“I plan to live forever, or die trying.”
You always knew where you were with a show like Star trek. If anyone was in trouble you can bet your bottom dollar that Kirk, Spock and the gang would rally round trying to help out. You could also bet that by the end of the episode that all your principle characters will be okay with a new lesson learnt. Well that was never the case with Blakes 7. If a crew members in trouble, to hell with them as long as Avon is alright. Although Blake only had his seven for a few episodes, nobody seemed to care because the show was dam good.
Created by the man who brought us the Daleks (Terry Nation), the show ran for a total of four, 13 episode seasons. Blake himself (played by Gareth Thomas) left at the end of the second season and it was left to Avon (Paul Darrow) to the lead the rebels in there fight against the relentless Federation. Also on board was the cowardly Vila, (Michael Keaton) The telepath Cally, (Jan Chappell) The ex smuggler Jenna, (Sally Knyvette) The gentle giant Gan (David Jackson) The ships computers Zen (and later Slave) along with the brilliant though arrogant Orac. (All voiced by Peter Tuddenham). Later came the warrior Dayna, (Josette Simon) The idealistic Tarrant (Steven Pacey) and the hot-headed Soolin (Her first acting job before landing the role in ITV’s Dempsey and Makepeace.) Always in pursuit of the rebels was the beautiful but deadly Servalan (Jacqueline Pearce) and the evil Travis (Stephen Greiff and Brian Croucher). Now you can’t write anything on Blakes 7 without mentioning the late great Vere Lorrimer or David Maloney without whom the series would never have been what it was.
The show relied more on excellent writing then it did on big budget special effects and remains one of the best written science fiction TV shows of all time. Over the last few years reports have been circulating about a new big budget version to be made by the BBC with Paul Darrow as the only surviving member of the crew from the original show. Before he died Terry Nation wrote a plotline involving a young rebel calling himself Blake rescuing Avon and Villa from a federation colony. Life is good for our favorite misfits; they have every comfort in exchange for a few pro federation statements. As you can imagine they are none too pleased at being rescued and whipped halfway across the universe so the adventure begins again. This idea may have died with the shows creator in 1997, but only time will. Although the late 90’s saw a short radio series (scripted by ex Doctor who producer Barry Letts) it failed to capture the magic that was Blakes 7. Still, with British Sci Fi making a come back, you may not have seen the last of this show.
Cult TV exclusive interview with Jacqueline Pearce
Jax has been a good friend of ours for quite a while now, so when she agreed to met with us in London’s West End she was naturaly more outrageous then ever. Like most of our encounters Jax told us all about Blakes 7, her new play and of course her sex life.
She used to be Queen Bitch of The Galaxy and made the knees tremble in more ways than one. And now as they say – ‘She’s back’. Quote: “I did get a letter from a man who asked whether I’d go around one night and chastise him, but would I not go before 10pm, because his mother didn’t go to bed until 9.30. But I went and she slept through it.”
“Aphrodite Blues is about three women on an island who are in search of love,” says Jacqueline about the new play she’s appearing in at the New End in Hampstead throughout March 2001.”Our heroine is looking for her husband, Harry, who deserted her a year ago. So she’s there with her girlfriend – played by a woman who has the most amazing pair of breasts you’ve ever seen in your life. She’s a great mate of hers and comes from Balham – with an accent to match. “I play Caroline and I think that I probably live there or have just knocked around the Greek Islands, because I’ve got a little money left. Basically, Caroline is a woman of a certain age who can still pull. Harry does eventually show up and one of them gets the guy, but it isn’t Harry.. .”It’s written by Robert Hamilton who I believe has won two Sunday Times awards for best play-writing and it’s directed by Chrys Salt who I haven’t heard of before, but I think is magic. So far we’ve been rehearsing in Battersea which no doubt will prove quite different to actually doing it in Hampstead. “It also has John Pickard from 2.4 Children who is absolutely wonderful. He’s playing our waiter.”
Jacqueline has also been recently involved with another play called Deceptions. “That’s proved quite good for me, because I got a new agent out of it. It was an interesting play because it had quite a bit of psychology involved. I based the way I handled the Psychiatrist aspects on a psychiatrist I’d been going to see. He said I played a psychiatrist almost as well as he did. I don’t go any more, it was a nice way of tying it up. Apparently, I now treat him.”
It does have to be asked though that with a talent such as Jacqueline’s as the millions who saw her command scenes in Blake’s 7 will testify to – why haven’t we been seeing her on the television of late. The likes of Eastenders should be crying out for Jacqueline to go in there and vamp, bitch, pout and shake it all up, but it’s yet to happen. “I guess there’s a number of reasons for that. Essentially I dropped out for quite some time. I went and lived in Cornwall – St Ives, for seven years. It was magic and a big part of me is still there – all I did there was work as an artist’s model. I’d have to say that I have two very distinct sides to my nature:- One is extremely solitary which I satisfied in the extreme when I lived as a recluse. The other side clambers for attention and that’s where the acting comes in. So I have to feed both sides of my nature. “In a way though, even being a recluse in St Ives has proved beneficial for the acting as St Ives has a very Greek Island village feel, so it was like I was doing long-term research without knowing it. “But as far as what you were saying about me being in things. I can’t say that I see things and think that way. My friends do and say so. I think I’ve reached a point in my life where I feel I’ve lived the life I should have done in order to get to the point I have now as a human being rather than an ‘artiste’. The rest will take care of itself.” All of what Jacqueline’s been saying leads one to believe she follows the philosophy of you have to be happy within yourself over and beyond anything else.” I didn’t choose that life, it came my way by circumstances, but yeah, absolutely. It taught me a great deal and I can see the value of it. It’s not an intrinsic pat of my nature. You do have to be happy and content within yourself. If you’re depending on a man to be happy, you inadvertently end up being anything but. You don’t. You’re doomed.”
Jacqueline Pearce is of course familiar to millions around the world as Servalan, Empress Of The Federation in the cult sci-fi series, Blake’s 7. What was supposed to be a one-off appearance soon turned into a centre-point of the show. “I was working at the English speaking theatre in Vienna and I was called in to originally do the one episode. So I flew in from Vienna and went straight on in. Terry Nation (creator of Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who’s Daleks) told me once and I think this was why Servalan is probably so interesting – when he was writing her, he was writing for a man. Halfway through the first script he was hit by the idea that he should be a she, so a change of sex occurred within the script.” This is the way some of those most memorable female icon roles come about. A similar story lies behind the character of Ripley in the Alien franchise and Honor Blackman’s Cathy Gale role in The Avengers. With Servalan there was also a certain degree of memorable style and class. There was the short hair for one and the long flowing white dresses that belied her wicked Queen leanings. “Yes, a lot of white, darling. That was my idea. When I first went for my costume fitting, because she was the supreme commander, they’d designed a safari suit, jackboots and a helmet look. And see, you’re laughing already. So, I told them that if they do that with the haircut I had, that they may as well cast a man. I suggested that we went for the complete opposite and that she should be dressed in white, not black. White of course emphasises elements of virginity, which of course she wasn’t, but it meant it made it more interesting. We did one episode where I went into black, because she was in mourning – some sort of psychic miscarriage or something and black does become me, so I managed to cough up some reason why I should stay in black.”
Blake’s 7 has shown its durability through the years as one of the better science fiction series. Last year, season one was repeated on BBC 2 and the show has constant rotation as one of the main elements to tune into UK Gold on the weekend. “I think in a nut-shell, it was my performance,” jests Jacqueline before letting out a laugh that a sophisticated hyena would be proud of. I guess it was a combination of the writing, the performances and everyone involved. It was noticeably dark. It perhaps didn’t remain as dark as it should have done. “Saying that it did end up in a most downbeat manner with the entire cast of freedom fighters against the federation (ie: ‘The seven’) being gunned down including Blake who had just returned. It was something I, as a young ‘un in front of the box was unprepared for. Jacqueline Pearce wasn’t involved in this episode which means Servalan is the only one still possibly alive out there causing trouble. “Nothing happened to me, I’m the one still floating about.” Playing such a character to whom many impressionable young males and females would have been impossibly drawn to must have proved interesting at times to say the least. Well think about it, it was a sci-fi that draws fans of a certain ilk, anyway (“Ain’t that a fact…”) and Servalan’s outfits would have also kept the fetish brigade happy. “I did get a letter from a man who asked whether I’d go around one night and chastise him, but would I not go before 10pm, because his mother didn’t go to bed until 9.30. (Another wicked laugh is emitted). But I went and she slept through it,” she reveals with more than a little tongue in cheek. Even Clive James has admitted that Servalan was a major lust object in his life for one of his TV examination shows last year. “I knew that from before, actually. He must have written about me when the show was on. Actually, he’s always given me wonderful reviews. When I arrived at the studios to record that show, all the researchers could say was how excited he was that I was there. We had a very interesting conversation and he invited me out to lunch, but I never heard from him again – I don’t think he could cope .”
In fact discussions about such fare meant Jacqueline stole the I Love 1978 episode that recently screened with her admission that she’s been a “masturbatory fantasy for an entire generation of young men. And still am. Isn’t that wonderful? I’m so proud of that. It’s all George’s fault, he dares me to say it at a convention once and I have been saying it in public ever since. It’s a lovely thing to think of yourself playing such a crucial part of a young man’s development. “But really, the whole thing has been extraordinary. I still get recognised every week, two or three times, by much younger people – kids who have just discovered it. That’s the thing with science fiction, there’s always going to be a market for it, so you’re constantly being rediscovered. “It all made for a turnaround from the period preceding getting the role when she journied to La-la Land. “I went out to establish myself in a film career and I ended up working in a strip club called The Losers, the irony of which escaped me for many years.”
JACQUELINE PEARCE WAS INTERVIEWED BY GARETH GORMAN.