Few villains have ever strode regally across the screen like Servalan. Jacqueline Pearce, like cast mate Paul Darrow, brought a Shakespearean relish and verve to the role. Like Darrow, she was a vital part of the series’ appeal and remains so today. Also like Darrow, she’s recently released a memoir of sorts.
However, where Darrow has gone for a full length (and very good) book, Pearce has opted for an extended conversation with Big Finish’s Nicholas Briggs. It’s excellent stuff, benefitting hugely from Briggs’ relaxed, friendly but carefully structured interviewing style. It also benefits hugely, as does Darrow’s book, from being listened to in formation with the other. Together they give you a very different view of a pair of actors best known for elegantly monstrous roles.
The first thing you notice with Pearce is how funny she is. She’s a natural storyteller and like Darrow is cheerfully honest about the more absurd elements of her career. The story about her learning to drive, with the aide of a guiding taxi, is particularly great and does an excellent job of showing you just how much more there is to her than the character.
Of course Blake’s 7 is the meat of the set and there’s good stuff there too. She reveals that she essentially walked straight onto set from a plane back into the country, modified the look of the character from the get go and made an instant impression that led to Servalan’s role being expanded. Like Darrow her stories speak very highly of the unusual and collaborative air around the Blake’s 7 production.
What’s especially interesting is how open Pearce is about mental health. Pearce was in therapy at the time and talks about how she feels that Servalan and her began to cross-pollinate over time. As she archly puts it ‘I didn’t suffer fools gladly…if at all.’ There’s incredible clarity of view here and Pearce talks about the issues she’s struggled with for years with absolute and inspirational honesty.
There’s a moment towards the end where she talks about how she’s amazed she survived her life but is delighted to have done so and that’s really Pearce, and this set, to a tee. Completely open, cheerfully profane and gloriously at home in an utterly well earned Renaissance. It’s an extraordinary, triumphant end to an interview with an extraordinary, triumphant talent.
Verdict: Engrossing, funny, honest and Pearce to a tee. A must listen. 9/10