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David Collings (1940- 2020)

David Collings, the versatile stage and screen actor, and one of Doctor Who’s most popular guest stars, has died at the age of 79.

He appeared in no less than three stories spanning the Fourth and Fifth Doctors’ incarnations. In Revenge of the Cybermen, he was hidden behind a mask but still made an impression as Vorus, full of pride and aggression as he sought to defend his people.

1977’s The Robots of Death was perhaps his most memorable Doctor Who appearance, as Poul, an undercover agent who succumbed to a paralysing fear of the robots which were steadily eliminating the crew of the Sandminer.

Later, in 1983’s Mawdryn Undead, he took the title role of the character who begged the Doctor to give up his future lives so that his people may die, and was himself mistaken for the Doctor by Nyssa and Tegan.

Indeed, Collings was one of those actors whose names often came up when fans pondered suitable actors to be cast as the Doctor. He would briefly take on the part in Big Finish’s Full Fathom Five in their Doctor Who: Unbound range. Further Big Finish appearances followed, including a return to the part of Poul for The Robots, a spin-off from The Robots of Death.

There was, of course, far more to Collings’ acting career than Doctor Who. He was no stranger to distinguished roles in the theatre including in RSC productions of Henry VIII, Don Carlos, Volpone, and King John.

He was something of a specialist in playing characters from history including Sir Anthony Babington in Elizabeth R, John Ruskin in The Love School, William Wilberforce in The Fight Against Slavery, and William Pitt in Prince Regent.

A regular on television screens, particularly during the 1970s and 1980s, Collings had a number of sci-fi and fantasy drama credits. Appearing alongside Joanna Lumley and David McCallum he played Gold, colleague of the enigmatic Sapphire and Steel. He played Deva in the memorably bloody final episode of Blakes 7 in 1981. And viewers of a certain age will remember his vocal talents as the dubbed voice of the title character in the Chinese folk-tale adaptation, Monkey.

Non-genre TV work included Dr. Finlay’s Casebook, By the Sword Divided, and Miss Marple. On radio, Collings was heard as Legolas in the enduringly popular BBC dramatisation of The Lord of the Rings.

A regular guest at conventions and signings, David Collings was held in high regard by many in the Doctor Who community. He died suddenly in March 2020. Our sympathies to his family and friends.

Jonathan Appleton

A regular Doctor Who viewer since Pertwee fought maggots and spiders, Jonathan isn't about to stop now. He considers himself lucky to have grown up in an era when Doctor Who, Star Trek and Blakes 7 could all be seen on primetime BBC1. As well as writing regularly for The Doctor Who Companion he's had chapters included in a couple of Blakes 7 books.

David Collings (1940- 2020)

by Jonathan Appleton time to read: 2 min
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