Big Finish were saddened to learn that Jacqueline Pearce, star of Blake’s 7 Doctor Who and Hammer Horror movies, has died today aged 74.
The striking actress will be best remembered for playing Supreme Commander Servalan, the glamorous but ruthless villain in the popular BBC science fiction series Blake’s 7, which retains a keen cult following to this day. Initially appearing in a supporting role for a single episode, the character proved to be so popular that she was invited back for more. Servalan became a recurring villain, appearing regularly throughout the series’ four seasons, from 1978 to 1981 (with Pearce ultimately billed as second lead after Paul Darrow's anti-hero Avon). She would later recall, with delight, how she received numerous fan letters from young men whose passions had been awakened by her sexually charged performance as Servalan.
Jacqueline Pearce trained as an actress at RADA alongside Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt. She appeared in TV roles in the mid-1960s, including episodes of Danger Man, The Avengers and Man in a Suitcase. She starred in two horror movies for Hammer – she played the titular creature in The Reptile, and was beheaded in Plague of the Zombies. In 1968, she co-starred with Jerry Lewis, Terry Thomas and Bernard Cribbins in the comedy, Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River, and also appeared in the Carry On film Don’t Lose Your Head.
Later TV work, often cast as the villain, included a guest role in Doctor Who in 1985 opposite Colin Baker’s Doctor; the children’s dramas Moondial and Dark Season – the latter written by Russell T Davies; The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles; and Casualty. Film appearances included White Mischief with John Hurt; How to Get Ahead in Advertising with Richard E Grant; and Princess Caraboo with Kevin Kline. Her theatre work included West End appearances in Harold Pinter’s Otherwise Engaged (Queen’s Theatre) and JB Priestly’s Dangerous Corner (Garrick Theatre); Shadowlands; Tom Stoppard’s Night and Day (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry) ; and her one woman show A Star is Torn.
After relocating to South Africa for several years, initially to care for orphaned monkeys, Jacqueline returned to the UK in 2015. Her unflinching autobiography From Byfleet to the Bush was published in 2012.
Jacqueline Pearce, aged 74, died of lung cancer at her home in Lancashire on 3rd September 2018. Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies was among those paying tribute, saying “It was a joy, working with Jacqueline on the first drama I ever wrote, Dark Season. She was glorious, vivid, passionate, filthy and the most wonderful company. And underneath the style and the laughter, a truly fine actor.”
Producer and friend John Ainsworth said, “Jacqueline always stood out from the crowd – both as an actor and in life. She exuded warmth, glamour, and charm like a Siren and people couldn’t help but be drawn to her. She had a unique talent and was a unique human being.”