Paul Darrow's career has encompassed theatre, television and
film. Famed for his portrayal of Kerr Avon, a ruthless and
calculating computer expert, in Terry Nation's science fiction
series Blake's 7, Darrow has also appeared in Coronation
Street, Emergency Ward 10 and many other productions
- including two guest appearances in Doctor Who. Populated
by familiar names and productions, You're Him, Aren't
You? is Paul's own story of his life and career. It tells
of his association with Blake's 7 - how he was cast,
his experiences of making the show, what has happened since
and his memories of Terry Nation, the cast and the crew. It
also tells of his childhood, his time playing Elvis Presley
and his near miss with James Bond...
Darrow is a peculiar and enigmatic chap. Most famous for taking
a supporting character in a cheap British sci-fi show and
transforming the role into one of the most compelling leading
characters in science fiction. Darrow has also played Elvis
Presley and Macbeth on stage to critical acclaim, hammed up
one of the most appalling performances ever to be seen in
Doctor Who, written a truly dreadful Blake's 7
novel and has most recently been seen on our screens advertising,
This slim volume from Big Finish is Darrow's story in his
own words, from his schooldays to his RADA training, from
the theatre to his glorious defining moment on the small screen
and then back to the theatre again. Sadly, no mention of the
those of you who were hoping for a candid warts-and-all account
of his career then you're going to be disappointed. By Darrow's
own admission, this isn't that sort of book (although, rather
unhelpfully, he only points this out right at the end of the
book!) And so it is that the majority of people he has worked
with are continually described as being thoroughly decent
professionals, and much seems to be glossed over.
writes in short, clipped sentences throughout the autobiography,
and whilst making for an instantly accessible read, it does
become repetitive after a while, as the same short phrases
are recycled endlessly throughout the book ("Don't ask me"
and "Your guess is as good as mine" being not especially enlightening
favourites of his).
yet, there is something very honest and very likeable within
these pages. Darrow clearly dreamed of being Laurence Olivier,
and had a burning ambition to be a huge movie star. He never
came close to achieving this but is humble enough to admit
so, optimistic enough that it could still happen, and refreshingly
grateful for the immortality he so magnificently achieved
playing Avon in Blake's 7. A large chunk of this book
is, of course, devoted to that classic sci-fi show. Darrow's
personal anecdotes on the series are plentiful and will be
lapped up by Blake's 7 fans, as he takes us on an episode-by-episode
guide to the series. The many brief anecdotes are more than
welcome, less so the half-hearted and completely redundant
'synopsis' of each episode which take up far too much space
in an already slim volume. Blake's 7 fans will obviously
have little interest in these vague summings-up of each and
every one of the 52 episodes, whilst non-fans will be left
bewildered by Darrow's brief outlines of plots which even
he doesn't always seem to understand himself.
is still plenty to savour in Darrow's account of his Blake's
7 years - he clearly doesn't have much regard for Blake's
character (surprised?) but his deep admiration and friendship
with creator Terry Nation shines through, and the chapter
detailing the abortive attempt to resurrect the series is
a major highlight of the book, and the closest Darrow comes
to in venting genuine frustration against others.
often comes across as being a bit of an Alan Partridge figure.
He describes former girlfriends as being 'a bit of terrific';
is over-keen to detail situations when he apparently brought
the house down; he spends whole chapters listing famous acquaintances
and claims to fame (he shared jokes with Dave Allen - he tells
you this twice just to make sure you were listening); and
you end up waiting for the inevitable stream of anecdotes
that climax with "Needless to say, I had the last laugh."
(He doesn't quite get there but comes very, very close).
the main disappointment with the book is that it's not a particularly
cohesive autobiography. Brief anecdotes are wheeled out thick
and fast, and thrown together seemingly at random to make
up some of the chapters. A little more structure, and a more
fluent writing style may have helped give us a better insight
into the enigmatic man - but maybe that was never the plan.
This is Paul Darrow, after all.
the fundamental flaws though, you may well enjoy dipping into
some of these memoirs. Outside of Blake's 7, there
is a chapter detailing his appearances in Doctor Who
(in which he hints that he deliberately hammed up his 1985
appearance alongside then Doctor Colin Baker, in return for
Baker hamming up his role in a previous episode of Blake's
7) and surprisingly enjoyable chapters on his theatre
work - I didn't expect to have much interest in this, but
Darrow's enthusiasm for the stage is quite heart-warming,
and he clearly regards his performance as Elvis in Alan Bleasdale's
Are You Lonesome Tonight? as one of the proudest moments
of not just his career but his whole life.
Him, Aren't You? is nowhere near the candid definitive
autobiography you may have dared hope for but it's enjoyable
in random patches and is recommended with caution to Blake's
7 fans. But rather like the Blake's 7 budget, just
don't expect too much.
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