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Kevin Stoney (1921 - 2008):
Guardian Of The Solar System
by J.C. Hartley

Although retired from stage and screen since the 1990s, and although never a household name, Kevin Stoney, who sadly died in January 2008, had a particular foothold in so-called 'cult TV' in Britain, and was held in particular affection by long-term fans of the classic Doctor Who series.

Kevin Stoney made his mark at the outset of what was to be an outpouring of fantasy adventure on television, with a part in one of its earliest manifestations, the barely remembered Sword Of Freedom from ITC in 1957, and followed it with early roles in Ivanhoe, William Tell, and The Adventures Of Robin Hood, at a time when independent or commercial television pretty much led the field. But it was with the great surge of espionage and SF tinged series that found Stoney making regular cameo appearances. He had roles in The Saint, Danger Man, The Avengers, and as 'Colonel J' in The Chimes Of Big Ben, a seminal early episode of The Prisoner. Number Six, the former spy kidnapped for the secret information he holds, apparently escapes 'The Village' and makes his way back to his old HQ back in London, only to discover he has been duped. This episode established the paranoid credentials of the series in that it suggested that it was perhaps the secret agent's own side that was behind his original abduction.

Kevin Stoney could bring a certain nonchalance, scepticism, and a hint of languid cruelty to his portrayal of villains, and authority figures in general, and this was to hold him in good stead, when he was guaranteed immortality of a kind within the twists and turns of perhaps the greatest piece of cult TV of them all, Doctor Who.

As Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar system, in league with the Daleks, in 1965's season three epic 12-parter The Daleks' Masterplan, Stoney gave a depth to his portrayal of a human villain, that helped carry a story that was at times overlong and prey to the padding that often beset the series. Stoney as Mavic Chen became an instant favourite with the particular kind of fan of the programme who has an encyclopaedic memory and who worries about continuity, and he no doubt had to suffer the kind of encounter of the 'You are Mavic Chen, and I claim my 5 Kembel dollars', for years to come. Stoney was allied with another set of the Doctor's iconic enemies in The Invasion, in 1968's season six, where as megalomaniac industrialist Tobias Vaughn he joined forces with the Cybermen. Vaughn is partially cyberised himself, enough to survive being shot by the scientist he has compelled to build a machine that will defeat the Cybermen. Vaughn, like Chen before him, is using the enemies of Earth to gain power for himself, and while he has accepted alien technology his intellect remains human. Stoney brought considerable presence to the role, playing it commendably straight, to the extent that during his screen time the viewer is not impatient for the return of Patrick Troughton's Doctor. Vaughn is a believable villain, and his eventual rejection of his erstwhile allies is not the result of a reaffirmation of his own humanity, but a desire for revenge against the aliens whose destructive logic has foiled his own plans for world domination.

Outside of telling cameos in cult series, Kevin Stoney had a part in a major drama that enthralled viewers in the mid-1970s. As Thrasyllus in the BBC's I Claudius, Stoney reprised the role he had played in Granada's The Caesars in 1968. Thrasyllus is astrologer to Emperor-in-waiting Tiberius, played by George Baker, and exiled on Rhodes with his murderously violent employer. In the role, Stoney subdues his usual authoritarian delivery to wonderfully convey the vulnerability and cunning of someone struggling to ensure their self-preservation. On the morning when a ship from Rome visits the island, Tiberius casts Thrasyllus' own horoscope having decided to kill him if the news from Rome is bad. When the news comes that the Emperor Augustus has named Tiberius as his co-heir, following the death of Lucius, and has summoned him back from exile, Tiberius and Thrasyllus dissolve into hysterical laughter to the consternation of the Imperial envoy.

Stoney continued in cult series such as the children's SF and fantasy series Ace Of Wands, and The Tomorrow People, and cropped up again in Doctor Who in 1975 as Tyrum, embattled leader of the Vogans, this time pitched against an invading force of Cybermen. He also had parts in Space 1999, the revamped The New Avengers, the 1979 Quatermass, and Dalek creator Terry Nation's space opera Blake's 7.

Kevin Stoney often seemed to be cruelly treated by casting directors. As Tyrum in Revenge Of The Cybermen he was heavily made-up and almost unrecognisable as an alien Vogan. In one of the Blake's 7 episodes he appeared with his eyes hidden behind a blast visor, as the result of an accident, and is eventually blown-up on a shuttlecraft. In the pilot first series for the BBC espionage thriller Spy Trap he was head of the secret service, only to be exposed as a double agent, and ending up taking his own life. In Quatermass he was the Prime Minister but delivers a monologue in a darkened corner of a cabinet room and is discovered to have passed away. Of course playing cameo roles behind heavy makeup, or in darkened rooms, would have made little impression, if it had not been that Stoney was blessed with something else in his armoury, other than the distinctive patrician features described in The Guardian obituary by Gavin Gaughan in April, and that was what Gaughan describes as the 'resonant voice'.

Stoney also appeared on the London stage, and in classic adaptations, serials, and television Shakespeare, as well as in much of the other staple fare of the schedules. Whether Kevin Stoney's appearances in SF series, and other examples of cult TV, were what he would have most wished to be remembered for it is a credit to the seriousness of his approach to each role that the lasting impression he made upon fans of the genre means he will not be forgotten.
Kevin Stoney

Kevin Stoney as Mavic Chen in Doctor Who

Kevin Stoney as Tobias Vaughn in Doctor Who

Kevin Stoney as Tyrum in Doctor Who

Kevin Stoney in Blake's 7

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