Doctor Who Convention Encounters: Blake’s 7 Actors

I’ve had a couple of posts lately about the connections between Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 (here and here).

I’ve also had some posts about some actors I’ve met at conventions (here and here and elsewhere).

Now it’s time to bring these two worlds together! (Kind of like watching Alien vs. Predator, or something).

(Daily Doctor Who #120)

One of the first one of these guys that I met was Paul Darrow.

Even though he was not the titular Blake, the undisputed star of the series was Paul Darrow, who played the amoral and fiercely pragmatic Kerr Avon, a computer programmer who had been betrayed, and wound up as a convict before becoming a reluctant part of Roj Blake’s campaign to take down the oppressive Federation.

In Doctor Who, Darrow appeared twice. He was in Doctor Who and the Silurians in 1970, where he played Captain Hawkins, a UNIT officer who is eventually killed by the Silurians.

Later, he was in Timelash in 1986, where he played Tekker, who dies when he tries to betray his master, the Borad.

Darrow’s performance in Timelash is not well-regarded. In fact, when I saw Colin Baker at a convention, someone asked him if there were any practical jokes on the set of the show, and he answered that he thought Paul Darrow’s performance in Timelash was a practical joke.

Anyway, I saw Darrow at one of those smaller conventions in New York City, sometime in the mid-80’s–this is when Blake’s 7 hit the USA and became a thing of interest, especially for Doctor Who fans.

The show was still running for many people, and I remember Darrow actually spoiling how it all ended (and the ending of Blake’s 7 is quite the dramatic thing). I hadn’t seen it yet, but I had already read all about it so it didn’t bother me, but there might have been others who were disappointed.

And I remember him talking about being offered the part. He was sent scripts for the first four or so episodes. He read the first one and he wasn’t in it. So he read the second one and it piqued his interest. And by the time he was finished, he was wondering why it was called Blake’s 7.

He also talked about his co-stars, including how Sally Knyvette wanted to do some directing, and how Jan Chappell got frustrated when she felt like they weren’t able to make show as seriously as they wanted to.

Anyway, I got Darrow’s autograph on a cool photograph of him as Avon.

I didn’t get his signature in my autograph book, so I assume he had one of those “one per customer” policies going on.

The other person that I met in those early days was Jan Chappell, who played the telepathic resistance fighter Cally on the show, for the first three series.

Even in those early day, it was plain to see that Avon and Cally, along with Vila, were the show’s most successful characters, and thus not surprising that they were the three original cast members who lasted the longest. Unfortunately, Jan Chappell never appeared in Doctor Who.

I don’t remember as much of what Jan Chappell said, except for expressing some frustration at having to “act telepathic” all the time, in terms of the signature facial expression that Cally had to have when she was projecting her thoughts.

She also said that she didn’t really know why her last thoughts on the series were apparently, “Blake!” And she reluctantly conceded that she thought Cally was still alive, to the applause of the audience.

Jan Chappell did sign my autograph book.

She also signed this photo, which I may have chosen because I might have had an ambition that I would eventually get Gareth Thomas and Sally Knyvette to sign as well.

I never did, obviously. I never met either Thomas nor Knyvette, although Gareth Thomas was scheduled to be a guest at Visions ’93 in Chicago for a while, as part of that conventions celebration of the 15th anniversary of Blake’s 7 (the show having debuted in 1978). Visions ’93 was also celebrated the 30th anniversary of Doctor Who, the 10th anniversary of Robin of Sherwood, and the 6.5th anniversary (that’s how they marketed it) of Red Dwarf.

Unfortunately, Thomas didn’t attend, but Jan Chappell did, along with Jacqueline Pearce.

In Blake’s 7, Jacqueline Pearce played Servalan, the recurring villain who used the Federation as her own means taking personal power.

Over in Doctor Who, she was Chessene, a mutated Androgum who sought to control time travel, but was killed when she attempted to use a faulty time machine.

I don’t think I lined up for either one (although I can’t say positively when I got Chappell’s photo signed), but I did snag this snazzy snapshots.

Here’s Jan Chappell:

And here is Jacqueline Pearce:

And that’s it for my specific-Blake’s 7 convention encounters, such as they were. Both Paul Darrow and Jacqueline Pearce have passed away now, while Jan Chappell is still alive, but doesn’t have any credited acting roles for the last number of years.

3 thoughts on “Doctor Who Convention Encounters: Blake’s 7 Actors

  1. Jan Chappell may not have appeared in the classic Doctor Who. But in 1994 she starred in one of the Doctor Who spinoff videos. She played Capt. Lisa Deranne in Shakedown: The Return Of The Sontarans, which also starred Brian Croucher as Kurt.

  2. I first saw it when I ordered it on VHS. Carole Ann Ford, Sophie Aldred and Michael Wisher are also among the cast.

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