Review: "The Logic of Empire"
By Sarah McEvoy
This tape is stunning. There's no other word for it.
Pete Wallbank's brooding, dramatic artwork on the cover gives the first clue about what to expect, and from the moment the tape begins, it's clear that the listener is not going to be disappointed. The music, written by the highly talented Alistair Lock, sets the scene immediately: classically inspired, haunting, emotive and tragic. Throughout the production, the music continues to enhance the script sensitively, with skilfully worked motifs for the main characters adding to their presence.
The script is likely to be rather lost on anyone who isn't a dyed-in-the-wool Blake's 7 fan, but for those of us who are, it is of the highest quality. Alan Stevens, as always, has done his homework thoroughly enough to give full satisfaction to the most obsessive detail maven imaginable; there are no fudges or lose ends in this story-everything is properly thought out and put together in a deft, fast-paced, vastly intelligent and ultimately astonishing interpretation. Yet, for all the surprise factor in the story, it still makes perfect sense in the context of the 52 televised episodes, and is a truly worthy successor to the series. Moreover, as well as being first-class entertainment, it is also designed to make the listener think. How did Avon escape from Gauda Prime? It is never stated outright, so you can draw your own conclusions. More radically, the story could have you looking at the entire liberation struggle in B7 in a whole new light. There's certainly no shortage of food for thought there.
As a writer myself, I'm always particularly interested in characterisation, and on this tape it is very strong. The story is set seven years after Gauda Prime, so Avon, the character who developed most markedly during the series, has moved on still further by this time, and he has done so in a totally credible way. He is quieter, wearier, but still as abrasive and secretive as ever, and the paranoia which derailed him completely as the fourth season drew to its bitter end is now buried a little deeper below the surface. Paul Darrow's performance on this tape is magnificent, and in fact I would rate it as his best ever, even above that in "Rumours of Death". He switches effortlessly between the fourth-season flashback at the beginning of the tape, the "present-day" Avon, and another flashback to the end of the second season, always remaining totally true to the character as he was at the time he is being portrayed. For a self-confessed visual actor to manage all that on audio is a superb demonstration of his talent, and I very much hope he sent his agent a copy of the tape. Jacqueline Pearce is also splendid as Servalan, and this character too has matured, her voice radiating the relaxed confidence of absolute power. The three main new characters-Elise, Lydon and Kelso, played respectively by Tracy Russell, Ian Reddington and Trevor Cooper-are very good indeed, and work well together and with Avon. I particularly like Elise, a strong and interesting character who can take care of herself with the sort of ruthless efficiency which would (and does!) appeal to Avon.
In conclusion, this is a "must buy" for all B7 fans.
Sarah McEvoy is a writer who currently lives in Sheffield with four cats.