Blake’s 7: Avon calling

He'll love you and kill you. He'll throw you out of a spaceship to gain escape velocity. He's one of the best anti-heroes of sci-fi...

Make an enemy of this man, and make your will.

Blake’s 7 may have been regarded as the poor cousin of Doctor Who, but no one onboard the Tardis could ever compare to the daddy mac of sci-fi anti-heros – Kerr Avon. It takes a special kind of character, not to mention a special kind of actor, which in this case was the incomparable Paul Darrow, to steal a show from the under the nose of the main character and make it his own.

When we were young, everyone used to play Blake’s 7 in the schoolground, but no-one and I mean no-one wanted to play the eponymous hero Roj Blake. We all wanted to be Avon. He was the coolest of the cool, like science fiction’s answer to John Shaft. Kerr Avon wore leather, he had the best lines, the best girls and the biggest laser guns. You’re damn right!

He was the kind of guy who had no problem holding a gun to any of his co-stars. He threatened to kill the permanently-permed Tarrant on numerous occasions and when faced with losing 70 kilos from his ship in the episode ‘Orbit’ he quickly realised he could achieve this by chucking Villa – the longest-serving character in the whole series – offboard.

Avon was the man we all wanted to be. He was witty, charming and a big hit with the ladies. He had the recipe for the perfect relationship; arrive on a planet, find the most glamorous woman and snog them. He never had to listen to endless conversations about commitment, because the women would always be dead by the end of the episode. Fantastic.

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The only women he really loved were the arch dominatrix Servalan and Federation spy Anna Grant. He killed the latter and almost offed the former on numerous occasions. English teachers the world over will tell you that Hamlet had a tragic life, but this was taking it to the next and much more entertaining level. No wonder a generation of kids grew up hating Shakespeare.

A lot of the reasons why Avon was, and still is, the greatest character in science fiction can be drawn from the actor who played him. For some, Paul Darrow took the art of scenery chewing to new and unparalleled heights. But such people are missing the point. He grabbed the character by the horns and ran with it.

A self-confessed movie buff, he took great delight in delivering lines stolen by writers Terry Nation and Chris Boucher from some of the greatest westerns of all time. The only time Avon ever looked in danger of being outstaged was when they had a character or an actor who could overact even more than Mr Darrow. Only Colin Baker as Bayban The Butcher and John Savident as Egrorian ever came close.

Avon could never resist taunting Blake and reminding him of his failings, but when the chips were down he always stood by him. When Blake was lying injured and the galaxy was about to be invaded by marauding aliens (or there any other kind?) at the end of season two, it was Avon who led the fight back. Like a British version of Kirk and Spock, the pair’s bickering was the highlight of every episode until Blake bailed after two series.

When he came back in the final episode of the fourth season, Avon had descended into full-blown megalomania. There really could only have been one outcome. One of them had to go and it wasn’t going to be Avon. The final few moments of ‘Blake’ have haunted an entire nation for the last 30-odd years.

Our plucky heroes being murdered by Federation guards in slow motion. One by one, they all fell to the ground, except Avon. He stood there like a colossus. The situation was hopeless. He was alone. He was surrounded. So what did he do? He raised his gun and smiled. Genius.

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Blake’s 7 fan? Check out our interview with Stephen Greif