It was announced yesterday that Maurice Roëves has died at the age of 83. He had been in poor health for some time. Roëves played a single, but notable role in the Doctor Who universe: the cynical and brutal gun runner Stotz in the Fifth Doctor’s spectacular finale, The Caves of Androzani in 1984. But in real life this was a minor note in a six-decade career, during which he frequently capitalised on his ‘hard man’ persona.
Roëves was well known as a Scottish actor, but was actually born in Sunderland in 1937; his family moving to Glasgow in 1944. At school, he considered becoming a teacher but after national service in the Royal Scots Greys Armoured Corps, was persuaded to follow his father and, by 24, had become a sales manager. He pursued amateur dramatics and dancing though, and it was this that eventually moved him to enrol at the Glasgow College of Dramatic Art and, later, to become stage manager at the Citizen Theatre. Between sweeping the stage, he played small roles upon it.
His first major role was as Lorenzo in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. A screen test then earned him his first film role in 1966, in The Fighting Prince of Donegal. His next major role was in the same year, in Macbeth at the Royal Court in London where he played Macduff opposite Sir Alec Guinness in the lead. From then on, Roëves would move easily between stage, screen, and television; in England, Scotland, and the US.
Roëves’ film parts included Oh! What a Lovely War, Escape to Victory, The Eagle Has Landed, Judge Dredd, and the substantial role of Colonel Munro in The Last of the Mohicans opposite Daniel Day-Lewis.
On TV, he did them all. In the UK, he’d been in stalwarts of British television, such as Dr Finlay’s Casebook, Dixon of Dock Green, Jason King, The Sweeney, Crown Court, Jackanory, Bergerac, Rumpole of the Bailey, Tutti Frutti, The New Statesman, A Touch of Frost, Waking the Dead, The Bill, EastEnders, Holby City, Casualty, and Skins.
Of interest to Classic Who fans will be his starring role as Inspector Inskip in The Nightmare Man, the six-part TV adaptation of David Wiltshire’s novel Child of Vodyanoi. Penned by none other than Robert Holmes and helmed by the formidable classic Who Director Douglas Camfield, the story concerns an isolated Scottish community plagued by a series of gruesome murders and the discovery of a mysterious craft.
Stateside, Roëves guested on juggernauts like Magnum, P.I., Remington Steele, Days of Our Lives, Baywatch, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Murder, She Wrote. He also had roles in several notable real life sports-related dramatizations. He played the infamous Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield in the 1996 television film Hillsborough, Manchester United’s legendary Sir Matt Busby in the story of the Munich air disaster, and had a supporting role in The Damned United, the story of Brian Clough’s 44-day tenure as manager of Leeds United.
In 2015, Roëves returned to one of the productions that had begun his career 50 years earlier, playing Menteith opposite Michael Fassbender in a film of Macbeth. By this time, his health was beginning to fail, but his final credit is from 2020, in the BBC TV miniseries, The Nest. Throughout it all though, it’s probably fair to say that it was theatre that remained his true love. Speaking in 2012, Roëves said,
… you have no control on television. You shoot it and you hope that your bits will be included, you know? But that’s up to the director, that’s up to the editor. In the theatre you do your play, you start at A and you finish at Z. And if you’re good and you’re clever and you know your craft you can stop that play like a footballer traps a football. Stop it, roll it back. Do things with it, do that. You take the audience in your hand… They’re powerless to stop you. That’s what theatre’s about.
Not bad for a Glasgae lad who started out sweeping the stage.
Maurice Roëves, 1937-2020.