British actor Peter Bowles passed away today at the age of 85. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Bowles had a career that spanned from 1956 to 2019, during which he appeared in a diverse selection of television shows, movies, and theatrical productions.
Depending upon your own particular interests, you may recall Bowles from one thing or another. To the general public in Britain he is probably best-known for his starring roles in the sitcoms To The Manor Born on BBC1 from 1979 to 1981 and Only When I Laugh on ITV from 1979 to 1982. Offhand I don’t recall having ever watched either of those shows. However I was very familiar with Bowles from his numerous appearances in British genre television over the years.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Bowles guest starred on such shows as Danger Man, The Saint, The Prisoner, Department S, The Avengers, The Protectors and Special Branch, often playing villains. In 1975 Bowles appeared in “The Fourth Horseman,” the first episode of the post-apocalyptic drama Survivors created by Terry Nation. Bowles played David Grant, the husband of lead character Abby Grant, portrayed by Carolyn Seymour; by episode’s end David, along with 99% of the human race, had been wiped out by a virulent pandemic, setting the stage for the rest of series.
Another of Bowles notable genre roles was in the Space 1999 episode “End of Eternity,” written by Johnny Byrne and directed by Ray Austin, broadcast in November 1975. Space 1999 was an ambitious sci-fi / space opera which often transcended its low budget and primitive special effects via an effective combination of quality writing & acting, resulting in a number of memorably disturbing episodes. “End of Eternity” is definitely among those. Bowles played Baylor, an immortal alien who the actor subsequently described as “the most evil man in the universe.” The combination of an absolutely chilling performance by Bowles and effective direction & staging from Austin succeeds in making Baylor a genuinely terrifying presence.
It absolutely speaks to Bowles’ skills as an actor and to his versatility that throughout his career he was able to so very successfully transition back & forth between drama and comedy, between playing the sinister villain and the normal, likable everyman.