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RIP Jacqueline Pearce, the Dazzling Villainess of Blake's 7

Pearce in one of Servalan’s many iconic looks from Blake’s 7.
Pearce in one of Servalan’s many iconic looks from Blake’s 7.
Photo: BBC

Jacqueline Pearce, best known to sci-fi fans as the glamorous and calculating Servalan on the cult British space drama Blake’s 7, has died at the age of 74.

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As Doctor Who News notes, in her long running acting career she made several genre appearances—including guest roles in The Avengers, starring turns in the Hammer Horror classics The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile, and even a fabulously-named appearance as Chessene of the Franzine Grig in the Doctor Who multi-Doctor teamup “The Two Doctors.” But many fans will remember Pearce’s role in the beloved British sci-fi series Blake’s 7 as Servalan.

Originally intended to only appear in a single episode, the relish with which Pearce played Servalan—a wry, calculating sociopath in the show’s despotic Federation, solely driven by her goal to crush Blake and his crew—saw her evolve into the show’s primary villain. It was an incredible performance, only matched by the radical sci-fi fashion of Servalan’s wardrobe, giving Pearce a litany of iconic looks as she cackled her way across the four seasons of the show. Our thoughts go out to her family and friends.

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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

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DISCUSSION

Total agreement on Pearce’s brilliance in the role; she took a strong, interesting character and brought it to life magnificently.

But I would quibble with “solely driven by her goal to crush Blake and his crew.” It was Travis, her subordinate, who was obsessed with Blake. Servalan always saw a much bigger picture, and often found Travis’s narrow obsessions an obstacle to her plans.

Incidentally, I always thought the writers did a great job of establishing Servalan’s character through the Servalan/Travis dynamic: seeing the ease with which Servalan manipulated such an obviously dangerous psychopath showed that Servalan was very much the more dangerous of the two. And while Stephen Grief did a good job of mixing suave cruelty with outright thuggery, it was Pearce who took their joint scenes to the next level and really sold the whole concept.