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British actress Jacqueline Pearce who starred in Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who dies of lung cancer aged 74

British actress Jacqueline Pearce who starred in Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who dies of lung cancer aged 74

Blake’s 7 star Jacqueline Pearce has died at the age of 74 shortly after being diagnosed with lung cancer, her friend John Ainsworth has said. The actress, best known for playing villain Supreme Commander Servalan in the popular BBC science fiction series, died at her home in Lancashire. Alongside her role in Blake’s 7, which was expanded from a single episode to a regular role over four series due to her popularity, Pearce was also known for her guest role in The Two Doctors, a pair of Doctor Who episodes in 1985.  Her friend John Ainsworth, who had been her friend for 25 years and was with her at the time.

Lovely Jacqueline Pearce has left us. Sublime actress and lady. Class. Will be much missed.’   Pearce’s film roles included White Mischief with John Hurt, How To Get Ahead In Advertising with Richard E Grant and Princess Caraboo with Kevin Kline.  Further TV shows she acted in included a six-part BBC adaptation of David Copperfield in the 1970s, a detective series called The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes and two episodes of Casualty in 2006. Born in Byfleet, Surrey, in 1943, she was also in the 1988 version of The Bourne Identity and appeared as Annabelle Levi in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.   After training at the Royal Academy Of Dramatic Arts alongside Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt, she appeared in episodes of Danger Man and The Avengers – as well as children’s dramas Moondial and Dark Season, starring a young Kate Winslet and penned by Russell T Davies. In a statement, Davies said: ‘It was a joy, working with Jacqueline on the first drama I ever wrote, Dark Season. The British actress, who died at her home in Lancashire, is seen in publicity pictures from 1972 Jacqueline Pearce pictured in 1968 when she was starring in the television series Man In A Suitcase

The actress in 1966, when she played in the British TV series The Avengers as a character called Marianne  Film and TV highlights of actress Jacqueline Pearce’s career

1964: Played the character of Jeannie in the secret agent show Danger Man

1966: Featured as Marianne in The Avengers, a British espionage series

1971: Acted in The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, an ITV series featuring fictional detectives to rival Arthur Conan Doyle’s character

1974-75: Played Rosa Dartle in a six-part BBC adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield

1978-81: Starred as Supreme Commander Servalan in Blake’s 7, her most enduring role

1985: Guest starred as Chessenne in a two-part Doctor Who episode alongside lead actor Colin Baker and predecessor Patrick Troughton

1988: Received a credit in the TV movie The Bourne Identity, based on the same novel by Robert Ludlum which also inspired the 2002 film

1993: Played Annabelle Levi in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

2006: Appeared in two episodes of the BBC’s Casualty    ‘She was glorious, vivid, passionate, filthy and the most wonderful company. And underneath the style and the laughter, a truly fine actor.’  Blake’s 7 ran between 1978 and 1981. It proved an unlikely hit after initially being mocked as a ‘poor man’s Star Trek’ for its shoestring effects and primitive scenery. Sky One announced in 2008 it was commissioning a revival with computer-generated scenery but it cancelled the relaunch in 2010.  She also starred in West End theatre roles, including a production of Otherwise Engaged directed by Harold Pinter at London’s Queen’s Theatre in 1975.

Pearce was married for three-and-a-half years to Gordon ‘Drewe’ Henley, from 1963 until their divorce. Henley featured in the original Star Wars film in 1977 and footage of him was used in 2016’s spin-off Rogue One. After relocating to South Africa for several years, initially to care for orphaned monkeys, Pearce returned to the UK in 2015. Her autobiography, From Byfleet To The Bush, was published in 2012.

Writer Matthew Sweet paid tribute on Twitter, saying: ‘Some say Darth Vader was the greatest leader of an evil space empire. But Jacqueline Pearce did it arms aloft, in high heels.  ‘Who didn’t secretly yearn to be subjugated by her? Supreme Commander, we salute you.’

Mark Morris, who has written Doctor Who novels based on the BBC series, said: ‘So sad to hear of Jacqueline Pearce’s death at the age of 74.  ‘I fell in love with her as a callow youth when I saw her in The Reptile (still my favourite Hammer movie), and then of course she went on to enduring fame as Servalan, one of SF TV’s most ruthless & memorable villains.’

BAFTA-nominated author James Swallow shared a memory, saying: ‘Many years ago, I met Jacqueline Pearce in an elevator; she swept in and I was instantly shocked silent at the sight of one of sci-fi TV’s greatest super-villains sharing a lift with me.  ‘She favored me with an imperial smile & said ‘Yes, darling. I get that a lot.’

Former Labour MP William Bain joined the tributes, saying: ‘Really sad news. Over 10m people watched Blake’s 7 at its peak & Jacqueline Pearce as Servalan was big part of its appeal. RIP Supreme Empress.’  Admirers of Jacqueline Pearce and fans of the science fiction series Blake’s 7 took to Twitter to pay tribute to the actress Blake’s 7 star Jacqueline Pearce (pictured in 1978) has died at the age of 74 shortly after being diagnosed with lung cancer, her friend John Ainsworth has said The actress, pictured in 1967, was a star of the show Blake’s 7 and also featured in Doctor Who Jacqueline Pearce and actor Richard Hansell pictured together in September 1994

Actress Jacqueline Pearce, in 1966, acted in The Avengers playing as Marianne  The actress pictured left at the London Film and Comic Convention in 2005 and right at the Birmingham NEC in 2012 A publicity shot of Jacqueline Pearce from 1972. That year she starred in the TV series New Scotland Yard  The actress in 1980, while she was playing her most famous role as the Supreme Commander in the series Blake’s 7  Jacqueline Pearce at the play Dangerous Corner in 2001 (left) and in a Granada publicity shot in 1972 (right)


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Emma Jones
Emma Jones is an entertainment journalist for UKCelebrityNews and other magazines. The author or coauthor of ten books, Emma has sold several million copies since 2006. She worked for eleven years as a writer and editor at the national news biweekly WORLD magazine.