AUDIO DRAMA
(Doctor Who/Blake's 7 related)
Kaldor City
Checkmate

Starring: Paul Darrow and Russell Hunter
Magic Bullet Productions
RRP: 9.99, US $15.00
Available now


Taren Capel's legacy has been unleashed and death stalks the streets of Kaldor City in the shape of killer robots. As Firstmaster Chairholder Uvanov fights for his career and for his life, Paullus contacts a force that could bring about the people's salvation - or their destruction. With the psychostrategist Carnell gone, Iago is the only person who can save the city from its fate, but to do that he may have to sacrifice everything...

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!

Whereas previous Kaldor City releases were standalone affairs, this one picks up mere moments after the cliffhanger ending to Taren Capel left off. Thus the production kicks off on a dramatic high - and the excitement seldom lets up after that.

Part of the excitement is the revelation of yet another Chris Boucher creation: one-time Doctor Who foe the Fendahl. Clues relating to the gestalt creature's presence (the pentagram, the skulls) had been carefully seeded in previous instalments, but I managed to miss them until now.

All we need now is the inclusion of some characters from Boucher's Star Cops to complete the set! But I suppose we'll have to make do with one of that series' actors, Trevor Cooper, who is as endearingly uncouth as ever in the role of Rull.

Meanwhile, Brian Croucher continues to send up his own shouty portrayal of Blake's 7's Space Commander Travis as the newly promoted Cotton. Writer Alan Stevens' use of Uvanov (Russell Hunter) continues to invite comparison with the reign of Tony Blair, as the Firstmaster Chairholder defends himself against a vote of no confidence over allegations that his policies have been built upon lies. And Kaston Iago (Paul Darrow) continues to spout blackly humorous lines, such as: "Congratulations! All those years of mindless paranoia have finally paid off." Who stalwarts Nicholas Courtney and Peter Halliday also lend their vocal talents in more minor (but no less finely crafted) roles, as does Soldiers of Love's Mark J Thompson, not forgetting the snide-as-ever Peter Miles.

As with Taren Capel, the CD concludes with a scene that could either be a cliffhanger or the ending to the entire series. As it happens, the Kaldor City story does continue, in Storm Mine, though I doubt that the plot pans out in quite the way that had originally been intended. Whatever the case may be, developments in the closing scene are very strange indeed and may well leave you scratching your head (as indeed might the whole of Storm Mine).

For the most part, though, the thrilling Checkmate is well worth checking out.

Richard McGinlay