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Roy Scammell (1932- 2021)

Roy Scammell, who was involved as an actor, stunt performer, and fight arranger in Doctor Who in the 1970s and 1980s, has died at the age of 88.

Scammell had small roles in The Ambassadors of Death and Inferno but it’s for his work on the programme’s stunts that he is best known. The Jon Pertwee era saw a new emphasis on impressively staged action sequences and Scammell, along with the HAVOC stunt team, was responsible for some of the most memorable.

He plunged 50 feet, at the time a record for a fall by a British stunt performer, for Inferno and was an unlikely double for Caroline John in The Ambassadors of Death as Liz struggled to cross a weir on the Thames.

Interviewed by Matt Adams for Doctor Who Magazine 529 in 2018, Scammell recalled his gasometer fall:

“When you look at a gasometer they’re such vast things they don’t seem very high, but when you get up there it’s about 30 metres and is a lot higher than you think it is, especially as it’s flat and round. Looking up from the ground someone who shall remain nameless, an actor, said he’d do that fall. So I said, ‘Okay, let’s go up there.’ I got halfway up the ladder and he’d gone. He didn’t realise how high it was!”

Other Doctor Who roles followed in Terror of the Autons and The Mind of Evil before a dispute with the actors’ union Equity led to HAVOC disbanding. Scammell was to return to the show the following decade, however, as stunt arranger for Paradise Towers and Delta and the Bannermen. He later reunited with old HAVOC colleagues Derek Ware, Derek Martin, and Stuart Fell for the Hadoke Vs HAVOC extra feature on the Inferno Special Edition DVD.

Roy Scammell led a colourful life which Doctor Who was just a small part of. Born in London in 1932, he was an amateur diver, a professional ice skater, and a lifeguard before doubling for Steve McQueen in The Great Escape (1963) and taking his first on-screen high fall in Cast a Giant Shadow (1966), standing in for Kirk Douglas.

Other film work included Casino Royale (1967), A Clockwork Orange (1971), and Barry Lyndon (1975). His place in sci-fi’s hall of fame was surely secured by his work as stunt arranger on Ridley Scott’s all-time classic Alien (1979), for which he played the creature as it was ejected from the space craft. Either side of this, he worked on flying rigs for Superman (1978) and led the Hawkmen warriors in Flash Gordon (1980).

Roy Scammell died on 15th May 2021 at Luton and Dunstable Hospital following a short illness. Our sympathies go to his family and friends.

Jonathan Appleton

Roy Scammell (1932- 2021)

by Jonathan Appleton time to read: 2 min
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