Anthony Ainley

Anthony Ainley (20 August 1932 – 3 May 2004) was a British actor. He was the fourth actor to portray the Master in Doctor Who.

Anthony Ainley
Anthony Ainley, Baltimore 1987 1.jpg
Ainley at a convention in Baltimore, Maryland, in March 1987
Born(1932-08-20)20 August 1932
Died3 May 2004(2004-05-03) (aged 71)
Harrow, London, England
Years active1942–1989, 1997
Known forThe Master in Doctor Who (1981–1989)
RelativesRichard Ainley (half-brother)

Early lifeEdit

Ainley was born in Stanmore, Middlesex, the son of the actor Henry Ainley, on 20 August 1932, although his birth was not registered until January 1938 at around the time that he was admitted to the actors' orphanage. The birth certificates of Anthony and his brother Timothy identify their mother as Clarice Holmes and it is under this surname that they are recorded in the Official Register. Although no father is named on the birth certificates, Timothy's marriage certificate identifies Henry Ainley as his father.[citation needed]

Under the name of Anthony Holmes, Ainley attended Cranleigh School from 1947 to 1950. His first job was as an insurance clerk, which was followed by a period at RADA.[1] He won the Fabia Drake Prize for Comedy whilst at RADA.[2] His half-brother, Richard Ainley, was also an actor.


Ainley's swarthy appearance tended to get him parts as villains, though an early regular role on British television was as Det. Sgt Hunter, sidekick to William Mervyn's Chief Inspector Rose in the second series of It's Dark Outside in 1966. Other notable roles include a subaltern in the 1969 film version of Oh! What a Lovely War,[3] Dietz in the 1974 film version of The Land That Time Forgot,[3] Reverend Fallowfield in the Tigon film The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971),[3] Henry Sidney in Elizabeth R (1971),[3] Clive Hawksworth in Spyder's Web (1972),[3] Rev. Emilius in the BBC's adaptation of The Pallisers (1974),[3] Johnson in the first episode of the BBC programme Secret Army (1977), and Sunley in The Avengers episode "Noon Doomsday" (1968). He was also one of the Hong Kong policemen who discover James Bond's supposed corpse in the opening sequence of You Only Live Twice (1967). Ainley played the role of the wealthy young peer Lord Charles Gilmour in the LWT series Upstairs, Downstairs (1973).[3]

Doctor WhoEdit

Ainley as the Master in the Doctor Who serial Logopolis (1981)

Reportedly, it was his performance as Rev. Emilius (in The Pallisers) that led to him being offered the role of the Master by John Nathan-Turner, who had worked on The Pallisers seven years before becoming producer of Doctor Who.[4] Ainley first portrayed the Master in the 1981 serial The Keeper of Traken and appeared in almost every season up until the cancellation of the original series in 1989, including its final serial, Survival.[5]

Ainley's Doctor Who appearances included: The Keeper of Traken (1981), Logopolis (1981), Castrovalva (1982), Time Flight (1982), The King's Demons (1983), The Five Doctors (1983), Planet of Fire (1984), The Mark of the Rani (1985), The Ultimate Foe (1986) and Survival (1989).

He later reprised the role for the 1997 BBC computer game Destiny of the Doctors.

Ainley's great love of the role is often cited in documentaries and DVD commentaries. Script editor Eric Saward claimed that he introduced himself over the phone by saying "This is the Master" and then would laugh. In the commentary and documentary for The Mark of the Rani, both Colin Baker and Kate O'Mara say that "He only ever wanted to play the Master." Baker remarked that he could afford this luxury because he had built up a private income by the mid-1980s and had inherited a considerable sum of money from his father. In "Cat Flap: Making of Survival", Sylvester McCoy confirms that all he ever wanted to be is the Master, and he kept his role active, even when not on set. "He was as scary off camera as he was on it."

Personal lifeEdit

Ainley remained unmarried throughout his life.[6] He joked on the DVD commentary for The Keeper of Traken (which was recorded shortly before his death) that he did not like the three rings of marriage: the engagement ring, the wedding ring and the bickering.

Ainley was a keen sportsman. Initially he was a rugby player, he played at fly-half for the Old Cranleighans, Richmond and Middlesex.[7] Later he turned his attentions to cricket, citing Sophie Aldred (who played Ace) as his friend once he learned that she played the game. He appeared on many occasions for the Stage and London Theatres C.C. mainly as an opening batsman.[8]


Ainley died in Harrow, London, on 3 May 2004, at the age of 71. He was known to be reclusive, remaining out of the public eye for most of his life after Doctor Who ended in 1989.

With his death, Geoffrey Beevers, who preceded him in the role, became the last surviving actor to play the Master in the classic series.


In 2015, Fantom Publishing published the biography of Anthony Ainley - The Man Behind the Master by Karen Louise Hollis. This came out in hardback, followed by paperback and audiobook.



Year Title Role Notes
1942 The Foreman Went to France Boy Uncredited[6]
1966 Naked Evil Dick Alderson
1967 You Only Live Twice Hong Kong Policeman #2 Uncredited
1968 Inspector Clouseau Bomber LeBec
Joanna Bruce
1969 Oh! What a Lovely War 3rd Aide
1971 Assault Mr. Bartell
The Blood on Satan's Claw Reverend Fallowfield
1974 The Land That Time Forgot[9] Dietz


Year Title Role Notes
1965 It's Dark Outside Det. Sgt. Hunter 5 Episodes
1967 The Golden Age Uncredited 1 Episode: A Divided Country
Champion House Leslie Molesworth 1 Episode: The Second Freedom
1968 The Avengers Edward Sunley 1 Episode: Noon-Doomsday
The Champions Landing party lookout #1 1 Episode: The Dark Island
1969 Who-Dun-It Paul Verrier 1 Episode: The Fall of a Goddess
1970 Department S Supervisor 1 Episode: A Ticket to Nowhere
Biography Trelawny 1 Episode: Byron
1971 Doomwatch Senior House Officer 1 Episode: No Room for Error
Play for Today Surgeon 1 Episode: The Rainbirds
Elizabeth R Henry Sidney 1 Episode: The Marriage Game
Out of the Unknown Frank Bowers-One 1 Episode: Welcome Home
Brett Gerard Delamore 2 Episodes
Hassan Ishak TV movie
1972 The Adventurer Kerston 1 Episode: The Bradley Way
The Shadow of the Tower Sir William Courtney 1 Episode: The Man Who Never Was
Clouds of Witness Dennis Cathcart 1 Episode
Spyder's Web Clive Hawksworth 13 Episodes
BBC Play of the Month Ferdinand Gadd 1 Episode: Trelawny of the Wells
1973 Warship Phillip Tashing 1 Episode: A Standing and Jumping War
Orson Welles Great Mysteries Lafarge 1 Episode: The Ingenious Reporter
Upstairs, Downstairs Lord Charles Gilmour 3 Episodes
1974 The Pallisers Rev. Emilius 7 Episodes
1975 Anne of Avonlea Stephen Irving 1 Episode
1976 The Flight of the Heron Lord George Murray 1 Episode
The Fortune Hunters Leslie Symington TV movie
Within These Walls James Buckingham 1 Episode: Visitors
1977 Nicholas Nickleby Sir Mulberry Hawk 4 Episodes
Secret Army Johnson 1 Episode: Lisa – Codename Yvette
Target Alexander Trist 1 Episode: Carve Up
1978 The Devil's Crown Pope Innocent III 1 Episode: Tainted King
Lillie Lord Carrington 2 Episodes
1980 Mackenzie Richard Wilcox 3 Episodes
1981–1989 Doctor Who The Master
31 Episodes
4 Episodes
1983 The Boy Who Won the Pools Mr. Simmons 2 Episodes
1997 Destiny of the Doctors The Master Video game


  1. ^ Hayward, Anthony (9 May 2004). "Anthony Ainley". The Independent. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  2. ^ "Anthony Ainley | Obituaries". 17 May 2004.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Anthony Ainley". IMDb. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  4. ^ Hadoke, Toby (15 May 2004). "Obituary: Anthony Ainley". The Guardian.
  5. ^ "Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide – Survival – Details". BBC. 29 October 2014.
  6. ^ a b Hadoke, Toby (14 May 2004). "Obituary: Anthony Ainley". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Stephen, Donald. "Obituary: Anthony Ainley". Old Cranleighans Magazine.
  8. ^ Haigh, Gideon, ed. (2006). Peter The Lord's Cat and Other Unexpected Obituaries From Wisden. London: John Wisden + Co. p. 3.
  9. ^ "Death becomes him".

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