When I was about ten years old something exciting happened. I lived in Adelaide, South Australia and, with respect to my origins, excitement was a bit thin on the ground. However, something momentous was about to take place in our lounge room one Saturday night as I was perched in front of the Rank Arena telly.
A new sci-fi series was starting. Now, what is remarkable in hindsight is that my parents tuned in. The genre was not at all their thing. But for some reason, that evening the channel stayed switched to the appropriate number on the dial. A symphonic version of ‘It’s Impossible’ came out of the speaker and we were off. Off on a visit to a world I subsequently loved to visit every week. It was my ‘happy place’ for four years; I was glued to each instalment of the entire four series.
The programme was ‘Blake’s 7’. British 1970’s science fiction.
It was rather forward thinking for its time. A commentary on the politics of the era and plots revolved around veiled themes of communism, mind control, oppression and freedom fighting. That was all marvellous of course, as was the fact it was set in other galaxies. The space ship it revolved around was impossibly cool to a ten year old and people could even teleport. But that wasn’t the real draw card. The real draw card was the anti hero of the vagabond crew. He was dashing, he was sarcastic, he was self centred.. yet still fought for the good guys. I had my first little version of a ten year old’s crush.
The character’s name was ‘Kerr Avon’, and he was subsequently to become synonymous with the ‘anti hero’ identity of science fiction of that era. He grew to be the focus of the series (possibly fuelled by so many crushes from young ladies around the globe such as my little self). He was played by Paul Darrow. And sadly Paul Darrow passed away today at the age of 78.
Oddly, apart from a slight focus on the ‘Alien’ movies because Sigourney Weaver kicked such awesome alien butt, I have not gone on to be a science fiction person. That said, I belong to a facebook ‘Blake’s 7’ fan group and I have followed the fates of all the actors in the series. It remains one of my favourite childhood memories. Darrow’s persona had a big impact on me; there is a particular sadness when a childhood hero leaves us. You come to terms with the fact mortality is inescapable. Even to the guy who wore leather pants, wielded a laser gun with incredible skill and made your ten year old heart go pitter pat. He was the first man that I now recognise, in my adult mind, I thought had sex appeal. (Although I didn’t know what that was at the time). He was also a damned fine actor and by all accounts a very nice chap. Many people have mourned him online today.
Many, many years after the crew met an ambiguous fate in 1982, (the bad guys won after all…. or did they?), ‘Blake’s 7’ was released on DVD. I bought them all with vast enthusiasm and revisited every episode with relish. Was it great television? Yes and no I suppose. But it’s interesting what emotions you re experience watching something iconic from your early years. I will quite often pour a glass of wine and sit down to revisit the ‘Liberator’ surging through space fighting ‘The Federation’. It’s always a good night on my couch.
Today another actor has teleported away. It’s always sad when you hear of one passing but today is a little bit more so. My childhood crush has officially gone.
Vale Paul Darrow. You were pretty fabulous. Thanks for making a little girl’s Saturday nights exciting in Adelaide, South Australia sitting on the orange velour sofa. I still smile when you come on the screen and I think I always will.
“Take us out of here Zen. Standard by six”.