"We're worse than the Federation. At least they sold their souls for greed..."
Seriously, read out that title and try not to sound like Pigbin Josh.
Things start with two of the Cally family, Skate (played by the lady who was the inappropriately-named Joy Merryweather in Drop the Dead Donkey) and Merrin, taking the pledge to join the armed forces in a mass rally that makes Nuremberg sound like Sparacus's silent majority. What sounds like every girl I've ever met in a yard somewhere shouting "We are one!" over and over again is intimidating as any haka. Gareth Roberts said that the moral of Blake's 7 was never, ever, under any circumstances trust a fantatic no matter what they believed in. That really comes across in this scene.
And we're off as Commander Gresham (Michael Cochrane, who amazingly hadn't appeared in B7 prior to now) and Merrin are on the spaceship Flag of Hope while Skate is on a shuttle marked Flame 2 - as the Callys are twins they can communicate telepathically rather than worrying about fiddly radio waves that can be intercepted. But once the twins are "head to head", Skate reveals that she has been sent into void for no apparent reason and something is up. Merrin isn't impressed, especially as Skate is something of a conspiracy freak and keeps peddling Dan Brown-style crap to everyone who'll listen... but this time she might be onto something as her shuttle's camoflagued and there's not even a uniform to identify her as Auron.
Troubled, Merrin decides to ask Gresham what the hell is going on but is told that Skate's sneaking up on a Federation incursion on Auron space to find out what the hell they're doing, breaking all the treaties and stuff Auron has with the rest of the universe. Skate is not pleased since, as she doesn't have any Auron identification, there's no reason the Federation won't blow her to smithereens without so much as blinking. Merrin insists that everything is cool and froody and that the Auronar are not complete hypocritical bastards, while Skate has flashbacks to her training of being alone and silent to be prepared for no telepathy. Gresham gives her a heavy trip about how the twin telepathic link could be all that can save Auron civilization.
Finally arriving in the asteroid belt, Merrin does some creative interpretation of Skate's bitching comments as she quintiple-checks the asteroid belt, and on the third she finds a Federation patrol. Six ships, way more than Gresham was expecting, and evidence of a base on one of the asteroids. And as I'm sure no one would be surprised, Skate is not considered as important as the info she's picked up and must upload to Auronar bit torrent even at the cost of her own life! No sooner has Skate managed to do that then a "Fed gunner" (or pursuit ship as Merrin translates) spots her and open fire. A Star Wars style chase occurs and it's as thrilling on audio as you could imagine as Skate goes bezerker and decides to attack the Death Star, er, the battle cruisers and do the whole 'companions for my death' shtick.
Anyway, after spending a tedious amount of time tricking pursuit ships into crashing into asteroids, Skate's ship gets hit and she ejects with the last second while Merrin freaks out mightily and gets every single Auron immediately giving her a telepathic "sorry for your loss". Merrin needs sedating and put on leave for her to recover from losing her twin. Gresham tries to eulogize the loss of Skate (who I don't believe is dead, as it's just too convenient for her to come back) and offers her faith officers, mind surgeons, state funerals and - ooh what a surprise, Merrin is suddenly babbling Skate's still alive. Amazing.
Now floating in space, Skate isn't confident she'll be alive to rescue - and that's all assuming Gresham and his pals are willing to even try and rescue her. And if she sets off a distress beacon, she's bound to be caught by the Federation in the asteroid belt. Merrin's incredibly desperate to do something to help her obviously doomed sibling... yeah, I know the feeling... but it's blindingly obvious that Gresham isn't doing a damn thing to rescue Skate. Is it because he doesn't want to deal with a security risk, or does he just think Merrin's gone crazy? Either way, Skate's on her last tank of oxygen and has nothing to do but listen to the telepathic gossip of the Auron clan, none of whom have twigged she's still alive. For now.
Skate decides she might as well enjoy the view of the asteroid belt and things soon bring a tear to my eye - I dunno if it's brilliant writing by Marc Platt or the actresses or maybe it's all the grief getting over me again. Either way, Skate can't send the brilliant sight to Merrin's mind. Merrin's devastated at the fact her career's over as well as her life, as she'll be a lonely old spinster without a telepathic sister - and thus vows to steal a shuttle and rescue Skate, who is thoroughly overcome by cynacism at her worthless, soulless society.
With her last thoughts, Skate orders Merrin team up with Joseph (some radical mystic Auron) and fight the dehumanized society that sacrifices lives because they just don't percieve life any more. Merrin nevertheless insists on trying to rescue her, but Gresham stops her, maintaining that even if Skate survived the crash she'd have suffocated days ago. Guess Merrin is crazy after all. Merrin is taken back to Auron, ranting insanely and unconvincingly that Gresham is part of the conspiracy! Of course, the horror of it all is that Merrin, mad or sane, will still have this individuality stamped out of her by the rest of her family...
Gresham does his report to the Forge... or whoever... and it's obvious from his first syllable that he's in on the conspiracy to sacrifice Skate. I'll just listen to what he has to say. Mmm. Actually hard to tell if he's saying Skate was alive and talking to Merrin or not, as she died at 03 hours. I have no idea if that's before or after Merrin had her breakdown, so we'll just have to agree to differ.
Later, Merrin - clearly crazy now - is happily chatting to her long dead sister Skatey as she wanders through the woods, looking at the sky. She's not having all the mind surgery recommended to her, and is given a constant mental screensaver from the view from Skate's dead-but-open-and-looking-at-deep-space eyes. Merrin skips off to find Joseph, who we never hear speak because there aren't enough actors.
Well. Life on Auron sucks and then you die. Didn't really have much to say after all, did you Marc?
Flag & Flame isn't a bad audio, but it's the last thing I either wanted or needed to hear.
For fuck's sake...