May 25, 2004 by

Anthony Ainley


Categories: Actors

aainley.jpgBritish actor Anthony Ainley, who was best known for playing the Master on the 1980s TV show “Doctor Who,” died on May 3. Cause of death was not released. He was 71.
The London native may have been destined to lead a dramatic life. His father, Henry, achieved fame on the West End stage, and his brother, Richard, acted in two dozen Hollywood films. Anthony made his own movie debut at five. After training as an insurance clerk, he joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and spent many years working in the theatre.
In the 1960s, Ainley delved into television and movies. His dark, swarthy looks led to romantic and villainous parts on TV shows like “The Avengers” and “Upstairs Downstairs.”
Ainley joined the cult series, “Doctor Who,” in 1981 as the extraterrestrial who “killed” the television hero. The second actor to play the Doctor’s archnemesis, Ainley performed in 10 stories and became a favorite guest at “Doctor Who” conventions. He retired from acting professionally in the late 1990s. His later years were spent playing cricket with the London Theatres Cricket Club team.

43 Responses to Anthony Ainley

  1. Randy Johnson

    I’m a big Doctor Who fan and I was a big fan of Anthony Ainley. I became his fan twenty years ago in 1984. I’m shocked and saddened by his death. He was very talented.
    I was also shocked to learn that he was nearly fifty years old when he became the Master.
    It was a mistake to feature Eric Roberts instead of Ainley in the 1996 Paul McGann DR.WHO movie. Or at least I think it was.
    I’ve seen him in about every DR.WHO episode that he starred in. He began in “The Keeper of Traken” and ended in “Survival”.
    Mr.Ainley will be missed.
    Randy Johnson

  2. mark venables

    I was very sad and shocked to learn about the death of dear Anthony Ainley,paricularly as I had only been speaking to him on the phone a few weeks before.I spent many years working in the theatre as an assistant stage manager and had the pleasure of working with many from DR WHO,a programme that I had followed vividly since 1974,a friend had put me in touch with Anthony,a creative,gifted actor splendid as the Master,I shall miss him terribly.mark venables

  3. Andrew Taylor

    Sorry to hear the death of Anthony Ainley i like to wish all the best to his family he will be sadly missed by all dr who fans

  4. Leatha B.

    Had the lovely privelege of getting to know Anthony Ainley, when he was a guest of KUED 7, in Salt Lake City, Utah, for fund-raising dinner. I had gotten to know him, having the week before attended the convention he and Tom Baker were at in California (1986) He gave a song/dance all dressed in white, and sat at our table for dinner.
    Then we flew off to Spokane, where he helped us, we had won a contest to attend that convention from KUED, but the convention could not pay their bills. Anthony was so kind to us, helping us obtain a room and telling us of the difficulties. We were devistated but enjoyed as much as we could. He was a class act, both on and off the stage. Will always remember fondly his kindness to me personally (he always enjoyed my costume as Tom Baker’s Dr., having voted for me in the Palo Alto con…I won…sweet memories.)

  5. Francesca

    I am very sad to hear that Anthony Ainley has died. I had the prevalage of meeting him once at a convention. I really liked the man. I thought he was very sweet and kind. I will miss him as I am sure all his fans will.

  6. Elaine Supkis

    I met Anthony in Tucson many years ago.
    We accidentally ended up on the same stage in NY many years later and he described meeting me and then we both realized we knew each other—since I was very young when we first met (and I had a CRUSH on him!)—went to dinner, love the man, will miss him.

  7. Colin Bettles

    I never saw Tony acting on a stage but had the pleasure of seeing him batting on a pitch. Tony was not only a great actor (by all reports) but he was also a great batsman who loved the game of cricket and played it with a rare passion.
    I admired how well he knew his game. He played within his limits, with a single minded approach to batting that ensured he got the best possible results he could from himself. He was like an Australian in his approach to the game. He was rarely ruffled (apart from the odd green-top at Ruislip) and had amazing powers of concentration which is why he was so successful churning out over 1000 runs per season for the mighty Theatres. I will also remember the many laughs he gave me and the rest of the team – root beer barrells, the Baggage Boy and of course the Senator.

  8. Christopher

    I am rather saddened as I just today read that Mr. Ainley had passed away. I had the pleasure of meeting him once at a Doctor Who convention I attended when I was a child. He was a talented actor and made his version of the Master so intriguing and likable, even though he was the arch villain. Deliciously evil. Even though I have seen the others, Anthony Ainley was the Master to me when I was growing up.

  9. Gina LoBiondo

    I’m sitting here in shock — it’s 31st March, 2005, and I just found out my dear friend has journied to the House of the Dead!!! I met Tony in October, 1985, and we began to correspond Christmas of 1986. We shared many things over the years and I will always love him dearly. He was a good man and a terrific friend and I will cherish that forever. Over the last few years our correspondance has been stretched due to my hectic schedule but I always managed to send him a note or two to keep in touch and cards at Christmas and b’days. When I didn’t hear from him over the last few months I assumed he was either really busy or that for some reason the mail wasn’t going thru properly. Once again, Anthony was a brilliant actor and a terrific and cherished friend and I will love him and miss him always.

  10. Anthony Drozdowski

    I had the pleasure of meeting Anthony Ainley at an exhibition which was on at the NEC. He was a really friendly gentleman who also took the time to praise some of the other actors that he worked with. I remeber having my photo taken with him. He gave that trade mark “Master” grin for which i always loved to see when he was on Dr.Who. I wish he was still here, and i wish he could be in the new Dr. Who series. Rest in peace Anthony

  11. Sandra

    Can any of you Anthony Ainley fans help me – especially Holly Ainely who posted a message on the 7th April 2005 “He was my Dad’s Stepfather’s brother’s Son!!! Too complicated!
    What a fantastic tribute site for Anthony…”.
    I am doing family research and need to know who Anthony’s parents were?? As far as I know so far, Anthony’s grandfather Richard Snr (married to Ada Hinchliffe) had a sister Annie who married into my family – Brownhill. Most sites say Anthony was the son of Henry Hinchiffe, but who was his mother??
    Would love to contact Holly Ainley if you can send her email address as she would know!!or her Father would know.
    Is it possible he changed his name as I cannot find his birth registration in Sommerset house.
    Please help me if you can

  12. Diane Coulter

    I met Anthony back in October 1985 in Phila at a Dr.Who convention. Anthony was very kind to me,when I first went England in 1986. Anthony was nice to drive me around and show me the sights of London and cooked me dinner a couple of times in his home. I called Anthony at home to see how is doing about month before he died. Anthony was not home at the time,so I left a message on his answering machine. I will miss him so much.

  13. steve

    I had no idea, sorry to hear of his passing. I grew up with the master as being the villan’s villan. who I loved to hate. He could have taught todays so called villans the fine art.

  14. Randy Johnson

    I’ve already posted a tribute message about MR.Ainley. Now I’m posting a poem I wrote about him. I hope his many fans will enjoy it.
    (FAREWELL MR.AINLEY):Anthony Ainley was a british actor who starred in Doctor Who. He starred as Master number two. He starred in ten episodes from 1981 to 1989. He was a favorite actor of mine. He had black hair and a goatee. He played as an evil character but that was only on TV. Ainley brought magic to the screen. He dressed in black and he really did look mean. Some people prefer Delgado because he was debonaire. But Ainley gave the audience a bigger scare. Great entertainment was what he supplied. We lost a great artist when he died. His character brought death and disaster. Ainley was perfect for the part of the Master. He was a talented person and it’s a crime for him to have to leave. Now that he’s gone, we Doctor Who fans will grieve.

  15. Joe Lacey

    He was my cricket teacher at primary school in 1965 or ’66 when I was 10 and he was a young ‘resting’ actor. Although I hated cricket I liked him, and followed his television career as a result. One day my class was invited into the headmistress’s private quarters to watch him in a Shakespeare play on TV. He starred in a short-lived series called Spyder’s Web around 1972, no-one else seems to remember it. I was pleased when he found fame as the Master. In the early 90s I wrote to him on behalf of some young fans I knew, reminding him of my childhood acquaintance with him. His reply was very magnanimous and amusing, naturally he didn’t remember me, but expressed the flattery that he wished he’d taught me English.
    I found this site by accident, was touched at how loved he was, and felt compelled to add to it. Bye Mr Ainley.

  16. Jon

    I met Anthony Ainley along with Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred when they were filming the episode “Survival” in Ealing. The sections in the youth club area were filmed less than 100 yards from my house.
    My dad took my brothers and I round to see them after school, and they were the nicest people I’ve ever met, Anthony Ainley especially. He crushed some nettles so that we wouldn’t be stung and posed for photographs with us all, was happy to sign autographs and talk to us.
    I was saddened to read of his death, I only found out by accident, I hadn’t seen it on the news or anything. He will be missed.

  17. Anne

    I first met Anthony at a Dr Who convention in Southampton in the 90’s. He was one of the kindest sweetest people you could get to know. I think this site only goes to show that with the many comments that echo this. He had no delusions of grandeur or self importance. He was just a thoroughly decent honest chap. I am very pleased I got the chance to get to know him.
    Well done on getting this wonderful tribute site for him. He is sorely missed.

  18. M.G.A

    Nearly two years later I still find it hard to accept he is gone. I had the honor to correspond with him several times, and can say with 100% certainty and first hand knowledge that he was a kind man and full of life. Life will never be the same again for those of us who are left here but we will always remember this extraordinary gentleman, and look forward to seeing him one day again after this life is over.
    Not goodbye A.A. Just a temporary parting of the ways for now. I miss you.

  19. M. Sebastian

    I just discovered this site. I had a “penpal” correspondence with Anthony for over 10 years. I first met him at a Chicago con. When I wrote to thank him for his friendliness and kindness at our luncheon table, he replied and that started it all. I have every letter or card that he sent and still miss getting some of the Doctor Who scoop. He was a dear man and is still thought about frequently.

  20. Heather Glacken

    I started to correspond with Anthony in the mid 80’s and he was always very kind and funny. I met him at a con a few years later, and he was so very charming and a pleasure to talk with. I would ring him up now and again, but due to several moves and a long-term illness, lost touch.
    I was very sad to learn that he had passed, and will always cherish my memories of his friendship and generous nature. He is deeply missed.

  21. James Alford

    I just learned today (5-22-06) that one of the nicest and sincere persons I’ver ever had the good fortune to meet has gone to the big stage, where he is probably still doing his great song and dance, which he did so well. I too met Anthony Ainley at a (my first) Doctor Who convention, who was there with Terry Nation (creator of the Daleks). When it was my turn to get his autograph, I gave him a dime/penny magic trick as a little token of my appreciation for the years of entertainment he had given me on TV. To my surprise, he was completely over joyed to have received it. It was like watching a kid in a candy shop. He couldn’t thank me enough. He asked me my name and thanked me by it. I found it later that he loved magic tricks and used a couple for the Cabaret he did later that night. Again to my surprise, that afternoon, when he was to be coming into a room for “questions and answers”, he comes through a door near the front of the waiting audience, and with his dime/penny magic trick in his hand, showing off the trick to probably 100 people of which only the first couple of rows could possibly see what he had in his hand. He then made the dime disappear. Everyone clapped although probably 5 people actually knew what he did.
    Years later Anthony was at another Dr Who convention in Chicago, and as I lived only 3.5 hours away from there, I also went to the convention in the hopes of seeing this great human being. To my utter shock, as I’m wandering the hotel to see who I might see, I see Anthony. The shock was hearing him say; “Jim”, “Jim Alford”! How in gods name does a man remember a persons name from one brief encounter 8 years earlier??? I told him that I had brought him some more magic tricks, which of course elated him. I caught up with him the next day while he was at the hotel restaurant with some others. I asked him if it was ok to give him the magic tricks now. Absolutely he replied. He introduced me to the others by my name, then I gave & showed him how the magic trick worked. Needless to say, he was estatic to have some props to use to entertain with. The last thing I did before I left was I asked him to sign my Dr. Who book I have. Without hesitation, he signed by his picture, “I’m your favorite fan”, Anthony Ainley.
    As if that wasn’t enough, during my time at this Dr Who convention which is held at a large hotel, as I’m heading to my room which forces me to walk down a 15 foot corridor to an elevator, I look down the corridor to the elevator and standing in the elevator is Anthony. As I start heading down the corridor, Anthony sees me coming as the doors start to close on the elevator. Anthony, sticks his arm in front of the elevator door to open it back up and mildy yells at me; “Jim, you going up?”. I ran into the elevator with him, and from they we went are separate ways.
    I hope we meet again Anthony! Sad to know I won’t be seeing you again in this world.
    Your friend!

  22. Jen

    So sad to hear of Anthony Ainley’s death 🙁 I was at that same KUED dinner convention in 1986 that was in SLC.
    I was only 12 at the time, but it was very memorable and special for me. Tom Baker was supposed to be there, but he had to cancel.
    Being only 12 at the time, I really had no way to make any money to go. $50 is a lot when you are only a kid. I worked my fingers to the bone trying to earn money to go. I didn’t get a regular allowance from my parents because we were kind of poor, so I didn’t know if I was even going to be able to go. I got money for good grades from my grandma every quarter, but I couldn’t rely on that because it wasn’t close to grade time (might have been in late August or early September). My grandma did pay me & my sisters to come stay with her for the weekend and clean her house though, so I got some money that way. On the day before the convention, I had earned $42,in which most of it was change. My mom had driven me to the KUED offices on the U of U campus and I gave them the giant jar of coins. My mom wrote out a check for the rest and I got to go 🙂
    I wrote a letter to Tom & Anthony and included a picture of the TARDIS in it. It was painted in watercolors and was very much out of proportion. I am kind of embarrassed about how cheezy it was, but I had sent it to KUED in the mail to give to Tom & Anthony before I knew that I was going to be able to go. The people at KUED gave it to Anthony and at the dinner, he had asked them to bring me over to the table to meet him. He thanked me for the letter and picture and he gave me two autographed posters (one was for my sister Alison who got me interested in Doctor Who). He spilled red wine on mine though 🙁 I still have that poster someplace safe.
    The dinner convention was at Cafe DeLux in Holladay. I was dropped off there (being kind of expensive, we could only afford to have me go) and the rest of my family went over to my grandma’s house because it was closer to go there than to drive all the way home and have to go all the way back to pick me up when it was over.
    I was the youngest one there. There was a guy there that was a year older than me-I think he used to live next door to me when I was younger.
    They served a 3 or 4 course meal. I remember the starter was some sort of ham & cheese pot pie. Being allergic to ham, I couldn’t eat it, so I just sat and watched everyone else eat until the next course.
    It was really fun though-they were showing videos and had door prizes. They had a Sonic Screwdriver that they gave away, but they messed up & called it a Sonic Screw and everyone laughed. I didn’t win that, but I got some Dr Who memorabilia. It was a Dr Who literary magazine of sorts, called Dr Who Log/Dr Who Blog. It had comics & games & stories in there and Anthony autographed that for me. The only bad thing was that the cover was plastic, and he signed the plastic & I had left it in the back window of my parents’ car in the middle of the summer and it melted a bit and got all warped, but other than that, it is in decent condition. I have that someplace too-probably in a box with other Dr Who books I have (my bookshelf space is limited after one of my bookcases broke, so after we moved, those and a lot of other stuff kind of just remained in boxes).
    ANYWAY, I am glad I had the opportunity to meet Anthony Ainley. He was so nice & gracious and he will be greatly missed.

  23. Janet MacDonald

    I sit here in shock. My favourite Master in Doctor Who is dead! I found this site by accident, and would like to say that I shall dearly miss Anthony Ainley, who was, and still is, the Master. I can’t believe he’s gone. He was such a wonderful actor! Janet MacDonald : (

  24. Jason

    I just found out about Anthony. May God Bless Him for all the joy that he brought us Whovians. He was wonderful as the Master. Thank you Anthony for your contribution to Dr. Who. I will always appreciate and respect you.

  25. M.G.A.

    Another year has passed and I find I miss my friend A.A. even more.
    Whereever he is in whatever afterlife awaits us- I would like to say a few things that I wish I could say to him in person. Please bear with me.
    Many years after our original correspondances, I suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by stress. I spent years in therapy and on more than 30 medications in an attempt to rebuild me from inside.
    One day about 6 years ago-while in a moment of irrational thinking that was and still is to some degree a symptom of my lingering illness-I threw out a lot of my belongings.
    I did this for no other reason than I felt I did not deserve them and was trying to reason with myself that by doing this I was starting over brand new. It makes no sense now and it didn’t really then but I wish I had been able to stop myself.
    Ths included cherished letters and photos which Anthony had sent me the three times we correspondned.
    I just want to say to to my friend that I am so very sorry for displaying a wanton disregard for these sweet communications and it in no way was a reflection of what I thought of him or his famous alter-ego.
    I hope that he would be as kind and understanding as he was to me in life. He was the Master to so many, but he rapidly became the closest friend I ever had ever associated with Doctor Who.
    I hope I can absolve myself of this guilt once and for all now I have shared it with so many others who are reading this, who also loved him as I did.
    Rest well, A.A. Until we meet again.
    M.G.A. (Mighty Good American)

  26. jamiephelan

    im 35 and love dr who
    being a young boy and watching dr who was great
    over the last few months ive been downloading dr whos from the 80s (great stuff), anthony ainley brings back some great memorys, gutted that i didnt get to know him as the master as an adult.
    watching hes stuff as the master all the time now. live 4ever anthony. jamie london 1971

  27. Steve Ressel

    I loved Anthony Ainley… glad they channeled his spirit to do commentary on ‘Keeper Of Traken’ late last year. He will be missed when he actually passes away.

  28. Kathy Ford

    I always enjoyed when Ant came to Dr. Who conventions. When we first met, he was rather amused that everyone called him Mr Ainley. He smiled at the group of admirers and asked to be called Ant. I met him at the Dr Who convention that was held at the King of Prussia convention center. He was nice to talk to, and he loved talking to his fans. I am only now hearing about his death and wish to extend by condolences to his family and the Dr Who family as well.

  29. Patrick Owens

    I just recently found out that Mr Ainley had pasted. I met Mr Ainley many years ago at a DW Convention in Chicago soon after he became The Master and my cousin was a penpal of his for many years. We both loved the way he used to put a smilely face under a picture of his TARDIS. He will be missed.

  30. Andy Garloff

    I just found out about his death in August 2007 just by accident. We wrote back and fourth from time to time and I was able to meet him at the Valley Forge con. Whovent 85 and was able to chat with him and see him in Caberet with Jon Pertwee, Colin Baker and others. Die-Hard Whovians around the world will mis him.

  31. Sarah

    I can’t believe he’s gone. I guess some part of me expected him to be around forever.
    I never got to meet this great actor, but I did write to him 10 years ago and was amazed that he not only sent me an autograph but a personal note as well. I still have it and now will treasure it even more.
    After reading all the accounts of penpals I wish I had written more, he truly was a star, on stage, on earth, in spirt and now in the heavens.
    God Bless you Mr. Ainley!

  32. simon

    Great actor or no (possibly no) I wonder how did he actually die? Why is his private life so obsessively secret? Was he any good as the master?

  33. LordPyrdon

    Mr Ainley was a fine actor and the best Dr Who villian to ever grace my television screen in the 1980s. SURVIVAL and DESTINY of the DOCTORS will forever stand in my mind as the best examples of his work as The Master.

  34. Cynara

    I met Anthony in Baltimore, MD in the mid 1980’s. He was kind enough to give me his home phone number and address. When I visited London on several occasions afterward, he acted as my tour guide. He even prepared dinner for me on several occasions in his home. We were great friends and pen pals. I have missed him.

  35. Ryan

    He is the Master I grew up with in the 1980’s. I liked his contribution to ‘Doctor Who’ very much.
    It’s too bad he died at only 71. I think the “mystery” being referred to above is that he seemed to die somewhat prematurely and no one knows whether or not he had a significant other.

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