The renowned British actor David Warner has left us at the age of 80.
The news of David Warner’s passing came just days after the Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston took to the stage to announce that he had recorded something special with Warner as part of Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary celebrations at Big Finish.
“I’ve recorded something very special for the 60th anniversary,” he said, “and for me it was all about working with this incredible actor and incredible human being called David Warner. I think the 60th is my favourite and you’re gonna have to wait, but it’s gonna be worth the wait, because David Warner is extraordinary. And if any actor should have been the Doctor, it would have been David.”
This may have been somewhat confusing for the uninitiated, but it makes sense in the world of Big Finish. Over there, David Warner is known as one of their most prolific contributors, not least for his portrayal of the Unbound Doctor – an alternative incarnation of the Time Lord who occupies a parallel universe in which his encounters with UNIT never happened. It’s possible that the Ninth Doctor will be meeting the Unbound Doctor in Doctor Who‘s upcoming 60th anniversary celebrations.
In addition, David Warner became an important part of the Blake’s 7 universe at Big Finish – a series that is closely linked to the world of Doctor Who, not least for the fact that it was devised by Dalek creator Terry Nation and was produced in conjunction with Doctor Who during the 70s. In Blake’s 7, Warner took on the role of Solvin Tavac – the father of Vila Restal (one of the eponymous seven) with whom he had a fractious and distrusting relationship.
Indeed, the role of Tavac was written specifically for Warner, as writer Cavan Scott explained in his blog: “The character of Tavac was written with David Warner in mind. We were chuffed to little pieces when he agreed to play the part. Writing for David has been a long-time ambition for both of us. He’s been in everything we love, after all. The Omen, Star Trek, Tron, Time Bandits, From Beyond the Grave (the best Amicus film in my opinion), A Christmas Carol, Doctor Who… The list goes on and on. He was even Superman’s dad!”
Moreover, many of David Warner’s Blake’s 7 audio adventures were directed by his partner Lisa Bowerman. Bowerman, as many of you will know, portrays the famous time travelling archaeologist Bernice Summerfield at Big Finish, a Doctor Who companion who first appeared in the Virgin series of books.
David Warner and Lisa Bowerman were also afforded the opportunity of working together in an acting capacity at Big Finish. The first of these productions was a Bernice Summerfield adventure called ‘The Adventure of the Diogenes Damsel’ in which Warner played Mycroft Holmes (brother of the famous Sherlock.) Later, Bernice would encounter David Warner’s Unbound Doctor in The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield: Volume Three, which was released in 2016. The pair would record a further three box sets together, the last of which was released in 2020.
Speaking on the Big Finish website, the company’s creative director Nicholas Briggs said: “I remember how David’s long association with us began. During a cast lunch, he suddenly gesticulated at me impatiently, sounding furious. ‘You!’ he said accusingly, ‘Are you in charge here?!?’ I said that I was. ‘I want a word with you!’ he said. ‘Come with me.’ And he marched me behind a pillar, just a few feet away from where the rest of the cast were eating. ‘I want to do a lot more of this audio stuff. In fact, I’d like to do it all day every day, because I love it!’
“It was quite a relief that I didn’t get the roasting I’d assumed I was in for from his tone of voice.”
The Big Finish chairman Jason Haigh-Ellery added: “David was a great friend to all of us at Big Finish. He was a sweet, shy and caring gentleman. I was lucky enough to occasionally direct him and he was a joy to work with as all he wanted was the best. The best for the production, the best for the director and the best for the other actors he was working with. Not that David needed directing much – he was such a wonderful actor that his first instinct was always spot on.”
To Doctor Who fans, David Warner will probably always be best remembered as the Unbound Doctor, or as the memorable Professor Grisenko from the 2013 TV episode ‘Cold War.’ But Warner enjoyed a far-reaching, international film career, and was perhaps best known as the villainous ‘body guard’ Spicer Lovejoy in James Cameron’s Titanic. He also appeared in other iconic movies such as The Omen, Tron and Scream 2, plus the cult TV drama series Twin Peaks.
To Star Trek fans, David Warner will be remembered as Gorkon of the Klingon High Council in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and as a Cardassian interrogator in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode ‘Chain of Command.’
And as Cavan Scott noted in his blog, Warner also took on the role of Superman’s dad Jor-El in an episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, appearing to his son in a series of a holographic recordings.
In a statement given to the BBC, David Warner’s family said: “Over the past 18 months he approached his diagnosis with a characteristic grace and dignity. He will be missed hugely by us, his family and friends, and remembered as a kind-hearted, generous and compassionate man, partner and father, whose legacy of extraordinary work has touched the lives of so many over the years. We are heartbroken.”
Warner died on Sunday 24th July 2022 at Denville Hall, a care home for those in the entertainment industry.
What is your favourite memory of David Warner? Let us know in the comments below.
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