Vivienne Cozens is a highly respected director of theatre, TV drama and documentaries and corporate productions. She directed two popular episodes in the final season of Blake’s 7. In the second part of this interview, Vivienne recalls her experiences on Sand.
SA: Moving on to Sand, was the planet set difficult to work on?
VIVIENNE: I was thrilled when I knew that a whole planet was to be created for Virn at Ealing Film Studios. Huge rocks were built from polystyrene and the sand had to be specially created to cover the whole of one stage, which was huge. I thought the set was absolutely brilliant. It was designed by Ken Ledsham and consisted of rocky areas covered in green sawdust which had been specially mixed up for the Production. In fact I have only once or twice since had the chance to work on such a huge set - for The Snow Children which I filmed in Norway - and also another series called Fimbles which is a programme for children which I have been directing quite recently.
I can remember trying to do the stunt part of the fall of Reeve. I would like to think the fights were worked out to be well shot - but I can remember Vere desperately asking for more close-ups which is often a mistake new directors make - not taking enough close-ups. At the time I remember wondering why he thought they were needed but now I can see the reason clearly having stood well back from it!
SA: You decided to switch the studio recording dates for Games and Sand. Was there a particular reason for this?
VIVIENNE: I think it was partly to do with the visual effects timetable depending on how many had to be worked upon but it may also have been whether the script was considered ready and suitable for the slot. This was a decision made by Vere Lorrimer and naturally one did not question it! Although I happen to think the script by Tanith Lee was a favourite of mine.
SA: Sand was another episode with a heavy special effects requirement – involving model spaceships, lasers etc – did this make things more difficult?
VIVIENNE: We had to shoot a lot of model shots to depict the Planet Virn - which I think looked quite atmospheric and like nothing on Earth! I do not recall much else about the visual effects apart from the green sand and the laser guns.
SA: What are your memories of the cast of Blake’s 7?
VIVIENNE: I was always very friendly with Paul Darrow whom I like tremendously. He helped me a great deal and was very supportive of anything I wanted to achieve. He did somehow put a lot of energy into the role which was entirely what it needed and somehow gained the reputation of being a little larger than life. I do hope I have the opportunity of working with him again. He became so well known for the part of Avon that it is difficult to associate him with other characters parts, although that is a very popular thing in America. Steven Pacey was a brilliant actor at the time and went on to play many west end roles afterwards although not so much in television. I will never understand why as he would have been a heart throb – he still is! Michael Keating and I were very good friends at the time and kept in touch for a long time after Blake’s 7 finished. Peter Tuddenham was a joy to work with and always was very kind to me. I think he would have liked to appear in the programme more often.
Jacqueline Pearce is a brilliant actress - and slightly prone to pranks on the set! I was particularly worried not to be able to control some of them! She appeared naked several times in front of the camera to surprise us all and has no clothes on under the aluminium foil blankets in Sand. This was revealed at the end of the take! Plus one hotel in Salcombe had a swimming pool in the foyer and Jackie decided to leap in it late one night with nothing on! However she was always a very good performer and totally professional. After the series was ended by the BBC she should have gone on to perform many more exciting characters afterwards. I believe she is now playing lots of new roles again as we have the same agent.
Actually one of the actors from Sand, Peter Craze, has recently given me some lecturing at the Drama Studio in Ealing where he is now the principal.
SA: Which episode is your favourite and why?
VIVIENNE: To be honest I liked Games but I am aware that a lot of people liked Sand. I was pleased they both appeared on the same video and now DVD.
SA: Would you have directed more episodes of Blake’s 7 if it had returned for another series?
VIVIENNE: Most definitely - in fact Vere had already promised me that if he was producing I would be doing more. It was always one of my most favourite programmes from a directing and creative point of view.
VIVIENNE COZENS THANK YOU VERY MUCH
This interview was first published in Issue 2 of Scorpio Attack (2006).