Audiobook Review: Paul Darrow's autobiography "You're Him, Aren't You?"
"You're Him, Aren't You?"
Written and Read by Paul Darrow

Directed by: Lisa Bowerman
Sound Design: Neil Gardner
Cover Art: Grant Kempster
Produced by: Cavan Scott for Big Finish Productions

Review by Jackie Emery

First, a confession: I haven't read Paul Darrow's original autobiography that was published by Big Finish in 2006. However, this meant that ten years later I was in for a treat - hearing it for the first time, read by the author. It was a delight to discover what is possibly Paul's most enjoyable book to date.

Paul has a wonderful voice; his narration is relaxed and intimate as he shares the story of his life in amused, informal tones. When quoting other people, both male and female, he captures their accents and cadences of speech to great effect. He invites the listener into his confidence, addressing them directly with lines such as: "I expect you were wondering..." and "...don't you agree?" Many of his asides made me smile, some made me laugh out loud.

After three introductory chapters, Paul begins his life story with his family background and history. He explains how his parents met, his war-time childhood, school days and the influences that inspired him to become an actor. Some of the places he describes are familiar to me from my own childhood – the cinemas in Golders Green and Hendon, and the holidays in Hove ("more genteel than Brighton"). It was amusing to learn that some of his childhood haunts were later also mine.

Paul talks about learning acting at RADA, working in repertory theatres around the country, the actors he appeared with and the many famous people he has encountered. By his own admission, Paul likes name dropping, and plenty of famous names are mentioned throughout the book, including the Queen Mother. After recounting several romances from his teenage years onwards, Paul describes meeting and marrying Janet Lees Price, and how their appearance together on the TV series Emergency Ward 10 led to them being recognised while on their honeymoon in Paris.

With Paul's acting credentials firmly established, in Chapter 10 we come at last to Blake's 7, and from here on a substantial amount of the book is given over to the series. This chapter is entitled Thieves, Killers, Mercenaries, Psychopaths – all the titles are Avon quotes. Paul is well aware that his audience and readership are mainly fans of B7 in general and Avon in particular; those who approach him in the street, saying: "You're him, aren't you?" are unlikely to be referring to his character in Dombey and Son. Starting with Terry Nation's original premise, Paul talks about the making of the series; the casting process, his audition, meeting the directors and his fellow actors. He describes working on location and in studio, and how much fun they had during production.

Paul devotes an entire chapter (The Plain Man's Guide to Alien Invasion) to a synopsis of every episode of Blake's 7 from his / Avon's point of view. Sprinkled with amusing asides and behind-the-scenes anecdotes, the synopses are told in Paul's idiosyncratic style, in which he sometimes conflates 'Universe' with 'Galaxy' and refers to beaming up instead of teleporting. I found it endearing that often as not, he refers to the series as 'B7', as a fan would do, rather than 'Blake's 7'. This chapter is aimed squarely at the fans, and the better they know the episodes, the more they will enjoy Paul's take on them. However, the synopses are full of spoilers, and if some readers/listeners are new to B7 and have not yet seen the whole series, they might want to skip this chapter until they've caught up!

Subsequent chapters describe Terry Nation's plans for a continuation of the story, and the BBC's two audio plays. Other chapters recount Paul's work on Doctor Who, and the phenomenon of fandom ("a world out of the ordinary"). There are many anecdotes about conventions where he encountered "the kindness of strangers who soon became friends".

The bonus extra chapter, exclusive to the audiobook, describes the revival of B7 under the banner of Big Finish, and Paul talks about how much fun it is to be reunited with his fellow cast members to reprise their roles in new audio adventures.

'Fun' is a word Paul uses a lot, and his optimistic attitude shines throughout the book. He muses on philosophical questions, describes an early interest in religion and explains that he likes to look at situations from a comedic perspective.

Bringing his story up to date, Paul lists his current projects. There are still unfulfilled ambitions, but while he waits for Hollywood to offer him a major movie role, he is enjoying his work and is content for the character with whom he is most associated to ever be hovering at his shoulder.

"I do not complain," he says. "I do not mind being forever Avon."

The audiobook You're Him, Aren't You? is available on CD and Digital Download from the Big Finish website here, where you can also listen to or download a trailer.
It is still available a hardback book here.

Originally posted on 03 August 2016