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Convention books: Jackson and Pat

March 7th, 2012 (01:29 am)

At Valiant 3 this weekend I picked up two books: From Byfleet to the Bush, the memoir of Jacqueline Pearce, and Patrick Troughton by his son Michael Troughton. Both are published by small presses whose main audience can be found among Doctor Who and telefantasy fandom, but they are very different books.

Jacqueline Pearce - Jack or Jackson to her friends - has written a demanding but compelling account of a troubled life in which her ambitions were sabotaged by her own complex psychological self-defence mechanisms, leading to often profound depression and battles with poverty, love false and true, and continued assaults by mental illness. Those looking for anecdotes about Blake's 7 and her portrayal of Servalan might be disappointed given Pearce's insistence that she recalls little of it thanks to her mental state for most of the time, but we do learn that the change from predominantly white to predominantly black outfits was of personal significance and that when arrested for possession of cannabis the officers concerned were greatly pleased that they had Servalan in custody.

Much of what Jacqueline Pearce relates in this book will be familiar to those who have suffered from depression: the self-destructive thoughts and actions, the interpretations of the world which turn out to delude more than they help, the sometimes bewildering advice from therapists. This is more of a depression memoir set in the acting world than a strictly theatrical one. There are times when self-criticism wins and one wants to tell the author that she is not the only person to blame for her misfortune: that it was reasonable for her to trust someone who made off with her money given her past experience of them, for example. There are well-known names among the friends and acquaintances who people the narrative - Sammy Davis Jr, Alan Bates, John Hurt, Jerry Lewis, Rupert Penry-Jones and Dervla Kirwan, among others - but they take their places among the non-celebrities who have buffeted their way through their lives with Pearce. The final chapters find Pearce in South Africa, where she now lives, comparing her own young self with the worldlywise young people who volunteered alongside her at an animal sanctuary, and finding a kind of serenity among the monkeys for which she cares. The author is charming throughout; her struggles to come to terms with her psychological make-up are evident and there are certainly periods when one feels she is looking for reassurance, but so, often, do most of us.

Michael Troughton's life of his father Patrick is a different animal. Unlike From Byfleet to the Bush, its production standards are questionable, with erratic paragraph spacing and inconsistent spelling, which neither author, subject nor reader deserve. Jacqueline Pearce was abandoned by her mother when very young; Michael Troughton's father likewise left the family home not long after Michael's birth but remained a regular visitor, performing the charade of the devoted husband to Michael's mother for the benefit of the outside world while quietly living elsewhere with his second family. Michael Troughton has access to his father's diaries and also his father's own correspondence with him, but many of the recollections are secondhand from other acting colleagues, and not particularly enlightening. The section on Doctor Who unbalances the book, much of it relying on Doctor Who Magazine interviews and familiar anecdotage. An insight into Patrick Troughton's character is difficult to establish and what we do learn is often unflattering. The impression one is left with is that as Patrick Troughton remains as elusive as he ever was to audiences, his conduct left him an enigma to his family.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/493353.html.


Posted by: Susan (lil_shepherd)
Posted at: March 7th, 2012 07:47 am (UTC)


One thing I do know about Pearce during her B7 stint was that it was not just cannabis but also lots and lots of alcohol (not that she was the only member of the cast with that problem) that has probably affected her memory of that period.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: March 7th, 2012 11:29 am (UTC)

The continued presence of alcohol in her life from her mid-thirties is not hidden - "stop drinking and you will keep yourself out of hospital and might get work" is another cry one wants to make.

Posted by: Susan (lil_shepherd)
Posted at: March 7th, 2012 11:36 am (UTC)

My own view is probably influenced by the people I knew working on set at the time, and by the fact that I find Servalan tiresome.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: March 7th, 2012 11:47 am (UTC)

I recognized that there might be some personal experience involved...

Posted by: Alice Dryden (huskyteer)
Posted at: March 7th, 2012 09:35 am (UTC)
Of Rassilon

> the officers concerned were greatly pleased that they had Servalan in custody

Oh, that's lovely. I'm not a huge B7 person but Jacqueline Pearce is absolutely mesmerising; I'd probably enjoy the book.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: March 7th, 2012 11:36 am (UTC)

Yes, I'm sure you would.

Posted by: thanatos_kalos (thanatos_kalos)
Posted at: March 7th, 2012 07:07 pm (UTC)

I must pick up a copy of Pearce's autobiog when I get a bit of cash... :)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: March 7th, 2012 09:49 pm (UTC)

You'd definitely find it readable, particularly concerning her experiences of the US and the UK entertainment industries. She has been a very inward-looking person for most of her life, with a detrimental effect on her decision-making.

Posted by: muuranker (muuranker)
Posted at: March 7th, 2012 10:14 pm (UTC)

Oh, I didn't know Jaqueline was from my neck of the woods!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: March 7th, 2012 10:23 pm (UTC)

There is a little about the lost rural Byfleet of the 1940s and 1950s in the first chapter.