Anthony Ainley

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Anthony Ainley
Master Ainley.jpg
Anthony Ainley as the Master in Doctor Who -Logopolis
Born (1932-08-20)20 August 1932
Stanmore, Middlesex, England
Died 3 May 2004(2004-05-03) (aged 71)
Harrow, London, England
Cause of death
Occupation Actor
Years active 1942-1997
Known for The Master
in Doctor Who (1981–1989)
Parent(s) Henry Ainley, Clarice Holmes
Relatives Richard Ainley (half-brother)

Anthony Ainley (20 August 1932 – 3 May 2004) was an English actor best known for his work on British television and particularly for his role as the Master in Doctor Who. He was the fourth actor to play the role of the Master, and the first actor to portray the Master as a recurring role after the death of Roger Delgado in 1973.

Early life[edit]

Ainley was born in Stanmore, Middlesex the son of the actor Henry Ainley. His half-brother, Richard Ainley, was also an actor. He was educated at Cranleigh School. His first job was as an insurance clerk which was followed by a period at RADA.[1]



Ainley's swarthy appearance tended to get him parts as villains, though an early regular role on British television was as Det. Sgt Hunter, sidekick to William Mervyn's Chief Inspector Rose in the second series of It's Dark Outside in 1966. Other notable roles include a subaltern in the 1969 film version of Oh! What a Lovely War,[2] Dietz in the 1975 film version of The Land That Time Forgot,[3] Reverend Fallowfield in the Tigon film The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971),[4] Henry Sidney in Elizabeth R (1971),[5] Clive Hawksworth in Spyder's Web (1972),[6] Rev. Emilius in the BBC's adaptation of The Pallisers (1974),[7] Johnson in the first episode of the BBC programme Secret Army (1977), and Sunley in The Avengers episode "Noon Doomsday" (1968). He was also one of the Hong Kong policemen who discover James Bond's supposed corpse in the opening sequence of You Only Live Twice (1967).

Ainley played the role of the wealthy young peer Lord Charles Gilmour in the ITV series Upstairs, Downstairs (1973).[8]

Doctor Who[edit]

Reportedly, it was his performance as Rev. Emilius (in The Pallisers) that led to him being offered the role of the Master by John Nathan-Turner, who had worked on The Pallisers seven years before becoming producer of Doctor Who.[9] Ainley first portrayed the Master in the 1981 serial The Keeper of Traken and appeared in almost every season up until the cancellation of the original series in 1989, including its final serial, Survival.[10] He later reprised the role for the 1997 BBC computer game Destiny of the Doctors.

Ainley's great love of the role is often cited in documentaries and DVD commentaries. Script Editor Eric Saward claimed that he introduced himself over the phone by saying "This is the Master" and then would laugh. In the commentary and documentary for The Mark of the Rani, both Colin Baker and Kate O'Mara say that "He only ever wanted to play the Master". Colin Baker remarked that he could afford this luxury because he had built up a private income by the mid-1980s and had inherited a considerable sum of money from his father.

Personal life[edit]

Ainley remained unmarried throughout his life. He joked on the DVD commentary for The Keeper of Traken (which was recorded shortly before his death) that he didn't like the three rings of marriage: the engagement ring, the wedding ring and the bickering.

Ainley was a keen sportsman. Initially he was a rugby player, he played at fly half for the Old Cranleighans, Richmond and Middlesex.[11] Later he turned his attentions to cricket - even abruptly citing Sophie Aldred (who played Ace) as his friend once he learned that she played the game. He appeared on many occasions for the Stage and London Theatres C.C. mainly as an opening batsman.[12]


Ainley died at the age of 71 on 3 May 2004. The Times ' obituary for him listed his cause of death as cancer. Ainley was known to be very private,[13] and remained out of the public eye for most of his life after Doctor Who ended in 1989. It is for this reason that many believed reports of his death were a hoax. A detailed biography of his life The Man Behind The Master by Karen Louise Hollis was published by Fantom Films in May 2015.[14]

Selected filmography[edit]


External links[edit]