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

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


Eighteen months after her confrontation with Iago, Blayes awakes to find Kaldor City in quarantine and herself on board a Storm Mine in the Blind Heart Desert. Her companions are some strangely familiar crewmembers, a vengeful spirit and a robot with a dangerous secret. Trapped in a claustrophobic, dreamlike environment, the former terrorist must undertake a journey that may end in the destruction of her world - or its beginning...

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!

Whatever plans the Magic Bullet production team had for their sixth and (to date) final Kaldor City release, they almost certainly had to be revised when Uvanov actor Russell Hunter sadly passed away in February 2004. Step up another Russell, Tracy Russell as Blayes, who shares the limelight with Paul Darrow as one of the main characters - arguably the main character - of this instalment.

Whatever plans the production team had for the apparently time-travelling Iago (Darrow) at the end of Checkmate, writer Daniel O'Mahony puts his own, characteristically mind-bending, spin on the proceedings, which prompts us to re-evaluate certain assumptions. Rather than having travelled back in time to be seemingly confronted by the psychostrategist Carnell (Scott Fredericks), could it be that these events did not in fact take place on a physical level at all? Rather, could they be the delirious imaginings of a dying brain, or some kind of fantasy realm conjured up by the Fendahl/Justina (Patricia Merrick)? Both explanations are offered to Blayes as she tries to make sense of her new surroundings and the strange characters that occupy it, though the latter interpretation is never explicitly spelt out.

Significantly, the inhabitants of the Storm Mine pay effective tribute to the serial that started this whole thing off: the Doctor Who story The Robots of Death. There's a nameless Commander (Philip Madoc), whose eccentricity (though of a more laidback variety) and liking for sweet wine are reminiscent of Russell Hunter's Uvanov. There's a nameless and shifty Chief Mover, played by John Leeson, who reminds me even more of David Collings' Poul - but then, I have always found Leeson's vocal qualities to be remarkably similar to those of Collings. Blayes finds herself in the quarters and clothes of a deceased Pilot, a role previously fulfilled by Pamela Salem's Toos. And Gregory de Polnay, who so memorably and endearingly voiced D84 in Robots, returns here as V23.

Like Fall Out, the final episode of The Prisoner, a series revered by the Magic Bullet team, Storm Mine doesn't give its audience any simple answers on a plate. In terms of the type of story it tells, it also deviates significantly from what has gone before. As such, it may annoy some listeners, just as Fall Out irritated many Prisoner fans. However, the implicit messages contained within this production remain true to the core philosophies of Kaldor City: don't take everything you are told on face value; don't believe everything you hear; read between the lines to find the truth.

You will almost certainly need to listen to this drama more than once in order to get the full effect, but it's worth the extra effort.

Richard McGinlay