Gareth Thomas, the Welsh actor best known for playing Roj Blake on the cult-classic science fiction show Blake’s 7, died on April 13. According to The Guardian, Thomas died of a heart failure. He was 71-years-old.
Science fiction fans across the globe are mourning the loss of Gareth Thomas. Although the RADA trained actor had hundreds of roles over a career spanning half a century, he is perhaps best remembered for playing rebel leader Roj Blake in Blake’s 7. Krypton Radio‘s obituary described the length and breadth of his theatrical career.
“Gareth Thomas will always be Blake to me, although he has a very impressive list of characters to his name, from classical works as Benvolio in a 1965 TV movie of Shakespeare to classic SF roles as a workman in Quatermass and the Pit, and an assassin in The Avengers in 1967. He even narrated five episodes of the classic children’s story show Jackanory. In fact, there is not a single decade since his first role in 1965 that he has not acted.”
B7, as it is known by its fans, was a popular show on the BBC from 1978 to 1981. The show, referred by its creator Terry Nation as “the Dirty Dozen in space,” lasted 52 episodes, but Gareth Thomas as title character Roj Blake only appeared in 28 of them. According to BBC.com, “at its peak, the series was watched by 10 million viewers and was sold to 40 countries.” In the United States, B7 was a staple on PBS stations during the 1980s and 1990s. The show was known for its low-budget special effects and shaky sets, but high-quality scripts. Flickering Myth interviewed Thomas’ co-star, Paul Darrow, who quoted George Takei about Blake’s 7 vs. Star Trek.
“George Takei said to me, ‘Blake’s 7 scripts are so good, that’s why it did well even though it couldn’t compete against Star Trek for production values.'”
Gareth Daniel Thomas was born on February 12, 1945, in Aberystwyth, Wales, U.K. He attended The King’s School in Canterbury and then the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. His television career career began with playing Benvolio in the 1965 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. He acted on stage, on radio, in movies, but mostly on television.
In addition to starring in the first two seasons of Blake’s 7, Gareth Thomas appeared in many other science fiction and fantasy shows and movies. He starred in the ITV British-German Star Maidens as Shem, and played astrophysicist Adam Brake in The Children of the Stones. He also appeared in an episode of Torchwood, played Owen Edwards in Knights of God, and guest-starred in the rebooted version of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).
Gareth Thomas also played Ron Radley in Parkin’s Patch, Commander Bulstrode in London’s Burning, Nathaniel Clegghorn in Heartbeat, and Charles McAllister in Distant Shores. Of his many roles, Gareth Thomas’ personal favorite was Morgan Thomas in Morgan’s Boy. He was nominated for a BAFTA award for the role. He was also nominated for a BAFTA award for Stocker’s Copper (BBC Play for Today). Gareth Thomas also performed in several Royal Shakespeare Company productions, including Orsino in Twelfth Night and Cassio in Othello. His performance as Ephraim Cabot in Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms at the New Vic Theatre earned rave reviews.
According to the obituary published in The Telegraph, Gareth Thomas was survived by his wife Linda and their son. Their daughter predeceased him.
Meanwhile, Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas has been reassuring his fans that he is alive and well. Politician Gareth R. Thomas, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor of London this year, is also alive and well.
Gareth Daniel Thomas, 1945 – 2016. RIP.
[Photo by Frank Barratt/Getty Images]