Sad to learn of the death of Philip Madoc at 77 – another British acting heavyweight with a number of connections to Doctor Who.
It always seems amiss to frame these tributes to actors and production staff in relation to something that was probably a small part of their overall careers; but generations of people are exposed to the significant talents through Who they might not be otherwise aware.
Madoc certainly does have a wider exposure – obits are likely to mention his amusing role as the U-boat captain in Dad’s Army (in my house it’s still required to ask for chips that are ‘crisp… und light brown’ rather than soggy), his Cadfael and slow-burn Channel 5 thriller A Mind to Kill.
But that’s all a bit beyond my locus. Madoc is chiefly known in the Doctor Who universe for his amusingly unhinged Mehendri Solon in The Brain of Morbius and the chilling War Chief in The War Games.
He’s comfortably the most interesting character in either story – and I say that in full recognition of the fact that he shares a lot of screen time with Tom Baker, Patrick Troughton, James Bree and Edward Brayshaw.
A still of Madoc as the War Lord is my avatar on Outpost Gallifrey, or whatever it’s called these days, such is the regard in which I hold him in. He’s believably evil – and his smile upon delivering his various threats quite sinister; polo-necked, bearded and sporting a tiny little pair of rounded glasses that suggest something vaguely fascistic.
Solon is an altogether different kind of nutter; he’s a complete monomaniacal loony, devoted to beheading shipwrecked unfortunates on Karn in order to build a pot-pourri of a monster to house Morbius’ brain.
It’s superb grand guignol stuff – made all the more engaging by Solon’s wry, black sense of humour. Madoc’s dry “I’m sorry, the pun was irresistible,” in relation to a crap gag Solon makes to Morbius (“the crowning irony!”) is brilliant.
Madoc also appears in the film version of the Dalek Invasion of Earth as a
Nazi Dalek collaborator. Again, he’s a thoroughly unpleasant chap here. He’s also in the Power of Kroll, but I can’t remember anything him about in that. Various Doctor Who talents are reduced to mere squid food in that one.
I’m fairly sure the War Lord returned in some New Adventure or other – such was the power of the performance; it’s easy to believe it slipping under the radar into typically overblown Doctor Who villain lunacy in another’s hands.
We Who fans perhaps feel the death of such actors because we link them with childhood memories. And, perhaps, we’re more forgiving of such actors’ limitations.
Not so in the case of Madoc – he was a genuinely talented actor and comparison to the likes of Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins are irresistible.
Madoc was blessed with a wonderfully mellifluous voice, with a lovely Welsh lilt. Apparently he was a heck of a singer to boot. Here’s just a small example of Philip Madoc from beyond the world of Doctor Who. RIP.