Wally Schirra, Mercury astronaut, dies

Wally SchirraAstronaut Wally Schirra, one of the seven original Mercury astronauts, and the only astronaut to lift off aboard Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, dies at the age of 84. Selected as one of the first “class” of American astronauts, Schirra was the fifth American to fly in space, making six orbits of the Earth in 1962. He commanded Gemini 6, and was the commander of Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission, which tested the capabilities of the redesigned Apollo command/service module in Earth orbit. In 1969, he retired from NASA and immediately landed a new gig, sitting aside TV news legend Walter Cronkite for coverage of the missions to the moon, as well as continuing to offer insider commentary on space coverage at CBS through 1975. He was awarded numerous medals by both NASA and the United States Navy, among countless other honors.

Peter Tuddenham, Blake’s 7 actor, dies

Peter TuddenhamActor Peter Tuddenham, perhaps not been a familiar face to fans of British SF, but certainly a familiar voice, dies at the age of 88. After playing voice-over-only characters in a few episodes of Doctor Who, he became a series regular on the cult favorite series Blake’s 7, providing the voice of the Liberator’s on-board computer Zen and later the feisty supercomputer Orac throughout the series. (When the Liberator was destroyed at the end of the show’s third season, he voiced its replacement, the obsequious Slave, aboard the crew’s new ship.) He did play numerous characters in person in guest appearances on many shows, and also served as a dialect coach for other actors throughout much of his career.

Verity Lambert, Doctor Who producer, dies

Verity LambertVerity Lambert, the original producer of Doctor Who when it launched in 1963, dies at the age of 71. When she took the reins of the still-in-development series, she was 28, the youngest BBC producer at that time, and the only female producer at the BBC at the time. Though she frequently butted heads with Doctor Who creator Sydney Newman, including commissioning the first Dalek story over his objections that the show should feature “no bug-eyed monsters,” he ultimately relented and gave her free rein. She remained with the series for a year and a half, going on to produce a string of other shows, including Adam Adamant Lives!, John Cleese’s Clockwise series, and Jonathan Creek. Following stints at the BBC, Thames Television and EMI, she founded her own production company, Cinema Verity, which at various points was again attached to Doctor Who during the abortive attempts to turn the series into a film franchise in the 1980s and early ’90s.

Barry Morse, Space: 1999 actor, dies

Barry MorseBest known to mainstream audiences as the Lt. Gerard, the relentless cop pursuing The Fugitive in the 1960s, actor Barry Morse dies at the age of 89. London-born, he relocated to Canada in the 1950s, but landed many a part in U.S.-based productions. In SF circles, he remains best remembered for his one-season stint as the unflappable Professor Bergman on Space: 1999, and as a member of the international all-star cast of the 1980 BBC/NBC miniseries rendition of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. He was instrumental in turning around the fortunes of Ontario’s Shaw Theatre Festival in the 1960s and ’70s, a task he took on out of his personal love of the works of playwright George Bernard Shaw.

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Roy Scheider, seaQuest DSV actor, dies

seaQuest DSVActor Roy Scheider, best known for his portrayal of Chief Brody in the 1975 megahit Jaws and its 1978 sequel, dies at the age of 75. Well-known for his mainstream roles, he also starred in some fondly-remembered genre projects, including the movies Blue Thunder and 2010: The Year We Make Contact, and a two-year stint as Captain Nathan Bridger on seaQuest DSV. He was twice nominated for an Oscar, for The French Connection and All That Jazz.

Leonard Rosenman, film composer, dies

Leonard RosenmanOscar-winning Film and TV composer Leonard Rosenman dies at the age of 83. Known for such movie scores as East Of Eden and Rebel Without A Cause (both starring James Dean), he also created the music for pivotal SF movies such as Fantastic Voyage, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Ralph Bakshi’s animated rendition of Lord Of The Rings, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes and Battle For The Planet Of The Apes. He also scored episodes of TV’s original Twilight Zone, Amazing Stories and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, among a great many others, including National Geographic and Jacques Cousteau specials.

Gary Gygax, D&D creator, dies

DiceThe co-creator of the seminal “paper-and-dice” role playing game Dungeons & Dragons dies at the age of 69. Gary Gygax helped to devise the D&D system with Dave Arneson in 1974, and the game instantly took off, with players adoring its simultaneous escapism and complexity, and parents – usually having heard horror stories of a few bad apples – protesting the game vigorously. D&D created its own little empire for publisher TSR Inc., and numerous add-ons and imitations followed (including virtually the entire metal miniature gaming industry), influenced video and computer games, and inspired an animated series (whose production he was involved in) and movies. He still received – and enjoyed – fan mail from avid D&D players past and present.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, futurist, dies

Sir Arthur C. ClarkeScience fiction writer, science essayist and all-around futuristic thinker Sir Arthur C. Clarke dies at the age of 90. In addition to writing such seminal SF novels as “2001: a space odyssey” (and simultaneously writing its screenplay) and “Rendezvous With Rama” (and their various sequels and spinoffs), he also posited – in a 1945 paper – a network of communications in fixed orbits above the Earth, exchanging signals between the ground and one another, some 20 years before the first steps were taken in that direction. (As a result, geosynchronous orbit is also referred to as “Clarke orbit.”) Even before that, he played a part in early work on radar as a member of the RAF during World War II. In the 1950s, he moved to Sri Lanka, but kept up a prodigious schedule of writing both fiction and non-fiction, as well as appearances ranging from brief movie roles (both as himself and otherwise) to being a television commentator on the Apollo moon missions.

Johnny Byrne, Space: 1999 writer, dies

Space: 1999Space: 1999 and Doctor Who scriptwriter Johnny Byrne dies at the age of 73. One of the most prolific Space: 1999 scribes, he helped to guide that show’s creative direction as the show’s script editor and later collaborated with fan filmmakers on a short, Message From Moonbase Alpha, wrapping the show up and leaving things open to further explore the story with new characters. He also had a literary SF career stretching back into the 1960s, as well as writing the screenplays for several British-produced films.

Charlton Heston, actor, dies

Charlton Heston in Planet Of The ApesOscar-winning actor Charlton Heston dies at the age of 84. Renowned for a string of tough-guy roles in major big-screen epics that earned him an Academy Award for best actor in 1959’s Ben-Hur, Heston appeared in other blockbusters such as El Cid and The Ten Commandments; genre fans may know him best for two SF films, Soylent Green and the 1968 smash hit Planet Of The Apes. His outspoken political views were on display as much as his acting skills, ranging from marching to Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to serving as president of the National Rifle Association. He had also served as a past president of the Screen Actors’ Guild.

Alexander Courage, Star Trek composer, dies

Star TrekComposer, arranger and orchestrator Alexander Courage, composer of the theme from the original Star Trek, dies at the age of 88. Courage was responsible for writing the iconic main theme as well as the scores for the show’s two pilot episodes. When Star Trek went to series, however, Roddenberry – ahead of the curve on almost every imaginable marketing angle – wrote and published lyrics to Courage’s theme, thereby earning 50% of the profit from any future use of that music, a move which alienated the composer. Due to Star Trek using a library approach to its music, however, Courage’s music resurfaced in almost every episode in some capacity. Courage began orchestrating and arranging for other composers, including John Williams (The Poseidon Adventure, Jurassic Park) and Jerry Goldsmith, who asked Courage to write a few pieces for 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture which utilized the original TV theme.

Joseph Pevney, Star Trek director, dies

Star Trek: City On The Edge Of ForeverDirector and former actor Joseph Pevney, the man behind the camera for many of the original Star Trek‘s best-remembered segments, dies at the age of 96. A veteran of classic ’60s, ’70s and ’80s television, he also directed numerous episodes of Wagon Train, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Mission: Impossible, The Munsters, Bonanza, and The Incredible Hulk. Before embarking on his directing career in 1950, he also worked as an actor, with his first exposure to showbiz in a 1924 Vaudeville show.

Harvey Korman, comedian, dies

Harvey Korman in the Star Wars Holiday SpecialComedy great Harvey Korman, known for his long run on the Carol Burnett Show and Blazing Saddles, dies at the age of 81. Along with Tim Conway, he was a staple of Burnett’s comedy sketch show, though an attempt to spin that success off into his own series ran aground in 1977. A year later, still a comedy fixture, he racked up his most infamous genre credit: appearing as multiple characters in the almost-trippy Star Wars Holiday Special, including one of the better moments of actual comedy in the show, the “stir whip, stir whip, whip whip, stir!” chef. After appearing in Blazing Saddles, he appeared in several more Mel Brooks films, and did countless TV guest starring gigs.

Robert Justman, Star Trek producer, dies

Robert JustmanRobert Justman, who along with Gene Roddenberry shepherded the original Star Trek from an untried pilot to its three years on the air (and came along for the ride with the inception and first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation), dies at the age of 81 from complications associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Originally an assisant director on the rejected pilot episode The Cage, he stuck around to become a producer and one of Roddenberry’s right-hand men. While at Desilu Studios (the makers of the original Star Trek, later bought by Paramount) he also produced the pilot episode of Mission: Impossible; his pre-Trek credits included several episodes of The Outer Limits, numerous Disney Sunday Movies, and The Adventures Of Superman.

Stan Winston, FX & makeup innovator, dies

Fifth Element elephantLongtime special effects and makeup wizard Stan Winston, a four-time Oscar winner with a resume loaded with some of the most influential genre films in movie history, dies at the age of 62 after struggling for seven years with multiple myeloma. His four Oscar wins – two for Terminator 2, one for Jurassic Park, and one for Aliens – are just the tip of the iceberg; his makeup and effects skills also earned him Oscar nominations for such films as Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, and AI. Other movie credits included The Wiz, Predator, Friday The 13th Part III, The Thing, Interview With The Vampire and – most recently – Iron Man. His early career was spent in TV, with work on Roots, Amazing Stories and even creating the costumes for Chewbacca’s family in the Star Wars Holiday Special. In 1994, with James Cameron and Scott Ross, he co-founded visual effects house Digital Domain, which grew into a serious competitor in the effects business with its contributions to movies like Titanic, X-Men, Fight Club, The Fifth Element, Speed Racer, Star Trek: Nemesis, and the Lord Of The Rings and Pirates Of The Caribbean series.

Don S. Davis, Stargate SG-1 actor, dies

Don S. Davis as General George HammondActor Don S. Davis, best known for his long stint in the role of General George Hammond on Stargate SG-1, dies of a heart attack at the age of 65. Though his film and TV career didn’t begin in earnest until the early 1980s, by that time he had earned a doctorate in theater arts and had spent a decade sharing those skills with others as a teacher. One of his early gigs was standing in for Dana Elcar on the set of MacGyver, where he met future SG-1 co-star Richard Dean Anderson. He originated the character of Hammond in the premiere episode of Stargate SG-1, and his final appearance in the role is in the upcoming direct-to-DVD movie Stargate Continuum, due in late July. In addition to reprising his SG-1 role on sister series Stargate Atlantis, he has appeared on such series as The Dead Zone, Highlander, The Outer Limits, The X-Files and Twin Peaks.

Jud Taylor, Star Trek director, dies

Star TrekDirector Jud Taylor, best known to genre fans for helming several third season episodes of the original Star Trek, dies at the age of 76. In addition to his directing duties, he served as vice president of the Directors’ Guild of America from 1977 to 1981, and then served a term as the body’s president until 1983; the years he spent advocating the cause of film and television directors are considered among the most influential in the DGA’s history, during which he helped open doors for both female and minority directors, and had a tremendous effect on directors’ creative rights, pensions, and pay. He was active behind the camera as recently as the 2000s, during which he directed several episodes of Law & Order: SVU.

Nicholas Courtney, Doctor Who actor, dies

Nicholas CourtneyForever known as the Brigadier (and thus the only ranking UNIT officer who counts), actor Nicholas Courtney dies at the age of 81, the only actor to have appeared alongside every Doctor in Doctor Who. After appearing as a one-off guest character in the Hartnell era, Courtney is drafted into the role of Colonel Lethbridge Stewart for a 1968 Doctor Who story, proving popular enough to return the following season with a promotion to Brigadier. In this role, Courtney guest starred with every television Doctor (including, thanks to a cameo in a 1993 charity skit, Colin Baker); he would also appear alonside Paul McGann in a Big Finish audio play, a medium that also saw him appearing with David Tennant, years before being cast as the tenth Doctor. Courtney would play the role for Big Finish several times, and even reprised the Brigadier in a 1995 fan-made video production, before bringing the character back in a two-part episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Elisabeth Sladen, Doctor Who actress, dies

Elisabeth SladenActress Elisabeth Sladen, possibly the performer who has maintained the longest on-screen association with a Doctor Who character in the history of the franchise, dies at the age of 65. In 1973, the producers of Doctor Who had hired another actress to play the part of new companion Sarah Jane Smith, only to meet with strenuous objections from series lead Jon Pertwee. Elisabeth Sladen was then cast in the part, continuing to play Sarah Jane through 1976, one of the longest-running companions in the original series. Numerous times she had been approached to reprise her role, only agreeing to do so in 1981 in her own spinoff, K-9 & Company, which never made it past the pilot stage. After reprising the role of Sarah Jane for Big Finish’s audio spinoff series centered around the character, she was asked to play the part again – on television – alongside David Tennant, sparking new interest in the character and ultimately leading to her own spinoff series, The Sarah Jane Adventures. Filming of the fifth season of that series had been put on hold while she was admitted to the hospital.

Ralph McQuarrie, Star Wars illustrator, dies

Star Wars, as envisioned by Ralph McQuarrieRalph McQuarrie, the artist who envisioned key scenes and settings of the Star Wars universe, before sets or models were built and before filming began, dies at the age of 82. As the production artist for Star Wars, McQuarrie got his licks in early on how the “universe” should look, from costumes to spacecraft to weaponry. George Lucas credited McQuarrie’s artwork with keeping the movies’ “look” on track, as well as selling 20th Century Fox on the idea of financing the first movie in the absence of any kind of test footage. McQuarrie also provided concepts for a redesigned U.S.S. Enterprise for an early ‘70s Star Trek movie project, Star Trek: Planet Of The Titans, that ultimately went unfilmed. He also contributed early concept art to Battlestar Galactica, E.T., Cocoon, Batteries Not Included, and many others, and had also worked on the animated artists’ conceptions of the Apollo moon missions played during CBS’ coverage of those flights.

Caroline John, Doctor Who actress, dies

Caroline JohnCaroline John, who joined the cast of Doctor Who for only a single season (also the show’s first season in color), accompanying incoming third Doctor Jon Pertwee as the Doctor’s scientific assistant Liz Shaw, dies at the age of 72 due to complications from cancer. Despite her brief connection to the series, Caroline John has remained associated with Doctor Who, from reprising the role of Liz Shaw repeatedly for Big Finish Productions, to making a cameo appearance in 1983’s The Five Doctors, to reviving Liz as the head of a secret scientific think tank in the fan-made PROBE video series of the 1990s.

Mary Tamm, Doctor Who actress, dies

Mary TammActress Mary Tamm, who appeared in a single (but very high-profile) season of Doctor Who as the first incarnation of the Time Lady Romana, dies at the age of 62 after a battle with cancer. Having revived her version of the Romana character in recent years for Big Finish Productions’ Doctor Who audio stories (and the spinoff series Gallifrey), Tamm has remained popular with fans and has also recently completed her autobiography. Several days later, mere hours after delivering a eulogy at her memorial service, her husband of 34 years, Marcus Ringrose, also dies of a heart attack.

Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, dies

Neil ArmstrongAmerican astronaut – and the first human being to walk on the surface of the moon – Neil Armstrong dies at the age of 82. On July 20th, 1969, he took the “giant leap” onto another world that instantly made him perhaps the most famous citizen of the 20th century – moreso than the Beatles, more than Hitler or Churchill, more than any actor. That century will be defined by the exploration of the moon forever, and as many men walked on its surface, Armstrong’s will be the name that is forever associated with that exploration.

Michael O’Hare, Babylon 5 actor, dies

Michael O'HareMichael O’Hare, who starred in the 1993 pilot movie and the first full season (1994) of the science fiction series Babylon 5, dies of complications from a heart attack he suffered the week before. An accomplished stage actor who made infrequent forays into television, O’Hare had been out of the public eye (including the science fiction convention circuit) for several years.

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