Tony Selby, who played Sabalom Glitz in Doctor Who, has died at the age of 83.
To Doctor Who fans, Tony Selby is best known as the Doctor’s slippery friend Sabalom Glitz, whom he first encountered in the 1986 story ‘The Mysterious Planet.’ In the adventure, Glitz was on the trail of secret information that had been extracted from the Matrix, the Gallifreyan data deposit. Viewers were often left in doubt as to where his true loyalties lay, as Glitz was a character who could often be bought for the right price.
This was certainly true in the later story ‘The Ultimate Foe,’ where the Doctor’s old enemy the Master persuaded Glitz to help him lure the Doctor into a trap, on the promise of a treasure chest of jewels. But in the same episode, he was seen trying to save the Doctor’s life as he was dragged screaming into a pile of quick sand – which, because it’s Doctor Who, turned out to be illusory.
Such was the popularity of Tony Selby’s Glitz that the producer John Nathan-Turner invited him back the following year, and he made a return appearance in the Season 24 story ‘Dragonfire,’ starring the Seventh Doctor. This time, though, he proved to be somewhat more reliable, allying with the Doctor and his companion Mel against the wicked Kane, who was hell-bent on acquiring the dragon’s treasure from the depths of a frozen space colony.
And in one of the recent Blu-ray sets, Tony Selby was fondly remembered by his co-star Sophie Aldred, who made her first appearance as the character of Ace in ‘Dragonfire.’ He proved to be a source of great encouragement to Aldred, and convinced her that she was good enough to stay on as the Doctor’s companion.
And indeed, this is exactly what happened. Ace ended up leaving with the Seventh Doctor in ‘Dragonfire’s closing moments, and Selby was certain that he had played a part in helping to make this happen. In truth, unbeknownst to many people, Aldred was already in the running for the role, but Selby may well have made a difference through his conversations with the production team.
Whatever the truth of the matter, it is clear that Tony Selby had a strong bond with the Doctor Who team, and the fact that he clocked up three appearances in less than two years is a testament to his popularity with both fans and the programme makers.
Moreover, the door was left open for Sabalom Glitz to make another appearance in the future. At the end of ‘Dragonfire,’ he left with the Doctor’s companion Mel in the newly-acquired Nosferatu II, paving the way for a whole universe of adventures. Sadly, with the cancellation of Doctor Who in the autumn of 1989, fans never got to see what else Tony Selby’s character had got up to.
Away from Doctor Who, Selby was known to viewers as the character of Clive Mitchell in the British soap opera EastEnders, as well as a host of other credits including Z Cars, Minder, The Good Life and The Bill.
Sadly, the death of Tony Selby was confirmed by his agent LCM Management on the 6th September 2021. In a statement, they said: “With great sadness we announce that actor Tony Selby passed away peacefully in London yesterday. In a career spanning 70 years in theatre, film and TV, Tony was highly respected and loved by family, friends and colleagues. His renowned sense of humour will be missed by us all.”
Many people have come forward to share their memories of the actor, including the Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy, who said: “Just heard the sad sad news that Tony Selby has died. A popular member of the Doctor Who family. He was such a warm, merry, generous person. And it was always a joy to meet him socially.”
Thanks for everything, Tony Selby. You will be greatly missed.
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