Sad news regarding the death of actor Gareth Hunt, born Alan Leonard Hunt, at the relatively young age of 64. To most genre fans, he was undoubtedly best known for his role as Mike Gambit in “The New Avengers” alongside Joanna Lumley as Purdey and Patrick Macnee as erstwhile-agent John Steed, from 1976 to 1977. Others will know him from shaking a handful of coffee beans in the popular and long-running Nescafe commercials! He made his name, though, as footman Frederick Norton in eleven episodes of the early-Seventies’ costume drama “Upstairs, Downstairs”, co-devised by ex-“Doctor Who” companion Jean Marsh. And speaking of the Time Lord, Gareth will no doubt be best-remembered by “Doctor Who” fans as Arak in Jon Pertwee’s regeneration story “Planet of the Spiders”, broadcast in 1974.
It’s interesting that most tributes dwell on his contribution to the Seventies’ “Avengers” revival. It may well have been popular but, like many revivals, was, in truth, a far cry from the original series. It was much more action-oriented, as was the vogue of the time, whereas, during its heyday of the two Diana Rigg seasons, “The Avengers” was more about witty word play while, admittedly, nearly always culminating in a fight sequence. Hunt’s character did help retain some of that humour, notably in his tongue-in-cheek pursuit of the lovely Lumley. Gambit was there, though, primarily for the same reason as Ian Marter had been cast as Harry Sullivan in “Doctor Who”, to provide the muscle which Macnee had been more capable of a decade earlier. In Marter’s case, it turned out that the casting of Tom Baker, as the fourth Doctor, meant that, unfortunately, Harry was surplus to requirements.
Gareth popped up in many other series over the years including an appearance in “Minder” in the early-Eighties, opposite original regulars George Cole and Dennis Waterman, and, more recently and briefly, as a hit man in “EastEnders”. I remember him in the “Space: 1999” episode “Guardian of Piri” although his role in that episode was due to be larger but, after a disagreement with “A Fish Called Wanda” director Charles Crichton, he left before the episode was finished and was replaced by Michael Culver. The BBC’s news site are carrying a nice little eight-picture gallery of the late actor including a black and white still from his “Doctor Who” episode as well as one of “The New Avengers” team reunited during the mid-Nineties, I believe for the launch of the series on VHS! So, to complement those images, I thought I’d pay respect by posting a still from his uncredited and all-too-brief appearance as Pete Irvine in the aforementioned episode of the live-action Gerry Anderson series.