Kaldor City: a Magic Bullet Production


Sex, Pliers and Videotape


Reactions were mixed upon hearing that Alan would be conducting the interview.


Although both Paul Darrow and Brian Croucher have played a variety of character parts over the years, they are still perhaps best known for their roles in Blake's 7 as Avon and Travis respectively. In a special interview conducted at Galaxy 4's Kaldor City event in 2001, they spoke to Alan Stevens about their past, present and future.


ALAN STEVENS: Both of you are fans of movie stars like Marlon Brando and John Wayne. Did their style of acting influence you at all?

no influence on Paul in the slightest. BRIAN CROUCHER: Well, yes. I've always liked Robert Mitchum because he's a non-actor. He's a minimalist. I like less rather than more from actors. Especially when they are acting next to me. You work with some actors and it verges on the amateur, when they do it in your face. So, that's Robert Mitchum for me.

PAUL DARROW: Yes, I agree. I was influenced, obviously. Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd...

BRIAN: Oh, yes, because we are a couple of sad old bastards!

PAUL: (LAUGHING) You've probably never heard of half the people that I admire, but, yes, people like that. I'm a big Humphrey Bogart fan. There was one particular episode of Blake's 7 ["The Keeper"], and the director, Derek Martinus, said to me, "Now Paul, you'll be marching up and down the flightdeck and getting anxious. Maybe you could do something. Here's a couple of ball-bearings, why don't you play with those?" And the whole cast went, "Ohhh, dear!" and they just knew what I was going to do, because in "The Caine Mutiny" Bogart has the ball-bearings and he's clicking them, and going (DOES BOGART IMPRESSION), "It was the strawberries, see!" So, yes, I am influenced.

Brian admits that this man was a big influence on him. BRIAN: I'm also influenced by Tommy Cooper.

PAUL: Funnily enough, I knew that as soon as you walked in.

BRIAN: (LAUGHING) When they couldn't get Tommy Cooper or Arthur Mullard, they got me!


ALAN: You've both played a number of villains in your time, but you've also quite often been cast in establishment roles. Why do you think there is that connection?

BRIAN: I know the answer to this one. Drama is based on conflict and we are talking about rules and we are talking about law, so policemen and solicitors and barristers, it's conflicting influences, and that's drama. That is why a lot of drama is based around the law.

PAUL: And then there are hospitals. In the old days when there were the independent television companies, I would meet a casting director from one and they'd say, "What have you been doing?" And I'd say, "I've been at Thames playing a terrorist," and they'd look at me and say; "You can't play terrorists! You're the sort to play doctors." So at one place I was playing all the scruffs and at the other I'd play doctors and...

BRIAN: You played scruffs?

PAUL: I actually played scruffs!

BRIAN: I only play scruffs!


ALAN: Before you did Blake's 7 you both were in Doctor Who. Your first story, Paul, was "Doctor Who and the Silurians", which was repeated recently, wasn't it?

PAUL: That's very good! I like the way you did that! "Which was repeated recently, wasn't it?" What if I'd just said, "yes?"


ALAN: Then I'd have asked another question.

PAUL: It was repeated the Christmas before last, and it was quite interesting, in that there are people you think you've never worked with. Someone once said to me, "Have you ever worked with an actor called Geoffrey Palmer?" and I said, "No, never," but he was in "Doctor Who and the Silurians", and I was in it as well. We'd worked together and I had forgotten. In fact it had a very good cast. There was Fulton Mackay and Jon Pertwee and Peter Miles! How could I forget Peter Miles?

ALAN: Brian, I thought the makeup you wore in "The Robots of Death", was rather... interesting.

PAUL: (TO BRIAN) Was that in the one you did for radio?

BRIAN: (LAUGHING) Well, there's no answer to that! I don't remember wearing makeup though?

ALAN: I showed you a picture of yourself from the story recently, and you said you looked like Julian Clary's toyboy.

BRIAN: Yeah, well, those were the days.

PAUL: (LAUGHING) Would you like a glass of water, to calm your nerves?

BRIAN: (LAUGHING) Cheers! That was with Tom Baker. Yes, dear old Tom, I haven't seen him for years. You hear him advertising SKY movies and football games. He's worth more than that...

PAUL: (LAUGHING) I'm worth more than that, and I do the same!

ALAN: In your next Doctor Who story Paul, you played Tekker in "Timelash" with Colin Baker...

PAUL: "Didn't you?"


No really, I'm not sending this role up. Honest.PAUL: Yes, I remember that one. I had a terrible row with the Producer, John Nathan-Turner. Well, I didn't have a row with him; he had a row with me, because he thought I was sending it up. Which I was! I thought that was quite astute of John, really. I mean there was this cobra glove puppet, and you were supposed to take that seriously, having a conversation with a cobra glove puppet? The operator used to sit in the corner at rehearsals, and practice going "Hissss, hisss!" It had this quiet little snakey voice when I spoke to it, and I thought, "Come on! You can't be serious!" Anyway, I did it, and he wasn't very pleased. And then we met at a convention in Chicago...

ALAN: You and the snake?


PAUL: No, not the snake! John Nathan-Turner and I. And I said, "It wasn't really a very good script, was it?" And he said, "Well no, it wasn't, I agree. And actually, you were rather good in it!" And I said, "So, there you are then!"

BRIAN: Talking of producers, have you seen that terrible programme Soap Stars? There's a woman on there who is giving a better performance than the people who are trying to be in the soap. God knows who she is. She came out, I swear she came out of my f--king television and into my living room the other night. (LAUGHING) I'm getting angry now. What's it all coming to?

PAUL: Well, everyone is going to have their fifteen minutes of fame, aren't they?

BRIAN: But that's not fame, it's boredom. It's absolute boredom!

PAUL: It's Emmerdale that they get to be in, isn't it? I was in Emmerdale, about ten years ago. I played the part of Zoe's boyfriend and a month after I left the show she became a lesbian.

Athlete, businessman, Casanova... (BIG LAUGH FROM AUDIENCE)

BRIAN: (LAUGHING) Oh yes, I know that one! I'll tell you, in the remit for the character I played in EastEnders, it said "Ted Hills: Athlete; womaniser; great businessman; great dress sense; lots of jewellery," and all that! Six months later, I'm in a brown warehouse coat running a DIY shop. A year later, I'm slouched on a sofa surrounded by empty cans of lager. Two years in EastEnders, and Ted was never even seen talking to a woman. He never had a kiss! A bonk! Nothing! He became a nowhere man. He never went downhill, he went straight down a lift shaft!


PAUL: That happened to me in Emergency Ward 10.

ALAN: Doctor Valerie!

PAUL: (LAUGHING) Valerie? Do you mind? You might have called him Valerie, but I called him Doctor Verity. I was told he was ear, nose and throat. I'd only been there six months and I was doing a heart operation! I thought, "Crikey! Well, he's good, isn't he?

BRIAN: (LAUGHING) He took all his exams off camera!

PAUL: Yes! Then they decided that he would have a romance with one of the nurses, and the only one available was Chinese. So she drops something in the corridor and suddenly I'm speaking Chinese. My storyline is that I actually worked in Hong Kong. What the scriptwriters didn't realise was that I was speaking Mandarin and her dialect was Fuchien and she couldn't understand a word I was saying.


PAUL: It was really very funny! Also, I remember we had an accident on that programme, because we actually had a heart machine. I was doing a heart operation and we had to do the paddles, you know? "Stand clear!" I love all that! "Stand clear," Boom! Well, somebody had switched it on. And this poor actor came off the table about six feet. He'd taken about three thousand volts! And the technical advisor came down on to the floor and said, "There's nothing to worry about. Probably woke him up a bit." And they closed the studio, because they didn't want it in the press. And they closed that studio within 30 seconds. Headlines in the Daily Mirror the next day, "Actor's Near Death Experience."

ALAN: "A Live Performance!"

PAUL: Yes! Of course, at the time we were very upset, because we could have killed him. And we sat down and the producer came over with a bottle of Remy Martin, and I though, "We must do this more often!"


ALAN: Have you ever killed anyone while acting, Brian?

PAUL: He's wanted to a couple of times.

BRIAN: (LAUGHING) I nearly got killed myself once in The Chinese Detective. Peter Dean, who then went on to be something in Eastenders, he had to nail my hands to the floor. Normally when you do all that physical stuff, and Paul will bear me out here, if I grab Paul, I grab him gently and he does all the pain. But of course, if you haven't been shown that way at drama school or by some stunt arranger, then, well, he nearly killed me! It was because he didn't have the knowledge. He grabbed me so hard, and then he started hammering these nails into my hands, and I said, "Peter, it's only a story, love."


BRIAN: You can't improvise a fight; it's an agreement of trust. I remember at the National, when I did Major Barbara with the late Patricia Hays. She played Rummy Mitchens and I played Bill Walker, and Bill Walker has to slap her around the face. And she was too close one night. If you are working with an older person, sometimes they are not quite with it, and she was a bit too close and I caught her, and she'd got a black eye the next day.

Paul is always very careful with guns. PAUL: You've also got to be careful when using weapons, like swords. I played Macbeth some years ago. And he does an awful lot of talking, and after the end of two and a quarter hours, on comes MacDuff and he says, "Turn, Hellhound," and you think, "Actually, I'm not keen on being King of Scotland anymore I'm a bit tired, I've done all the talking." And so we kept the fight to a minimum, but that fight was very carefully rehearsed, because with a broadsword, I could have taken the other actor's head off. I don't like using weapons. When I was younger, I used to pride myself by saying, "Yeah, I did all my own stunts," but now with hindsight-- what an idiot! In The Professionals, Martin Shaw used to do his own stunts until one day his bubble perm got burnt. And Lewis Collins, he went on an SAS course, didn't he?

BRIAN: (LAUGHING) Yeah, something like that.

PAUL: A forty-eight hour SAS course, I think he lasted four minutes. I'd have lasted four seconds!

ALAN: Had you and Brian worked together before Blake's 7?


PAUL & BRIAN: Or since!

PAUL: Not by choice.

ALAN: So, the last time you worked with Brian, you shot him!

PAUL: Yes, I did. And I remember I put the line in, because the line was not there. Coz Gareth was wounded and had to say, "Is Travis dead, Avon?" And then I turned and shot Brian and I put the line in, "He is now!" I loved that! And that was thanks to Chris Boucher, because he'd let you do that, wouldn't he?

BRIAN: I don't remember guns, all I remember were pliers. They'd got me in this harness...

PAUL: That's right, you had to fall down a reactor well.

Brian following the 'pliers incident'.BRIAN: Yes, and they had to spin me as I fell. Anyway, I had this flying harness on under that black suit I used to wear, and they zipped the costume up and it came to my scene, and then suddenly the zip jammed and the harness could be seen. And I remember this very camp dresser coming over with a pair of pliers, and he's got these pliers next to my.... And that's how I remember the end of Blake's 7. This gay dresser with some pliers, half an inch away from my penis.


PAUL: Most of the dressers were gay, weren't they? Michael Keating always use to say to his dresser... who actually loved him, and wore a red wig, which was always ensconced, and he always asked to look after Michael, because he liked Michael. And Michael said to him (PUTTING ON VERY DEEP VOICE) "Now what you need is to get married, have two children and get a nice mortgage on a house." And the dresser kept saying, "But I'm gay, Michael," and he'd say, "No, you're not. Pull yourself together!" He absolutely adored Michael.


ALAN: So how did you first become involved with Blake's 7?

PAUL: I got a call from my then agent, and she said, "the BBC are doing a series, it's set in the future" and I said, "When? Next week?" and she said, "I don't know. Some time in the future, and they are looking for an engineer, so go looking like an engineer." And I thought what does an engineer look like?

BRIAN: It's one of those scruffy parts!

PAUL: (LAUGHING) Well, I decided to wear one of those tweed jackets with leather elbows, really more of an architect than an engineer. And I arrived and I was sitting next to Jan Chappell, though I didn't know who she was at the time, and she said, "What part have you come for?" And I said, "Some engineer. What part have you come for?" And she said, "Oh, an alien." And I said, "Actually, you are going to get that part!" And you know, she did!


Paul doesn't enjoy playing the hero.PAUL: And then I went in and David Maloney, who was the producer, he handed me a script and said, "Read that! The part's called Avon." So I read it, and Avon wasn't in it. So I said, "I don't think this is a very good part." And he said, "Oh, here you are, episode two." And then I realised it was a very good part. Potentially the best part. Because if you are the hero, you have to behave heroically, but if you're the hero's sidekick, as it were, you could do anything you like. You could shoot people in the back, hit woman, the lot. And Gareth Thomas used to get really annoyed, because I used to get all the best nasty lines, and I could do things like that. Gareth would have to say, "I say" and the fellow would have to turn round before he could shoot him, but I could just shoot him in the back.


PAUL: Anyway, at the interview David Maloney said to me, "We'll let you know," and three months later they came back and offered it to me. In the meantime I turned down the role of Mercutio in a tour of Romeo and Juliet, because I thought I would wait to see if I had got the part in Blake's 7, and that wasn't easy, as I was really broke. And then, once I got to know David Maloney, I said, "I suppose you were looking at other people during those three months," and he said, "Oh, no. We cast you on day one." And I said, "I wish you'd told me! My bank manager was going spare!"

ALAN: Was Terry Nation present at the interview?

PAUL: No. Terry wasn't there. Terry was in America, and then he came over and we became great friends. At the end of the second series of Blake's 7 I was given an award by Starburst magazine, for best actor in a SF series and Terry got best writer. He'd never had an award before, neither had I, and so we were very chuffed and celebrated our win and became great pals. I always thought that he was a very good writer, and Chris Boucher was always very much on all our wavelengths. I like Chris very much, he was a movie fan and if you look at Blake's 7 there are lines that are stolen from movies. I remember, in the first series, I get to shoot off Travis' artificial hand, and the line from Blake is, "Good shot, Avon," and I say, "Bad shot, I was aiming for his head," and that's from The Magnificent Seven, when he says, "I was aiming for the horse." And then there was, "Stick to thinking Blake, that's what you're good at!" That was from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, so we used to have a lot of fun trying to identify which movies they came from.

James Marsters? Never heard of him.ALAN: Brian, you came into Blake's 7 at the beginning of series two, taking over the role from Stephen Greif. You've stated that you didn't go back and see what Stephen had done in his episodes, instead deciding to go your own way.

BRIAN: Yeah, well I guess, whether season one was there or not, you have to originate it for yourself because you are the person playing it now. Even if you look at it, you've still got to originate it; anything else is called impersonation, and not being.

PAUL: It is tough to do though, isn't it?

BRIAN: It was tough, but that's what had to be done. There is always going to be someone who is going to compare you to the other person. And you are not going to be the same, so it is tough, you know, but in the end that's the way it had to be done.

PAUL: I always thought it was a bit unfair, I felt they should have made you his brother or something. Or perhaps his cousin and then you could have gone your own way, but there was a history there wasn't there, of the Travis character having some sort of conflict with Blake. Do you remember that-- "it's all an illusion, Blake."

BRIAN: Yeah, it's all an illusion. It was all a bit of a blur. I always say to gatherings like this that I know nothing about SF. The only thing I know about SF is that my wife reads it every night in bed, and the f--king light's on and she won't put it off. That's my involvement with SF.


BRIAN: On Blake's 7 I was only there for one season, and I was supposed to be in nine episodes and I was in eight, and so by the time I was up to speed, Gareth had met Trevor Nunn and... do you know that story?


BRIAN: We were standing at the bar with our pints of lager and Gareth said, "Look! There's Trevor Nunn over there." Then Gareth told me that before he had started Blake's 7 he was at the RSC, playing very small parts, almost spear carrying. Anyway, at the end of each season you got to meet the director. So Gareth said to Trevor Nunn, "I want to play bigger parts," and Trevor replied, "There aren't any bigger parts in next year's season for you. You either stay doing what you are, or you go off and you play bigger parts in rep and then you come back to it." So Gareth then said to me, "I'm going to go over to him," so he went off and said to Trevor, "Hello, I'm playing Blake in Blake's 7. I've done what you said, can I come back to the RSC?" And he did, and he went back and he was in Twelfth Night. Didn't you know that?

PAUL: I didn't know that.

BRIAN: And he was in Anna Christie and he played...

PAUL: I know what he did, but I didn't know that's how it came about.

Brian's interpretation was a departure from his predecessor's.BRIAN: Anyway, as my raison d'etre was to kill Blake, and then Blake left, that was it! So, by the time I'd got into it, and had seen Chris Boucher and had seen David Maloney and knew what was going on, I was gone. So I wasn't sort of party to any of what the whole thing was about. I didn't really get it into view, and added to the fact that I was trying to be Travis Mark II which was really Mark I, who was Stephen Greif, it all sort of didn't really add up. I found it a bit of a blur really; I never felt part of it.

PAUL: There was one episode where you were covered in bandages...

BRIAN: Oh, do you know that one?

PAUL: I remember that one, because you were lying on the set...

BRIAN: That's it, they said go and have a rest and I went and laid on one of the sets that had a bed, and I fell asleep and when I woke up everyone was laughing, because someone had stuck a Jim'll Fix It badge on me!

PAUL: I know you won't bring it up, but I will. There was a director that for some reason took a dislike to Brian.

BRIAN: I don't know why.

PAUL: No, I don't actually know why either, but he just did. And I remember there was this scene in an episode called "Pressure Point", with you and Jacqueline Pearce, and it was a very good scene as well. The two of you had rehearsed it, but when it came to the actual filming, there was Jacqueline on the set as large as life, and there on a little black and white screen in the corner was you, because the director didn't like you. And I thought, "Well, really," and so you had to put up with that as well. And I didn't realise that Gareth had gone up to Trevor Nunn...

BRIAN: Yeah!

PAUL: That's why they were so nice to me. They must have heard, because I was doing an episode where I was in a pool of water trying to defuse a bomb, I can't remember the title...

ALAN: "Countdown."

PAUL: Thank you, and I was in this water and David Maloney kept coming over and saying, "Are you all right?" And he'd never done that before! "Is the water all right? Get a glass of brandy for Paul, coz the water's a bit cold." And I thought, "What's going on here?" And then of course it came out that Gareth was going and they'd suddenly thought, "Hello! We'd better keep him sweet." So there you go.

ALAN: This is a question for both of you. How much input did you have into your characters?

PAUL: Brian wanted to wear a frock, didn't you?

BRIAN: Well I did in my dressing room.


PAUL: You didn't have much input did you, Brian, because it was something already established, whereas I started from the beginning, so I did pretty much what I liked, which is great. I remember in the second series there was this woman who was a costume designer. She decided to put everybody in leather. And the budget went way over. She asked Gareth if he would wear leather, but he wasn't too keen and so he said, "but Paul will wear it!" So she took me to this place called Hard Core Leather.

BRIAN: Yes, that's on the King's Road.


PAUL: And one of the lads there said, "Do you mind if David measures your inside leg?"

BRIAN: Did he have pliers?


PAUL: No, but they gave me this terrific belt with studs on and everything. And I thought, "Oh, great!" And when I got on set I wound it round my fist and I thought, "That would be good," but then David Maloney turned white and said, "Oh, no! Children will copy you." As the series went on I got to say what I would like to wear. There was one awful costume, it looked as though I was wearing a brassiere, and I got rid of that as soon as possible, but then I got all the cool stuff. I decided black and silver was me. And then Jacqueline spotted that and she said, "I'll have black and silver as well."

BRIAN: But if you think of it, actors are not consulted. To answer your question Alan, you don't really get consulted, it's all there, even if you are not taking over from somebody.

PAUL: But they did with me, they did eventually...

BRIAN: But I mean the scripts...

PAUL: But there are things that you can do. Terry Nation wrote very sparingly. Particularly the Avon character. Gareth as Blake had to be a straight up and down Gary Cooper hero. Whereas I could do what I liked. And there are so many different ways that you can say a line, and I would say it against the line. So I would say to someone, "I love you," but the look says, "No I don't." Terry spotted that and he told me that he'd think, "I see what you're doing here, so I'll write you this! Let's see what you do with that." Then, I'd take it and do something else...

BRIAN: But that's interpretation.

Avon wonders if perhaps he isn't being upstaged by his own hair.PAUL: In an original role, which you didn't have, which was a pity. With me they'd see what I was doing, and start to write to it. I was very luck with the part I had. And as the series went on and Avon became the lead, they obviously wanted to keep me happy, so they would let me do what I liked. I always wanted a hairstyle like Warren Beatty in Shampoo, and eventually towards the end, I was having this great bouffant, and I loved it, and I got that and various other things. And I remember the makeup I used to get. Do you remember Ann Ailes?

BRIAN: Yeah.

PAUL: She was a lovely person, she eventually became head makeup lady at the BBC. And she said to me, "Now if anybody asks, you wear a mixture of Cool Copper and Gay Glance." So everywhere I went after that I'd say, "Cool Copper and Gay Glance, yeah." Now does that answer your question?

ALAN: I think it does. Now, any questions from the audience?

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the Blake's 7 film? Is it likely to happen?

PAUL: Yes. Very briefly, what happened was that, when the first radio play came out I went on the Internet and it received more hits than anybody else had got, except Baby Spice. So the producer of it said, "This is amazing, to think that after all these years Blake's 7 is still so popular! Who owns the rights?" Well, Terry Nation had died by then, so I rang Mrs Nation, and said, "Do you own the rights?" and she said, "Yes," and I said, "Can I have them?" And she said, "Yes, all right." So over the last two or three years this producer Andrew Mark Sewell and I have been putting it together and it's very complicated, but we are now at a stage where we have a script that needs tightening. We have the logo sorted, the music sorted, and we have people interested, and we hope - and I'm getting to old for this, so we've got to do it - next year we'll start filming. Then hopefully it will be ready for Christmas. And then it may very well spin off into a series. A sort of Blake's 7: The Next Generation.

BRIAN: So is it secret then, the script?

PAUL: Yes. But there'll be new characters, as the originals were all killed.... Except me!


PAUL: You see, my scenes are filmed in the Bahamas with half a dozen pretty girls who are looking after me. And I send them out on missions. Quite a good idea, isn't it? It's called Avon's Angels.


PAUL: No. Seriously, I'll be in it as a sort of link between the old and the new. But there will be new people coming in.

QUESTION: I get the impression that the BBC doesn't seem to realise the popularity of some of these shows. Blake's 7 had ten million viewers, and it's the same with bring back Doctor Who.

PAUL: It's a pity really because they need product, every television company needs product. I was working for SKY when this first came up. I actually mentioned the idea to the people at SKY and they said, "Oh, yeah, we'd be interested in doing a one off TV movie," which is what Terry wanted to do. A little mini series, you know, in two episodes, an hour and a quarter on a Sunday night, part two on Monday night. That would be fun to do, but you could also spin it off into a series. With the new people. I'd be too old...

ALAN: But you are in it, aren't you?

PAUL: Yeah, but I mean, I'm in the movie, but I probably wouldn't be in the series. I'm too old, unless they called it Avon's Truss or War of the Zimmer Frames.

ALAN: This movie is based on Terry Nation's original idea, isn't it?

Napoleon on his horse called Elba. Or was it Black Bess? PAUL: At the end of the series Avon was left standing, and Terry had this idea, that he'd come back like Napoleon after Elba, but he's going to loose. The last 100 days, but he puts up a good fight. And he's provoked into coming back. He's quite happy where he is, he's been there for twenty years, but suddenly a new government has come in, a new Federation and they are going through the computers and someone says, "What happened to him?" and the other guy says, "Oh we killed Blake." So they go on a bit further and then he says, "And what happened to this one?" "Oh dear! We forget about him," and so they go and get him and of course they can't get him, and that kicks it off. That was the idea, basically. And we are taking it from there. We've developed it in a slightly different direction.

ALAN: You were saying earlier how, towards the end, you had gained more influence on Blake's 7. How much influence do you have on how the movie is going to look?

PAUL: Well, my title is Associate Producer. And I said to Andrew, "What does that mean, exactly? Do I get to meet all the girls?" And he said, "No, that's my job." I associate the programme, that's all I do. And the one thing I found out while doing the budget, the cheapest product is the actor.

BRIAN: TV commercials in the last ten years, the budget has gone up by one hundred percent, and the only thing that's stayed the same are the actors daily fees. That's a fact.

PAUL: Yes. I was talking to Andrew and I said, "How much am I going to get paid, to play Avon again?" and he said, "You'll get your daily rate, just like everybody else!" And that's that! Because that's the cheaper way of doing it. Instead of saying to an actor, "I'll give you £10,000 to play this part," they say, "I'll give you a £1000 a day," and then they shoot it in three days, and that's it.

ALAN: I was recently looking at some paperwork about how they were going to advertise Blake's 7 back in 1978. There were plans for merchandise, but there was very little done. There were no little Paul Darrow or little Brian Croucher models.

PAUL: Not as far as I'm aware. There were badges. I did a play in Coventry, and there was a badge with a picture of me in a memorabilia shop. And I went in and I thought, "Oh, I'll buy that!" And it said 35p, so I took it and said, "I'd like to buy this," and she said, "Oh, that's reduced. Fifteen pence."


PAUL: Also I wrote a book and I was in America in Chicago and I went into the bookstall with a guy from Robin of Sherwood, Clive Mantle, a lovely guy, and there were two copies of my book, and he very kindly bought one. And then I bought the other and I took it up and there was a little orange slip in it, and I said, "What does that mean?" And the assistant said, "Oh, that means that that's the last copy." And I said, "Well, it's Thanksgiving now, will you be ordering more for the Christmas rush?" And she said, "Oh, yes, we will be ordering more," and I said, "because, I am the author," and she looked at me and said, "Are you really? Have a nice day." And I thought, "oh, well, such is fame!"

ALAN: You wrote a script for series four.

Avon is seized by the Hommiks (Ooer!). PAUL: I did. We were all on location and Vere Lorrimer, sadly now dead, said to me, "Oh dear me, we've got a writer's strike." And this was on a Friday, and he said, "We need an episode by Monday," and I said, "Well, I'll write one," and he said, "Not by Monday you won't," and I said, "I will." So I did, and I handed it in, and that's when Chris Boucher made a big mistake, apart from not doing it. He said to me, "Actors should stick to acting," and I said, "You mean like Shakespeare, like Noel Coward, like Harold Pinter," who were of course great writers as well as actors. He swears he never said it, but he did. We didn't fall out or anything, but they never did it. I thought it was quite good, because it made Vila a bit more heroic. The idea was that Avon was going to be dumped by the rest of them and it was Vila who actually made them go back for him. I thought that was rather good. But there you go, they never did it.

ALAN: Tell me how much you enjoyed doing Kaldor City.

BRIAN: Kaldor City? What's that?

PAUL: (LAUGHING) It's an audio we did for someone. Do you remember who?

ALAN: It was me.

PAUL: Oh, yes, you! We did, and it's excellent. Now I really mean this sincerely, it's excellent, and I'm wonderful in it. And Brian is really wonderful in it, because I've listened to it twice and I didn't realise what part he was playing. So there you are, that's impressive. You know it's me right from the start because you've got the voice, you know. I was doing my Clint Eastwood. You haven't heard it yet, have you Brian?

BRIAN: No, I picked up my copy today. I'll be listening to it tonight.

PAUL: I first listened to it in the car, and I got quite excited. I thought "God, he's good," and it was me!


BRIAN: Russell Hunter is in it and he was in the Doctor Who story I did, "The Robots of Death". He played the captain of the Storm Miner, Uvanov. He plays the same character in Kaldor City.

PAUL: There you are. It's a series, the first story's called "Occam's Razor", and it's out now!

ALAN: Can we have another question from the audience?

JIM SMITH: I would like to ask Brian about the part he played in Bottom with the enormous glasses...

BRIAN: Oh, yes that was great. Now that's input. I was playing this pawnbroker, so I found a pork pie hat and put on these really thick glasses, because I thought, "If this is a comedy and this guy's always looking a gems and stuff, then why not make him half blind?" I just thought it would be funny that people would be bringing this stuff in and because he couldn't really see it, he would be offering things like twenty-five pence for a diamond ring. "That's a nice piece of object d'art," that was his line when Adrian Edmondson comes in and tries to pawn this false leg. "That's a nice piece of object d'art."

PAUL: I've missed this.

ALAN: Harry the Bastard!

BRIAN: Yes that was his name, Harry the Bastard!

PAUL: Alan, I'm very impressed.

ALAN: I know these things!

PAUL: Apart from thinking I was called Valerie.

BRIAN: That was great fun. Those are the sort of perks you get as an actor. You sit there for days and weeks and months on end, and then someone says, "Would you like to come and do a film in Cyprus for three weeks?" And you go, "Oh, yes, I think I would," and then he says, "And would you like to wear this white suit?" and you say, "Yeah," and you go there and then three weeks later you're back signing on at the Labour Exchange. Working with Adrian and Rick [Mayall] was great because it was like a free performance everyday. I used to sit there and I used to laugh and laugh! I remember working with Alexei Sayle. You watch Alexei dance, you have to laugh. That almost fat, bald headed comedian dancing, and he dances so well. But he cracks me up. But yes, it was great working with Adrian and Rick. And they were seriously working away at it. Like, where actors work to see how they can make a scene better, they are seriously working away at being funny. They are outrageous. And it's a freebee; it's a free perk.

ALAN: Talking of outrageous, both of you worked on Blake's 7 with Jacqueline Pearce.

PAUL: Yes, we both worked with her.

ALAN: But it was interesting, for example with Travis there was a sort of power thing going on, but with you it was power again, but there was more of a sexual tension, wasn't there, between Avon and Servalan...

PAUL: You dirty little thing!


PAUL: (LAUGHING) Terrible mind!

ALAN: I watch it very, very carefully.

Sorry, love, but we're not allowed to show anything kinky onscreen...PAUL: Yes, I can see you do! Yes, there was sex in space, although Vere used to say that there was no sex in space. There was one scene where I had to kiss Jacqueline, but Vere, who didn't like that sort of thing, said, "Now, what I'll do is I'll have the camera on your legs, and then she kicks off her shoe and rubs her leg against yours. And then we'll cut away." And Jacqueline looked at me and I looked at her and I said, "I don't think that's going to work Vere," and he said, "Well, what do you think?" And I said, "Well, if they are going to have a clinch they should have a clinch." "Absolutely," said Jacqueline, so he said, "Show me what you want to do?" So we went into a clinch, quite a long one, and Vere took off his glasses and said, "I suppose so." And that's it. It's in an episode called "Aftermath". And then I threw her to the ground, after the kiss. She said that we could rule the universe and I threw her to the ground, and she's like a tigress, and I said, "One week with you and I'll be dead," or something like that. And she still loves me. It was great fun. Jacqueline suggested a sequel to Blake's 7 where Avon and Servalan team up and fly around the galaxy together. It would be called Avon and I. What a wonderful idea.

BRIAN: Jacqueline was terrific. She brought something to that part and became Servalan.

ALAN: Right, more questions?

QUESTION: Paul, are you planning to write a second Avon novel?

PAUL: I was at one time, and then Terry Nation said that he'd write one and then he didn't. So I might. It's not a bad idea. Would you buy it?

QUESTION: I bought the last one.

PAUL: See, Brian? Novelist!

BRIAN: I didn't know that!

PAUL: You didn't know?

BRIAN: But I can see it!

QUESTION: I had automatically assumed that you would have set it after the final episode "Blake", but if you're doing the film...

PAUL: Yes, well, the TV movie will be set after, twenty odd years after. That's why new people will be coming in. We toyed with the idea, you know, should we have one of their sons or daughters in it? The son of Blake, that sort of thing and we thought...

ALAN: Best not!

PAUL: We thought that it was a wonderful idea to start with and then we decided against it, so there won't be any of that. No Sons of the Musketeers, or anything... but I have had some input into the writing, because of course Terry is sadly gone and just the basic idea and some of his notes are there. One of the reasons that I was allowed to have the rights was that Kate, Terry's wife, knows that I will keep it true to what he wanted, and I will, because I loved the man dearly, and I would like to have a show dedicated to him.

ALAN: Did you know that the fourth series of Blake's 7 was going to be the last one when you started recording it?

PAUL: No, we didn't really. We just knew that Gareth had asked to be killed. Although he had left the series people kept coming up to him and saying, "Oh you're Blake aren't you?" and he was trying to get rid of it by then. You see, he said, "I want to come back and be killed with blood so that people will know that I have completely finished with the part." And I said, "How's he going to die?" and they said, "The Federation will probably kill him, or something," and I said, "Well I'll do it. I'll shoot him in the back, if you like?" It seemed logical to me; he'd kill the only friend he had in the universe. So I did. I shot him.

ALAN: You killed both Brian and Gareth.

PAUL: I did, you're quite right. I killed Brian and Gareth, and then all the girls who came in and kissed me, I killed them. It was known as the kiss of death. Shall we have another question?

QUESTION: I was going to ask you about Vimes. You played Captain Vimes.

PAUL: Oh, Terry Pratchett. Yes, Vimes, which I enjoyed immensely.

Jacqueline Pearce is not the most demanding co-star Paul has worked with.QUESTION: When reading him, I try to imagine what type of voice he would have.

PAUL: What Vimes would have? Well I played him like me, but slightly off. A bit sort of estuary English, south London.

BRIAN: Croydon.

QUESTION: I always imagined him being a bit Cockney, you know?

PAUL: A little bit Cockney, I suppose, a little bit...

BRIAN: Another one of my parts you were playing. No wonder I don't work a lot, you're playing all my parts!


PAUL: (LAUGHING) Well, it was great fun to do! And I got to meet Terry Pratchett. And he's a very nice man and his publisher said, "Have you read the books?" and I said, "No, I haven't," and the next week all of them arrived, all of Terry Prachett's work up to date.

BRIAN: He's very prolific, isn't he?

PAUL: Yes.

BRIAN: Like Dean Koontz. That's all my wife reads!

ALAN: Has Christina [Brian's wife] read Paul's Avon book?

BRIAN: No I don't think she has.

PAUL: Have you not read my second novel?

BRIAN: I haven't, no. I can't read actually! (AS AN ASIDE TO THE AUDIENCE) That's a good get out!

PAUL: The novel of The Queen and the Eye, aw, that's a cracker, that is! Has anyone read that?


PAUL: Isn't it wonderful?

QUESTION: Very clever, Paul.

PAUL: Thank you. See? Have you met my agent?


BRIAN: Do you get more knowledgeable the more books you read, or does it just stop after a while?


BRIAN: Well I try and read things and then I say, "Well I know that!"


BRIAN: You read something, and then I put the book down and I go, "I know that!" That's why I stopped reading books years ago. (LAUGHING) Does it show?


QUESTION: I just wanted to ask both of you if there was any particular role you would love to play, if you had a free choice, and you could play what you wanted, what would you play?

BRIAN: I don't want to play any roles, I want to retire.


PAUL: That's very good. I'm inclined to go along with that.

BRIAN: I've had enough of the pain. It's a great experience when you're doing it, but you do it less more more, more, more, less than more, if you know what I mean?


BRIAN: It's getting serious at the end now, but people don't realise that it gets so frustrating, and your frustration can turn to all sorts of things. It can turn to anger, it can turn to drink, it can turn to jealousy, and it's not the world's best job being an actor. It is, when you are being creative, but it's that old thing, as an actor you can't be creative unless you've got another actor in front of you.

PAUL: You can do a one-man show.

BRIAN: You could do a one-man show, but then you end up doing a one-man show all the time.

ALAN: Jacqueline Pearce did a one-woman show, didn't she?

PAUL: Yes. A Star is Torn. Wonderful title. Love that.

BRIAN: But it's not the greatest experience when you're not welcome.

PAUL: It's changed over the years. Many years ago it was great fun and you went from job to job to job, didn't you? You would do an episode of such and such a series, you would go from this to that theatre, but now that doesn't happen. And I feel very sad for the younger actors.

BRIAN: You see, it was all born out of the theatre, out of Noel Coward, out of the repertory system and out of all that. And there were a number of older parts. Now television's born out of the budget and the youth movement, and most television... it sounds bitter, doesn't it?

PAUL: Well it is really!

BRIAN: Young actors are playing my parts.

PAUL: Unless it's a gay dresser with some...

BRIAN: Pliers, yes, but there aren't parts for older people. You look at a lot of programmes on television and they are all about young people, Friends, Thirty Something, Cold Feet and all that. But years ago there was a great need for it, we had older actors, middle aged actors, there was a whole mishmash of actors, but it's changed.

You'll be hearing from my lawyers. PAUL: Well, it's the same with the Blake's 7 thing. It will be a younger seven, and you can't really have... well, I suppose you could have seven geriatrics in space.

ALAN: Well, they did in Star Trek, didn't they?

PAUL: Ohhh! You'll get a letter from William Shatner!

ALAN: What? Again?

BRIAN: Years ago people used to work till they dropped, but nower days people are retiring at the age of fifty, well, who wants to do a six part series about a fifty year old retired man, it's not very interesting is it? On a lawn mower.

QUESTION: One Foot in the Grave?

BRIAN: Yeah, but that's a one-off. There are always more actors than there are parts, that's the problem.

ALAN: One more question.

QUESTION: Apart from "Don't do it," what advice would you give to younger actors?

Words of wisdom from Brian.BRIAN: I would say it's all to do with self worth, self esteem, and the happiness of living your life. And if you really want to be an actor, do it, but if you're not sure then don't do it. Also, if you're going to do it, then do it for the right reasons. Don't do it for money, don't do it for fame, because for ninety percent of the time you don't get money, and when you get fame it's a bloody pain in the arse, I tell you. It's not worth a candle, because everybody wants a piece of you, the newspapers want to tell stories about you, and all sorts of stuff. But if you feel you want to do it because you are a creative person, and a creative artist, and you want to make the world think and feel different things, then do it by all means. If you really want to do it, you'll do it. You won't think twice about it.

PAUL: Rod Steiger was asked this question I remember, many years ago. The fellow said, "I want to be an actor," and Steiger replied, "Don't do it. You have to need." It's like a drug, and if you have to need it, then nothing we can say will stop you.

ALAN: Thank you, Paul and Brian.

BRIAN & PAUL: Thank you.


Photographs copyright Andy Hopkinson/Maureen Marrs/BBC/ITV 2001

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