Myth Makers - Gareth Thomas

Review by Judith Proctor

It's interesting to see how the passage of time affects interviews with Gareth Thomas. In the early days everything was on paper in magazines; then came the Together Again tapes with their series of audio cast interviews; then MJTV's CD 'The Actor Speaks' and now we're finally into the age of the DVD with Myth Makers.

So, how does the latest product compare?

DVDs have the unmistakable advantage of the visual angle and MythMakers have utilised this by filming in Gatton Park and Betchworth Quarry which were both used for filming Blake's 7. Unfortunately, they neglected to tell viewers which episodes were shot in these locations....

Just so that you'll know: Gatton Park was used in 'Trial' - the planet where Blake went to reflect on things after Gan's death. The park has changed a lot since then, so don't expect to recognise anything, but the Japanese garden still made an attractive place to film and Gareth seemed relaxed there.

Betchworth quarry was the location of the planets Saurian Major, Cephlon, Exbar, Sardos, Xenon, and Betafarl. (Being close to London meant the cast didn't have to be put up in a hotel overnight, so the BBC were very keen on using it) Although the quarry has been used as a landfill for some time now, there was still a real sense of the venues used for filming and Gareth claimed to recognise a steep slope he'd had to fall down (it did look a bit familiar - reminded me of Exbar). I'm happy to believe it was indeed the right part of the quarry because Ruth Kenyon was along on the filming and she's spent a fair bit of time in Betchworth looking for original locations.

The actual interview was well structured and looked at Gareth's early career, his time on Blake's 7 and what he has done since that time. He talked about his reasons for leaving Sandhurst, why he went into acting, what his family felt about it and how his career developed. Discussing his time on Blake's 7 led to one of the best interviews I've yet heard in regard to his reasons for leaving the series. (nothing new, just nicely gathered together)

Sensibly, when discussing his life since Blake's 7, the interviewer avoided the classic mistake of talking about what Gareth is currently appearing in. Such things date badly. Taking an overview of his career worked much better.

Nicholas Briggs had obviously done his homework as I had a sense of the conversation being carefully steered towards things people would want to know, without ever feeling forced in any way.

A number of still photos were used to illustrate the conversation. Unfortunately, these were tossed in almost at random, and in some cases were likely to be misleading. eg. When Gareth was talking about his father, a photo from 'Rutherford and Son' was shown. I suspect most viewers will assume that that photo is of Gareth's father, when in fact it is Gareth in period costume. A photo from 'Equus' was used to illustrate a conversation about 'Morgan's Boy' (Gareth plays a psychiatrist in the former and a Welsh hill farmer in the latter). None of the photos were attributed. I only know where they were from because I collect theatrical photos from Gareth's plays.

A little extra visual appeal was added by Gary Holland and Jem Ward dressed as Federation troopers who were there to ensure that Blake didn't escape. (If you watch the 'making of' section, look at Gary's car registration number!)

DVDs also allow for clever editing, so it's possible to shoot people, change location by a snap of the fingers etc. The balance was about right here, often enough to be entertaining, but not enough to irritate.

There is a biography section on the DVD. I found this to be the most disappointing section. There was nothing on Gareth's personal life, but I wasn't expecting anything there - Gareth has long maintained a separation between his personal and professional life and everyone who knows him respects this. I *did* feel that more could have been done with the details of his professional life. What was there felt like his agent's resumé with a few added bits tossed in after talking to Gareth. Realistically, I suspect that not everyone shares my interest in the details of Gareth's career, but on the other hand nearly two thousand people have visited that part of my web site in the first eight months of this year. If you want the details of Gareth's professional life, skip that section of the DVD and visit Gareth Thomas other roles instead.

How well does the MythMakers DVD work overall?

Pretty well. Ignore the biography section and concentrate on the interview. For people who don't have the chance to meet Gareth at conventions, this is a chance to see him as he is now - an older, but likeable man with a sense of humour. The trademark curly brown hair has long gone snow white, but the smile lines round the eyes say it all - Gareth is a genuinely nice person.

The fairly structured form of the interview contrasts with the unstructured feel of the 'Together Again' tapes and both approaches have their advantages. 'The Actor Speaks' has pieces performed and written by Gareth. The Mythmakers DVD gives us the bonus of seeing Gareth in the flesh (I'm pleased to say he's lost a bit around the waist) and shows us a part of present-day Betchworth quarry to boot.

There's inevitably a fair bit of dupliction between the different interviews, but it is noticeable that different interviewers are able to draw out different aspects of the man.

We'll never know all of Gareth: as he says himself, he's a shy person in some regards and wants to keep part of himself private, but the one thing that has always impressed me about him on numerous occasions is his sincerity. When he says thank you, he means it.

If the Mythmakers DVDs of Jan Chappell and Peter Tuddenham are to the same standard, then I think many fans will find it worthwhile ordering the set at the discount price.

See news for details of how to order - we don't currently sell it directly through the site.

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Last updated on 02nd of September 2003.