I was sad to learn of the death of popular character actor Michael Sheard from cancer at the age of only 65. He appeared on television in no less than six "Doctor Who" Stories as well as in a Big Finish audio "Doctor Who" story. To "Doctor Who" fans he will probably best be remembered for his performances as Laurence Scarman in the Tom Baker story "Pyramids of Mars" (pictured) from 1975 and as the doomed Headmaster in "Remembrance of the Daleks", a Sylvester McCoy story from 1988, which, in an odd coincidence for me, I rewatched just a few weeks ago.
As K9 returns to the programme, in episode three of next year's series, it is interesting to note that Michael appeared as Supervisor Lowe in the robot dog's opening story, from 1977, "The Invisible Enemy", a reworking of the Donald Pleasance/Raquel Welch movie "Fantastic Voyage". He also guested as Mergrave in fifth Doctor Peter Davison's opening yarn "Castrovalva" in 1982. Predating all of these are his appearances in the William Hartnell third season story "The Ark" in 1966, as Rhos, and as Dr. Summers in my favourite Jon Pertwee story "The Mind of Evil" in 1971.
As well as appearing in my favourite third Doctor tale, Michael Sheard also guest starred in my favourite "Space:1999" episode "Dragon's Domain" as Dr. Darwin King at the end of 1975. This simple but brilliantly evocative story pre-empts the Alien series of films in its depiction of an entity hellbent on survival at any horrific cost. Just over four years later, Michael popped up in another popular SF series playing Klegg in the second episode of the third season of "Blake's 7" entitled "Powerplay", first broadcast in January 1980.
Over the years he was seen in many of the shows which now have a cult following such as "Adam Adamant Lives!", the original 1970 version of "Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)", the "Department S" spin-off "Jason King", the Roger Moore/Tony Curtis vehicle "The Persuaders!", the non-SF live action Gerry Anderson series "The Protectors", "The Sweeney", "The New Avengers", "The Professionals" and "Minder". He made many appearances in "Dixon of Dock Green", "Softly Softly", "On the Buses" and the first season of "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet".
As in "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet", he was often cast as a German and often as that most notorious of all Germans Adolf Hitler perhaps most memorably opposite Peter O'Toole in the television adaptation of Geoffrey Household's "Rogue Male" in 1976. He even played Hitler in a two-part episode of "The Tomorrow People", ITV's answer to "Doctor Who" at the time! Arguably, the most prestigious production he appeared in was Stephen Poliakoff's "Caught on a Train" as Preston, in 1980, alongside Peggy Ashcroft and Michael Kitchen. A remarkable acting career.
To return briefly to Michael Sheard's appearances in "Doctor Who". I mentioned at the start of this piece that he guested in a Big Finish audio. In the eighth Doctor story "The Stones of Venice" he played Count Orsino opposite Paul McGann and this can be heard in exactly a month from now, starting Saturday 01 October, on BBC7 following the conclusion of the Cybermen adventure beginning this weekend.