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Tansy Rayner Roberts

On My iPod: Memory Boxes, Doctorish Destinies & Blake’s 7 Returns

February 4th, 2013 at 17:26

vienna-thememorybox_cover_mediumI’ve been listening to a LOT of audio plays and podcasts lately, what with all that cleaning for birthday parties, sewing birthday presents, and drowning out my children during the last gasp of the summer holidays.

VIENNA: THE MEMORY BOX is the first story of a new spin off series from Big Finish, featuring bounty hunter and space assassin Vienna Salvatori (played by former DS9 actress Chase Masterton). My first reaction to this series, naturally, was to resent that it was greenlit and written so quickly when SOME OF US have been waiting for the Charley Pollard spin off series FOREVER, but Vienna is a fun, banterific character and I liked this first (standalone) story very much, with its planethopping, space hotels, twisty turny plottiness, and great voice performances.

This particular story revolves around a piece of technology called a ‘memory box’ which allows people to store and conceal layers of memory – an essential tool for those with criminal intent in a galaxy where the police have the ability to scan people’s minds at the scene of a crime. I was impressed with how many different ways this particular gadget was used and abused over the course of the story, making it a tidy piece of science fiction. Plus, adorable space cops. SPACE COPS, PEOPLE!

If you’ve been following the many, many reveals about Doctor Who anniversary releases, you might have heard about DESTINY OF THE DOCTOR, a series of audiobooks co-produced by AudioGo and Big Finish featuring each of the Doctors in turn. While the majority of publicity for this series came from the fact that it meant Big Finish finally got their hands on New Who content (in a limited way) and that it meant new material involving (in some way) Eccleston’s 9th Doctor (but not necessarily Eccleston), what hasn’t really been discussed further is that they seem to be picking bits of each era that have a great significance and haven’t necessarily been written about before. The upcoming audiobook for the Third Doctor era, for example, features Mike Yates and tells the story of his first adventure with the Doctor and the Brigadier.

The first in this series, Hunters of Earth, features Carole Ann Ford and Tam Williams and is set in 1963 London before An Unearthly Child. Here we see something of Susan’s schooldays, and the growing rift between herself and her grandfather The Doctor as he furiously repairs the TARDIS ready for their next journey, as she longs more and more to put down roots and stay somewhere permanently. We also get to see her interact with other teenagers, particularly a certain boy she quite likes. The clever part of the story, though, is that it also holds a conversation with that other 1963 set Doctor Who adventure, Remembrance of the Daleks, foreshadowing much of the anti-immigration, racist sentiment that was to be such an important thematic note of that particular story.

I don’t often listen to the early TARDIS crew audiobooks, largely because the lack of Barbara hurts my soul, but this is a very good use of Carole Ann Ford’s voice and fills in a little piece of unexplored Who history. yes, there are still some of those! Also it’s a very good price at only $5 for download. Definitely a series to keep an eye on.

A new podcast I’m currently listening to and loving is Decompressed by Kieron Gillen, in which the comics writer chats with his mates about process and the industry. The episodes with Kelly-Sue Deconnick and Matt Fraction/David Aja are particularly good, but I’ve liked most of them in actual fact. Very cool stuff.

b7warshipcovercd_cover_mediumFinally, there’s the new Blake’s 7… Warship!

Big Finish have had the rights to make original Blake’s 7 material for the last year, and have put out some novels and two-hander audiobooks, but this is the first full cast story they have made – and cleverly they chose a very important period to flesh out, that being the gap between Seasons 2 and 3. Season 2 ends on the cliffhanger of Avon shouting ‘fire’ as they face down the alien invasion… and Season 3 skips ahead to the crew of the Liberator evacuating the ship (and then slowly making their way back, minus a couple of key members of the crew) without bothering to film all that messy alien battle business. Gah!

Warship doesn’t quite live up to my hopes, not least because they are making more stories in this time gap, so it doesn’t come close to answering most of my questions about this gap. It’s also not quite as epic and massive a story as I was expecting from the build up – it feels, actually, like an authentic missing episode with a slightly bigger budget. But that’s no bad thing at all. It’s LOVELY to hear the crew back and riffing off each other, especially to hear Sally Knyvette as Jenna, the only character of the original crew (with a living actor) not brought back to the audiobook range so far. She’s one of my favourites and probably the character who was least well served by the original show (she’s a smuggler and a devastating pilot, write material for her, damn it!) so I’m glad she’s no longer being ignored.

(I also love that Sally Knyvette is adamant that Blake was lying when he said Jenna died offscreen – screw that for a joke! And if Big Finish want anyone to write THAT particular story, I’d be happy to volunteer)

But yes, it’s a very good piece of Blake’s 7, perhaps my favourite so far from the new range (though some of the Liberator Chronicles two-handers are very good especially in writing for Avon and Cally). While part of me wants it to be massive and groundbreaking and NEW in the way that Big Finish has developed the Doctor Who universe, I also have to accept that this is early days, and ‘authentic, but with slightly more space stuff and more lines for the girls to say’ is a pretty awesome place for Big Finish to start with New Blake’s 7.

Oh and for those who don’t get into audio drama (remind me, why are we still friends?) there is also an ebook novelisation of this one.

More please.

I have to say, though, after recently reading Avon: A Terrible Aspect, (which among other things establishes at great length just how awesome in bed Avon’s Dad was) I am a *touch* concerned that they are putting ‘what happened after the show ended’ storyline in the hands of Paul Darrow with the upcoming book Lucifer. Concerned, wary and very curious.

But hey, as long as there are spaceships, black leather and snarky remarks, we should be okay, right? Right?

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2 Responses to “On My iPod: Memory Boxes, Doctorish Destinies & Blake’s 7 Returns”

  1. Grant Watson Says:

    They can’t put stories between Seasons 2 and 3. That’s just stupid.

  2. tansyrr Says:

    But there’s a big gap!

    And then later smaller gaps. I think it works rather well, actually – fleshes out the parts we didn’t see, leading up to the final evacuation.

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