Desperado, by Leigh Arnold, is an Alternative Universe Fifth Season story. What do 1 mean by that? It is Fifth Season because it is set after Blake, and it is Alternative Universe because the events of Blake were altered to suit the purposes of the author. Here, Vila speaks up at just the right moment to prevent Avon from killing Blake in those last few minutes of the episode. Avon shoots Arlen instead, and things go on from there.
This is a good story, well worth keeping. Though the great disaster of Blake has been averted by authorial fiat, things are by no means rosy. The plot turns plausibly, concentrating most on the changing relationship between Blake and Avon, and its on-again, off-again nature, in the midst of more dramatic events like attempted murder, vindication, kidnapping, rescue, betrayal and death — just the hazards of the trade, really. Though there are quiet moments in all this; it is not all death and drama! Naturally, the characters of Blake and Avon are the strongest and though the others don't get as much prominence, that isn't to say they are total cyphers. Vila, Dayna, Tarrant, Soolin, Klyn and Retha (not to mention Servalan!) all have their parts to play. Retha is an original character I am not so sure is there for her own sake rather than for the sake of the plot, to be someone that Avon can trust, someone who can bring the Samora Sheperd Desperado on the scene, someone who can play 20th century songs from Lindor... But I don't begrudge that too much, because all those bits help the story work — the theme of taming a wild beast, and all those songs that do fit so well, particularly the title one, Desperado.
Points were made about the relationship between Avon and Blake that I hadn't seen before and yet could see they were valid, and that's always something that 1 enjoy in a Blake's 7 story, getting more insight to the characters. Even when the author is making things happen just because the author wants them to happen, they are handled so in character that it doesn't matter. For example, when the others tell Vila he has to apologize to Avon when Vila doesn't want to, Vila does it so gracelessly that they are on worse terms than before. Other authors might have forced them to be reconciled and then she will do anything to get her own way, she is very, very crafty, but not omnipotent; though perhaps she is made out to be too obsessed with Avon in her thoughts. What happens to her in the end is nicely ironical.
Kathy Hanson's illustrations again show her talent at illustration rather than just stock portraits. The color cover is good though I must admit I find the Samora Sheperd there much more lovely than the Avon.
The Let's Have Fun Department at the end is more fun from just seeing that the author and friends can poke fun at themselves than from the amusement that these pieces might have had on their own.
Altogether this is a decent read, a satisfying story — no Shakespeare, but who is?