The actor Henry Woolf, who played the Collector in the Fourth Doctor story The Sun Makers in 1977, has died at the age of 91.
Woolf made for a memorable villain as the Collector, whose regime on Pluto pays workers a pittance and taxes them on everything under the sun. The story is perhaps best remembered for writer Robert Holmes’s satirical take on the UK’s Inland Revenue, but, whilst references to the tax system were lost on younger viewers, they surely all relished the oily Collector (I recall his demise, being flushed down the plughole, was the talk of the playground the following Monday).
Many in the the younger age group would have recognised Woolf from his appearances presenting the BBC’s educational show Words and Pictures (1975-78). Their parents may have seen him in other TV appearances in comedies including Steptoe and Son (unusually, he played local gangster Frankie Barrow in both the big and small screen versions of the show in 1973) and Eric Idle’s post Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch show Rutland Weekend Television (1976).
But it was working in the theatre that Woolf found most fulfilling. A long-time friend and collaborator of Harold Pinter, Woolf directed and acted in the great dramatist’s very first play, The Room, in 1957. Further collaborations followed and the two always remained close, the friendship enduring even when Henry married Susan Williamson, an actor whose time at the Royal Shakespeare Company had been ended by Pinter.
In 1978, Woolf’s life took a new direction when he moved to Canada, where he went on to win an award in 1979 for his solo performance in Hancock’s Last Half Hour. He took up an academic post and taught drama at the University of Saskatchewan from 1983, becoming a professor in 1990. He was still directing and acting in plays long after he retired in 1997.
Henry Woolf is survived by his wife and four children. Our sympathies go to his family and friends.