Michael Gough

Last updated 09 January 2020

Michael Gough (1916-2011)
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Michael Gough

Born: Thursday 23rd November 1916
Died: Thursday 17th March 2011 (age: 94)


Michael Gough was best known to Doctor Who fans for his role as The Celestial Toymaker alongside the first Doctor, William Hartnell. He later appeared with fifth Doctor Peter Davison when he played the Doctor's old friend Hedin, in the 1982 story Arc of Infinity

Gough was born in Kuala Lumpa in either 1916 or 1915 - he never knew which. Despite the uncertainty about his year of birth, he holds the honour of being one of the longest-lived actors to have appeared in Doctor Who. His career was extraordinary. Between 1947 and 2000, he recorded at least one film per year, often more, in addition to a busy TV and stage career, which included tours with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Michael Gough's unstoppable film career began in the forties, with Androcles and the Lion, but it was his role as Nicholai in Anna Karenina that set in motion a prolific and distinguished movie career. By the early sixties he was well-known to TV viewers through such series as The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Count of Monte Christo, The Saint, ITV's Play of the Week and many more. 

After appearing in the title role of the 1965 Doctor Who story The Celestial Toymaker, Gough started to achieve a cult status among horror film fans, appearing in several notable productions from Hammer and Amicus, while continuing to be a regular face on British TV, with roles in The Avengers, Orlando, The Champions and Theatre 625, to name just a few. Throughout the seventies, he continued making several movies and TV series each year. Among the many classic series he appeared in during that decade are Colditz, The Protectors, Crown Court and Blake's 7. His career continued into the eighties with Brideshead Revisited, Smiley's People and a second appearance in Doctor Who - this time with the fifth Doctor, Peter Davison in Arc of Infinity

After a further decade of TV and film appearances, Gough found new adoration among a new generation of film-goers as Batman's butler, Alfred, in the new films in that franchise which began in 1989. His relentless work-rate continued during the 90s and into the 2000s, and he established a long friendship with director Tim Burton, appearing in Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride and, in 2010, Alice in Wonderland.

Gough was married four times - his third wife being Doctor Who actor Anneke Wills. Wills had encountered him at various times during her life - firstly during a theatre trip with her mother in 1952 - but they first met formally, on the set of Candidate for Murder and the attraction was instant. Gough adopted Anneke's daughter Polly, and in 1965, their son Jasper was born. 

After his death, Wills said: "As his body was deteriorating this week, he said that he wanted to hang on for St Patrick's Day. And he did, just. In the end... there is only love."

(Tim Hirst)