This is a good article. Click here for more information.

Jacqueline Pearce

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Jacqueline Pearce
Jacqueline Pearce.jpg
Jacqueline Pearce at the Blake's 7 Series 2 DVD launch, 2005
Born(1943-12-20)20 December 1943
Byfleet, Surrey, England
Died3 September 2018(2018-09-03) (aged 74)
Lancashire, England
Alma mater
Years active1964–2018
(m. 1963; div. 1967)

Jacqueline Pearce (20 December 1943 – 3 September 2018) was a British film and television actress. She was best known for her portrayal of the principal villain Servalan in the British science fiction TV series Blake's 7 (1978–1981), a performance which her obituarist in The Times wrote produced "a sexual awakening for a generation of sci-fi fans".[1]

Pearce studied at both the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and at the Actors Studio. After early roles in two Hammer horror films, The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile, she played opposite Jerry Lewis in Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River. On stage, she acted in Otherwise Engaged, directed by Harold Pinter, and in Tom Stoppard's Night and Day, and she had numerous television, theatre and audio roles, including in Doctor Who.

She suffered from clinical depression during periods of her life, which she discussed in her memoir, From Byfleet to the Bush (2012). Pearce spent five years working at the Vervet Monkey Foundation in South Africa, before returning to the UK in 2015.

Early life[edit]

Jacqueline Pearce was born in Byfleet, Surrey, on 20 December 1943.[2][3] She grew up spending time both living at her father's home in Byfleet and with a foster family, after her mother had left when Pearce was 16 months old.[4] She attended the Marist Convent School for Girls at West Byfleet,[2] where one of the teachers encouraged her to pursue her ambition of acting, and after leaving school, Pearce successfully auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).[5]


After graduating from RADA in 1963,[5] Pearce made her television debut in the series A Question of Happiness, in which she played a waitress in the episode "Watch Me I'm a Bird", alongside her RADA contemporaries Drewe Henley, Ian McShane and John Hurt.[6][7][8] In the same year, she flew to Yugoslavia to film a short appearance for the film Genghis Khan.[6] She later appeared in minor roles in Danger Man[9][7] and in Sky West and Crooked, where McShane played a character who was her boyfriend.[9][7] In Spring 1965, she auditioned for Anthony Nelson Keys at Bray Studios, and won leading roles in two Hammer horror films, The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile.[5] These were filmed one after another on the same location and both released in 1966.[5][10]

She married Henley in 1963, after they met when he directed her in a short film while they were at RADA.[2][6] She divorced him in 1967 after he left her for Felicity Kendal.[1] Having left for America in 1967 following her divorce, Pearce stayed there until 1971. She worked for Sammy Davis Jr., answering his fan mail, and trained at Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio in Los Angeles.[6][1] In 1974, she appeared in the role of Rosa Dartle in the BBC dramatisation of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield (1974).[2] In a 1975 television version of Christopher Hampton's stage play The Philanthropist, Pearce played Araminta. The show was criticised by Ann Sheldon Williams of The Stage, who felt that the production was not appropriate for a transfer to television as it should rely on some distancing from the audience, but felt that Pearce's performance "had the right blend of softness and predatoriness".[11]

Pearce remains best known for her role as Servalan, the principal villain in the British science fiction TV series Blake's 7 (1978–1981).[3][12][13] The character was originally written for one episode, but was expanded to a regular role over four series due to Pearce's popularity.[12] Initially the "Supreme Commander", the character later became "President", and is cited by film and television scholar Steven Duckworth as one of the characters that develops significantly during the programme, which he regards as particularly notable as she is a villain.[14] Duckworth also opines that Servalan "offers a potentially empowering female character through her transgression of established gender binaries, this nonconformity is closely bound up with her role as the show's primary villain".[14]: 55  Pearce had her hair cropped short when auditioning for the role, and was asked by the producers to keep it short. She influenced the production team to dress her character in feminine clothes rather than the military uniform that they had suggested.[15] Pearce reprised the role in a 90-minute play entitled The Sevenfold Crown on BBC Radio 4 in 1998, alongside several other original Blake's 7 cast members.[16]

She said of Servalan that "I saw her as a woman who was very damaged and driven by pain ... what drove her was not a desire to be evil but a desire to escape from pain."[17] In a 2000 interview for The Observer, Pearce said that, given her own low self-esteem, the role had affected her personal life for years, as she had been attracted to the character's power and taken on some aspects of Servalan's personality, telling the interviewers that it had taken "the best years of my life to recover from Servalan".[18]

The Aberdeen Press and Journal reviewer Tom Lynch referred to Pearce as Servalan as "one of telly's finest baddies".[19] Roy West of the Liverpool Echo felt that "Amid a number of nebulous performances, [Pearce is] a shining star."[20] Historian Dominic Sandbrook wrote in his Who Dares Wins: Britain, 1979–1982 (2019) that "Played with scenery-chewing relish by Jacqueline Pearce, Servalan is at once immensely glamorous and thoroughly evil" and drew a parallel with UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who took office in 1979, in that both were "perfectly happy to exploit [their] femininity".[21] Vanessa Thorpe and Jakki Phillips said in The Observer in 2000 that "she was the evil genius who haunted the dreams of adolescent boys. With her pathological lust for power and low voice, early encounters with Servalan, the arch-villainess of the BBC sci-fi series Blake's Seven, are remembered as formative experiences by many who were young in the Seventies."[18] Pearce's obituary in The Times stated that her performance provoked "a sexual awakening for a generation of sci-fi fans".[1]

Other film roles include the Carry On film Don't Lose Your Head (1966), White Mischief (1987), How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989), and Princess Caraboo (1994).[12][7] In Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968) she played opposite Jerry Lewis in his first non-Hollywood film.[22] Pearce told an interviewer in 1981 that as the film had been a commercial failure, it had not helped her career.[23] She appeared as an associate of the assassin Carlos in the television movie, The Bourne Identity (1988).[24] She also acted in theatre, including Otherwise Engaged, directed by Harold Pinter.[2]

As well as appearing in the BBC children's programmes Dark Season (alongside Kate Winslet) and Moondial,[2] Pearce appeared in the Doctor Who serial The Two Doctors (1985) as Chessene, a bloodthirsty alien,[25][26] taking the role at short notice after Elizabeth Spriggs had left the production.[27] She was later associated with Doctor Who again through her appearances in The Fearmonger as Sherilyn Harper, an audio drama by Big Finish Productions, and as Admiral Mettna in the webcast story Death Comes to Time. Pearce returned to Doctor Who in 2015, this time opposite Hurt, as a regular in the Big Finish audio series based on the adventures of the War Doctor, portraying Cardinal Ollistra, a leader of the Time Lords in the Time War.[28] Pearce also made guest appearances in TV series such as The Avengers, Public Eye, Callan, Dead of Night, Special Branch, Spy Trap, and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.[7][29]

In 1980 Pearce played Ruth on stage in Tom Stoppard's Night and Day, a performance that Ann Fitzgerald in The Stage praised as she felt that Pearce had "an enviable range of tone and mood at her command".[30] For the 1984/85 pantomime season, Pearce appeared in Cinderella at the Gaumont Theatre, Southampton, alongside Doctor Who actors Colin Baker, Mary Tamm, Anthony Ainley and Nicola Bryant.[31] Pearce and her fellow Blake's 7 actor Paul Darrow (Avon) were voice actors for the 1996 videogame Gender Wars.[32]

Her obituarist in The Daily Telegraph wrote that Pearce possessed "considerable depth and emotional range" which "was not often exploited",[4] whilst her obituary in The Times read that "She could and should have achieved so much more. At Rada she was considered one of the most promising thespians of her generation by contemporaries such as Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt" but that her mental illness had "blighted her career".[1]

Personal life[edit]

Pearce suffered from clinical depression during periods of her life.[1] Pearce recounted in her memoir what she regarded as a profound personal and spiritual renaissance while volunteering at the Vervet Monkey Foundation in South Africa, where she had gone for a short stay, but ended up staying five years.[1][33] She described "the joy of family which hadn't proved possible with human beings".[1] Paul Owens of Starburst praised the book, which he described as a "tortured, agonized memoir of a woman battling with insecurity, mental illness, poverty, homelessness and disillusionment".[34] In addition to her marriage to Drewe Henley, from 1963 until their divorce in 1967, Pearce was married a second time, which also ended in divorce.[2] Pearce returned to the UK in 2015.[1] She was diagnosed with lung cancer in August 2018 and died on 3 September 2018 at her home in Lancashire.[12][2]



Year Title Role Notes Ref
1964 A Question of Happiness girl in cafe episode "Watch me I'm a bird" [7][35]
1964 A Question of Happiness Frances episode "Fred" [7][35]
1964 Danger Man Jeannie episode "Don't Nail Him Yet" [9]
1965 Giants on Saturday girl in pub [7]
1966 Public Eye episode "Tell me about the crab" [29]
1966 The Avengers Marianne episode "A Sense of History" [36]
1967 Haunted Jenny Bryce episode "I Like It Here" [7]
1967 Theatre 625 Eva Franzia episode "The Magicians: The Incantation of Casanova" [7]
1967 Man in a Suitcase cast member episode "Sweet Sue" [7]
1968 Armchair Theatre cast member episode "The Glove Puppet" [7]
1968 The Root of All Evil? Connie episode "West of Eden" [7]
1968 Man in a Suitcase Ruth Klinger episode "Somebody Loses, Somebody...Wins?" [7]
1969 Callan Eva episode "Once a Big Man, Always a Big Man" [7]
1971 The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes Jenny Pryde episode "The Case of the Dixon Torpedo" [7]
1972 New Scotland Yard Leonie Peters episode "The Banker" [7]
1972 Dead of Night Sarah Hopkirk episode "Bedtime" [7]
1973 The Edwardians Countess Halecka episode "Lloyd George" [7]
1973 Hadleigh Sue episode "Second Thoughts" [7]
1974–1975 David Copperfield Rosa Dartle [7]
1974 The Aweful Mr. Goodall Madame Prigent episode "Clara" [7]
1974 Vienna 1900 Anna Rupius 2 episodes [7]
1974 Special Branch Helga Moritz episode "Catherine the Great" [7]
1975 Churchill's People Mrs Parker episode "Mutiny" [7]
1975 Couples Claudia Haswell 5 episodes [7]
1975 Spy Trap Helen Machin episode "With Friends Like You" [7]
1975 The Philanthropist Araminta [7]
1977 Leap in the Dark Dorothy McEwan episode "The Ghost of Ardachie Lodge2 [7]
1978–1981 Blake's 7 Servalan [7]
1978 Shadows hostess episode "And for My Next Trick" [7]
1979 Measure for Measure Mariana [7][37]
1980 Star Games on-screen participant [7]
1985 What Mad Pursuit? cast member [7]
1985 Doctor Who Chessene serial The Two Doctors [26]
1985 The Bourne Identity Madame Jacqui [26][37]
1988–90 Moondial Miss Vole/Miss Raven 5 episodes [7]
1991 Dark Season Miss Pendragon 3 episodes [7]
1993 The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles Annabelle Levi episode "Paris October 1916" [7]
1999 Mrs. Pollifax cast member [7]
2002 Daniel Deronda Baroness Langen [7]
2006 Casualty Elspeth Lang episode "No Place Like..." [7]
2016 Pointless Celebrities on-screen participant [38]


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1965 Changes cast member short [7]
1965 Genghis Khan Shah's Daughter[citation needed] [3]
1966 Sky West and Crooked Cammellia [7]
1966 The Plague of the Zombies Alice Tompson [7]
1966 The Reptile Anna Franklyn [7]
1967 Don't Lose Your Head Third lady [7][37]
1968 Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River Pamela Lester [7]
1980 Weekend cast member student film [7]
1988 White Mischief Idina [7]
1989 How to Get Ahead in Advertising Maud [7]
1994 Princess Caraboo Lady Apthorpe [7]
1995 The Contract cast member short [7]
1998 Guru in Seven Joan, 'The oyster lady' [7]


Dates Title Role Venue Notes Ref.
1964 The Judge Pat Dean Cambridge Theatre author: John Mortimer, director: Stuart Burge [39]
1968 Smile Boys, That's the Style Kate Wood Citizens Theatre author: John Hale, director: Michael Blakemore [40]
1975 Otherwise Engaged Queen's Theatre director: Harold Pinter [2]
1977 A Midsummer Night's Dream Titania Northcott Theatre, and tour of Devon and Cornwall director: Geoffrey Reeves [41]
1980 Night and Day Ruth Belgrade Theatre author: Tom Stoppard, director: Robert Hamlin [42][30]
1981 Witness for the Prosecution Essex Hall, London author: Agatha Christie, director: Robert Henderson [43]
1981 Wait Until Dark Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke Author: Frederick Knott, director: Cyril Frankel [23]
1983 Outlaw Haymarket Studio, Leicester, and national tour author: Michael Abbensetts, director: Robert Gillespie [44]
1992 Shadowlands Ruth Belgrade Theatre author: William Nicholson, director: Rumu Sen-Gupta [45]
1997 When God wanted a Son New End Theatre author: Arnold Wesker, director: Spencer Butler [46]
1999 A Star is Torn Co-writer and performer Gilded Ballroom (Edinburgh Festival Fringe) Co-writer and director: Spencer Butler [47]
2000 Deception Marlborough Pub and Theatre [18]
2001 Aphrodite Blues New End Theatre [48]
2001 Dangerous Corner Garrick Theatre Maud Mockridge [49]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Jacqueline Pearce obituary". The Times. 20 September 2018. Archived from the original on 30 December 2020. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hadoke, Toby (4 September 2018). "Jacqueline Pearce obituary – Actor who brought a perfectly judged level of camp to the role of the vampish, villainous Servalan in the TV sci-fi series Blake's 7". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 30 December 2020. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  3. ^ a b c McFarlane, Brian (16 May 2016). The Encyclopedia of British Film: Fourth edition. Oxford University Press. p. 589. ISBN 9781526111968. Archived from the original on 30 December 2020. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ a b "Blake 7 star Jacqueline Pearce dies, aged 74". The Telegraph. 3 September 2018. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 30 December 2020. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Hearn, Marcus (2009). "Jacqueline Pearce". Hammer Glamour. London: Titan Books. pp. 116–119. ISBN 9781848562295.
  6. ^ a b c d Fleming, John (1981). "Jacqueline Pearce". Starburst. Vol. 3, no. 8. pp. 22–27.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az "Jacqueline Pearce". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 1 January 2021. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  8. ^ Lock, Alistair; Stevens, Alan (August 1991). "Jacqueline Pearce". TV Zone. No. 21. Visual Imagination. pp. 24–27. ISSN 0957-3844.
  9. ^ a b c Condon, Paul (15 February 2018). 1001 TV Series: You Must Watch Before You Die. Octopus. p. 188. ISBN 978-1-78840-046-6. Archived from the original on 1 January 2021. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  10. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Reptile, The (1966)". Archived from the original on 30 December 2020. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  11. ^ Williams, Ann Sheldon (6 November 1975). "Too stagey for the medium". The Stage. p. 13.
  12. ^ a b c d Association, Press (3 September 2018). "Jacqueline Pearce, Blake's 7 and Doctor Who actor, dies aged 74". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 5 September 2018. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  13. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (1999). A History and Critical Analysis of Blake's 7, the 1978–1981 British Television Space Adventure. McFarland. p. 187. ISBN 978-0786406005.
  14. ^ a b Duckworth, Steven (2010). "4. Blake's 7". In Lavery, David (ed.). The essential cult t.v. reader. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 51–59. ISBN 9780813125688.
  15. ^ Nazzaro, Joe; Wells, Sheelagh (1997). Blake's 7: the inside story. Virgin Publishing. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0753500442.
  16. ^ Carter, Meg (16 January 1998). "Return of '70s Seven". The Times. p. 36.
  17. ^ Powers, Tom (2016). Gender and the Quest in British Science Fiction Television. McFarland. p. 84. ISBN 9781476665528.
  18. ^ a b c Thorpe, Vanessa; Phillips, Jakki (1 October 2000). "How evil Servalan took over my life". The Observer. p. 14.
  19. ^ Lynch, Tom (12 January 1980). "This soap will was away the blues". Aberdeen Press and Journal. p. 9.
  20. ^ West, Roy (17 March 1980). "TV Guide". Liverpool Echo. p. 5.
  21. ^ Sandbrook, Dominic (2019). Who Dares Wins: Britain, 1979–1982. Penguin. p. 83. ISBN 9780141975276. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  22. ^ "A 'bride' for Jerry Lewis". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 10 July 1967. p. 7.
  23. ^ a b Cole, Celia (20 March 1981). "How Jacqui shocked her old convent". Reading Evening Post. p. 9.
  24. ^ "The Bourne Identity (1988) – Roger Young – Cast and Crew". AllMovie. Archived from the original on 30 December 2020. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  25. ^ "Jacqueline Pearce played Chessene… – The Two Doctors: Miscellaneous – The Two Doctors, Season 22, Doctor Who – BBC One". BBC. Archived from the original on 30 December 2020. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  26. ^ a b c Smith, Mark (5 September 2018). "Jacqueline Pearce". The Herald. Glasgow. p. 17.
  27. ^ "Director and team". Doctor Who In-Vision. No. 82. February 1999. pp. 4–5. ISSN 0953-3303.
  28. ^ Lazarus, Susanna (15 October 2015). "John Hurt to return as The War Doctor in new Doctor Who audio plays". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 24 July 2020. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  29. ^ a b Amos, Bill (27 August 1966). "And still some say 'no TV'". Liverpool Echo. p. 2.
  30. ^ a b Fitzgerald, Ann (25 September 1980). "Coventry: Night and Day". The Stage. p. 29.
  31. ^ "Dr Who". Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  32. ^ "Gender wars". Games World. No. 20. Paragon Publishing. February 1996. p. 9. ISSN 1354-2907.
  33. ^ Pearce, Jacqueline (2012). From Byfleet to the Bush. Fantom Films. ISBN 978-1906263874.
  34. ^ Owens, Paul (21 March 2012). "Book Review: From Byfleet to the Bush". Starburst. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  35. ^ a b "Four plays on happiness from Granada". The Stage. 23 April 1964. p. 9.
  36. ^ "The Avengers: A Sense of History". BBC. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  37. ^ a b c "Jacqueline Pearce". Doctor Who In-Vision. No. 82. February 1999. p. 5. ISSN 0953-3303.
  38. ^ "Pointless Celebrities". BBC. Archived from the original on 1 January 2021. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  39. ^ Marriott, R.B. (9 March 1967). "The Judge with a guilty conscience". The Stage. p. 13.
  40. ^ "Mixed up emotions". The Stage. 2 May 1968. p. 15.
  41. ^ "On this week in...". The Stage. 7 July 1977. p. 23.
  42. ^ "Production News". The Stage. 4 September 1980. p. 22.
  43. ^ "Theatre Week". The Stage. 22 January 1981. p. 10.
  44. ^ "Production News". The Stage. 6 October 1983. p. 24.
  45. ^ "Production News". The Stage. 15 October 1992. p. 11.
  46. ^ "Theatre Week". The Stage. 6 February 1997. p. 47.
  47. ^ "Fringe listings". The Stage. 5 August 1999. p. 34.
  48. ^ Thaxter, John (15 March 2001). "Theatre review: Aphrodite Blues". The Stage. p. 14.
  49. ^ Wolf, Matt (18 February 2002). "Dangerous Corner". Variety. Vol. 386, no. 1. Los Angeles. p. 43.

External links[edit]

Media related to Jacqueline Pearce at Wikimedia Commons