The actor Richard Briers has died at the age of 79.
Born in 1934 in Raynes Park, Briers started off his career as a filing clerk, a role he continued to perform during his national service. It was at this time he met Brian Murphy, who introduced him to acting and once his service had finished Briers went to study at RADA. After graduating, he then worked at Liverpool Repertory Theatre, where he was to meet his wife Ann Davies.
An established actor of stage and screen, Briers became a household name during the 1970s for his role as Tom Good in The Good Life. This was followed by other popular roles such as Martin Bryce in Ever Decreasing Circles, Tony Fairfax in Down to Earth, Hector McDonald in Monarch of the Glen, and for two generations of children as the narrator and voices of Roobarb.
Other notable television roles included his breakthrough as George Starling in Marriage Lines (in which he starred alongside Prunella Scales, whose son Sam is his godson), Birds on a Wing, The Norman Conquests, All in Good Faith, and If You See God, Tell Him. He was also a presenter of Jackanory, the original voice of Noddy, narrator of another childrens' animated series Noah and Nelly, and played Bob The Builder's dad Robert.
In theatre, he worked alongside Kenneth Branagh in a number of productions, including the lead roles in King Lear and Uncle Vanya, and also took on roles in some nine films by the director, including Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, and Frankenstein. His most recent role was as machine gun-wielding walker-bound Hamish in Cockneys vs Zombies.
In 1987 he appeared in the Doctor Who story Paradise Towers alongside Sylvester McCoy, playing the Chief Caretaker. Talking about the role to Doctor Who Magazine, the actor said: Doctor Who enabled me to overact, and I enjoy that. The producer (John Nathan-Turner) worried that I wasn't taking the role seriously. He thought that Doctor Who was some kind of classic, which I suppose it was, but he considered it a classic like one of Shakespeare's plays. He thought that I wanted to send up Doctor Who. I think he was frightened that I would start overdoing it...so I did! I thought I had leeway." In 2008 he returned to the Doctor Who universe, appearing in the Torchwood story A Day in the Death as the critically ill Henry Parker.
In his later life, Briers became President of the Parkinson's Disease Society, and was also involved in the launch of the Sense-National Deafblind and Rubella Association campaign. He was also a non-medical patron of the Tracheo-Oesophageal Fistula Support charity, which supports children and the families of children born unable to swallow.
He was awarded the OBE in 1989, and then the CBE in 2003 for his services to drama.
Briers passed away peacefully in his sleep on Sunday after a long struggle with a lung condition. He is survived by his wife Ann and children Lucy and Katie.
(Richard David Briers, 14 Jan 1934 - 17 Feb 2013)