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For The Love Of StoriesBig Finish produce fantastic full-cast audio dramas for CD and download.

Born on 29 October 1935 in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, Michael Jayston first got the acting bug while stationed in Germany as part of his National Service. After obtaining a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Jayston first took to the stage in the 1960s leading to television roles in Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice and King Lear

In a long and distinguished career on stage and screen, he notably portrayed Nicholas II of Russia in the 1971 historical film Nicholas and Alexandra. The movie also featured future Doctor Who star Tom Baker as Grigori Rasputin and Lord Laurence Olivier. In the same year, he played James Bond in a BBC Radio adaptation of You Only Live Twice and was at one point considered for the role on film.

A familiar face to TV viewers thanks to lead roles in series such as Quiller (1975), A Bit of a Do (1989) and Outside Edge (1995), his voice was also instantly recognisable to millions thanks to repeated employment by the advertising and narration industries. His warm tones have graced everything from commercials for St Ivel Gold to the Saint Etienne album Finisterre

In 2003, Michael reprised the role of the Valeyard (first seen on television in 1986’s Doctor Who story, The Trial of a Time Lord) for a new Big Finish series, Doctor Who Unbound. The audio drama He Jests at Scars reunited him with Bonnie Langford as Melanie Bush.

He returned on a number of occasions, to star alongside Colin Baker and Paul McGann, as well as his old friend David Warner

Paying tribute, Big Finish Creative Director Nicholas Briggs said: “I was very saddened indeed to hear of the loss of Michael Jayston. Such a cheery bloke and such a good actor, with a really classy voice. Those of my generation found that cut-glass, precise diction and sheer vocal power so familiar and somehow reassuringly bursting with authority. 

“We Doctor Who fans, of course, know him as the Valeyard, that nasty sliver of an evil regeneration of the Doctor – and we were grateful to have had him appear in a number of our Big Finish audio productions. I think I shall always have him fixed in my mind as the cold war spy Quiller, in the BBC drama series of the same name, which aired in the autumn of that glorious year when we had two Doctor Who seasons for the price of one, 1975. 

“But I’m grateful to have personal memories of him too, directing him in our Colin Baker finale epic, The Last Adventure. Such fun to work with, and he could always guarantee lively conversation in the green room. He was one of those people who, because of all the fame he’d enjoyed during my formative years, I couldn’t quite ever believe I was just chatting with. And I witnessed, on many, many occasions the warmth he gave with lashings of bonhomie to Doctor Who convention attendees. Remembrance of him brings a warm smile to my face, and a deep feeling that someone precious has been lost.”

Writing on X (formerly known as Twitter), Sixth Doctor actor Colin Baker said: “I am absolutely devastated. He was warm witty, clever naughty and a very fine actor & wonderful man. My thoughts and love go to his wife Ann and daughter Katie.”

And actor Nicola Bryant added: “He was an absolute gentleman, with the biggest twinkle in the business. An extraordinary raconteur and one of the loveliest men I’ve ever met. No more long lunches. My thoughts are with his lovely wife Ann.”

●  Michael Jayston (Michael James), actor, born 29 October 1935; died 5 February 2024. 

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