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The Sevenfold Crown

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Cockroach Boy

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2007 10:24 am    Post subject: The Sevenfold Crown Reply with quote

This play is nearly ten years old and listening to it now brings home just how much audio SF has changed for the better. It's not just thanks to Big Finish of course. BBV, Magic Bullet, BBCi, BBC 7 etc all played their part in making the medium a very strong one for the SF genre. But listen to a Big Finish play like The Natural History of Fear and then follow it with The Sevenfold Crown and the difference is more than palpable. Sound in T7FC is there simply to illustrate a point, to tell us when a gun has been fired or people are running. In the best of BF's productions, sound creates the world that we have entered. There is no need for the clumsy 'Through that arch, to the left, beside the...' kind of dialogue Letts uses. We hear where we are.

It's perhaps because of this that the play sounds so unambitious. The Devani are a Lovecroftian idea. Nothing too original, but they add a new layer to the B7 universe and there is a precedent in stories such as Dawn of the Gods. Unfortunately they just sound like a few of the regular cast with a slight distotrion on the mike. Compare this with the Cyber Commitee ranting 'We are the future, we are the future' in Spare Parts or the trial of Justine and the fantasticaly alien Osirian court in Faction Paradox range. Similarly, the holiday world sounds like a fairground, not a world full of sadistic spectacle under a corrupt ruler.

IMO it's misconception that SF on TV doesn't have to look good. It doesn't necessarily have to look expensive but, as was often the case with the TV series, the images should be as imaginative as the ideas. The same is true with audio drama and sound design.

Of course, not all of the above is Barry Letts fault, but his script is still an odd one. Rumour has it that the only research he did was to watch a single videotape, Stardrive/Animals. By a funny co-incidence, I first heard T7FC about a week after buying that very tape, and the similarities are certainly there. The crew are chasing an object, the photonic drive is referenced, someone recognises Servalan etc. It may be that the ruthlessness Avon showed at the end of Stardrive influenced his disinterest in saving the captured Vila's life and near corruption bythe crown. Letts might have watched a Ben Steed episode too, as the mysogynistic, hedonistic King Geblakon would have fitted in quite well with the more humurous aspect of those stories. Unfortunately, the character also continues Steed's inept manner of dealing with the issue of instutionalized rape.

A criticism of T7FC might well be that it continues all the weaker aspects of the TV series but loses it's stronger ones. It's like a recollection of the series based on a chat down the pub. However, the really dominating themes are Lett's own re-currant interests. Mind cintrol and the prize that turns out to be a trap are both familiar from Planet of the Spiders which he co-wrote and would crop up again in The Syndeton Experiment where Servalan would suffer the same fate as the Great One.

Letts also shows his desire to push his central character through a life changing experience. The creation and self sacrifice of Avon's twin conforms to the bhudhist idea of a person needing to face themselves before they can be truely happy. This would fit in fine in the Doctor Who universe, where magic and science often work by similar, symbolic rules, but it jars badly in the entropic, existential environment of B7. Certainly it doesn't make sense for Avon. 'I've never felt better' he says. Which, giving that he's going to be gunning down Blake quite soon, makes you wonder what the hell his mood must have been like before. It's this, perhaps more than anything else, which makes it hard to accept this as part of the B7 narrative.

Another notable difference is that T7FC is remarkably cosy. For all it's middle class casting and no swearing, B7 never felt safe. Every few episodes, the ruleswould be re-set, be it by the introduction of Travis, the death of Gan, the need to find StarOne or whatever. Letts world, rather like Pertwee era Who, has a more stable, 'family feel' too it. The crew bicker but there is little venom. Even Avon regards the base as home. This does mean that, if you are feeling stressed and wanting a bit of re-assurance, T7FC might be just the thing! A sort of SF bedtime story.If it is a part of B7 continuity, I like to imagine it as Avon's post Gauda Prime, drug induced dream. Re-imagining the past to make hinself feel better.

Despite all, T7FC is still not without merit. B7 was one of the series where many of the cast had wonderful voices. It's nice to hear our old friends after so long and, even if they are acting out of character, the vocal talents of Darrow, Pacey, Pearce and Tuddenham making it nice just to listen them speak. Slave also has some great comedy moments. Indeed, both Orac and Slave feel very true to their TV personaes!
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I quite enjoy this in parts , its definitely more entertaining than the risible THE SYNDETON EXPERIMENT which is truly awful - not that TSC is perfect , it isnt , but theres a kind of nice to hear the orig characters back thing in it , pity they made Avon into some sort of super human - all that nonsense about him tearing the throat from a tiger is ridiculous!
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Logic Of Empire blows them both away.
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