“Do you know what,” Sophie said as she pointed at my brand new, black knee boots, “if you got yourself a silver leather tunic you’d be Avon.” As is so often the case, Sophie gets the credit for coming up with an idea that I’m mad enough to turn into a reality. And this one is mad: cosplaying Avon from Blakes 7 feels a bit like heresy, even if it does fit with my hipster 1970s British SF cosplay aesthetic.
For those of you unfamiliar with the source material, Blakes 7 was created by Terry Nation, the creator of the Daleks, in the late 1970s. The pitch was for the Dirty Dozen in space – a drama that followed the exploits of a mismatched crew of convicted criminals who had escaped from a tyrannical Government on a stolen spaceship and under the leadership of the messianic Roj Blake. the only innocent man among them. Famously made on a shoestring budget and with a notoriously inaccurate title (Blake only appeared in the first two series, and there were never seven of them …) it was still a massive hit, pulling in weekly viewing figures of around 11m, despite being scheduled against Coronation Street. The strength was in the scripts: this was a drama influenced by Thatcher and the Northern Ireland Troubles, where the ‘good’ guys cause more death and destruction than the ‘bad’ guys, and men of principle become the very thing they despise. It’s a series whose influence reaches far, into Firefly, Farscape, Dark Matter and any other number of series you could mention.
Right from the start, Paul Darrow stole the show with his characterisation of Kerr Avon, the cold, calculating fraudster. Avon is probably the truest antihero in the history of British television: scriptwriters were famously told to always give him two reasons for any choice he made, the altruistic one and the self-interested one. This computer genius is not the awkward, bespectacled geek one sees in contemporary dramas. He is resourceful, ruthless and with cutting remarks and sarcasm as sharp as his cheekbones. As a child I was captivated by the slow reveal of his character’s tragic backstory of betrayed love, and his sparring with the evil Servalan, where sex was just another weapon in their tussle for power.
Costumier June Hudson brought a fantastic look to the second series, in particular. There was a hell of a lot of beautifully tailored leather and some iconic looks. Paul Darrow (and Jacqueline Pearce) would cheerfully wear anything she designed for him, leading to some pretty amazing outfits. One of Avon’s most famous is known as the ‘oven ready’: a glorious tunic made from silver doe-skin, worn with thigh-high Household Cavalry-style bucket boots. If you listen carefully, you can hear them squeaking as he walks around the set.
So if I was going to cosplay – or rather crossplay – Avon, the oven-ready was an obvious choice. Swap the tunic for a mini-dress and you’re home free. To be honest, I’m surprised no-one seems to have done it before.
Unlike last year’s Missy, which was an epic make, this costume was one pulled together mostly from commercial sources. The dress is one I found on eBay. It’s a Marks and Spencers silver sequinned dress which comes in both regular and petite lengths (this is the regular). The sequins give it the same look as the doe-skin. The polo neck is one I had already. Instead of ski-pants I’m wearing 120 denier opaque tights, and the boots are model’s own, from Ted and Muffy (formerly Duo). The studded belt was another eBay bargain.
Where this costume got spendy, was in the accessories. My teleport bracelet was one I bought through Horizon, the Blakes 7 fansite. It’s made by Martin Bower, the original designer, from the original materials (all except the pink perspex, which is a replacement). The Liberator gun was from Century Castings, with the webbing belt another eBay find.
The finishing touch is my mini-Orac.
In one of the episodes of the second series, Gambit, Orac shrinks himself and is taken on a heist by Avon and Vila. (And in that episode, Avon is wearing the silver doe-skin tunic.) My Orac was an impulse purchase from an amazing prop-builder called Richard Bailey, who I found on Facebook through one of the Blakes 7 fan groups.