Thursday, 14 April 2016

The Late Great Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas, who played Roj Blake on the British sci-fi show Blake's 7, died yesterday, April 13 2016, at the age of 71. The cause was heart failure.

Gareth Thomas was born on February 12 1945 in Wales. He attended The King's School, Canterbury. He studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and later became a RADA associate. He made his television debut playing Benvolio in a television production of Romeo and Juliet. He was one of the stars of the crime drama Parkin's Patch from 1969 to 1970. In the late Sixties he also guest starred on The Avengers and The Wednesday Play. He made his film debut in Quatermass and the Pit in 1967.

The Seventies saw Gareth Thomas appearing in recurring roles on several TV series and mini-series. He had a recurring role as a chauffeur on Harriet's Back in Town. He had a recurring role in the first series of the legal drama Sutherland's Law. He played Mr. Murdstone in an adaptation of David Copperfield. He played Rev. Gruffydd in a multi-part adaptation of How Green Was My Valley. He was one of the stars of Star Maidens and the star of the mini-series Children of the Stones. It was in 1978 that Blake's 7 debuted, starring Gareth Thomas as political dissident Roj Blake. He appeared on the show from 1978 to 1981 before Blake was controversially killed off.

In the Seventies Gareth Thomas also guest starred on such shows as Coronation Street, Man at the TopZ Cars, Public Eye, Special Branch, Justice, Jackanory, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Victorian Scandals, and Hammer House of Horror. He appeared in the films The Ragman's Daughter (1972), Si può essere più bastardi dell'ispettore Cliff? (1973), Smokey Joe's Revenge (1974), and Juggernaut (1974).

In the Eighties Gareth Thomas starred in the series The Bell, The Citadel, Morgan's Boy, Knights of God, Chelworth, and Emlyn's Moon. He guest starred on Bergerac, Shades of Darkness, Love and Marriage, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Dramarama, Tales of the Unexpected, and Boon.

In the Nineties Gareth Thomas starred on the series The Chestnut Soldier, London's Burning, and Heartbeat. He guest starred on Maigret, Medics, Wales Playhouse, Crown Prosecutor, Animal Ark, The Strangerers, and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased). He appeared in the films Waterland (1992) and Storia di una capinera (1993).

In the Naughts Gareth Thomas starred in the series Distant Shores. He guest starred on Baddiel's Syndrome, Casualty, Taggart, Torchwood, Midsomer Murders, M.I.High, and Personal Affairs. He appeared in the films Imaginary Summer (2008) and Made in Romania (2010). His last appearance was in 2011 in an episode of Holby City.

Gareth Thomas also acted extensively on the stage and acted in many productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Among these productions were Twelfth Night, Othello, and  Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie.

Gareth Thomas was an immensely talented actor. This is borne out by his work on Blake's 7. Blake's 7 had production values that were sometimes derided when it first aired, with inexpensive sets and poor special effects. The reason it was so popular with viewers was in large part due to the performances of its cast. As lead character Roj Blake, Gareth Thomas was crucial to the show's success. There can be little doubt that much of the show's continued popularity is partly due to the strength of his performance as Blake.

Of course, Gareth Thomas played much more than Roj Blake. Among his better known roles was that of Charles McCallister in Distant Shores, a comedy about as far from Blake's 7 as one could get. He appeared as Idris Llewellyn in the adaptations of Emlyn's Moon and The Chestnut Soldier (the last two books in Jenny Nimmo's "The Magician Trilogy"). Over the years Gareth Thomas played a wide variety of roles and did well in all of them. While he may be best known as Roj Blake, he did so much more.

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