban the Butcher: Bayban Ascending

Review by Ian McArdell

Bayban Ascending is the latest tie-in audiobook release for The Worlds of Blake’s 7, Big Finish’s spin-off range exploring wider elements in the Federation universe. While born of necessity, due to the sad passing of a number of core cast members, the range has opened up all sorts of interesting stories away from the Liberator.978-1-83868-607

Last year, Bayban, Colin Baker’s scenery chewing villain from Series C’s ‘City at the Edge of the World’ was revived; first as a guest in an episode of Avalon, then later for his own boxset. As a tie-in to that release, although apparently recorded before it, this audiobook novel tells the backstory of the larger than life character.

While only hinted at before, Bayban Ascending charts a remarkable rise from a menial worker to a contender on the Federation’s most wanted list. Written by Nigel Fairs, the story mixes in more than a hint of the Scottish play, as well as a surprising link to one of Blake’s original seven too.

Given the central character’s vivid characterisation on screen, one would imagine he needs no introduction. However, the young man at the start of the tale, Mak Serris, is quite different. Meek and with minimal aspirations, he’s the dutiful son to an overbearing mother, a lad who tows the line and seems content with his lot. That’s until his friend Olag Gan gets involved with Vel, a cat-like alien woman who opens his eyes to another world.

In the early part of the story, Gan’s fate is intertwined with that of Mak Serris. Vel introduces Mak to the psychic properties of garrow leaf and he finds himself on a quest to reunite three artefacts with apparently mystical properties. Drug-induced, mind expanding visions illustrate a path to power, one which involves a washed-up pilot named Bayban along the way.

Our protagonist’s journey to comes at the price of friendship; while he begins with little desire to improve their lot, his mother is quite different. She seizes the opportunity to improve their situation and she proves to be a terrifying creation, full of vile, murderous ambition and soon drunk on power.

From Planetary Governor to Zone Commander, with an eye on the Federation Presidency, their ascendancy is bloodthirsty and brutal. In many ways it feels a touch Klingon, eliminating and taking the place of those in your way. It’s not at all the story I expected it to be but it takes Bayban, the name he adopts, to a place that still begs further exploration.

However, clever though it is, I do wonder if all the timescales fit together. Possibly they do, if Gan spent a very long time hanging around before having a limiter fitted and being despatched towards Cygnus Alpha (via Earth). Perhaps this was a continuity grab too far? Equally, Bayban may have rocketed up the Federation’s most wanted list incredibly quickly between the end of this book and his onscreen appearance during Series C.

What can’t be explained away so easily though is the fate of Bayban’s mother, as it directly contradicts the recent Avalon boxset. An unusual oversight, as this novel is a tie-in to the same range (albeit under a different producer). Perhaps there’s room to excuse it as the embellishments of an unreliable narrator? With much of the story told in the first person, it’s easy to imagine the self-aggrandising Bayban choosing to document his rise for posterity (and shape his legend on the way).

With the mighty Colin Baker is on narration duties, it’s no surprise that this is a tale well told. Who else could deliver it? In terms of voices, he populates the universe with Welsh, Irish and all shades in-between. More performed than narrated, it’s clear he had a lot of fun – as I did while listening to it. I’d certainly be up for another novel to see Bayban at the height of his powers too.

The Worlds of Blake’s 7 – Bayban the Butcher: Bayban Ascending is available on download from Big Finish.

Audio Review: Avalon Volume 1

Check out the rest of our Big Finish reviews!

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