‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Fawlty Towers’ Actor Bernard Cribbins Dies at 93

Bernard Cribbins
Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Film Distributors' Association

Bernard Cribbins, the British actor who had memorable performances in shows such as Doctor Who and Fawlty Towers, has died. He was 93.

Cribbins’ death was confirmed by his agent to multiple media outlets on Thursday, July 28. Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies also shared the news on Instagram, posting a heartfelt tribute to the beloved television star. “I love this man. I love him,” wrote Davies.

Davies continued: “He loved being in Doctor Who. He said, ‘Children are calling me grandad in the street!’ His first day was on location with Kylie Minogue, but all eyes, even Kylie’s, were on Bernard. He’d turned up with a suitcase full of props, just in case, including a rubber chicken. And what an actor. Oh, really though, what a wonderful actor.”

 

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Cribbins was born on 29 December 1928 in Oldham, England, and began his acting career on the West End in 1956. He would go on to star in several films throughout the 1950s and 60s, including Two-Way Stretch (1960) and The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963) with Peter Sellers. In 1966, he made his first Doctor Who appearance in the film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. as Special Police Constable Tom Campbell.

From 1973 to 1975, he was the narrator of the popular British animated children’s TV series The Wombles. And in 1975, he had one of his most recognized roles in the classic sitcom Fawlty Towers, playing a spoon salesman who is mistaken by John Cleese‘s Basil Fawlty for a hotel inspector.

Bernard Cribbins in Doctor Who

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In recent years, Cribbins was best known for playing Wilfred Motts, the grandfather of Catherine Tate‘s Donna in Davies’ television revival of Doctor Who. He played the character from 2007 to 2010 and was recently spotted on set filming for the sci-fi show’s upcoming 60th-anniversary special.

“He worked well into his 90s, recently appearing in Doctor Who and the CBeebies series Old Jack’s Boat,” said Cribbins’ agent (via Variety). “Bernard’s contribution to British entertainment is without question. He was unique, typifying the best of his generation, and will be greatly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing and working with him.”

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In addition to his acting work, Cribbins was also known in the U.K. for his successful comedy records, including “The Hole in the Ground” and “Right Said Fred.” He was also a regular reader on the BBC children’s show Jackanory.

Doctor Who, 60th Anniversary Special, 2023, BBC America