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First in a series of CDs focusing on actors known for roles in science fiction. Volume 1 features Gareth Thomas, known to genre fans for a number of roles but most notably Blake in the BBC series Blake's 7. The CD covers his work in Blake's 7 and in the camp sf comedy Soldiers of Love. It also includes two short stories written by Gareth Thomas and read by Nicholas Courtney.
I will admit up front that I am biased and would quite happily listen to Gareth Thomas reading the telephone directory. But I enjoyed the CD for more than just the chance to listen to a wonderful voice. The CD opens with an excellent interview in which Thomas discusses his views on Blake's early life and how this would have influenced him to become the man we see in the series. There's some interesting stuff in there, even if I don't actually agree with all of it. Another interview is largely about Soldiers of Love, but I think it's enjoyable even if you're not familiar with the series. There's a fair bit of general discussion about the freedoms and restrictions of different media, using Soldiers of Love as an example of how audio plays work.
Of course, you can have both series at the same time, as Soldiers of Love includes a pastiche of Blake's 7 in the form of Galactovision's sf series "Jake's Heaven". A trailer for this series about an intergalactic fashion freedom fighter and his crew was heard in episode 4 of SOL, and this CD includes both the original trailer for "The Slingbacks" and a new trailer for the episode "Children of Nylon". They're very, very silly, a lot of fun, and unlikely to make any sense at all to anyone who hasn't seen Blake's 7, although Dr Who fans might also appreciate the references to 1970s costumes and cardboard props. No, Gareth Thomas does not reprise his original role--he plays the good ship Vibrator's artificial intelligence ANET, a computer that communicates in Gregorian chant. The whole thing is quite wonderfully dotty. The main cricitism I'd have is that one or two of the running jokes weren't really sustainable.
The other piece based in the Soldiers of Love universe doesn't need any familiarity with the series to be enjoyable, as it uses one of the SOL characters but is set prior to the series. Camp Welsh TV producer Hywel Hammond has had an unsettling experience, and feels the need to get his feelings about it off his chest. The monologue neatly skewers the failings of the real life show "This Is Your Life", running through a number of things I've thought myself while watching the show. Bitchily funny, with a nicely sweet ending, and my favourite piece on the CD.
There are also two short stories about a medieval monk in a silent order, written by Gareth Thomas and performed as monologues by Nicholas Courtney. I'd have probably found the stories a bit flat on the printed page, but Courtney brings them to life. Gently amusing, and it's good to hear Courtney's skill as a reader.
Overall a worthwhile CD for Blake's 7 fans, although you'll get more out of it if you're familiar with Soldiers of Love as well. Fans of Nicholas Courtney should also enjoy it, but bear in mind that his segments are only about a third of the running time.
The CD is available direct from MJTV at http://www.ghostlands.demon.co.uk/cd.htm and is also available for online purchase via a secure server at http://www.hermit.org/Blakes7/Merchant/Tapes/sol/Actor1.html
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© Copyright 2003 Jules Jones