Born: June 4, 1940;

Died: March 23, 2020.

DAVID Collings, who has died of natural causes aged 79, was a fine character actor who could imbue the roles he played with watchful intelligence, prowling intensity, sardonic humour and detached melancholy as required. His soulful eyes could ignite vividly on his striking, yet sometimes doleful, countenance - under a lustrous mane of red hair - giving him an enigmatic, otherworldly quality that made him especially useful to science-fiction productions.

As Silver in the beguiling series Sapphire and Steel (1981-82) he was an eccentric, mercurial foil to David McCallum and Joanna Lumley. A popular contributor to Doctor Who – memorably guest-starring in three stories between 1975-83 – his powerful yet nuanced performances helped to ground the fantastical with requisite realism. Actor Mark Gatiss has described him as “the greatest Doctor Who we never had”; Collings finally got to play his own incarnation of the Time Lord in an audio adventure for Big Finish (2003), capitalising on his vast experience in radio.

In BBC Radio 4’s epic and strongly cast version of The Lord of the Rings (1981) he played Legolas, and latterly he was the perfect audiobook reader for the haunting stories of MR James.

His dusky yet melodic voice, perfectly modulated, also adopted an amusingly boorish bravado for the the title character in Monkey (1979-80),the dubbed English language version of the cult Japanese TV series.

David Cressy Collings was born in Brighton, the son of a greengrocer. Upon leaving Varndean Grammar School he worked in retail before becoming an apprentice draughtsman at a design practice.

He joined the amateur company Lewes Little Theatre, partly to help with a speech impediment, and was spotted by actress Freda Dowie, who recommended him to the Liverpool Repertory Theatre. Whilst there the actor John Slater suggested him for a three-hour, live TV production of Crime and Punishment (1964) - and so, at 24 and with no formal training, he played his first leading television role.

More notable parts followed, in Ken Russell’s Song of Summer (as an unforgettable Percy Grainger, 1968), Elizabeth R (1971, with Glenda Jackson), the BBC Shakespeare Julius Caesar (an intense Cassius, 1979), The Prince Regent (as William Pitt, 1979), A Tale of Two Cities (1980), Dark Towers (terrifying a generation of children as Lord Dark, 1981), and Press Gang (1989-93).

He also guest-starred in most popular series from Z-Cars (1965) to Holby City (2015) via UFO (1970), The Professionals (1978) and Blake’s 7 (1981). On film he was an excellent Bob Cratchit to Albert Finney’s eponymous miser in Scrooge (1970).

He was a gifted classical stage actor - his Mercutio at St George’s Theatre, Tufnell Park (1976) was, according to Kenneth Branagh, who watched it as a schoolboy, “thrilling” and “brilliant”.

He spent several seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company, where his insightful character work benefited several good parts over the decades - a favourite engagement was touring with them from Stratford to Broadway in the 1985 revival of Nicholas Nickleby with his wife, Karen Archer, also in the cast, and their infant twins Samuel and Eliza (both destined to be actors themselves) in tow. He and Samuel also shared the stage in the Manchester Royal Exchange’s 2011 production of Edward II.

He is survived by Karen, Samuel and Eliza, his sister Nola and step-daughter Juliet and daughter Kate from his earlier marriage, to Deirdre Bromfield. Their other two children, Matthew (12) and Bethian (aged just a few months), predeceased him.