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The B7 Panel - Big Finish Day 8, 16th January 2016
Copthorne Hotel, Slough/Windsor
16th January 2016
THE BLAKE'S 7 PANEL
Reported and transcribed by Susan Bowden
This panel took place at Big Finish Day 8, in January 2016. It followed a long hiatus while Big Finish sorted out the licencing to continue making Blake’s 7. Everyone in attendance was thrilled to learn there would be more Blake’s 7, starting with Liberator Chronicles Volume 12.
Obviously, we didn’t know at the time that within months we were to lose Gareth Thomas. The devastating news hit everyone hard, including Big Finish.
Plans were put on hold a second time out of respect for Gareth, and Cavan Scott, ending his tenure as producer of the Blake’s 7 range, moved onto other projects.
But on 16th January 2016, the panel and audience were full of optimism for the future of Blake’s 7 at Big Finish.
Cavan Scott had his hands full – it was as if he had walked into a minefield and managed to step on every single one. Paul Darrow and Jacqueline Pearce were in fine form; Paul in particular wasn't taking any prisoners!
The panel could have been performed on stage in the theatre. It was irreverent, hilarious, farcical, naughty and hugely entertaining. I hope this audio transcription will give those who couldn’t attend a glimpse into what the audience at Big Finish Day 8 experienced at the Blake's 7 Panel.
Panel (left to right):
Lisa Bowerman, Hugh Fraser, Jacqueline Pearce, Justin Richards, Jamie Wilson, Paul Darrow, with Cavan Scott conducting the proceedings.
[Paul Darrow is running a bit late and the audience is having fun as Cavan Scott fills time.]
Cavan Scott: Okay, ladies and gentlemen, we will be starting in a minute. Who here is excited about the fact that Blake’s 7 is returning?
[Loud cheers from the audience]
Cavan Scott: That’s what we like to hear! In the meantime, while we’re waiting for Paul to join us, we’ve got a track that you might want to hear. It was recorded the other day and might give you an idea of what we’ll be talking about over the next forty minutes.
The promotional trailer for Liberator Chronicles Volume 12 is played to the audience:
Avon: “Are you listening? We’ve been quiet for a while and I bet you thought we’d gone away. Or maybe you just hoped that was the case. But we were just biding our time; plotting, waiting for an opportunity, and now – now we’re back in business. The Federation won’t know what’s hit it.”
Cavan Scott: So, yes, the long awaited Liberator Chronicles Volume 12 has just gone into production and will be out in April. We recorded the first one last week and we’ve got two more to record, which we’ll tell you about in a minute and give you some idea about what else we have in mind as well. But not too much detail, where’s the fun in that? We’re just waiting for Paul to join us and then we’ll be ready to start. Just another couple of minutes and until then we all sit in silence.
[Cavan’s comment is met with audience amusement. Someone calls out: “Sing us a song!”]
Cavan Scott: Do you really want me to sing a song?
[Cries of “Yes!” from the audience.]
Cavan Scott: Thank you so much! It’s not going to happen. I think the doors are opening. Oh, hello!
[A latecomer to the panel takes his seat.]
Cavan Scott: You really didn’t want to walk in just then, did you? (Addressing everyone in the audience) Are you having a good time here at Big Finish Day 8?
[Loud cheers and “Yes!”]
Cavan Scott: What’s been your favourite panel, as you haven’t seen the Blake’s 7 one yet?
[Everyone calls out “Blake’s 7!” and "This one!"]
Cavan Scott: Blake’s 7, thank you very much! We’ll be talking about some of the stuff we’ve been doing with Blake’s 7, and some of the stuff we will be doing in the future - because there is a future with Blake’s 7 here at Big Finish. And talking to some of our stars about their time in Blake’s 7, as well. And probably more important than me asking questions, is the chance for you to ask questions. So, if you have any questions you’d like to ask anyone on the panel, start thinking now. I’ll be running around with this rather lovely, subtle yellow microphone. Are you all thinking about questions? I can’t fill in time anymore, I don’t know what to say!
[Lisa Bowerman suggests the panel introduce themselves, to which Cav agrees]
Lisa Bowerman: Hello, my name is Lisa Bowerman, and I occasionally boss actors around on Blake’s 7.
Hugh Fraser: My name is Hugh Fraser; I play the President of the Federation – although I prefer the title ‘Master of the Universe.’
Jacqueline Pearce: I’m Jacqueline Pearce and I play Servalan.
[Their introductions are met with loud cheers and applause from the audience]
Cavan Scott: Hugh is obviously a brave man, sitting beside Servalan and saying, “I play the President of the Federation.”
Jacqueline Pearce (in an American accent): I am the Supreme Commander!
Hugh Fraser: We shall see, Madam. We shall see…
Cavan Scott: Jacqueline, when you come back to play Servalan, can you do it in that accent from now on? Who would like to hear Servalan with that accent?
[The audience agrees]
Cavan Scott: There we go, carrying on along the illustrious line!
Justin Richards: I’m Justin Richards, and I script edit Blake’s 7 for Big Finish.
Jamie Wilson: I’m Jamie Wilson, and between me and Alistair Lock, we do the music for Blake’s 7.
Lisa Bowerman: Very good it is too.
Cavan Scott: And I’m Cavan Scott, and I produce Blake’s 7 for Big Finish.
[Paul Darrow makes his entrance into the room]
Cavan Scott: I’m going to stand up and make room.
Paul Darrow (quipping dryly as he makes his way to the stage): Thank you! Don’t get up. Oh, you didn’t!
[Paul’s arrival is met with loud, prolonged cheers and applause]
Paul Darrow: Thank you very much for that wonderful… delayed reception.
Cavan Scott: Well, they’ve just heard you speaking over the speakers, so they’re in awe.
Paul Darrow: They’re in awe?
Cavan Scott: They’re in awe, yes! So, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Paul Darrow!
[Further loud cheers and applause.]
Paul Darrow: I would stand up, but as you can see, I’m legless.
[The audience laughs along with Paul, matching his good humoured tone]
Paul Darrow: It makes some things difficult, but some other things easier. I get people to push me around everywhere and get out of my way. It’s wonderful.
Cavan Scott: How are you doing, Paul? Obviously, everyone here has been concerned about you in the last year.
Paul Darrow: Have they?
Cavan Scott (joining in with the light hearted tone Paul has set since his arrival): Well, a few of them!
Paul Darrow: How have I been getting by? Well, I’ll tell you, it was very dramatic. I could have died. But we didn’t have enough pictures of the coffin to sell on Ebay.
[Surprised laughter from the audience]
Paul Darrow: The thing is, I was in New Zealand some years ago with Michael Keating, whom you may have heard of, and I was ill. So the hotel, they called the doctor and he was there within a few minutes and said (adopting an Antipodean accent): “Ah, yeah, you’ve just eaten something that’s disagreed with you. Cup of tea, lots of sugar, lie down for an hour or two and you’ll be fine.” And then he said: “That’ll be $10. If you were a Yank, it would be $20!”
[Paul’s story is met with spontaneous laughter]
Paul Darrow (continuing in his normal speaking voice): Michael had got it all sorted - that if I’d died, he would go on tour with the coffin.
[Loud laughter from the audience]
Paul Darrow: It was going to be called Final Kerr and charge five dollars a look. Then Michael went a bit too far and said, “We’ll sell his pubic hair on EBay.”
[Everybody laughs at the story, with an ‘Oh, Michael, I can’t believe you said that!’ amused element in their reactions]
Cavan Scott: And is he planning to do that?
Paul Darrow: He is! It was very funny!
Cavan Scott: So that’s why he can’t be here today. He’s got a job going!
Paul Darrow: Are you in charge here?
Cavan Scott: Apparently!
Paul Darrow (teasing): Oh, god, he’s useless!
Cavan Scott: At the end of the panel you’re going to have Avon, Servalan and The Master of The Universe and Lisa Bowerman.
Paul Darrow: On, no, not Lisa!
Cavan Scott: So, shall we talk about Blake’s 7?
Paul Darrow: No, Let’s talk about sex! Do you remember, Jacqueline, when we went to Chicago and nobody knew who we were? All those years ago!
Jacqueline Pearce: Who we were?
Paul Darrow: You and I. We went to this huge Doctor Who convention in Chicago. Blake’s 7 had only just gone to America, but it hadn’t been shown in Chicago, so nobody knew who we were. Do you remember?
Jacqueline Pearce: I do!
Paul Darrow: Nobody came to see us, because they didn’t know who we were. So Jacqueline stood outside the room and went, “Roll up, roll up, we’re going to talk about sex and rock ‘n roll!” And we packed them in, didn’t we babe?
[Paul’s story is met with gales of audience laughter.]
Cavan Scott: And you’ve been doing it ever since.
Paul Darrow: Ever since.
Cavan Scott: So, to bring us back to Blake’s 7, we’re back. We’ve been away from Blake’s 7 at Big Finish for a while, but we recorded one the other day, didn’t we, Paul?
Paul Darrow: Last Friday.
Cavan Scott: Yeah, with new...
Paul Darrow (interrupting): Thank god we got out of there at four o’clock! You know, I didn’t understand it.
Lisa Bowerman: I won’t say that makes two, because that would be cheating. It will all come together in the end.
Paul Darrow: You should know - you directed it, darling!
Cavan Scott: This is for the final box set of Liberator Chronicles - Volume 12. It’s the first story, it’s by Andy Lane and it’s called Corners of The Mind. And as Paul didn’t understand a word of it, would you like to explain it, Lisa?
Lisa Bowerman: It’s Indiana Jones in space. It’s Ziggurats and secret codes, using Avon’s... and I say ‘intelligence’ loosely, but…
[The audience responds to Lisa with good humoured pantomime jeers]
Paul Darrow: And the nutty alien who’s in the spacecraft, going… you know, she’s having a funny turn. Telepathy!
Lisa Bowerman: Too many spoilers! But I like Andy Lane’s scripts.
Cavan Scott: Yes, it’s a chance for Avon to stretch his mental faculties.
[Titters amongst the panel. Paul, Cav and Lisa know what they’re thinking]
Cavan Scott: I’m not going to say it!
Paul Darrow: I’ve got other faculties that need stretching!
[Gales of laughter from the audience.]
Cavan Scott: Oh, my god!
Paul Darrow: Only Paul! Only Paul! (his second ‘Only Paul’ is good humouredly mocking Cavan Scott mumbling those words.)
[More laughter and appreciative clapping from the audience, who are being thoroughly entertained]
Cavan Scott: Actually, earlier on I was talking to Jacqueline in the Green Room and I suddenly realised I was kneeling at her feet by the end of the conversation. I started talking to her and ended up bowing and then kneeling in front of her, as you should probably always do.
Paul Darrow: Most people do, don’t they darling?
Jacqueline Pearce: You couldn’t do me a favour while you were down there, could you?
[Peals of incredulous laughter which increase in volume as the audience and panel register what she said]
Cavan Scott: All the secrets of Big Finish are coming out now… I bet it wasn’t like this on the War Doctor panel! So, Jacqueline, you’re back as Servalan and you’ll be returning as Servalan in the future as well?
Jacqueline Pearce: Yes!
Cavan Scott: Both you and Paul, you’re obviously playing characters you played in the show and now at Big Finish. How do you feel about the characters - have they developed on the audios? Are they the same characters you recognise from being on the show?
Paul Darrow: Well, it depends who wrote it!
[Paul’s dry remark is met with the audience laughing their approval at his candid response]
Paul Darrow: There’s one where we’re looking for Dayna.
Cavan Scott (deadpan): It’s an entire series, Paul.
Paul Darrow: Oh, is it?
Cavan Scott: There’s six of them.
Paul Darrow: But why is she even gone?
Cavan Scott: We needed a series. We had to give a little bit of wiggle room, so…. (turns to Jacqueline Pearce) So, Servalan. We’ve been exploring parts of her personality, haven’t we, in the audios? There’s this story where she’s being interviewed by a journalist. You’ve seen Servalan in places of power, you’ve seen her being the boss – sorry Hugh, Master of The Universe!
Lisa Bowerman: So much has happened since then…
Cavan Scott: Well, we have given a voice to the person you replace in Blake’s 7. Beside you, you have the former President of the Federation in the form of Hugh Fraser.
Hugh Fraser (commanding tone): I am the Master of The Universe!
Cavan Scott: I have to call Paul ‘Lord’, I have to kneel in front of Servalan, and I have to call you ‘Master of The Universe.’ What Justin Richards makes me do, we’re not saying!
Paul Darrow: But we can guess.
[Everyone’s into the spirit of the panel; the audience is laughing almost constantly at the comments]
Cavan Scott: Hugh, you’ve come into this world, you’re now part of it and you’re never leaving. How does that feel?
Hugh Fraser: Well, for the first time in my career I feel really well cast. One of the things I had to get used to was when the script arrived, I’d read it, and on page 5 I’d find I’ve been obliterated and shot out into the universe. And I thought, “Oh, fine, I’ll be away by ten o’clock.” But later in the day, I happened to see that I was there again. So, one has to get used to these multiple identities… multiple incarnations.
Cavan Scott: Which you do very well.
Hugh Fraser: Thank you!
Cavan Scott: Obviously, we know you from lots of roles, but you were Hastings for many years in Poirot, a very genteel, nice character. But you can play a bit of a bastard, can’t you? Or is that typecasting?
[Laughter from the audience as Hugh looks askance at Cav]
Cavan Scott: Don’t look at me like that, as if you were… Sorry, did I manage to offend you?
Paul Darrow: You did.
Cavan Scott: Oh, I do apologise!
[It’s all in good fun]
Paul Darrow: At the end of a film called The Professionals, a man turns round to Lee Marvin and says: “You bastard.” And he says, (adopting an American accent): “In my case it was an accident of birth, but you, sir, are a self-made man.” (Paul resumes his normal voice) Oh, what a great line! (Addressing Cav) You’ll steal it, won’t you?
Cavan Scott: Have you stolen it for one of your books? Because you’ve been writing books for us. Did you see my link there? That was seamless!
Paul Darrow: Yes, I have, they are available. It’s a trilogy of three.
[His quip is met with appreciative laughter]
Paul Darrow: So far… Anyway, they’re wonderful.
Cavan Scott (bursts out laughing): Sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh.
(Paul is a master of self-promotion, which amused and impressed Cavan Scott.)
Paul Darrow: All three books are amazing, aren’t they? All three books are wonderful.
Cavan Scott: Servalan’s in them as well, isn’t she?
Paul Darrow: Servalan’s in them. Avon’s in them. It tells you what happened to Avon after the series ended.
Cavan Scott: Yes, and before, as well. In the last book you dove back into his past and Servalan’s as well.
Paul Darrow: Don’t tell me you’ve read it?
Cavan Scott: Maybe!
Paul Darrow: Well, there you go. So, the copies are available outside. And I will sign them. In fact I’ll sign anything.
Cavan Scott: It’s true. (Turning to Justin Richards) So, Justin, you’re the script editor, how do you control this lot?
Paul Darrow: Is he?
Cavan Scott: Yes. You know, when you talk about the scripts, it’s his fault.
Paul Darrow: Is it? So who employs the writers? You do?
Cavan Scott: Bit of both. If they’re good ones, it’s me; if they are bad, I blame Justin. But we never have bad writers on Blake’s 7, do we?
Paul Darrow: No. Poor Justin.
Cavan Scott: Everyone was meant to shout then!
[Laughter from audience]
Cavan Scott: We don’t have bad writers on Blake’s 7, do we?
[Most of the audience calls out: “No!”]
Paul Darrow (to the audience): You all right at the back?
Cavan Scott: We’ve lulled them to sleep.
Paul Darrow: Are you all right? 'cos this is about Blake’s 7, luvvie, if you’ve never heard of it...
Cavan Scott: And we have more Blake’s 7 on the way. In fact, we’ll be recording a couple in the next couple of weeks. The final two…
Paul Darrow: I’m not in those?
Cavan Scott: You’re not in those, no.
Paul Darrow: Pfft! Well, no point then!
[Paul’s dismissive response is met with laughter and loud applause]
Cavan Scott: Do you want to know who’s in them?
Paul Darrow: No!
Cavan Scott: Some chap called Steven Pacey [loud cheers from the audience] and some bloke who runs an Ebay shop, called Michael Keating. And a third character who we’ve re-introduced into Blake’s 7, in the form of Mr David Warner, who’s returning to play…
Paul Darrow: David Warner? Dear, oh dear!
Cavan Scott (referencing Liberator Chronicles Volume 9): Have you not listened to the trailer for that one?
Paul Darrow: No. I get paid to record them, not to listen to them.
[Audience erupts into laughter at this comment]
Cavan Scott: We pay you? Okay, fair enough! Right, I think we have the writer here - Mr Guy Adams, at the back. Guy Adams is the writer of the last two – he’s the man who’s killed the Liberator Chronicles.
[Guy Adams joins the panel, standing to the left of Paul Darrow.]
Cavan Scott: Hello, Guy.
Guy Adams: Hello.
Cavan Scott: Would you like to tell us what they’re called and what they are about?
Guy Adams: It’s such a pleasure to come up here with this warm, friendly… pull me up here in front of these lovely, kind people. There are two, called Capital and Punishment. You see what I did there?
Cavan Scott: We re-introduce David Warner as Solvin Tavac. And we tie up some of the storylines...
Guy Adams: All of the storylines...
Cavan Scott: ...in the award winning Liberator Chronicles.
Paul Darrow: These are the ones I’m not in?
Cavan Scott: You’re in the award winning one.
Paul Darrow (joking): Yeah, you’re dead!
Cavan Scott: We did win an award. It’s called The Armageddon Storm and it’s by Mark Wright and someone... we address that storyline, don’t we?
Guy Adams: Do I know that one?
Cavan Scott: Yes, you’ve written the sequel to it.
[Laughter from the audience]
Cavan Scott: This is what I have to work with.
Guy Adams: I’ve judged the tone and I’ve just come straight in. I’ll give Cav a kicking before we leave. Previously, I was just official favour giver to all the Big Finish cast. It’s lovely that I’m now actually able to write for one. Yes, I had a shot at Armageddon Storm. We take that and we wrap it up beautifully. We do bring the lovely David Warner back as Tavac. And hopefully it’s going to be a lovely little thing. I’m the writer, I can’t be too smug.
Paul Darrow: Try!
Guy Adams: They will be the best Blake’s 7 scripts you’ll hear! They’ve got the best cast that we could possibly…
[Audience reactions of “Ooh!” mingled with laughter as they respond to Guy’s ‘the best cast’ comment]
Paul Darrow: I hope we don’t meet down any dark alleys.
Guy Adams (blushing beetroot red): Oh, dear, I was rude to Paul Darrow. Goodbye! Thank you!
[Loud applause for Guy as he retakes his seat in the audience]
Cavan Scott (to Paul): Who do you want to insult next?
Paul Darrow: I didn’t insult anybody.
Cavan Scott: No, no, of course not.
Paul Darrow: I just gave him some artistic advice. What my opinion is worth.
Cavan Scott: Jamie?
Paul Darrow (referencing Jamie Oliver): Oh, Jamie. I love that dish I bought in your shop. Terrific! You’ve put on some weight, though.
Jamie Wilson: I have.
Cavan Scott: What do you do here?
Jamie Wilson: I thought it was a job interview.
Paul Darrow: Well, don’t call us, we’ll call you.
Jamie Wilson: Yeah, basically, I just sit there, twiddle my thumbs, make some noises. And that’s it.
Cavan Scott: Jamie’s the man who puts the music on our episodes. He’s the man who, after the writers and the actors have done their great work, and the direction has obviously benefited, Jamie adds polish on top of it with the music.
Paul Darrow: You’re the sort of Ennio Morricone of Big Finish, are you?
Jamie Wilson: I wish!
Paul Darrow: Yes, so do we!
Jamie Wilson: First off, Martin Montague does all the sound design. He’s the one really – he puts a lot of magic into it.
Lisa Bowerman: He does, he’s very good on detail. So much so that a couple of years ago I was listening to one of the edits and I said, “I think that’s a click… I can’t quite identify this click. Is it a technical issue?” Martin said, “I’ll listen to it back.” And I got a note saying, “No, it’s his zip as he gets out of the toilet.” You go, ‘Oh, of course!’ He has a good ear.
Cavan Scott: He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of what different parts of the Liberator sound like, and where...
Lisa Bowerman: And what seasons the Liberator’s doors changed, and all that sort of stuff.
Cavan Scott (to Paul): He creates your leather, the sound of your leather creaking.
Paul Darrow: Why doesn’t he get a life?
Jamie Wilson: It takes him about three weeks.
Lisa Bowerman: It’s very labour intensive. We go through the process of doing FX and giving notes and doing FX again. Then it will eventually go to Jamie to add the shine.
Jamie Wilson: Martin seems to have this massive library of every effect going.
Lisa Bowerman: Every effect.
Jamie Wilson: Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, everything.
Lisa Bowerman: He’ll give you notes, as well.
Jamie Wilson: Yeah, if you want to know a specific sound, he’ll know. He’s obviously studied everything in detail. Then it comes to me or Alistair Lock, depends who’s doing it. We add all the music.
Paul Darrow: He knows all these sounds, you know (blows a raspberry on the back of his hand). Oh, dear, did I have a vindaloo last night?
[While the audience dissolves into laughter Lisa returns her attention to Blake’s 7]
Lisa Bowerman: Jamie, how well did you know Blake’s 7 when you started working on it?
Jamie Wilson: I’ll admit, I did not watch Blake’s 7 at all, I wasn’t...
Cavan Scott: I invited you on this panel!
Jamie Wilson: I wasn’t here, I wasn’t on this planet, I was born afterwards! But ever since getting onto the Blake’s 7 audios, I now want to get hold of all the DVD’s and actually go back through them.
Cavan Scott: Paul will sign them.
Paul Darrow: Yeah, it’ll cost!
Jamie Wilson: A fiver?
Cavan Scott: There we go, a fiver for good quality entertainment.
(To the audience) Have any of you got any questions for these wonderful people here? Do you want me insulted by any of them? (Cav moves across to audience member) Hello, sir, have you got a question?
Audience Member 1: It’s a question for you. How much can you tell us about what’s happening after the Liberator Chronicles?
Cavan Scott: Who’s got another question? I can’t tell you much about what’s happening after Liberator Chronicles. We are going to be doing some full cast audios set during the first three series of Blake’s 7. And then there are lots of ideas on how to expand the universe as well, that we’re going to be looking into.
Paul Darrow: Does Stephen Hawking know about this?
Cavan Scott: We got Hawking as a creative consultant! So there will be more Blake’s 7, as I’m sure you’ll be very pleased to hear. I expect we’ll be bringing back Servalan as well, and with Hugh in the universe. I think, actually, having these two locking horns, would be quite good fun.
[There is audience approval at that suggestion]
Cavan Scott: I have to bring back Avon as well, it’s contractual.
Paul Darrow: Actually, it isn’t!
[Oohs and laughter from the audience]
Cavan Scott: It all goes wrong from this point on. So, yeah, there will be more. We can’t reveal too much...
Paul Darrow (amused): Because they don’t know what they’re doing.
Cavan Scott: Okay, anyone else got any questions?
Audience Member 2 (question to Paul): When one is dealing with an actor of your calibre, what’s the point in having a director?
[The question, asked tongue in cheek, is met with cheers from the audience]
Paul Darrow: None whatsoever! Just as long as they send someone to pick me up, I’m there.
Cavan Scott: Lisa, what is the point of the director?
Lisa Bowerman: You should have heard what it was like! No, directing is a mere tweaking; that’s all that is required. It’s like most things - you leave people well alone when they know what they’re doing. I act as a third ear; I act as you lot – the audience. So, if a scene makes no sense to me, it will make no sense to anybody. The theory is that I can make things clear, or make everything a bit more exciting if we pick up the pace or slow it down, you know, make it more moody.
Because by the time the scripts come to me they’ve had some lovely script editing, they’re in a complete shape. I obviously know the cast I’m going to get, and then lucky enough to have some lovely guest cast and we can put people around them. And then I listen. And if I think, ‘I’m a bit bored now’, it normally means things need to go a bit faster, or occasionally somebody might stress a word that doesn’t quite make sense. That really is it.
Sorry, are you all right, Paul?
Cavan Scott: He stopped listening.
Lisa Bowerman: It’s not unusual.
Paul Darrow: Sorry, I was asleep, I missed that.
Lisa Bowerman (affectionately): It’s all so new.
Cavan Scott: And Justin, is that also the job of the script editor - when the script comes in, before the actors even get hold of it, to make sure the characters are the right pitch, that kind of thing?
Justin Richards: Yeah. A lot of it, especially with an ensemble piece like Blake’s 7, is to do with getting the characters right, their interactions. But it’s also to do with getting a plot that makes sense, where everything’s tied up and which cracks along as an interesting story. That all sounds very easy and straightforward, but it isn’t always. Sometimes writers get ideas into their heads that don’t quite work, and you have to work with them to get it so it does work. But, yes, a lot of it is that if you’ve got rules to an outline first, and if the outline’s right - the basics of the story - by the time you get to the script editing stage hopefully it is just character notes, things like that. So far on Blake’s 7, we’ve been lucky enough or clever enough to use writers who pretty much know what they’re doing, and are very familiar with the original series. So it’s not too difficult and when we do tweaking, they understand what it is that you tell them and see where you’re coming from.
Cavan Scott: Any other questions for our wonderful cast and crew? It’s all gone very quiet. It’s almost like you’re scared. Don’t be scared!
Audience Member 3: It isn’t so much a question, more a statement. Paul, considering what’s been happening for the last fourteen months - and I think I speak for everybody in the room – I just want to say how bloody, bloody wonderful it is to see you here today!
[Prolonged applause from the audience. Paul is looking a tad confused]
Paul Darrow: What did I do? (Turns to his fellow panellists) What did I do?
Jacqueline Pearce: What did I do?
Paul Darrow: No, what did I do? Because I didn’t hear what the gentleman said.
Lisa Bowerman (to Paul): He said, we were very lucky to have you here.
Paul Darrow: Well, that’s true! (Turning to Lisa) Great feed you are, luvvie!
Cavan Scott: Any other questions?
Audience Member 4: Have you given any thought to recasting Gan at some point, since they’ve done so well at that in the Doctor Who’s?
Cavan Scott: Yes!
Audience Member 4: And will you?
Cavan Scott: Obviously, if we are going to be telling full cast stories, there are certain cast members who can’t be with us or won’t be with us. So we are looking at recasting Gan and we are looking at recasting Dayna – because we can’t keep looking for her. We have to find her at some point.
[Laughter from the audience]
Cavan Scott: So these are some of the things we’re starting to work out. It’s something that’s ongoing at the minute, working out what we’re going to do – how to tell new stories for those characters that we haven’t had a chance to really tell stories for up to now.
Audience Member 5: In the Liberator Chronicles, there’s a story with Avon and Servalan, but Avon’s a clone and they’re not actually together. Is there a possibility to have a story where it’s basically Paul and Jacks as Avon and Servalan, sort of eye to eye, face to face, if you know what I mean?
Cavan Scott: Eye to eye, face to face – I would think so! Again, there are plans. I’m being very annoying; and I can’t say what these plans are. But there are definitely plans!
Paul Darrow: That’s a good idea, that episode. It would be called 'Missionary Position'.
[Audience erupts into laughter]
Cavan Scott: What about that? That’s gold. I love Blake’s 7 panels. Does anyone else have any other questions? I dare you! I see a hand...
Audience Member 6: Series D?
Cavan Scott: Unfortunately, we can’t do Series D. It’s not that we don’t want to do series D, trust me - I would love to do Series D, it’s when I started to really get into Blake’s 7. But there is a very complicated rights situation. We have the rights to do Series 1 to 3, and maybe beyond. But we can’t do Series D at the minute. I will keep trying though, because it’s something I do want to do. So, any other questions?
Audience Member 7: It’s not Blake’s 7 of course, but Hugh, the recording of Curtain (the final episode of Poirot) - what sort of experience was it?
Hugh Fraser: Quite moving, to be honest. It’s been a long time and David Suchet is well known for bringing depth to his acting, his character. He’s extremely convincing as a dying man. Playing those final scenes with him was extremely moving. And Adrian Garfield’s performance is amazing. It was superb, all the cast members were... Thank you for asking.
Cavan Scott: And staying with crime, we had you recently in Doctor Who as well, playing another member of the criminal fraternity.
Hugh Fraser: Yes. Hugh Fraser playing Sherlock Holmes’ dumber younger brother, Sherringford Holmes.
Cavan Scott: No, I think you said his more attractive younger brother! Yes, recently you were in the audio All-Consuming Fire with someone playing Bernice Summerfield; I can't remember who that is!
[Audience laughs, knowing that it’s Lisa Bowerman]
Cavan Scott: Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Nicholas Briggs as Sherlock Holmes. Again, I got you in to play someone quite morally dubious. I don't know why that is happening.
Hugh Fraser: I don’t know why you get that impression. Why are you giving those to me?
Cavan Scott: Oh, I don’t know. (Cav turns his attention to Paul Darrow) Something else we haven’t talked about, Paul - we’ve recorded your autobiography, which is news to everyone here - I don’t think we’ve announced it yet. It looks like it’s news to you too, Paul!
[Cavan didn’t seem to realise that Paul had spoken to those of us who attended the Peterborough Movie Fest in October 2015 about recording his autobiography. He’s always a mine of information!]
Lisa Bowerman: He spent a couple of days on that.
Paul Darrow: You’re right, you’re right! Well, it’s called an autobiography, but it’s just a memoir. And I’m very polite about all sorts of people. I talk about various lovers and it’s the blonde, the brunette, the redhead – because they’re still alive, as far as I’m aware. So I don’t want to offend anybody. But the way I am at the moment, I am looking to write all the dirt where I slag off everybody.
Cavan Scott: Would anyone want to buy that?
[Loud cries from the audience of ‘Yes!’ and ‘I would!’]
Cavan Scott: We’ve got time for a couple more questions.
[An audience member asks Cavan about the release date for Paul’s audio autobiography]
Cavan Scott: It will be some time in the spring. I can’t give you the exact answer; but it won’t be that far away at all. And I think we’ll get to do an audiobook of the third Lucifer book as well, which is something we need to talk about. I’m talking like we’re at a meeting. Are we doing the third book of the Lucifer trilogy on audiobook as well, Paul, if that’s all right with you?
Paul Darrow: Show me the money!
Cavan Scott: So, there we go. Any further questions?
Paul Darrow (addressing the audience): It’s tiring, isn’t it?
Audience Member 5: We’ve also got Jacqueline in conversation with Nick Briggs. It’s about her life. Could she give us some details about that one?
Cavan Scott: Jacqueline, you’re doing an In Conversation with Nick Briggs about your life, is this right?
Jacqueline Pearce: We’ve done it actually. I think it’s still with the censor!
Paul Darrow: So it’ll be a while coming out, then?
[More laughter and applause follow Paul’s comment – the audience imagining all too well what Jacqueline may have said on her Call Me Jacks audio.)
Jacqueline Pearce: We did it at about ten ‘o clock in the morning. And I said to Nick, “I can’t have an intimate conversation about my life without a drink. I have to be lubricated.” And dear Toby produced a bottle of champagne, so I was very pissed by the time we finished! And I’m afraid I can’t be held responsible.
[Massive appreciative laughter from the audience]
Cavan Scott: So, by the time we get to Disc 2, that’s where the juicy stuff starts, is it?
Jacqueline Pearce: Apparently!
Cavan Scott: Sorry we didn’t produce champagne for yours, Paul. I feel bad now.
Paul Darrow: No you don’t.
Cavan Scott: No, I don’t. (Cav returns his attention to the audience) Does anybody else have anything… Hello, would you like to ask a question?
Audience Member 8: Paul, what was it like playing Tekker in Doctor Who?
Paul Darrow (obligingly responding to this question about his performance in the Doctor Who story Timelash): They’re all dead, aren’t they? Those people who were connected to it are dead?
Cavan Scott: Colin Baker is still around.
Paul Darrow: Oh, yes, of course he is! Anyway, I wanted to play it like Richard III, but they wouldn’t let me have the hump.
Paul Darrow: No, really, I did! And it was a silly thing, and they told me off. They said I sent it up and I shouldn’t have. But there was this actor, he was sitting in the corner because he was playing a snake, and he was practising. Yes, he was sitting in the corner going “Hiss, hiss …” (imitates snake hissing). And then I had to talk to him, and he was going “Hiss, hiss” at me. I thought, ‘This is bloody ridiculous,’ so I sent him up a bit. And John Nathan Turner was quite cross with me. But never mind, he forgave me when we met at a convention. He said, “Why did you do that?” And I said, “Look, the script was crap!”
Paul Darrow: And then JNT said, “Yeah, you’re right.” But I have to say, that it’s arguably one of the most hated of episodes and also one of the best liked, curiously enough. I know this because of the repeat fees I’ve received – which were considerable. But there you go!
Cavan Scott: And of course Colin was in Blake’s 7, as well?
Paul Darrow: A brief appearance.
Cavan Scott: A brief appearance… as Bayban. Would anybody like to see Colin back as Bayban in Blake’s 7?
[Lots of ‘Yes!’ responses from the audience]
Paul Darrow: You’re out of your minds!
Cavan Scott (to Jacqueline Pearce): Of course, you appeared with Colin on Doctor Who, as well, didn’t you?
Jacqueline Pearce: The Two Doctors.
Cavan Scott: I have had a conversation with Colin about potentially returning to Blake’s 7. So, we shall see.
Paul Darrow: Is he still overweight?
[Chuckles amongst the audience, unsure how to respond because they don’t know where Paul is going with this]
Cavan Scott (slightly nervous): Has anyone got another question?
Paul Darrow: I only ask because I was doing a voice over when I had legs, at a place called Little Buddha or something. Anyway, it’s very steep stairs going up about five floors, and the recording was on the fifth floor. I’d just done mine and Colin came in all hot and bothered, and said, “Where’s the studio for me, because I’m after you.” I said, “It’s on the fifth floor.” And he said, “Ring up and tell them that I’ll be half an hour, will you?”
[Paul’s anecdote is met with laughter from everyone]
Cavan Scott: We have time for one more question. So if anyone has one more question? Looking around, here we go…
Audience Member 9: As I’m sure you’re all aware, we lost Alan Rickman this week. He was once quoted as saying: “I don’t play villains, I just play interesting people.” As writers and actors and directors, do you follow that philosophy, that idea?
Cavan Scott: Jacqueline, Servalan was the villain of the piece, but in her own mind she was just doing...
Jacqueline Pearce: Darling!
Cavan Scott: I know.
Jacqueline Pearce: She was a pussy cat.
Cavan Scott: But she believed she was right though, didn’t she?
Jacqueline Pearce: Absolutely!
Paul Darrow: So did Adolf Hitler.
Cavan Scott: Well, there we are.
Jacqueline Pearce: She was a psychopath.
Cavan Scott: Yes, obviously! And Avon, he’s not exactly a goody-goody two shoes, is he?
Paul Darrow: Oh, he’s a sweet guy - he was let down a few times. Took it out on everybody else. No, he didn’t like anybody, so he killed them. He killed Blake, let’s face it.
Cavan Scott: So, Justin, when we are writing Blake’s 7, we bring in people like the President Hugh played. It’s quite important, isn’t it, to remember these people aren’t Bond villains who know they’re villains, are they? They’re out to know they’re doing something right.
Justin Richards: Villains are often much more interesting to write for than the goodies. But in their own minds, almost without exception, the villain doesn’t think they’re the villain. As far as they’re concerned, they are the hero of the piece. It isn’t until things go horribly wrong at the end that they perhaps realise that they weren’t after all. It can be quite fun typically… why they think they’re right and that what they’re doing is for the good.
Paul Darrow: What is interesting, I always found, when you look back over Blake’s 7, is that Blake, the messianic hero if you like, was responsible for more deaths than Stalin. Which is extraordinary. He’d dump a planet, and Avon was supposed to be running around in black leather gunning people down – but I only killed a few people.
Justin Richards: It’s a question of perspective, isn’t it?
Paul Darrow: Yes, quite!
Justin Richards: One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.
Paul Darrow: Ah, that’s it, you see. Now Gareth always used to say he was a freedom fighter and I’d say, “No you’re not, you’re a terrorist. And I’ll prove it by killing you.”
Cavan Scott: And that’s how he lost the argument.
Paul Darrow: Yes.
Cavan Scott: Here’s something we are looking in the plans I can’t tell you about: we are looking to explore a bit more of the Federation and why they’re doing what they are doing. Because you know, you mentioned Adolf Hitler, but not everyone during the Second World War necessarily believed in what they were doing – they were just part of the movement. So, that’s something we’re going to explore.
Paul Darrow (incredulous reaction): What! You mean they were forced to say, “I pledge my loyalty to Adolf Hitler”? Nobody forced them to do that. They did it, luvvie (this isn’t Paul having fun, he is being serious).
Cavan Scott: But we are going to be exploring a lot of that kind of thing.
Paul Darrow: We’ll be sitting in a loft in the Third Reich, will we?
Cavan Scott: The Federation.
Paul Darrow: Oh, right, yes!
Cavan Scott: Anyway, we mentioned heroes and fiends; we’ve come to the end...
[Cav is interrupted by Paul playfully starting to raise his right hand in a Nazi salute, like Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove. The audience responds with laughter and unanimous applause]
Cavan Scott: I was saying, we’re coming to the end of our time here this afternoon, so I’m sure you’d all like to put your hands together to thank the cast and crew of Blake’s 7.
[Prolonged, enthusiastic, applause from the entire audience]
Paul Darrow: I’d like to thank you for conducting everything so expertly. I’d like to do that but unfortunately…
[His playful comments are met with audience laughter]
Paul Darrow: No, no, wonderful!
Cavan Scott: Do you see what I have to work with?
[More laughter from the satisfied audience, followed by Cav wrapping up the panel]
Cavan Scott: Thank you very much, we’re done. Thank you, everyone!
[Loud applause, which increases in volume as Paul leaves the room waving to the audience like the Queen]
A formal announcement from Big Finish on 12th January 2017, nearly a year since the above panel took place, delighted all Blake’s 7 fans with the news that Michael Keating and Steven Pacey have been in the studio recording new B7.
Roj Blake, wonderfully realised by Gareth Thomas will never be forgotten; his spirit will live on in every new Blake's 7 audio we purchase.
Edited by Jackie Emery
Photos by Diane Gies