With sadness, we have to report that Stephen Critchlow has passed away at just 54.
Stephen Critchlow had amassed quite a few roles in various theatre productions as well as performing in well over 200 roles with BBC Audio and had worked on dozens of Big Finish productions.
Born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, on the 16th November 1966, he trained as an actor at Mountview Drama School in London and completed the course in 1990. Following the completion of his acting course, he worked in repertory, where he gained the nickname, ‘Critch’ or ‘The Critch’, as he worked in many, many theatres around the UK. His first performance was in A Christmas Carol and he would go on work alongside Blake’s 7 star, Paul Darrow in a West End performance of Hamlet.
Critchlow said that his favourite theatre job was as Kenneth Horne in three national tours of the show, Round the Horne… Revisited. Following this tour, he returned to the West End to put in a performance in the stage version of the Alfred Hitchcock film, The 39 Steps (based on the John Buchan novel). This was quite the technical performance as it required four actors to play all 150 characters in the piece.
On television, Critchlow appeared in many different television programmes from Heartbeat, to Monarch of the Glen, Red Dwarf to The Bill, to name a few. He also got a chance to play Kenneth Horne again in a BBC drama about the actor and then played Carry On director, Gerald Thomas in another biopic.
Strangely, he is perhaps best known for being the face of Oak Furniture Land, playing the chief salesman, Oak, starring in a number of advertising campaigns.
As well as working on stage and screen, Critchlow found time to do audio work, lending his voice to characters in video games like Resistance, Killzone, and Final Fantasy; he did three spells with BBC Radio, performing in over 200 shows including light entertainment, science-fiction, and Shakespeare. To us Doctor Who fans, one role he played with BBC Radio was Dr. Harrington in Torchwood: Lost Souls, which was released in conjunction with CERN when they switched on the Large Hadron Collider.
For fans of Big Finish, his long assciation with them began with a role in The Nowhere Place, starring alongside Colin Baker and then-companion, Maggie Stables as Evelyn. He also did a great impersonation of the legendary Tom Baker, which he put to use narrating the Short Trip, Waiting for Gadot.
Critchlow sadly suffered a stroke in January 2020 and was later diagnosed with cancer in January 2021. He continued to work through all that though, and many fans and co-workers took to social media to express their condolences. In an announcement from Big Finish, Nick Briggs and Scott Handcock expressed how much fun it was to work with him, while Ian Atkins got to spend a lot of time with Critchlow in the green room where they discovered they both used to spend loads of time in WHSmiths in their childhood, looking for Doctor Who Target Books!
“Having heard his range of voices on that first session, I’d quickly hired him to be the voice of the Subscriber Short Trips range, so at least once a year we met at the Ladbroke Audio studio to record stories often written by new writers to Big Finish. It wasn’t uncommon to have emails from them when the release went out, asking me to forward thanks to Stephen for bringing their stories to such vivid life. In particular his impression of Tom Baker made any of the Fourth Doctor stories an instant trip back to childhood Saturdays.”
Other works from Big Finish include The Lady of Mercia, Jago & Litefoot & Strax, The Yes Men, An Ordinary Life, The Avengers, Torchwood, Cicero, Bernice Summerfield, Dracula, Gallifrey, and the recent Doctor Who: Echoes of Extinction.
Stephen Critchlow will certainly be missed by those who knew him and worked with him, as well as those at the DWC (he was apparently a fan of the site, which is incredibly humbling). With so many audio credits, his name will certainly be one I’ll be looking out for whenever anything is repeated or when browsing my Doctor Who collection.
Our thoughts to his family and friends.