by Patrick Chapman
Previously published in Celestial Toyroom Issue 413/414
One of the incidental pleasures of listening to the Kaldor City series was to wonder if the character of Kaston Iago was in fact Kerr Avon in disguise, post-Gauda Prime. A theory was that the creators didn’t have the rights to the character so they simply changed the name. Metafiction is about this – itself an act of metafiction – as much as it is about the main storyline of the series, to which it functions as a sort of prequel.
Here, Kaston Iago is being interviewed about his background, following his appointment as Uvanov’s bodyguard. Using this as a context, "Metafiction" sets about investigating his true identity. Is this Avon? The same actor, Paul Darrow, plays Iago – the character who said in another Kaldor City play that he killed the butcher of Zircaster, namely Travis. So this is a version of Avon, certainly, but to my mind it isn’t necessarily the same character who appeared in Blake’s 7. It is perhaps best to think of Iago as an alternative-universe Avon going under an assumed name. How he cheats death on Gauda Prime is here given an unlikely and amusing explanation.
There are two very particular words spoken in "Metafiction" that make you understand that this is intended as a play in more ways than one. It’s playing with the idea of Avon as Iago, and with the listener’s expectation. There is a garden path here, and you are being led up it, and it is strewn with corpses. The Blake’s 7 fan will recognise all of the corpses, and laugh quietly at what this play does with them. As Iago is interrogated about his previous life, the stories of Blake’s 7 are themselves dissected, to sometimes wryly funny effect. ‘We blew it up,’ is a refrain you might find yourself smiling at as you listen.
Perhaps "Metafiction" works best as a piece of ‘official fan fiction’ to the Kaldor City series, but it also works as B7 fan fiction. It punctures the tendency of some fans to take their beloved series so intensely seriously, while its own love of the show is obvious.
As for Paul Darrow’s performance, it’s fine and knowing and definitely in on the joke though the voice is older and Darrow is really pushing his idea of a ‘macho’ Avon. Here, the character sounds growlier than Avon ever did, and even than Iago did at the beginning of the Kaldor City audio plays a decade ago. But that’s not a problem if you take into account those two words referred to earlier. They give the play much of its power, in my opinion, and I won’t spoil them here. Darrow’s performance is balanced by an assured and understated one from Patricia Merrick as Justina. In keeping with the idea of metafiction, there is a ‘bonus’ version of this play in which a different two words are used – lending the whole thing a rather different slant. In the end, Metafiction lives up to its name, breaking several fourth walls, and on that level as well as others, it is very enjoyable. Recommended listening for fans of Doctor Who, Kaldor City and Blake’s 7 – as long as they can take a joke. ‘We blew it up,’ indeed.
Patrick Chapman is an Irish writer, poet and broadcaster, whose website can be accessed at www.patrickchapman.net.