Paul Darrow at the Sidgwick Room

Newnham College, Cambridge: 30th October 1981

Tape 1 - Side 1: Transcribed by Ellie Baskerville

Ellie Note: It was rather difficult to make out some parts - particularly the questions from the audience. We have been over these parts many times (even turning the volume up to 11 [1] in places) and picked out what we can. Some footnotes have been added to tie in various references or clarify things which do not come across clearly in the transcript. Thanks to Harriet who knew who Baryshnikov was! Many thanks to Robert (my little grammar checker) who sorted out the format and acted as a second pair of ears as well.

[1] Sad reference to Spinal Tap. Sorry.

PaulI don't really know what to say to you all, except thank you all for being here. I'm sorry if I'm late. [To himself] I am late. I was very late. I'll tell you about my day. I got up and I was rehearsing today, the final episode, episode 13 of this series and I asked the director, whose name is Mary Ridge, quite a severe lady, very charming, but very severe and I said 'I need to go to Cambridge' and she said 'Why?' and I said 'Well, I'm going to talk to some people up there' and everybody said 'Oh, only two people will turn up' and so I went into a room down there and only two people were in there! But I [pause] it reminded me of my dressing room, normally it has a star, this one said gentlemen'. Anyway, she said I could leave and I left at 5 o'clock. I left the BBC rehearsal rooms at 5 o'clock and I got into my little car and it took me an hour and a half to go round the North Circular Road, (that's the road that goes round the North of London for those of you who don't know) and I got onto the A10 [2], which I believe is the wrong road anyway!

[2] He should have taken the M11.

 I have a message for you all, from Jacqueline Pearce who plays the part of Servalan. She says 'Sucks to you all' she's going to do a talk at Oxford [pause] Men's College! [PD giggles] But she's in America at the moment, or if she isn't she's lying! That's where she said she was going. She's not in the last episode of this current series. Perhaps I shouldn't tell you that, since it's all a big secret! She was left alive and well in episode 12 [3]. In episode 13 [pause] - well a lot happens [pause]. A chap called, what's his name? Blake, he reappears [applause from the audience]. We meet [pause] briefly. Erm.. a very charming young lady appears [4]. Unfortunately I don't met her at all and really I can't tell you any more about that, because it's top secret [pause] scripts in the car and Alison very kindly helped me drive round here (and I think we ended up in Huntingdon [5] didn't we? No!) but the porter locked the gate after I came in and I've left my car parked outside.

[3] Warlord.

[4] Reference to Janet Lees Price, Paul's wife who played Klyn in Blake.

[5] Approx 20-25 miles north-west of Cambridge.

 Now then, do you want to say any more or shall I open it up and let people ask questions and things like that? Could I ask one question before anybody asks me any questions? Has anybody got a match? Really? Thank you, I, I left my lighter in the car.

[Brave audience member]It says No Smoking.

[female audience members]We have brought an ashtray up especially for you.

PaulYes. I am terribly nervous of course in these illustrious surroundings, but anyway thank you all for being here. I'm delighted and I hope it's not going to be very boring and I hope you weren't waiting too long. Now if anybody wants to ask me anything that's probably the best way isn't it? You're really generous with the matches as well! I know they're cutting back on students grants! That's the best way I think, if people want to ask questions about the show, about me [superhero voice] about Paul Darrow the man. As Roy Kinnear said. He was a guest artist in our show, he says, he plays one of my oldest friends, a little fat man and an old friend of Avon's [6]. His opening line is 'Hello, Avon, me old mate' he says '[mumbled] man is five feet four [mumbled] spots of a leopard'. Anyway! Does anybody want to ask a question? Yes?

[6] Keiller in Gold. The line Paul is referring to is in fact Keiller's second, 'Of course I'm clean, what do you take me for? Avon and I are old friends. It's good to see you, Avon.'

QuestionWon't it be terrible when Avon [mumbled]

PaulYes, er [pause] No! No! No! [pause] it's very good. Very good. If that's going to be the standard of wit, I'm going to be ruined! Anything else anybody wants to ask? [pause] Don't be nervous.

QuestionCould I ask a question?

PaulOf course you can!

QuestionThank you. Can I ask why you're so unceasingly unpleasant?

PaulYou mean [pause] Avon is?

QuestionI didn't say that!

PaulYes, well. I don't think he's unpleasant at all! [dissent from the audience] Oh! Shall I have a show of hands. I want to see whose side I'm on. He's... You've got to remember that he's (difficult isn't it?) You've got to remember that he's 300 years ahead, or 3,000 I'm not quite sure which and it's pretty rough up there and he's surrounded by a bunch of idiots who keep landing him into trouble and they have to remain because it's in the script and [pause] he has to be quite unpleasant really. I have to tell you he gets more unpleasant as time goes on but in order to survive. You have to... I don't think it's unpleasantness, he's just realistic and quite hard, which I think he would have to be to survive in the circumstances in which he finds himself in, let's face it!



QuestionCan you give us [mumbled]

PaulWell it's sort of bad isn't it? The idea... You're making me laugh but eh..

QuestionWas Avon based on Spock or anything?

PaulNo, not at all. No, no. To tell you the truth, when I was offered this part (what an interesting topic of conversation) I was offered this part by and I was told by my agent. My agent rang me up and she said 'there's this new series and it's about an engineer in the future.' So I put on my tweed jacket, tried to look like an engineer and arrived to be told that I wasn't up for the part of the engineer at all because there wasn't one, they wanted me to play this character called Avon and I said 'I always thought that was a lady who came round and sold cosmetics!' and they said 'Yes, we've heard that gag before' and, anyway, they offered me this part and they gave me the first four scripts and much to my disappointment I found I wasn't in the first one! So I thought this isn't going to be much of a part. But then I read the next three and I realized that although it wasn't as it were the leading role [pause] it could be! And I've been working on it ever since and so I just took the part that was offered very gratefully because I needed the money as well and [pause] gradually developed it from there. Is that the question?

QuestionOnce, in fact, I remember asking you at a convention the same question. Whether Avon had anything in common with Spock and you sounded very upset by the whole idea.

PaulYes! Oh that was the question, of course it was! Well yes I was, because I wasn't very interested in science fiction. People have very kindly sent me books and things (no just books - not things!) Asimov for example, (you've all heard of him) I've read some of his stuff and it's very good, but really I'm not a science fiction fan, apart from the fact that, of course, I love doing it, it's great fun. The thing about the series is that I try to create a character [pause] apart from the fact that it was science fiction. All right so it is science fiction, (put that on one side). I'm just trying to create a character who in those circumstances would behave in a certain way and I felt that this man , who was very much a loner, a pragmatist and he's a survivor, believe me, he's a survivor and, let's face it, everybody else has been killed off. I mean Blake went at the end of the second series, Jenna went, Cally's gone, Gan's gone, Zen's gone. I'm stuck with Orac and Vila [pause] and I have to tell you, I try to get rid of Vila in one episode [audience mutter concern]. But he sends his regards to you. He said he went to Oxford and read woodwork [pause] and he would have read the graffiti but the train came. But he sends you all his love. The ladies that is and the gentlemen his regards, so no he wasn't modeled on Spock and it wasn't really modeled on anybody [pause] except, somebody wrote to me the other day and said [sic] was it was modeled on Adolf Hitler but he's sort of Napoleonic if you want to look for an historical analogy. I would think, he is that kind of a man. [pause] It's gone quiet.

Question[mumbled] [something about black outfits and wardrobes!]

PaulWhat size are you? Well, we've got a couple of girls and they're sewing busily in the background. You know, I've got another one it's got lots of studs. Have you seen the current series? Well it's got lots of studs and I like that one and they put me in another one. We have a designer who is, [pause] I suppose you would say he's way out [7] and he decided that I should wear something else so he put me in another black outfit that I wear in later episodes (I'll never hear the end of this!) which is a sort of a one piece with barathea [8] black with silver all round the neck. Very nice but it made me look like Baryshnikov [9] more than Avon, so I thought I would elbow that one and did. But I was in it for 4 episodes [10], although somebody who saw both costumes said to me 'I like that one better' and I thought, 'Oh, I've made a mistake, been and gone back to the other one.' But there you are. I like the weight of the leather, because as you see I'm quite light whereas Gareth Thomas is huge and fat! And actually if you're acting with someone whose very weighty (which Gareth is - being Welsh and all of it) [puts on a Welsh accent] 'Lovely voice' drink lots of beer - my God doesn't he! So you need that weight to balance it, as an actor - something you can't acquire unless you eat lots of food like Robert De Niro for Raging Bull, but I haven't got all that time so the leather gives me weight that's why I wear it and there are few going spare at the end of the series, a few suits I think. A bit battered...

[7] Nicholas Rocker.

[8] A fabric made of silk and wool, used for coats.

[9] Mikhail Baryshnikov (1948-). Latvian-American dancer & choreographer.

[10] Assassin to Gold.

QuestionSomebody asked me, why you took the part of Avon. Is it the money, the kudos? Or the leather?

PaulAll three and I took it because I thought it was a very good part and as I already said I thought it could become, the best part. It's terribly difficult. Gareth for example had terrible difficulty at the beginning because when you're playing the hero, the Lone Ranger. I mean you know you've got to be really good haven't you? You can't hit women, you can't do anything. I mean you always say [upper class accent] 'I say' and then the person turns round and then you shoot them, whereas this character [pause] hit women, shot people in the back, did all sorts of things. One of my favourite lines, when I hit a woman and she fell to the floor and I said 'take her away, I'm beginning to enjoy myself' [11] and you see you can do that sort of thing and Gareth always used to say to me, 'I wish I could do that' and I said 'Well, you can't'. [pause] So I.....Yes!

[11] Mission to Destiny. The woman he began to strangle was Sara. Avon's line is, in fact, 'You'd better get her out of here, I really rather enjoyed that.'

QuestionIn the recent episode Spacedrive [sic] Stardrive [mumble] where you get the drive from a very eminent female scientist. Are you going to make a habit of killing off every female that you meet?
Paul[with relish] Oh yes.


PaulYes! I've had a number of nasty letters about that and the BBC have had a very nasty letter about it, saying this lady was trying to bring up her children to respect human life and that this cold, brutal bastard came up at peak viewing time and disturbed her children. I would point out that it was made quite clear that in the episode that she was a former Federation employee and that as far as I was concerned, she was working for the Space Rats and she only came with me because she said 'Please take me, otherwise they'll kill me', so I thought, all right, I'll take her along and I took her along and then it proved necessary to kill her to get away from the others, you see. Actually what we debated at the time, or rather the BBC debated at the time, was the last line, which was when she [12] said 'What about Dr Plaxton?' and I replied 'Who?' It sounds rather callous. [pause] Some people, a gentleman called Peter Davidson [13] said I think you ought to say 'Dr Who?' but he won't plug me in his shows so I'm not going to plug him! They wanted to change it at one time to 'I have no choice' and I said 'Oh dear me, that's a bit weak, isn't it?' I mean, if you're going to kill her, let him kill her, so they left it at that and no he's not going to make a habit of it. He kills about a dozen more women but he kills many more men! The thing is I, quite seriously actually I think, he treats women as equals. I mean he'll kill a woman as soon as he'll kill a man. I mean he respects them.

[12] Dayna.

[13] The fifth Doctor: 1982-84.

QuestionThere was also that scene in one episode shown a month ago, Power, I think.

PaulOh yes, I enjoyed that one, yes. The girl who was in that hated it [14] and I said 'You know, I think I'll throw her on the floor' and she glowered at me [pause] but they let me do it. It's in my contract, but I'm not like that really. Do you think I could drink some of this gin? [sound of liquid being poured] No? Aren't you having any? No? Does that answer your question sort of. Yes? Anybody else?

[14] A reference to Juliet Hammond Hill who played Pella in Power.

QuestionAre you at the mercy of the script writers when you are playing Avon?

PaulAh, (here's a good question) you are a bit at the mercy of the script writers, yes. Originally this character was very loosely written so that I could develop him in anyway that I wanted and hoped, sooner or later, that somebody would pick up on it and now, only one man was writing the early scripts and that was Terry Nation who invented the series anyway. And Terry said to me 'What do you think my favourite film is?' and I knew immediately; I said 'Your favourite film is Dirty Harry' and he said 'Yes, and that's who I want you to be' and so he began to write on that sort of line for me and then other writers began to pick it up and so it developed. But there are some who put in episodes which don't make sense. We've just completed one in fact which I don't think makes sense at all [15]. We looked wonderful, but if you can explain it to me, I'd be very grateful and I asked the director what it meant and, he's foreign, and he said (not that I've got anything against foreigners, believe me) and he turned round and said 'Forget it darling - I'll do it so fast that nobody will notice and anyway', he said 'You get to kill a girl, what more do you want?'

[15] Warlord, directed by Viktors Ritelis. The girl Avon gets to kill is Zeeona.

QuestionWho is your favourite script writer?

PaulApart from Terry, who wrote most of them, Chris Boucher is very good. He's the script editor but then so he should be [16], because he's in overall charge of the whole thing now, but there's a writer called Robert Holmes whom I think writes very well. He in fact wrote the episode before the one about the Space Rats in which we re-introduced the Servalan character. The one, I don't know if you saw that one. He gave me the wonderful line at the end [Fourth season Avon growl] 'I need to kill her myself' and I thought 'Oh I like you for that one' and he likes to write the relationship between Avon and Vila and he has written what I think, is a superb script later on [17], where we, he and I, Vila and I go, try and get a machine, a laser or something [pause] some gun (were always looking for something and never get it!) and I double cross the people we get it from and then they double cross us and it's double, double, double, triple cross and it eventually transpires that we're on a space (you mustn't repeat any of this, because somebody might hear!) and we're on a space craft and we have to lose some weight off the space craft otherwise we can't take off and the weight we have to lose is 70 kilos and Orac says 'Vila weighs 70 kilos' [pause] and it's quite interesting what happens after that.

[16]As in 'should be good because he's the script editor'!

[17] Orbit.

QuestionHow do you see the relationship yourself?


QuestionYou and Vila.

Paul[pause] you mean as Avon?

QuestionYes. Are you and Michael Keating...?

PaulWell, Michael and I get on very well. We're good friends. He's got two O levels [18] ... Geography and English, so he can read where he wants to go, so he's not liable to get lost. He's very funny actually. I don't know whether you find... you will find some people don't, if you're not on that kind of wavelength. It's a kind of Hancock [19] humour. Michael has, it's instinct. It's very difficult to describe. He will suddenly come out with a remark and everybody will fall about and that was incorporated actually by Robert Holmes into one script like Blake was saying [superhero voice] 'All right we've got to go down to this planet' and I was going [fourth season Avon growl] 'Oh I don't think that we should go down to the planet because I don't like you' and Jenna was saying [girly voice] 'Oh come on, Blake, let's go down to the planet' and then there was this slight pause and Vila was going 'Why are we going down to the planet?' and this was a very good point and I think that the relationship between Avon and Vila is founded on the fact that Vila because he... he's a survivor in an entirely different way, he's a survivor like a child who says that one and one is two. A child will say, well perhaps it won't a child will go 'doh, doh, doh, doh.'

[18] The basic level of the General Certificate of Education, usually taken at 16. Now replaced by GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education).

[19] Anthony John Hancock, known as Tony. (1924-68.) Well-loved British comedian of the 1950s and 60s. Best known for his wry observations of life in Hancock's Half Hour with classic episodes such as The Blood Donor and The Radio Ham.

You know a child is more direct then. If you ask a fairly simple question to an adult they'll think there's a trick in this somewhere and they're all round the houses before they come to the answer, whereas a child will come straight to the point. Children... Isn't there a young boy whose done a Rubik's cube and made a fortune out of selling a book on it? Well, an adult probably wouldn't do it you see. I mean I can't do it! I don't even know what it is! So, there's an exactness there. Does that answer your question? Then, do you think somebody else might ask something?

QuestionAre there any plans [mumbled] [something about a new series]

PaulWell in theory it could go on, yes. In theory it could. [pause] Without giving too much away, quite a lot happens in the last episode which might suggest that it couldn't go on in quite the same way as it had gone before [PD laughs], but it could, yes it could, go on. Whether it will, there are no plans. The BBC ('A spokesman' - and I've met him, Arnold Spokesman) [superhero voice] 'the BBC has no plans at present' but you know, it depends on the reaction and indeed the reaction has been phenomenal for this series. It started off with a reasonable amount. I don't know about 8 million or something, which is not bad because it went out against Coronation Street, which is, I'm sure, what you really want to watch and then it rocketed up to nine and a half million on the second episode so you see some people like to see male chauvinism and it sort of stuck around there for the last couple and I think it may very well go further. I don't know. If it were to go quite high then obviously they would very seriously think about doing it again or a variation on the theme. Yes.

QuestionWhy does the BBC always use chalk pits?

PaulWhy does the BBC always use chalk pits? Well they were given the hint by Mr McEnroe [20] who said [U.S. accent] 'You guys are the pits of the world' and they thought that's a great idea, lets go into the pits! But they're convenient. The thing about futuristic surfaces, land surfaces - you can't find them, within certain areas. They've got not to be too far from London, obviously, so you tend to go to somebody like Blue Circle Cement and say 'Oi, have you got anything interesting in futuristic landscapes?' and they say [Cockney voice] 'Well guv'ner, we've got this 'ere pit'. So they go along and have a look and it seems to be alright so they use that and once you've found a good place you tend to use it a lot because there really isn't anywhere else and also you have to have hotels for the actors, for the crew. I was actually on location two weeks ago [21] and was the only person, the only member of the cast who was on location and I counted the number of people who were there and there were 60! Six Oh, apart from myself. Just me doing something. I mean it's just phenomenal don't you think? I mean there's a catering wagon, lighting man, a cameraman, a dresser, make-up, you name it, they were all there. Guns, armour, I've got a new gun by the way. In the, in the last episode I get a new gun. It's super and I got to play with it today [pause] I broke the sodding thing twice! So that's one reason why the director said 'Yes. You'd better go to Cambridge.' So that's really, it's economics and also what's available.

[20] John McEnroe (1959-).U.S tennis player and world number one, 1981-1984. His temperamental outbursts often overshadowed his brilliance on court. He said the UK was 'the pits' on losing a point at Wimbledon.

[21] Paul is referring to Avon's scenes on Gauda Prime, shot in forests near Camberly in Berkshire between Tuesday 13th and Thursday the 15th October 1981.

QuestionHave you ever met a Doctor Who team while you were down there?

PaulNo, but they've pinched all our locations.


PaulAnd they have in fact used two of our areas. We have an area down in Swanage which was owned by the army. It had these road signs - Beware Rapid Rifle Fire and we're thinking, 'My God! Critics get this far south?' The army let us use - the army like the show, so we're in there, and when we do that and the boys, the special effects boys have to have a lot of space. We once worked in a power station near Bristol. Oldbury Power Station [22], it's nuclear powered and we were on top of the cone [23] where all the nuclear waste is right underneath and they were doing a public relations thing, you know [superhero voice] 'It's absolutely safe!' And the girl playing Cally - Jan Chappell - said 'I'm not going in there, I'll get radiation poisoning', so she had it in her contract that she wouldn't go in after the first bit so she didn't go in. But I, I'm a fool. I went in and the director was Vere Lorrimer, who is now our producer, a man came up to him and said 'Mr Lorrimer, will you be shooting in here tomorrow morning?' and he said [Vere voice] 'Yes! I will, why? Why I can shoot over here if you like if you want to get on,' and he said 'Well we need to clean the cones' and he said 'Oh, all right, we'll shoot over here and it's...' 'No! No! You don't understand if we clean the cones half of Bristol goes while you're here.' Vere didn't understand that. We also had an explosion in there and one of the cast, I think it was Michael, was walking with an employee and he said his face drained and he said 'I hope that was one of your explosions, because if it wasn't...' And it was and we were told there was a possibility of radioactivity and then the caterers came up with tea-trays and sandwiches and cakes and tea and nobody touched it because... except for the chap who played Gan who was about 18 stone and David said 'Well, if nobody else is going to have it, I'm going to have it' and he was stuffing himself with this and when we left we forgot him and he was left behind in costume in the middle of this power station and a power station employee went [civil servant voice] 'Who are you? Oh yes, I'll give you a lift' and took him to the hotel. That was very sad really. Still! It's a good story. It passes the time, erm.....Anybody else has anything to say?

[22] Oldbury Power Station's alter egos were the communications centre on Saurian Major, Spaceworld in Redemption and Q-base in Killer.

[23] Paul means the core.

QuestionHave you got other plans?

PaulHave I got plans for the future? If I don't do anymore of this? Erm, yes I do, [pause] I have one or two ideas, nothing really is confirmed, that's always the way isn't it? It's a very funny business this. I, I have to be right, quite careful with what I do afterwards. I was rather hoping to do a Shakespeare on the television, but unfortunately [pause] I didn't get it. I was asked if I would think about talking to the director about playing Richard the Third and I said, 'Oh, well, I've been rehearsing that for the last four years, you know!', but eventually they decided that I... they thought I was too strongly identified with this programme which is a trap you fall into. So, then what did they do? They gave it to Martin Shaw from The Professionals, but Martin's not doing it now, so they, he decided that, he thought, it wasn't a good idea to do. Oh I don't know why, but anyway he's not doing it. But you can get strongly identified with a character and I would have thought Richard the Third would have been a good idea, but there you are! I don't know, I'll have to wait and see. I need a holiday. I'm very tired [audience go Ahh!] and er. Thank you so much. I'm really touched by your concern [PD laughs]. So I shall take a holiday. An aunt of mine has a house in Florida, so I think I might go there which is very nice and... Oh, you get there very cheap by Laker Airways [24]. Has anybody, has anybody got a match? Nobody has a match? Nobody smokes? God you're a bit virtuous aren't you? There must be somebody. Oh there she is. My kind of girl.[sound of a woman in high heels making her way to the front] Can I take a cigarette? Thank you very much. [with relief] Ah!

[24] Cut-price transatlantic airline run by Sir Freddy Laker. It went bankrupt in the 1980s.

[Woman]You can keep it if you like.

PaulOh, all right, I shall throw it back to you [with relish] see if we can hit a few women on the way! Yeah? That's enough. Have you got a date? No? Oh! Fine! There's... I can see a hand up there!

Question[mumbled] [something about Tarrant, possibly about his hair?!]

PaulYou mean Space Waves? Yes they do, they do. The stunt arranger said to me Paul, with the utmost respect' (big man) 'With the utmost respect' he said 'I would advise you not to go into public houses after the show has gone out. And try to avoid getting into a one to one conversation with a big man' and I have had exchanges. I had a very nasty experience in Glasgow. This guy came up to me and said 'Hey!' and I jumped and I said 'Er, Yes?' he said 'You on TV?' and I said 'Yes' and he said 'You're in that err Blake's 7 aren't you?' and I said 'Yes' and he said 'Aye, that's me favourite programme' and I thought well that's all right then and I turned away and he got hold of me like this and he said 'You're a right hard bastard' and I thought 'Oh my God!' Here we go so anyway he said 'Will you have a drink with me?' and I didn't think and I said 'Thank you very much but I've already got one' and he said 'Will you have a drink with me?' and I said 'Yes, I'll have a pint of what you're having' and hoped he wasn't drinking whisky, but anyway I had a pint of Parson's with the lads and it was all right. I got away with that one, but I tend to avoid confrontations like that. I'm looking around the room now to see if there are any... But I have been taught a few tricks in case any of you are thinking of trying anything by the stunt men and I think I can probably survive. I run very fast and erm. Anyway, yes! You want to ask a question?

QuestionIs it true that you were hurt in a fight by Gan and that they actually showed the scene?

PaulYes, I was hurt by him. Beastly man. He had to go mad in one episode [25]. It was very funny actually. He was told 'This is your big episode'. He thought 'Great! Great! It's going to be King Lear all over again'. He had 10 lines and was unconscious for most of it. He was on the screen you know, it wasn't too bad. So he had to go mad at one point in a room. Now they built this room which was very solid and they said 'OK, now you can do', (David was a big man, David Jackson 18 stone, very strong) and they said 'now you can throw yourself around this room and Paul will come in looking mean, and say 'OK, Gan, now pull yourself together' [26]. You'll pick him up and throw him over there. You'll actually throw him out of the set. This means you can bash into the walls, they won't move.' And of course he bashed into the walls and they moved four inches off their mark. So they had to have five men, big men, holding these walls while he bashed around. And then all the lads leaning up against the walls, were going [cockney accent] 'Oh right, Paul you're on' and I went in and David went mad and he lifted me and he threw me and by God it hurt, it really hurt but fortunately we only did it that once. I said to him afterwards 'Did you mean to hurt me?' because he was a gentle man and he said 'No, No, of course I didn't. I'm terribly sorry. Was the scene all right?' and I said 'Yes, the scene was fine. David you were great, [fourth season Avon growl] you're going to get killed off in the next series, I can tell.' Yes?

[25] Breakdown.

[26] Paul's line is 'Gan, no! You'll break the computer links - we'll never get them started.'

QuestionDo the new guns actually fire?

PaulYes, the new ones actually fire. I was told by our producer, he rang me up and said [Vere voice] 'in the new series we'll have guns that actually go whiz' and I said 'Shouldn't they go bang?' and he said 'Well, yes, that's what I mean but they also go whiz. They go whiz, bang' and they do, yes! And sometimes they put in a bigger charge and actually it's 'Oh, I'm sorry!' and you are sitting in the best position. The lady in that episode you were talking about [27], I had to shoot her and the boys for some reason put in an extra big charge in that gun and it went BOOM and she went WALLOP and then she was furious. [pause] I loved it! Yes they do fire, they go bang and the new gun which I've got fires three times. It's the only one that goes three times bang, bang, bang, but I don't shoot it like that I go bang... bang... bang. I make the most out of it.

[27] Pella in Power.

QuestionWhat changes has Vere Lorrimer made on, for you, as an actor, as producer.

PaulWell I've known Vere for about 12 years. I've worked with him on a number of programmes. He was talking about it with me in fact the other day. He said [Vere voice] 'Do you remember when we did Dixon of Dock Green together?' And I said 'So we did!' He said 'Yes, you played a psychopath [pause] and then we did Z-Cars, what did you play in that?' I said 'I think it was a psychopath'. He said 'And here you are playing another psychopath' and the writer actually put that in. I actually have a line talking about psychopaths and it says 'Big close up - Avon'. And so he thinks I'm a psychopath so he's made a lot of difference actually because he's very enthusiastic. He's a charming man, very enthusiastic, very talented, very shrewd.

I think [pause] sometimes he's very school masterly in a jolly way, a bit scout masterly really and it's [Vere voice] 'all boys together, all having lots of fun'. But he's a very shrewd man. He's been in the business for what? Forty years? He knows exactly what he's doing and he knows how to develop the scripts. Or indeed, I hope he does. He seems to have managed them so far and he's been very helpful for me because I said I wanted to go in a certain direction because in this series I changed Avon slightly, considerably when it gets to the end because I felt that as an actor one couldn't stand still as a character. I mean I'm not Meg Richardson in Crossroads, although I could be - I believe she's leaving [28].

[28] Long running soap opera set in a motel run by glamorous widow Meg Richardson (Noele Gordon). Over 20 years the character was married three times, widowed twice, imprisoned for dangerous driving, suffered from amnesia and finally sailed off on the QE2 after, apparently, dying in a fire in 1981. The show was often shambolic and unintentionally hilarious and Ms Gordon was often described as an actress of slender natural ability. Naturally, it's sheer awfulness endeared it and her to the nation's heart. At its zenith it was watched by more viewers than any other soap, apart from Coronation Street.

You either have to develop or you stand still and you're the same old Avon, you know with his eyes and [superhero voice] 'turn around or I'll shoot you', you know and all those. So I wanted to develop him further and I said 'What would happen actually to a man in this sort of situation?' He would become...... He's got nothing left. The only woman he ever loved betrayed him and he had to kill her. He had a friend who betrayed him and then he had to kill her [29]. He then had a clinch with Servalan and she's not exactly a good bedfellow is she? He actually said to her one time 'I'd be dead in a week if I stayed with you' [30]. That gives him 6 days to get out from under her I suppose. What a way to go I think! So he has nothing. This poor man has nothing. He's a very sad character you know, really. Blake left him in the lurch and he's now surrounded by a bunch of kids who keep going [superhero voice] 'Right, I'm going in there'. I mean the Tarrant character! He keeps saying [superhero voice] 'It's no good I can't stand around here, I'm going out to get him' and I say [fourth season Avon growl] 'Well, that's exactly what he wants you to do you know' and he says 'Well, I'm going anyway' and then he gets shot and then I have to go and help him, to rescue him and actually we had a chat the other day and he falls in love a lot in this series does Tarrant, always with somebody who's trying to kill me! He doesn't know that! Very amusing. He has a scene with Servalan, he gets landed with her at sometime [31] and he comes rushing in like the Lone Ranger and he splats everybody in sight and they're all dead anyway and Servalan says in her own inimitable way [growls] 'You fool! If you'd asked me I would have told you that they're already dead' and he goes [Woody woodpecker voice] 'Oops, sorry!' And I have to get him out of that one and oh dear... So the poor man's in a terrible state so I think he might have nothing much to live for and so I said 'I think I'd like to play him with a death wish' and Vere said [Vere voice] 'Oh what a good idea!' so that's sort of how he's gone. Now if you have a death wish but you survive it means you do foolish things. Don't you? Because you stand up in front of the guns and they miss you. They have to miss you because you're in next weeks' and so you look terribly brave or foolish, depending upon your point of view and then you survive and then you get more and more annoyed because you survive and so you become [pause] I think psychopathic and that's what I'm trying to, developing him as [pause] slightly nutty. But it makes it interesting for me and hopefully for you. You've gone awfully quiet. I hope it makes it more interesting because otherwise you get the same bland character. I mean you know what to expect. [mumbled] Change of subject. Yes Ma'am?

[29] Maybe he means 'him' rather than 'her' here? This could then be Tynus or even Keiller.

[30] Avon's line from Aftermath is 'Imagination my only limit? I'd be dead in a week.'

[31] Sand.

QuestionWhat do you think of Orac?

PaulNot a lot! I had to carry him around a lot! And Michael Keating had to carry him around in one episode [32] and perhaps we should have ditched this bugger before we ever started this series, but anyway. I'm afraid he's stuck with us, right to the end. He's rather heavy er...

[32] Headhunter.

QuestionWill he be in the next series if you make one?

PaulHe will survive yes. In fact it could be quite interesting. You could have a series of computers. It would save a lot of money. It's been suggested.

QuestionBut you would have to carry them around.

PaulAh, that's true, yes. By the way I used a bad word there. I suppose it's alright isn't it? It's not going to be for children is it?


PaulMind you, you don't look very old! God! You're 29! Really? Oh, I mustn't stub that. Oh, I've got a lighter, it's alright. Erm yes?


PaulThat reminds me. Oh of course you can! Yes.


PaulSorry? Yes! Of course you may! Do you want to pay for mine? [recalls] I haven't got to pay, I'm a guest! Of course you'll allow that will you? Of course the poor woman's has come all this way.

QuestionI'm not sure that Paul is really free, but otherwise perhaps.

PaulThere was, I remember a joke once that Bob Hope told. I mean a friend of Dorothy Lamour once said to him 'I wouldn't marry you if you were the only man left in the world' and he replied. 'If I was the only man left in the world you would get in the queue along with everybody else.' So maybe I could do that? Yes. Would you like to give me a kiss as well?

QuestionWhen they brought in Orac [mumbled]

PaulYes, the reason they brought Orac in was because the Federation had to have something that they wanted. Are you running out?


PaulI meant the tape! Keep going luv, you're doing really well. They decided the Federation had to be after something and we were after the same thing and they decided that a super computer was a good idea and then Terry who had made a fortune out of the Daleks decided 'What a good idea! I'll have a computer on legs that can walk', you see. But the producer [33] said 'that gets a bit kids' stuff, doesn't it?' 'Well, it's a kids' programme isn't it?' So he said 'No! No! No! It's a kidult programme.' So Orac can't have legs but that was the original idea. Terry wanted to make a fortune I think out of that and he was very upset that it didn't have legs. I mean who's going to buy a lump of junk with some lights in it? Unless it's got legs? So he was brought in and as he was a super computer he was very difficult to get rid of and in fact he opened a whole can of beans because he can foretell the future. It can, I always call him it, can foretell the future and so you'd never in fact land in the trouble that you do land in. And the teleport bracelets, I keep saying to the director [34] I keep saying, (we had a woman director) and she said 'What would you do in this situation?' (she was a bit like that) and I said 'I would teleport out of it' and she said 'Oh, [pause] Oh, Well you've got three scenes in here so we'll have to have Vila asleep on the teleport controls' [PD laughs] and it's like we always have! Have you noticed almost every episode we must have looked through the episode and said 'What's going to happen to the teleport bracelet this time?' It's going to break, somebody's going to drop it, or Vila's going to be snoozing 'Oh, I'm terribly sorry I didn't know what happened.' Something like that. Now we walk through forcefields and the teleport then doesn't work, but that doesn't really answer your question about Orac, but yes he was going to stay with us and indeed he is with us until the bitter end.

[33] David Maloney.

[34] The director was Fiona Cumming, the episode is probably Rumours of Death.

QuestionWhat age group would you say the program is going to?

PaulWell, I can only really answer that on the... I had quite a lot of letters, some nice, some not so nice and the age group is fairly wide. The most interesting letters come from the top end of the age group [PD laughs] But a lot of children write. That is from about eight upwards then there seems to be a gap, I mean eight to about 20 is a fair, then there's a gap. 20 to 35 year olds don't seen to watch it and then you get the 40 year olds coming in [dissent from the audience] Do they? But you're not that old! I'm not so you can't be. Why are you laughing? Yes erm, and you get the sort of top end and you get some very interesting [pause] letters. I think it appeals to a very wide area, but maybe I'm wrong there. Maybe there isn't that gap. Gareth Thomas always used to say that I appeal (that is he himself) that I appeal to 14 year olds because I'm an avuncular figure. Vila appeals to five year olds because he is one and the girls appeal for obvious reasons to men and so on and he said you appeal to the 40 year old divorcees [pause] who are into black leather and erm... I once played (I'm talking about women actually, really). I once had a letter from a lady when I played Dracula once and she wrote me a letter saying 'I leave my window open for you every night.' I thought of going but I decided against it, so yes it's fairly wide. Ah! You gave me a match, so I'll have to answer your question, Yes!

QuestionIn the last episode [35] when you burst into the bunker where you slipped. Was that intentional and what other sort of experiences have you had, like, in making mistakes?

[35] The last episode screened up to this date was Animals.

Paul[fourth season Avon growl] Nobody else mentioned that you know. I mean I come here, all friendly and... You're absolutely right! I slipped and I was very frightened because I thought I was going to fall and hurt myself. No, the place was covered in glass, a lot of it and some of it was real and some of it was sugar glass and, if you go in come in very fast, because I had to kick a door for starters, (because I wanted to do that) I kicked the door and came walloping in. I wanted to kick the chair out of my way, you know, I'd been watching Starsky and Hutch and then I slipped! But the director [36] said, 'Actually, that was the best take even though you slipped it was the fastest,' so she said 'I think I'll leave it in and anyway you might slip...' and I didn't think you'd notice that. A lot of things happen like that, guns breaking. I broke 3 guns on one location. [pause] I wasn't very popular.

[36] Mary Ridge.


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Last updated on 17th of December 2000.