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Interview with Cavan Scott - Part One

Interview with Cavan Scott - Part One
Jackie Emery and Diane Gies
with additional questions by Jude Constable

Cavan Scott is a prolific writer of books, comics, audio dramas and non fiction for children and adults. Together with co-writer Mark Wright, his contributions to Big Finish's Blake's 7 range include the first novel, The Forgotten, The Liberator Chronicles stories The Armageddon Storm, Blake's Story and the three stories in the newly-released Liberator Chronicles Volume 9. They also wrote the two-part finale of the first all-cast series, Cold Fury and Caged. Cavan has now taken over the reins from David Richardson as producer of Big Finish's Blake's 7 audios, and we were delighted that he was able to find time in his hectic schedule to give us an interview.

Cavan is also producing the next series of Big Finish's Vienna, and met us after a day in studio with Chase Masterson. "I have to get my head into Blake's 7 now," he said, miming swapping heads. To ease him in gently, we began by asking him about his childhood influences...

Cavan: My early influences were The Beano and Doctor Who. And they are still very much part of my life, because now I write for both Doctor Who and The Beano!

I was a massive British comics fan – The Beano, Dandy, Whizzer & Chips, all that lot. I loved the weekly humour comics which don't really exist any more, apart from The Beano. I've got very strong memories of runs of Minnie the Minx; Minnie going on a European tour one summer. When I was working on The Beano, going up to the D.C. Thomson offices in Dundee, I talked to the guys in the office but they couldn't really remember that story. But then I was going through the D.C. Thomson archives and I found the artwork for that run. "This is it, this is Minnie going on tour with her Dad!"

I got quite emotional, because I remembered that summer holiday. My Mum and Dad had this thing where we used to spend two days in a Trusthouse Forte here and two days in a different town there, and I would be getting The Beano with the Minnie the Minx story as we toured around. I was very excited to find the artwork and then realised the guy who wrote it was standing behind me – I was in complete geek heaven! So my love of comics in general and graphic novels started with The Beano. From there I went on to superheroes, and then science fiction comics, 2000AD and Judge Dredd.

On TV and in books it was Doctor Who. I was growing up when Tom Baker was at his height and I was terrified of him – not the monsters, just Tom Baker! Basically, it's K9's fault. I loved K9 and wanted my own K9. I used to change channels when I was scared, but then had to turn back to see what happened to K9. Then I discovered and devoured the Terrence Dicks Doctor Who novelisations. From Doctor Who I went the obvious routes, you know - Blake's 7, Star Trek – genre TV which I've never left, and which is still my main love on television and film.

It's always been Doctor Who and The Beano, and those were the influences that made me want to write. The two are quite intertwined for me, and that's why I'm so chuffed I do what I do now. Everything I do comes from those two British institutions.

Horizon: What were the first things you wrote?

Cavan: When I was at school, Time Lords would sometimes turn up in my stories, or the Liberator would be in the sky. I wrote my own comic strips, and drew them in my very limited way. And I wrote a Superman novel! I must have been about 13 or 14 years old, and I was convinced I was going to send it off and DC were going to say, "Oh wow, why have we not been doing Superman novels?!" It was a very Christopher Reeves Superman story. I think it was mainly Superman 3; there was definitely an evil Superman in it. That Superman novel – in the loosest sense of the word – was my first bit of fan fiction.

When I was at University, I wrote Doctor Who fan fiction that was published in fanzines. I got involved in Doctor Who fandom, but when I say 'involved', I didn't go to conventions, I just used to get the Doctor Who Appreciation Society newsletter, and sent off for fanzines that were advertised in the back. I wrote some truly awful Doctor Who fan fiction, but didn't really follow it through. I moved on and when I became a journalist writer I was trying to do my own things – but I was still influenced by the things I loved.

I always knew I wanted to be a journalist. When my grandma died, we found magazines I'd put together when I was a kid called The Great Scott – I've always been modest! I used to go round interviewing my family. My Dad loves audio, he records concerts and things, so I always had mics, and I had a reel-to-reel tape player in my room for years. I used to do radio shows and DJ-ing. My Grandad was the head of religious broadcasting at BBC Bristol, and I used to shadow him and just be in the studio. Actually, my first bit of broadcast fiction – I've not thought about this for years – was a short story I wrote when I was really young about an angel who nearly missed the Nativity. His halo had slipped down over his eyes, so when the Heavenly Host comes down, he's not there. And because my Grandad used to do Thought for the Day for BBC Radio Bristol, they got me in to read it. But what I was most excited about was that they played the Box of Delights version of The First Noel in the background – I think I almost stopped reading when I recognised it! Somewhere I've still got this tape of my first broadcast fiction, but it will probably never be heard again.

I went to university in Manchester and got a Theology degree, because you do a lot of writing and research for Theology. I got a job on local magazines up there, trying stuff out, but knew I wanted to work in magazine journalism.

Future Publishing in Bath was the big publisher at the time. I got a job working in print production, not writing, but preparing files for the printers. But once I was there, I started badgering all the editors saying, "Let me write for you!"

SFX launched the first month I was at Future Publishing and I kept asking if I could write for them. Eventually Dave Golder, the deputy-editor, gave me a pile of novels, including some really heavy fantasy epics – to put me off, I think! - and he said, "Can you read these over the weekend? I need 30 words on each of them by Monday." So I sat down all weekend and didn't move, and read all those novels. Anyway, on the Monday I went in with my 30 words on each of the novels, and I reckon Dave just thought, Oh heavens, he's not going to go away! So he kept giving me reviews to do of really bad things.

I wrote for anything – computer magazines, music magazines... I wanted a staff job, so I went for interviews for jobs that I was no way qualified for. Eventually I did get a staff job on T3, a technology magazine. The first thing I wrote for T3 was a piece about this new technology called Digital Versatile Disk and how it might change a few things! I also wrote that mini disk isn't going to go away, we're going to love mini disk forever. Got that one wrong! It was a really exciting time, because it was when DVD was coming out and HD was first being mentioned, although that was a long way off. I really couldn't have asked for a better first job. I flew all over the world; going to Japan to meet the people doing robotics at Sony. I got to do all the toys-for-boys kind of things, and that was my training for writing. I started off as staff writer, and worked my way up to features editor on T3. I stayed at Future Publishing, working around the different magazines, eventually becoming editor on various mags, and I launched Future's children's section.

Then I got head-hunted by the BBC and my career zigzagged between all sorts of different things. One day I'd be doing an interview for a business magazine, then I'd do Muffin the Mule magazine for pre-school, then Disney Girl, Pirates of the Caribbean... I ended up launching Countryfile magazine for the BBC, which I loved. I still write for magazines now, but Countryfile was my last editorial staff job.

Horizon: On your website you say you wish there was a magazine that would let you review biscuits.

Cavan: Oh, yes!

Horizon: And Simon Guerrier likes to get biscuits into every episode he writes. Is there a connection?

Cavan: There is a connection – we're both freelance writers, so we work very near a biscuit barrel! I love good food, and I love bad food as well. One of the best things about editing Countryfile was that I got to review pork pies. Now I want to review biscuits to go with my reviews of pork pies. I just love biscuits!

Horizon: How did you come to join Big Finish?

Cavan: I was introduced to Mark Wright, who I still write with, by a mutual friend at Future Publishing. Mark came down to Bath from Halifax because he wanted to get into writing. Being a very canny man, he got a job in the pub where we all went after work – The Garrick's Head, by the Theatre Royal. Steve O'Brien, who worked on SFX, introduced us and said, "This is Cav, this is Mark. You both want to write fiction but are too lazy to do it on your own, so why don't you write together?" And by the time that evening had finished, Mark and I had come up with an idea to pitch to BBC Books for a Doctor Who novel.

But then we heard about this Big Finish thing that was coming up. We knew people involved; we knew Gary Russell a bit – Mark knew him better than I did – and we'd met Nick Briggs a couple of times. So we put together an idea for a Doctor Who vampire story and sent it in to Gary, at which point we found out that there were seven other people who had also pitched Doctor Who vampire stories! Gary said that the best one would win and we didn't hear anything for ages, so we thought we hadn't won. But about a year later Gary phoned up and said, "We really like your story, and as long as you change most things in it, we're going to do it!" That was Project Twilight, which was one of Big Finish's early Doctor Who audios with Colin Baker. It was our first Big Finish project, and we've worked for them ever since, together and separately, for about 15 years.

Horizon: Technically, how does it work, writing in a partnership? Do you write alternate chapters?

Cavan: We started out writing alternate scenes, but that never worked. The thing is, Mark and I have never lived in the same city since we started writing together. We got the commission for Project Twilight, and then Mark moved to London with his job. He was working on a DVD magazine for Future Publishing, and they moved their office to London. Now he lives in Halifax – I'm sure he's just trying to get further away from me! But thanks to technology, it doesn't really matter. We spend hours on Skype plotting things together, coming up with ideas and working out outlines. Because we write tie-in fiction, we have to have an outline, and that has to be approved. There's a very strong skeleton, a framework. Then we literally split it up.

Horizon: So you say, "I'll do chapters 1–3, and you do chapters 4-6?"

Cavan: Yes, exactly that. Or, "You do the beginning and I'll do the end." With Caged and Cold Fury, I wrote one, he wrote the other and then we swapped drafts and brought them together. We've just done a two-part Doctor Who, and Mark's written the first episode and I've written the second. There's another Big Finish series called Pathfinder which we haven't written together, but we ended up writing alternate stories. The producer, John Ainsworth, said he couldn't tell the difference in the style, which is why they asked us to do it. We've written so much together that we're quite similar now in our styles. We can even pre-empt the sort of jokes the other one's going to put in. Quite often we get back a draft of the other's episode and we've not even told each other, "I'm going to put this in", but it's occurred to both of us at the same time. Obviously you've got things to tweak, and there will be moments when Mark will say, "Cav, that's rubbish, don't do that!" and I'll say the same to him. But we've worked together long enough not to annoy each other when we do that.

When we split things up, we take it in turns as to who writes the beginning and who writes the end. It also comes down to whoever's got less work on that week. It's practicalities, because we're both jobbing writers, juggling a lot of projects. We have to make sure that our schedules fit. Mark and I don't get to see each other very often – usually studio time is the only chance we get to see each other now. We've got our lives – Mark is the godfather of my eldest kid and I was best man at his wedding this year, and we're very good friends.

Horizon: When you're commissioned to write a story, how long does it take to turn round?

Cavan: That depends on how soon it's needed. It can be anything from 'We need an outline by next week' to a month, or more than a month. David Richardson is really good at commissioning ahead, but sometimes you can't do that. I've got some projects for Big Finish which are six months ahead and some that I know they need next week, so it all depends on the project. But when you're a jobbing writer who writes for lots of different things, when people say, "I need something next week," you fit it in if you can, because that's your job.

Horizon: Let's talk about Blake's 7 – how old were you when you started watching?

Cavan: It was 1980, so I would have been 7 years old. I'd heard about Blake's 7 from friends in the playground, I knew about the characters, but hadn't seen it before. When you're that age and not in control of the telly, it's quite hard to watch what you want. My Mum and Dad aren't science fiction fans and didn't have it on the telly much. I used to watch Doctor Who at my Grandma's house because she was a big fan. So my first memory of Blake's 7 was coming downstairs one evening in 1980 and finding the telly had been left on and I walked in to see Michael Troughton with something horrible dribbling out of the side of his mouth! That was the first bit of Blake's 7 I ever saw, and I was pretty much hooked. After that I put my foot down and nagged my parents to let me watch it. I didn't see all the episodes, but if I was around and my parents let me, I watched it from then on.

Back then, Blake's 7 was all about Avon, as far as I was concerned. Blake was someone they talked about, he was this figure that they all wanted – and then Avon increasingly wanted – to get back to. Or sometimes he didn't. And then sometimes he really did! Then Blake finally turned up and he was not at all what I expected him to be. When I look back now, my childhood view of Blake was a man with half an eye missing and a big hole in his gut at the end of the episode.

Years later, the VHS compilation tapes came out with those weird mash-up episodes, and those were my introduction to Blake and the early series. It was really odd for me to go back and not have Tarrant and Dayna on the Liberator. And who's this Gan person? What happened to him? Oh, that's what happened to him! I came about the series latter half first, which could explain some of the stories I've written.

Horizon: So after seeing them all, which became your favourite series?

Cavan: Season C, definitely. I love it; it's bonkers, and Avon's bonkers, but there's just something about C that I just love. Partly because it's the first one I ever watched, but it's also got a real feel to it. If I had to choose my favourite series with Blake in it, that would be the second series. But my favourite is always going to be Season C.

Horizon: Who was your favourite character when you first watched, and is that person still your favourite?

Cavan: As a child starting with Season C, Avon was my favourite. I came from a Doctor Who background, and Avon is so not the Doctor, it's brilliant! In my head, it was the Avon and Vila show. I think I realised quite early on that Tarrant is a bully, he's really nasty to Vila – and I quite liked Vila. I loved the fact that the Liberator wasn't like the Enterprise. The crew weren't all jolly and happy and doffing their cap to the captain, they were snarking at each other. Some weeks it seemed to be that one person was in charge, and then another person's in charge, but all the time we know it was really Avon. At that age, I was thinking, I like this, because it was a bit like a playground, with everyone struggling to be the top dog on the ship. The characters seemed very childlike and that appealed to me as a kid.

Avon is still my favourite character. And Vila. But Tarrant's good – oh, it's so hard to choose! I like Dayna as well. But it's always been Avon. It's his voice as well, you know. If any of the crew are reading this – sorry, I really love you too! But when I was a kid I wanted to be Avon. I was usually the tallest, so I got away with it. I was always Avon when we played Blake's 7, waving a stick around, pretending it was a handgun.

Horizon: In the series, we see Blake both as 'zealot and lost it' and 'decent man on a mission'. We see Avon both as 'mean and self serving', and 'wounded, would-be leader'. Other characters also have two sides to their characters too – Cally is action guerilla fighter and vulnerable telepath, Vila is cowardly fool but also 'clever and brave'. Is Jenna a feisty space pirate or glamorous teleport operator? Which aspect of each do you favour? Which nuances do you most like to explore?

Cavan: Okay, let's start with Blake. Blake is both. He starts off as a decent man on a mission, but then he gets more and more zealot-like and more and more obsessed. We explored this in the first full cast audio series, the way Blake yo-yos them across the galaxy, doing whatever he thinks is right at that particular moment. And the others all follow him, even Avon, who's still there, even though he could have left at any point. But in the TV series, Blake does become worse and worse. Gan dies because of him, which is why in the full cast we had Jenna remind him of that and have the moment where Blake has to remember. The full cast series is set quite soon after Gan dies, so it's there, in their heads. It's quite raw.

Blake at the beginning is the idealist, he thinks he can make a difference. But by the end of Season B, he's so desperate to make a difference that he's getting it wrong. I think it's heartbreaking, that look he gives Avon as he leaves the flight deck. Because he realises he's lost and knows at that point that Avon is taking over. It's a brilliant moment, and it's given us at Big Finish so much to play with; that one look that Blake gives Avon, and how Avon is suddenly in control. That is the seed of all the stuff we've done with Blake; that moment when he turns round and you can see in his eyes that he realises that the Liberator is not his ship any more. That's what the lines in Blake's Story were when he talks about 'My Liberator'. It's not, by that point, but Blake is trying to tell himself it is.

Jenna should be a feisty space pirate. That's definitely where I would like the character go in any stories I produce. I call being the teleport operator ‘being on reception’ in a story. In fact, a story for the new full casts came from that exact thought.

Horizon: In the TV series, we get the impression that Jenna fancies Blake, but that he is oblivious or indifferent to this. However, Big Finish seem to be going further in exploring their relationship.

Cavan: There’s something there isn't there? Regarding exploring it: watch this space!
Avon... Paul keeps saying to me that we're making Avon too heroic! But yeah, he's completely out for himself at the beginning. That's what I love about Blake's 7, there are proper character arcs, proper development. What they develop into isn't always nice, but all the characters go, as people like to say, "on a journey". By the end, who knows what's going on in Avon's head? It's almost personal, it's almost like the Federation by the end is a personal slight against him, and he's taking on the universe. It's not power corrupting, but it's power going to his head. He was a bit megalomaniac, thinking, 'I can do anything' – which plays into what we did with The Armageddon Storm, giving him a weapon that he might be able to use. I do think that Avon goes mad!

Vila is my favourite character to write for, because Vila is incredibly intelligent. He's the most intelligent man on the Liberator, because he plays the fool – it's his survival mechanism. It's very easy to see Vila as the joke, as the clown, as the way the other characters think of him, but Mark and I are trying to play with the idea that there's more going on under the surface. This is a theme that comes back all the time in the things we write for Vila, and it's something we want to develop. Also because Michael wants stuff to get his teeth into for Vila, and Michael is such a brilliant actor – they all are. There's stuff coming up in Secrets in the next Liberator Chronicles where he lets loose with both barrels, and none of the other crew see it, because it's between Vila and David Warner's character, but we get to see Vila. The great thing about Liberator Chronicles is that because it's internal monologue, we can see into their heads, which we've never really been able to do before. And Vila gives us so much to play with. He's just fascinating to write for.

We wanted to have Cally and Vila together in The Armageddon Storm, because they work fantastically well. You can see it in the TV episodes. Cally is the most empathic character on the ship, and she does 'get' Vila, she sees through him. It's nothing to do with being a telepath, she just knows what he's up to. Cally can naturally see though masks. Coming from a world where there are so many people who look like each other as well, that's an interesting thing to play with. That's why I think there's a real feeling of betrayal in Caged – Cally really struggles with the fact that Vila's turned on them.

What we're trying to do with Cally is readdress what happened with the character. Cally, let's face it, is a freedom fighter when we first meet her. She's a bad-ass! But that gets lost along the way and she goes in so many different directions – because she's the telepath, because she's empathic, she gets a bit 'Wooo', you know. We've very much gone down the route of Cally as the action girl. You'll see in the new Liberator Chronicles, that Cally and Avon go on an undercover mission – they basically have a James Bond adventure, with Avon pretending to be a businessman with Cally as his aide/mistress. And she has some proper fights, because that's what she started off as. Jan's very keen on saying that Cally is not a wallflower. She can give as good as she gets in any situation. The good thing about Cally's telepathy is that it's never actually fully defined. It just did whatever they needed it to in any particular episode. We have set ourselves certain rules about what it can and cannot do, but in The Armageddon Storm, because it was a psychic planet, we could explore that a bit and have her doing stuff that was a bit cleverer and a bit more powerful.

The great thing about Blake's 7 is that there are a lot of partnerships you can do and they always bring something new to the dynamic. I have yet to write or produce an Avon-Tarrant story, but that's coming, because I want to hear them butting heads, each one trying to prove that they're in charge!

Tarrant mellows in Season 4, but he's a git in Season 3! When you watch Season 3, you wonder if they knew what they wanted to do with the character. Blake's gone, and you've suddenly got lines like, 'Servalan wants to get Tarrant and the crew' – wait a minute, Tarrant and the crew?! We've tried to address that; why Tarrant is suddenly more important in some episodes as far as the Federation is concerned. There are moments when nobody trusts Tarrant, because he's Federation. He's risen up the ranks really quickly, so something had to be going right for him. We've given him a past, which is something we can do with characters – open up their past a bit more. We know about his brother, but we're dealing now with his Federation past, his professional past. But I'm not going to say any more, because I don't want to spoil things for you! I'm a big Steven Pacey fan – I've got many of his audio books, I just love his voice. I think we're quite true to Tarrant in his characterisation, but we can stretch it, and we're putting all those moments in between him and Avon that make it Blake's 7.

Horizon: What are your general views on Travis as a character?

Cavan: I love him. Both of him. Mark and I are lucky that we’ve got to write for both the versions, first in The Forgotten and then Cold Fury / Caged.

Horizon: Would you tailor a Travis script differently, depending on which season/actor the episode was for?

Cavan: Oh absolutely tailor them. The basics are there, but the characteristics are different. I wonder if we’ll ever tell the story of why…

Horizon: Zen, Orac, Slave, Gambit... if you were to create a new computer for the Blake's 7 universe, how would you go about it?

Cavan: That's a good question... (long pause)... Oh ho, you've made me think, now! And the reason you've made me think is because in Vienna, which I've been producing today, there's a computer that I thought was quite interesting. What I love about the Blake's 7 computers is that they are all so different. You've got Orac and his sarkiness – he puts everyone's back up, because he's just sitting there in the corner being superior. You've got Zen, who obviously just does the job. Slave is apologetic. I think I'd quite like a computer who is actually quite personable, but sneaky... So I'm going to fudge that answer, because I hadn't really thought about it, but you've just given me ideas. You might well find out how I will create a new computer!

Horizon: Blake's 7 was very much a product of its time. How do you produce new material for a modern world in which the zeitgeist has changed, and yet stay true to tone of the original?

Cavan: The zeitgeist has changed, Blake's 7 was very much a product of the Cold War. But the barriers are still there, the regimes are still there, and perhaps it's given us the chance to think about those things from a different angle. The second episode of The Armageddon Storm was very much informed by the scenes we see on TV in the Middle East. It was in my head and Mark's head when we were writing it – baking sun on stone houses, rubbish all over the floor and a war-torn country. I think Blake's 7 still has a lot of relevance today and it's not that difficult to get yourself in that mindset.

One thing I always come back to – and I think Blake's 7 dealt with it as well – is when a regime falls, what takes its place? Those are some of the themes you'll see coming up in future Blake's 7 stories – if the Federation goes, especially in Season C where the Federation is already fractured, what happens then? Those vacuums will be filled, so who will fill them, and will they be better than the devil you know? The Federation is a wider universe out there. One thing you'll see a bit in the new Liberator Chronicles, and in some of the full cast audios, is what it's like on other Federation worlds. We've seen what the Federation has done to Earth and its citizens, but there are also very rich Federation worlds out there.

In Defector there's a Federation conference with Servalan descending from on high to address the senate, a proper dignitary senate, which Tarrant and Del Grant sneak their way into. We wanted it to be a world where if you didn't know better, you would think that the Federation was all wonderful. It's the capital city, there are posters and banners of Servalan flapping in the wind. It's Servalan saying, "There's been a war, but we will keep you strong, we will protect you, the Federation will look after you!" It's given us a chance to play with the propaganda a bit, and again, I think the propaganda, the public rhetoric, has still got a lot of relevance to what's going on today. I'm fascinated by the Federation in its many different forms, because it's not just one thing. It's not the evil Star Wars Empire. It's Nazi Germany, with a lot of people who don't believe in it but have to live in it, lots of people who do believe in it, lots of rallies, lots of stuff going on – it can't just be the little bits of it we saw in the show. So we're having fun exploring all that.

Horizon: Terry Nation always said he based the Federation on Nazi Germany.

Cavan: It was a hobby horse of Terry's, it was his childhood influence. The Federation aren't goose stepping, but there are stormtroopers and the implications are obvious.

Bringing in the President was one of the best things David Richardson did. It's given us another angle to the Federation that isn't Travis or Servalan. There was all the stuff in Caged with the President saying, "I will take this ship and I will drag it through every Federation world to show them what the terrorist is doing and this is what we do to them." Because it's that classic thing, the President doesn't think he's evil; the President thinks he's right. Servalan doesn't think she's evil – she thinks she's fabulous! She's doing what's right for her a lot of the time, but she does believe in her Federation. But even if Servalan becomes President of the Federation, she is still only a part of it. We're trying to get that across. So one thing I am trying to push is this idea that for many people in the galaxy, Blake and his crew are the baddies. Although there are those who really support him, there are others out there who are scared of this person and his ship. We try to show that when the Liberator crew come barging through and just shoot troopers willy nilly – these are not Star Wars stormtroopers, they're not clones - they're people, they've got lives. It's that Austin Powers moment, the person's been shot in Dr Evil's lounge and people saying afterwards, "Bob was a great guy, and Austin Powers just shot him!"

Horizon: How do you deal with feedback and criticism?

Cavan: Slam doors! - (laughs) - no, we expect it. There was always going to be criticism of The Forgotten, and we got everything: 'It's too traditional', 'It's not traditional enough', 'It's like a greatest hits package...' But we'd wanted it to feel like proper first season, because it would be the first new Blake's 7 thing that fans had seen for ages. And it actually worked out; a lot of people have come to Big Finish's Blake's 7 range because they picked up The Forgotten and it was the Blake's 7 that they recognised. There were some continuity howlers, but that was down to the speed Mark and I wrote it in. The Blake's 7 licence came through, Big Finish wanted a book out quickly and the editor Xanna Chown came to us and said, "How would you like to write..." and I don't think the sentence was finished before we both said "Yes!" Then Xanna told us when she needed it... It was a bit of a baptism of fire! Luckily we've had the chance to fix the mistakes, and the book's now been reprinted a couple of times.

Horizon: As the first book in the range, I thought it did very well – the tone was spot on. It felt like an episode.

Cavan: That's exactly what we wanted it to be, the 'lost novelisation'. But we always knew there were going to be people who would hate it. And I just think, as long as it's getting a reaction, that's a good thing.

We also knew people would have an issue with some of the stuff in Blake's Story. I know people have looked at what Mark and I have written for Blake and say, "Well, that's just your view of Blake." But it's brilliant that people have been discussing it on forums, because it means they've listened to it and it affects them enough that they want to pull it to pieces. If it didn't do that, it would be ineffectual.

When David asked us to write Blake's Story there was that moment of going, "What us? Really?!" It was completely daunting, it was a case of 'What story do we tell?' We talked long and hard over which route we should take Blake down. Do we make his life after the Liberator one of victory? But in our minds, that's not the route we thought he took. We had about three different possibilities, three different ways we could have taken Blake, but eventually we had to decide, 'This is the route we're going.' We discussed it with Justin Richards and David Richardson, talking through what he was doing. So that's what ended up as Blake's Story. And some people liked it, and some people didn't. I knew there would be people who would say, "You're being a Blake-basher" or, "Blake wouldn't have ended up like that," but we couldn't tell a story that would make everyone happy. We had the chance to do one story; to tell a year's worth of story in sixty minutes. But I loved the idea that it would be one that would get people talking.

Horizon: Having Avon in the story was also controversial.

Cavan: We knew that it would be controversial, as soon as people saw on the cover Blake's Story – starring Gareth Thomas and Paul Darrow, and you know that it can't really be Avon!

It was informed by that first scene in Blake, where he's sitting cooking a rabbit. There was something about that scene. And we were thinking, how long has Blake been in that wood? How long has he been living there? We don't know what the time scales were. We had a long conversation about whether we were going to name the planet, before we decided that we would. Because Blake's Story is not the end of Blake's storyline, it's the beginning of his final phase.

We don't think that Blake ends up mad, talking to ghosts by the fire. But at some point before Blake we decided as storytellers that he has a mental crisis that saw him having a conversation with someone whom he visualised as Avon. And from that point, he's a different man. So I don't believe when you see him in Blake that he's got all these demons going on in his head, but at some point in his past I think he did, because he had a lot to come to terms with.

Horizon: Was there anything in Blake's Story that was criticised, that you weren't expecting?

Cavan: Our political views! Because I forgot that people would look at this as an extension of who we are. I've seen stuff online where they've slammed me and Mark for our views on liberty and freedom. But Blake's Story isn't us saying anything about fighting for freedom. We're just telling the story of a man in a world, and we thought it was an interesting take.

I don't read all the criticism. You would go mad if you did. I know people who never read reviews, but I don't think I could do that. I'm too inquisitive to ignore reviews, so I dip in. Obviously, at the time criticism feels like a personal slight, but we're writers who write in other people's worlds and when you do that, you have got to be prepared for the fact that there are going to be people who say, "That's not my idea of that world."

You get it especially with something like Blakes 7, because the fandom owned it for so long. There was nothing new for decades and the fans kept it going. Now you've got us lot coming in, and going: "Hi, we're doing Blake's 7!" and a lot of people must think, "No, no, we've done Blake's 7 for the last 30 years – we've done the fan fiction, we've worked out what the characters were feeling – and now you're trying to tell us what the characters were feeling?" But I think it's brilliant to have the kind of fan base that would pick it up. I'm all for criticism, yeah – rip our stuff to shreds! Discuss it, talk about it, like it – oh, please like it! - and come and tell us at conventions what you think about it. Have a conversation!

To be continued...


In Part Two of our interview Cavan talks to Horizon about the transition from writing to producing Big Finish's Blake's 7 audios and his plans for the future of the range.


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