Where do writers get the names for their characters?

By Ellynne G.

Me, I get out language dictionaries, the baby name books, and start sorting through mythology texts until something clicks. Sometimes, if I already have an idea for a background language, I start playing with anagrams of words and sound shifts. Hey, it works.

Blake's 7 has several interesting possibilities. One of the things I've always liked is the way so many names have a black/darkness or white/light meaning - especially because I would bet anything the writers weren't thinking about them this way.

Dayna Melanby - Dayna (lady) is an obvious reference to Diana the huntress. Melan could be from the Greek for dark, anglicized with 'by.' Hence 'dark Diana' (in this case, I _would_ believe the writers knew about the name's meaning, since Dayna first appears dressed in something like a Greek tunic with a bow in hand).

Del Tarrant - Del means Day (possibly from delbert, 'day-bright'). Tarrant means thunder. Implies thunder during the bright of day.

Jenna - Possibly from Jennifer (variant of Guinivere) meaning 'white wave' (which is one reason I think of Egwene al'Vere in the Robert Jordan books as looking like a younger Jenna, despite every description to the contrary).

Soolin - Possible Mandarin for 'pale jade.' Could also be Sue (variant of Susan, meaning lily) with common dimunitive 'lynn' added. I've always assumed Pale Jade was a nickname one of the killers of her family gave her, probably on account of her hair (although paleness and whiteness can be associated with death and 'sz' means death, so it could be some kind of pun [hey, my Mandarin stinks, I can't be sure]).

Cally - while the obvious answer is either Greek for 'beautiful' (fitting physical description) or Latin for 'warmth' or 'hot' (comment on temperment, whether you favor Cally the warrior [hot or hot tempered] or Cally the nurturer [warmth]), I always thought of Kali, famous Hindu goddess of death and destruction, meaning dark. Given Cally's request for a necklace made of Vila's teeth (Kali was normally shown wearing a necklace of skulls), this could have been a deliberate reference.

Kerr Avon - Avon I assume is from the river Avon (although it's supposed to mean 'oat field' [and why am I sure someone is ready to make a joke about sowing wild oats now that I've said it?]) (Judith: Afon is the Welsh word meaning 'river', which is why several English rivers are called Avon.) which I assume was just supposed to sound like a classy name what with the 'bard of' connotations and all that. Kerr, however, can have two meanings - 'spear' or 'dark.' While dark really fits the theory (variant of Irish Ciar, meaning dark), the spear translation is the one used in the second half of _Roger_ (Ger is a variant with the same root as Kerr [really], meaning spear). The Ro part comes from Ruod, meaning noble but, in common usage, Roj would be the normal first syllable used as a nickname.

I can't believe the writers were thinking like this when the names were chosen (the relationship between Blake and Avon being less defined in the early episodes), but it fits so well. The names summarize Blake and Avon. Roj has the 'noble' aspect (but is he slightly in denial about the violent or spear part of his nature?). Avon denies any nobility in him and sees himself as a spear (no comments from the Freudian gallery), direct and (when needed) violent for practical reasons, not for any higher calling (yeah, right, we believe that). It also describes this part of their relationship. Avon is always willing to brush off any noble actions as something he had to do because of his association with Blake. To what extent was Avon also Blake's scapegoat, carrying out or voicing the ruthlessness Blake wasn't always willing to admit he had?

Blake - can have same root as blank (meaning white) or black (meaning black). Kind of sums him up.

I have nothing to add to Gan, but Vila could either be from villein (a type of serf who could act as a freeman to anyone but his master. Anyone trying to draw lines between this and the Avon and Vila realtionship [what did someone call it? 'A man and his dog'?] is free to do so). It could also be a reference to Pancho Villa. Although Villa was pretty serious business as revolutionaries ago, I have seen humorous caricatures (strictly unPC) of Mexican rebels that would fit Vila pretty well.

Servalan - Latin derived. Seems to mean 'I serve' although I'm still trying for a convincing argument for the passive form, 'I am served.'

Travis - Despite a lack of evidence, I can never get over the suspicion this is an ironic reference to Star One. The Alamo was the little base that made or broke a certain war where a small force (led by a Travis) held out against impossible odds.


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Last changed on 19th of December 2000