As a fan of any concept, story, product, event, franchise, and/or beyond, there’s something quite invoking when those players of the piece are invested in sums greater than their parts. When you see that roles on the stage mean more to the actors than the motions they articulate, you truly feel the power of that concept, story, product, event, franchise, and/or beyond. No more so do I find this in Blake’s 7 actor Paul Darrow’s continual involvement in the said franchise.
For years Darrow has been enjoying fleshing out the character he personified, and thereby to some degree, created. Alongside Blake’s 7 creator Terry Nation and script editor Chris Boucher, Darrow made anti-hero Kerr Avon into the iconic memory he is today. Since Darrow’s role on Blake’s 7 ended with its legendary cliffhanger, he’s written about Avon’s past in Avon: A Terrible Aspect, he’s performed Avon’s future in the fan generated (but no less canon worthy) Logic of the Empire, and of late, even took on the reins of Blake’s 7 itself in a short-lived attempt to revitalise the franchise around the turn of the millennium. So here he is again, having completed a trilogy of books about Avon himself, group titled, Lucifer, whilst performing Avon on audio for the current bastion of the sci-fi dystopian narrative, Big Finish.
Perversely titled, Lucifer: Genesis is the last book of Darrow’s trilogy. I must confess I’ve not read the second book, though I did enjoy his first foray into Avon’s resurrection. You do not really need to have read the second to enjoy the third, and it is that: enjoyable.
While Lucifer sets up Avon’s future, post-television, Genesis integrates the rich politics Darrow sets up in his trilogy directly into the television canon. The rivalling factions of Earth so imbued with life in his first book are now inter-twined with the history of Kerr Avon and Servalan. The final chapter of Genesis looks at Avon’s future-present and ends up with a tense showdown between the ageing rebel and the forces of Earth.
There will be many who’ll be resistant to this curdling of canon, but personally speaking, I find after three decades of memories, I welcome new frameworks to consider one of my favourite past shows. Darrow looks to embellish Servalan as much as he does Avon. Darrow doesn’t just position her more realistically within the Federation’s political framework, but generates a much-needed backstory to really define what makes this villain such a powerful character.
Are there issues with the book? This becomes an interesting question, and Darrow is as wily as his fictional counterpart on this score. A caveat can be located at the beginning of the tale that notes that with some vaguarity that the third person narrative is “Avon reminiscing. A sort of diary.” This neatly avoids any direct issues of contradiction in continuity (and there are some), personality (there are moments where the characters make comments not quite in keeping with the show), and reflection (Avon is very much the hero of the piece). How Avon reminisces on events beyond his knowledge, such as Servalan’s rise to power, is questionable, but ultimately Darrow sets his cards out straight off: don’t question, just enjoy it. In this sense, Darrow allows himself to truly indulge in the character. William Shatner’s books on Captain Kirk very much pedestal the Star Trek hero to a stature only best compared to Red Dwarf’s hero parody of ‘Ace Rimmer’, but arguably so does Darrow with Avon. However with Darrow’s opening declaration, he gives himself the position to do so without appearing short-sighted to the larger universe. This is the world of Avon as seen through Avon. Perhaps not literally in terms of continuity, but how Avon – or Darrow – sees himself as Avon. Once again, there are good arguments against this approach; many will see it as less a conceptual technique, but a get-out-of-jail-free card for mistakes and indulgences. If that’s the case, is that so bad? I point you back to my original outline: seeing the players enjoy the mythology of Blake’s 7 so much is a joy in itself.
I would like to see Darrow write a book on current Avon that does not have the comfort of indulgence. He adds some fascinating new concepts and some ideas I rather like to existing canon. I enjoyed Servalan’s backstory a great deal, I like the idea of Orac’s casing being as much for show as utilitarian, and the idea of Ensor’s booby traps.
I’m not entirely sure if I personally see Avon as consistent a personality as Darrow does. For me, the series had Avon’s personality darken as it progressed with him becoming paranoid, and even to some degree, a fighter against the Federation, albeit for different reasons to Blake. Perhaps that’s because those people don’t see the turning points as clearly as others; we never see the changes in ourselves. Even there, Darrow’s caveat serves him well.
In any regards, this is a book worth reading by any Blake’s 7 fans. The more you know of the show, the more you will enjoy it. It is an indulgence, on part of the author and the audience, but given both are clearly fans of Blake’s 7, is that necessarily a bad thing?
Blake’s 7 – Lucifer: Genesis is out now, and is available from Big Finish as an ebook or a physical copy.