Paul Darrow

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Name: Paul Darrow
Also Known As: Paul Valentine Birkby
Occupation: actor
Medium: TV, film, theatre
Works: Blake's 7, Doctor Who, Drake's Venture and others
Official Website(s):
Fan Website(s):
On Fanlore: Related pages
"Beloved Conjuror" by Suzan Lovett shows Darrow and some of his roles
from Gambit #7 (1991), artist is Lucia C. Moore
from Freedom City Gazette #2 (April 1987), artist is Ted Slampyak

Paul Darrow (born Paul Valentine Birkby, 2 May 1941 - 3 June 2019) was a popular actor most known to media fans for his portrayal of Kerr Avon in the BBC science fiction show Blake's 7 (1978-81).

from Southern Seven #4 (1988), artist is Karen River

He also twice appeared on Doctor Who, in Timelash (Doctor Who Episode) as Tekker and in Doctor Who and the Silurians as Captain Hawkins. Darrow's starring as Thomas Doughty is one of the major reasons for the fannish interest in the made-for-TV movie Drake's Venture, mostly due to the parallels of this role to that of Kerr Avon.

a portrait of Darrow, printed in 1988 in Southern Comfort #4, the artist is Theresa Buffaloe.

Intricate and Involved Relationship With Fans and Fandom

Darrow and co-star Michael Keating (Vila Restal) at Scorpio Con 1986

Darrow's 1980 comments about fans:

They make you what you are. I loathe some people’s attitude. There are one or two people, who shall be nameless, that I know very well who ignore letters and despise people who write in and I feel like thumping actors who say: “No, I don’t bother: I throw them straight in the wastepaper basket.” I think if people take the trouble to write, you should reply. Without them, you’re not going to get anywhere. I just wish some of the fans knew which people these were so that they didn’t support them any more and they wouldn’t get the work. I feel very strongly about the relationship you have with the people who watch you. That’s why I go to science fiction conventions: because that’s part of my job. [1]

Paul Darrow was a popular Guest of Honor at cons and had a close relationship with several big name fans. This personal involvement is at least partially responsible for Darrow's role as major player in the Blake's 7 Wars (also see Open Letters by the Darrows, Paul Darrow's Statement Read Aloud At The 1989 Gambit Convention), in the course of which Darrow also expressed his ire at slash fanworks involving his character.

Darrow (and Michael Keating, and to a much smaller extent, Gareth Thomas) was entwined with Leah Rosenthal and Ann Wortham's creation, Bizarro Universe, something that later complicated The Blake's 7 Wars. In 1985, Rosenthal wrote:

Anyone who's actually seen these folks in action knows in short order that they are actually more Bizarro in real life than they resemble the characters from the show. Annie and I had no idea of this fact when we started writing. If it were not for the fact that we have numerous witnesses, I'm sure it often looks as If we've taken their behavior in public as a model for many of the BIZARRO premises. The plain fact is that the opposite is true...we wrote most of these tales before, and ever since it's been an eerie case of life imitating BIZARRO, not the other way around. Paul Darrow stated after the fact on stage in Trenton, New Jersey that if he could not have been an actor, he would have liked to be a rock star 'because they get to wear all that neat black leather and studs'. We had no idea Gareth Thomas is a birdwatcher, nor that he would love the 'cute little ducks' at the pond in front of the hotel at SCORPIO (boy, was that embarrassing!). And Michael is always 'that way'. Period. To make matters worse, some of them have started writing B7 stories too (and I suspect at least one of them is putting Americans he's met into his literary effort, as models for characters. Better watch out, kiddies. It's all well and good to write 'get Avon' stories, but what the heck are you supposed to do when Avon starts writing 'get Avon' stories—?! I mean, gee whiz. For the record, although the actors are unaware of BIZARRO in general (which we prefer, for purposes of longevity), they have suggested ideas for actual stories.[2]

Rosenthal's comment regarding when "Avon starts writing 'get Avon' stories—?!" is likely a reference to Darrow's book, A Terrible Aspect. In 1992, Camille Bacon-Smith wrote:

Darrow visited widely on the convention circuit, dined with fans who traveled to see him, and joined with them in speculating about the psychology of his character [Kerr Avon]. Surrounded by fiction writers, Darrow himself wrote a book about the early life of his character, Avon. [3]

Camille Bacon-Smith, Enterprising Women

One fan's 1995 comments regarding Darrow and slash fanworks:

Throwing in my two cents worth on the Paul Darrow issue. From what I know via either talking with him, or hearing reports of other people who had talked even more extensively about the issue, was that he did really loathe slash - his opinions were incredibly conservative in general - but that he was perfectly capable both of pretending that it bothered him less than it did, and also not minding so much if he happened to like a particular person who was involved in doing it. Not very consistent, but very Darrow. [4]

A fan's comments in 1997:

Regarding kissing Paul. One of my friends (an Avon fan) was getting her picture taken with him at a con-organized photo session. They were cuddled up together quite cozily. As she started to walk away, their eyes met and it was if they mutually decided to kiss. It was very natural. I was serving as camcorder person for my friends during the session and caught it (and her smile after) on videotape.

Paul, more than any of the other B7ers that I've met, appears to glory in attention from fans. [5]

He also was very involved in some print zines, specifically Horizon Newsletter.

Darrow's pro book Avon: A Terrible Aspect about his Blake's 7 character Kerr Avon (1989) is almost universally disliked by the fandom. Nonetheless, despite periods of severe illness, Darrow continued to be involved in producing content in the role of the character as well as about the character right up until his passing in the early summer of 2019, primarily for Big Finish, for which he reprised as Avon in a large number of audio plays. Among these Big Finish productions is a further trilogy of novels about Avon written by Darrow, titled Lucifer, and Darrow's autobiography You're Him, Aren't You? and the associated audiobook, read by Darrow himself.

Darrow Was Not a Science Fiction Fan

Darrow was a science fiction fan [6], something he reiterated often.

Was Avon in Blake's 7 your first science fiction role? No, I did Dr Who many years ago, in which I played a captain who was cyluvionised (laughter). And of course I'd done a lot of television and repertory theatre before and after. I didn't have an interest in science fiction at all at that time, but I have built up a moderate interest since Blake. I've read books by Asimov and the like. [7] #18 (1980), also here</ref>

Science fiction? No, I must admit, I'm not a science fiction fan. I'm more interested in it than I was before (the show). I know more about 'Blake's 7' than about science fiction but then, sometimes I feel I'm not qualified to talk about that. I do enjoy science fiction sometimes. [8]

"Do you read science fiction?: Paul: 'No.' Janet: 'Never'." [9]

Darrow and Avon

The line was fine between Darrow the actor and Avon the character. It was a line Darrow himself blurred, as well as some fans.

In an interview for Starburst Magazine during the filming of series 4 of Blake's 7, Darrow discussed his relationship to his character.

How much of Avon is Paul Darrow? I think Avon is a lot like I would want to be, but not as cold and ruthless. You see you have to put him in the circumstances the programme presents, he's living in an extraordinary situation and you've got to be an extraordinary person to be able to cope. He's also a genius at self-preservation and completely self-centred. I don't think I am, I hope I'm not. I do have an affection for him though. He does things we wish we'd thought of doing in a certain situation, and he's not afraid of anything. He's not even afraid of death.

Starburst Magazine (Marvel Monthly) #18 (February 1980), interviewed by Ralph Scott: Starburst #18 (1980)

Upon his return to the role for Big Finish, Darrow reflected on the influence of Avon on his life:

Has the character of Avon ever really left you? That's a very good question and a tough one to answer. I suppose it's never really left me in a way; a part, by a process of osmosis, inculcates itself into your psyche. [...] It's always with you to an extent if you play it for a long period of time. [...] I think yes, to a certain extent, it does linger.

Paul Darrow in Vortex(Big Finish Magazine) Issue 36, interviewed by Paul Spragg.[10]

The cover features a photograph of Darrow as Kerr Avon (in series 4) blurring into a white background.
Cover of Paul Darrow's autobiography.

At this point, Darrow had already titled his autobiography You're Him, Aren't You? (2006) after being recognised as the actor who played Avon in the street, and all chapter titles in the autobiography are references to / quotes from Blake's 7. In the autobiography, Darrow writes

Blake's 7 took four years of my life. I've been an actor for forty years.

How can it be that something that constitutes but ten per cent of my working life has had such an influence upon my life as a whole? On TV, I have performed in many different programmes: series such as Emergency Ward 10, Dombey and Son, Murder Must Advertise, Doctor Who, Making News and The Legend of Robin Hood. In the theatre, I've played such parts as Cassius in Julius Caesar, the title roles in Luther and Macbeth, Elvis Presley and many others that I sometimes struggle to remember.


I walk down the street, or am shopping in a supermarket, and rarely does a day go by - this is quite true - that somebody doesn't say to me, 'You're him, aren't you?'

I do not complain. I don't mind being forever Avon.

Paul Darrow in his 2006 autobiography, You're Him, Aren't You?[11]

An example of the blurred lines between actor and character was in 1988 when a fan dedicated their zine to Darrow's real life wife: "This issue of B7 Complex is dedicated with great affection and gratitude to the woman in "Avon's" real life -- Janet Lees Price." Price herself sometimes referred to her husband as Avon, usually in a bit of humorous fan service. Upon going through Customs in New Zealand, Price said: "Our cases are searched by a Customs Officer bearing a strong resemblance to Travis. 'Avon's' dirty washing is exposed for all to see (it did cross my mind that had we been in America, I could have auctioned it)." [12]

A comment in 1997 by a fan:

Just keep in the back of your mind, Darrowmaniacs, that Mr. Darrow has quite a different idea of the character of Kerr Avon than that beloved by most of us. You only need to read his novel and explore his input into the characterization in Season 4 to catch on to this. Not better, not worse, just different.[13]

In 1997, Leah Rosenthal wrote:

I can only give a personal opinion, based on extensive personal contact with Paul Darrow in previous years. He appears to see Avon as a male "mary sue" type character for himself, which means Avon must be devoid of tender emotion toward women, is a lot more actively violent than the character on the show, and is less inclined toward loyalty with his associates. Up until Darrow became a scripting influence on the 4th Season, Avon was definitely showing a growing protective streak (non-verbalized, of course) toward his crew, and he definitely had a soft spot for the ladies. Contrast this with the violent sex in A:ATA.

I recall a long session after hours at a convention hotel, about 10 years back, where Darrow and a bunch of fans were playing "Oligarchy", a brilliant board game invented by Liz Sharpe that adapted the Monopoly game to the B7 universe. One of the rules of the game was that you HAD to play in character. Naturally, we were delighted to have Paul playing as Avon. As the game went on, though, a peculiar ruthlessness crept into his play and the Avon he was playing was clearly different. This was a topic of conversation among the other players, days after the game was concluded. You don't get much of a better demonstration of the differences between Avon, as shaped by the B7 writers and Avon, as visualized by the actor. [14]

Darrow in Fanworks

Darrow appears as RPF character in several fanfics within the Blake's 7 fandom, most notably in the fanzine Totally Imaginary Cheeseboard and its sequel The Other Side of the Coin, in which Darrow and his character Kerr Avon switch places.

Cover of The Other Side of the Coin by Gail Bennett

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

In Memorial: Fan Events and Fanworks

Following Darrow's passing in 2019, many fans were inspired to activities in his memory, alongside several public-facing obituaries.

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

The Horizon fan club planned a 2020 convention called Forever Avon, 'a one-day fan event memory of the legendary Paul Darrow, in aid of The Dog's Trust.' The event is titled after the above quote from Darrow's autobiography. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event had to be postponed to 2021.[15]

Also on Horizon, fan KentishSpaceRat proposed to produce 'an unofficial short story book in memory of Paul Darrow and to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund', equally titled 'Forever Avon'. It, too, had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as of early September 2020 is planning to be released in late September/early October.[16]

The third issue of digital fanzine Rebels and Fools (August 2019) is dedicated to the memory of Paul Darrow, with Kerr Avon featuring on the cover, an editorial addressing Darrow's passing and several fanworks within the zine seemingly inspired by his memory.

Some Darrow-Centric Zines

Some Darrow Fan Clubs

Darrow's Con Appearances

Darrow at California, photo by Eve Yazembiak, printed in Aspects #2



  1. ^ Paul Darrow on cult SciFi show “Blake’s 7” – its fans, scripts and BBC cutbacks, Archived version
  2. ^ from the editorial of The Bizarro Zine #1
  3. ^ Enterprising Women by Camille Bacon-Smith, pg 35-36 (1992).
  4. ^ Gayle F on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (Apr. 11, 1995)
  5. ^ comments by Carol A. McCoy at Lysator (25 Mar 1997)
  6. ^ Nor was his wife, Janet Lees Price: "She admits to having no interest in science fiction. Yet she is still thoughtful enough to put in an appearance at the SF conventions...." - from Aspects v.3 no.1 (9)
  7. ^ from Starburst
  8. ^ from an interview in Down and Unsafe #3 in 1985
  9. ^ from a questionnaire answered by Paul and Janet in Aspects v.4 n.4 (1991)
  10. ^ Paul Darrow Vortex (Big Finish Magazine) Issue 36 (February 2012), p. 5, interviewed by Paul Spragg.
  11. ^ Paul Darrow, You're Him, Aren't You? An Autobiography Big Finish, 2006, p. 4.
  12. ^ from Aspects #2, Avon Club Newsletter #35 (both in early 1989)
  13. ^ comment on Lysator (24 Mar 1997)
  14. ^ comment on Lysator (24 Mar 1997)
  15. ^ Horizon Forum, (Accessed 24/08/2020)
  16. ^ Project Thread on Horizon Forum, includes the initial proposal from August 2019, as well as all updates and list of contributions. (Accessed 13 September 2019)