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

Starring: Paul Darrow, Russell Hunter and Scott Fredericks
Magic Bullet Productions
RRP 9.99, US $14.00
Available now


Dodgy dealings at a desert ore-processing station lead Operations Supervisor Rull into a twisted web of violence and corruption, which also appears to bring Company Chairholder Uvanov face to face with the remains of an old enemy. People are being manipulated. Psychostrategist Carnell is the obvious culprit - but who is he working for...?

I didn't realise it until recently, but when Chris Boucher wrote his second Doctor Who novel, Corpse Marker, he effectively united the fictional universes of Who and Blake's 7, a link that is now being exploited to the full by this series of dramas. The novel featured the character of Carnell, who had previously appeared in Weapon, one of several B7 episodes that were penned by Boucher. The role of Carnell is reprised in this series by the original actor, Scott Fredericks.

Despite allusions to the storm mine setting of The Robots of Death, and that serial's villain, Taren Capel, this psychological thriller has more in common with the tone of Boucher's Blake's 7 scripts than with his Who work. Accordingly, Carnell plays a more significant role in this story than he did during the preceding one, the series opener Occam's Razor.

Boucher himself provided the script for Death's Head. I have long held the opinion that this writer's talents are better suited to television than to novels, but I have revised that opinion in light of this audio production, which demonstrates that he is a master of sardonic dialogue for any performed medium.

The cynical exchanges that take place between, for example, Iago (Paul Darrow) and Uvanov (Russell Hunter) or between Carnell and practically anybody else he speaks to, are laden with barbed double meanings and sometimes almost Shakespearean word play. Even the brutal Rull (Trevor Cooper) gets his own brand of witty banter. "My patronage can be advantageous," Firstmaster Strecker (Peter Tuddenham) informs him. "Thank you," replies Rull, "but I have enough people patronising me as it is!" As with the plays of the bard himself, Boucher's dialogue works much better when brought to life by talented actors, as it is here, than when printed on a page.

Other dialogue gems include Iago's assertion, delivered in Darrow's trademark deadpan style, that an unexpected visitor has been thoroughly searched: "If he is carrying a weapon, it's not going to emerge for at least six hours... and it'll want wiping down before he can use it."

A well-acted head game of labyrinthine duplicity.

Richard McGinlay

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