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Tim Pigott-Smith (1946- 2017)

We’re very sad to report the passing of Tim Pigott-Smith at the age of 70.
Of course, the actor’s credits are extensive, but Doctor Who fans will likely remember him best for his two appearances in the show: firstly, in The Claws of Axos (1971) as Captain Harker; and as Marco in The Masque of Mandragora (1976). He also read the BBC audio adaptation of the latter, released in 2009, presenting us with a pretty unique reading.
His Marco was a sympathetic ear to Duke Giuliano, the lawful heir of San Martino; in this tale of duplicity and darkness, Pigott-Smith’s character was refreshingly heroic, sticking by the truth and wanting to fight for his companion’s true legacy (though not the same way the Doctor chooses to).
In an odd coincidence, I was rewatching The Claws of Axos this week, and had forgotten Tim appeared. It was a genuine pleasure to see him, albeit in a brief role. And that’s the thing: seeing Pigott-Smith in a TV show, film, or on stage was a sign of a quality production.
The four-part serial with Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor was one of his earliest roles, coming the same year as his performance in Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1971); various smaller parts followed including Antony and Cleopatra (1974), Play for Today: A Choice of Evils (1977), Measure for Measure (1979), Hannah (1980), Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), and I Remember Nelson (1982).
His big break, however, came in 1984 with The Jewel in the Crown, for which he won the BAFTA for Best Actor in 1985. The show charted the final days of the British Raj in India following World War II and was based on Paul Scott’s four-book series released between 1965 and 1975. Pigott-Smith played Police Superintendent Ronald Merrick, a smart but unlikeable character whose prejudices were obvious.

During filming of the 14-part series, Tim kept a diary, his “affair of the heart” with India, which was subsequently paired with poems and prose in the Out of India anthology, originally published in 1986.
His next television appearance was as Sir George Stubbs in the 1986 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Dead Man’s Folly, starring Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot. In 2006, he would appear in another Christie adaptation, Taken at the Flood as Dr. Lionel Woodward, alongside David Suchet as the Belgian detective.
Further parts included in The Chief (1990- 93), The Remains of the Day (1993), Kavanagh QC (2001), Spooks (2002), Johnny English (2003), and as a narrator for Battlefield (1994), Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work (2007), and Serial Killers (2006- 09). His most recent televisual work included: V For Vendetta (2005); Holby Blue (2007); Quantum of Solace (2008); Foyle’s War (2010); The Hour (2011); Downton Abbey (2012); Miranda (2013); The Great Train Robbery (2013 – and written by Doctor Who‘s Chris Chibnall); RED 2 (2013); Lewis (2015); and currently, Decline and Fall (2017).
Four upcoming projects of Tim’s are in post-production: 6 Days; King Charles III; Victoria and Abdul; and The Little Vampire 3D.
This is without mentioning his radio and theatre work, notably as Sherlock Holmes in a BBC Radio adaptation of The Valley of Fear; as the lead role in King Lear at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds’ 2011 production; and in John Barton’s Cymbeline for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1974.
But we must return to King Charles III to find Pigott-Smith’s first Tony award nomination, and a nomination for the Olivier Award for Best Actor. This play debuted in 2014 to great acclaim, and was written by Knock Knock‘s Mike Bartlett, with Tim as the main role in its performances in the Almeida Theatre, in the West End, and on Broadway. Imagining the ascension to the throne of Charles, Prince of Wales, the play was announced to become a 90-minute TV Film; with Pigott-Smith reprising the lead, this is, as previously mentioned, in post-production, and is expected to air later this year on BBC Two and PBS.

In the recent list of UK Honours, Tim was appointed a much-deserved OBE for services to drama.
His agent, John Grant, said in a statement:

“Tim was one of the great actors of his generation. Much-loved and admired by his peers, he will be remembered by many as a gentleman and a true friend… He will be much missed. We ask that you respect the privacy of his wife, the actress Pamela Miles, his son Tom and the family.”

Even more tragically, Tim was due to star as main character, Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, with his wife, Pamela Miles, although she was forced to pull out after breaking a bone during rehearsals.
Perhaps the final word should come from Mike Bartlett, who recalled Tim Pigott-Smith’s performance in King Charles III:

“Once on stage, he was dynamic and heart-breaking, playing the part night after night for over 200 performances but never short-changing the audience, never accepting that it should be any less fresh than when it was first performed…

“Away from the theatre, as I got to know Tim, I realised how much time and commitment he gave to his life outside that world – charity work, his friends, the community he lived in, his family, and most of all his wife Pam. Anyone who saw them together could see how loving and close they were.

“No one had a bad word to say about Tim, ever, as far as I could tell, and he believed passionately that drama could make a really big difference to individuals and society.”

Our thoughts naturally go out to his family and friends.

Philip Bates

Editor and co-founder of the Doctor Who Companion. When he’s not watching television, reading books ‘n’ Marvel comics, listening to The Killers, and obsessing over script ideas, Philip Bates pretends to be a freelance writer. He enjoys collecting everything. Writer of The Black Archive: The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang, The Silver Archive: The Stone Tape, and 100 Objects of Doctor Who.

Tim Pigott-Smith (1946- 2017)

by Philip Bates time to read: 4 min
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