Peter Copley, the actor who brought Doctor Warlock to life in the 4th Doctor adventure: Pyramids of Mars died on October 7 aged 93. He was a lean, lively and incisive actor of classical inclination who came to prominence in the post-war heyday of the displaced Old Vic Company at the Albery (then the New) when Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and John Burrell were in charge.
When it looked as if that institution might become the long-awaited National Theatre, Copley was winning recognition in some of its most famous productions for his precision, timing, and intensity. He played secondary roles with first-rate understanding: Tranio, Mowbray, Edmund, Aguecheek, Laertes.
He later acted most efficiently in Ronald Millar's successful adaptations at the Strand, for John Clements, of the CP Snow novels; and in 1963, having played his share of lawyers, schoolmasters, priests, pedants and other advocates of verbal precision, he was himself called to the Bar by the Middle Temple.
He continued, however, to practise as one of the most reliable actors in the West End, the provinces and on television.
Copley's 30-year film career produced two roles of note: as Paul Mandrake in Victim (1961), and as the inflexible colonel in King and Country (1964), both starring Dirk Bogarde. His other films included Empire of the Sun, Little Lord Fauntleroy, Suspense and Shout at the Devil. He was the jeweller in the 1965 Beatles film Help!
His television appearances included such programmes as Hot Metal, The Trial of Klaus Barbie, Never Say Die, Return of Treasure Island and Miss Marple.
In the 1990s he took roles in Casualty, Cadfael and Where The Heart Is, and made his final television appearance earlier this year in an adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Colour of Magic. Copley's final film appearance was as the dining-master in Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist (2005).
Peter Copley was born on May 20 1915 at Bushey, Hertfordshire. He studied for the stage at the Old Vic School under Harcourt Williams and Murray Macdonald and spent his first two years with the Old Vic Company.
His second West End job, in 1935, was as Lucius in Nugent Monck's revival of Timon of Athens (with Ernest Milton) at the Westminster, and for the next 15 years he never drifted far from the classics, either touring South America with Edward Stirling's company, or in seasons at the Dublin Gate or Oxford Playhouse.
With Donald Wolfit's company he appeared as Edgar in King Lear at the St James's in 1943. He was in Jacques Bernard's Madeleine (Lyric, Hammersmith), in which his first-wife-to-be, Pamela Brown, played the title role. Before returning to the Old Vic in 1945 for its great period in exile in St Martin's Lane, he spent five months as director of Worthing Rep.
With the Old Vic, at what became the Albery, Copley played in 16 productions in five years, including Sneer in Sheridan's The Critic (to Olivier's Puff); Edmund to Olivier's King Lear; de Valvert to Ralph Richardson's Cyrano de Bergerac; Ananias in The Alchemist (opposite Alec Guinness); Tranio to John Clements's Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew; Mowbray in Richard II; Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night; and Laertes in Michael Redgrave's Hamlet.
His Mr Jingle in The Trial of Mr Pickwick (Westminster) was a charming performance, and he did sterling work in versions by Ronald Millar of CP Snow's novels – as Alec Nightingale in The Affair, Sir Hector Rose in The New Men, and Charles Chrystal in The Masters. These had long runs at the Strand in the early 1960s.
Other West End appearances included Mr Nox in The Old Boys (Mermaid), Cravatar in Dear Antoine (Piccadilly) and Inspector Pleat in Something's Burning (Mermaid); he was in Strife (National), Fruits of Enlightenment (National) and Artist Descending A Staircase (Duke of York's).
At both Leicester's Haymarket and the Bristol Old Vic Copley did distinguished work in the 1980s, most notably as Duncan in Macbeth, Orgon in Tartuffe, Chebutykin in Three Sisters and Voysey in The Voysey Inheritance, in which his dry and precise manner was particularly suited to Granville-Barker's austere patriarch.
Peter Copley was married three times: first to the actress Pamela Brown, from whom he was separated and who died in 1975; secondly to Ninka Dolega; and, thirdly, to the writer Margaret Tabor, who survives him with a daughter and two stepchildren.