Story: Actor Paul Darrow, best known to SF fans for his four-year stint as the amoral Kerr Avon from the BBC’s Blake”s 7, discusses his childhood, his early decision to become an actor, how his stage name came about (he reasons that “Paul Birkby” isn’t a name that would’ve kept him working), the many twists and turns of his career both before and after Blake’s 7, and of course, knowing who’s likely to be reading, spends quite a bit of time on his most famous role, deconstructing the character and even offering an episode-by-episode breakdown of his own analysis of the stories and his memories of making them.
Review: If there’s anything I’ve gleaned from listening to and watching some fairly recent interviews with Paul Darrow, it is that this guy who is remembered as one of British television’s quintessential badasses of the 1970s and 80s is, naturally, a soft-spoken gentleman with both a great deal of pride in his career, and a great sense of self-effacing humor. These traits are even more to the fore when Darrow puts his own story on paper. He comes across as one of the most pragmatic of actors – he freely admits that he’s taken some roles to set his bank overdraft right (!), and has put everything on hold for other roles (including Avon). Amusingly enough, much of “You’re Him, Aren’t You?” is a glorious exercise in name-dropping, with Darrow telling stories of his experiences with such luminaries as John Hurt, Ian McShane, Patrick McGoohan, and every Doctor Who except William Hartnell and Christopher Eccleston. Darrow admits that he wouldn’t mind piloting the TARDIS himself (Russell T. Davies, please take note, as I’d love to see Paul in a guest-starring role on the new show), and even has a fairly reasonable theory about the longevity of Doctor Who vs. Blake’s seemingly frozen-in-amber-and-never-to-be-continued state.
Oh…yes. That. Whatever did happen to the attempt by Darrow, former Blake’s 7 director Brian Lighthill and producer Andrew Mark Sewell to relaunch the show? There’s an entire chapter on that, in which Darrow dishes the dirt straight-up and explains why Sewell is unlikely to succeed with or without him – and yet he does it in a most gentlemanly manner. (The book is published by the print division of Big Finish Productions, purveyors of fine audio revivals of classic cult SF/fantasy properties, and Darrow indeed notes that Sewell’s stranglehold on the Blake’s 7 rights precludes Big Finish reviving that series as well – which he feels would be the best thing for it.)
It’s all written with wickedly tongue-in-cheek humor – Darrow doesn’t wish to damage B7’s place in the annals of British SF drama, but does admit to getting a hearty laugh out of it – and so help me, while I wasn’t blown over by his first attempt at fiction (“Avon: A Terrible Aspect”), Darrow is a good writer, setting up themes, running jokes and thematic bookends and paying them off, all while telling his own true story. His analyses of all 52 episodes of B7 are often laugh-out-loud funny, as he pokes massive holes through some of the less-than-watertight plots (and occasionally does the same for performances – including his own). Perhaps even better than his Blake tales are his stories from his considerable stage experience, ranging from his stint playing Elvis Presley to an occasion on which an understudy froze up and he had to convey an entire conversation between two characters to the audience – on his own!
For fans of Mr. Darrow, this is an outstanding read. If you’re not a fan of Mr. Darrow, this book could conceivably do the trick if you haven’t seen the man himself in action.
Author: Paul Darrow
Publisher: Big Finish