Sic Transit Kate O’Mara – 1939 – 2014

She has died, but the sneer lives on.

She has died, but the sneer lives on.

I sometimes make jokes that when anyone cancels out on appearances at the Gallifrey One convention, it means that they’re probably going to be dead shortly. This came up after that happened with Mary Tamm and a couple of other actors.

This year, Kate O’Mara, best known to Doctor Who fans for her role as the Rani, cancelled out on Gallifrey, and today we learned that she died at the age of 74.

O’Mara was born in Leicester in 1939. She began her career as a stage actress in 1963, the year Doctor Who first aired. She then went on to several appearances on British TV in shows such as Z-Cars and The Avengers.

O’Mara reached international fame when she started appearing on the American soap opera Dynasty, where she played the sister to Joan Collins’ character. She then went on to sci-fi fame by appearing in two stories for Doctor Who; both times playing the renegade Time Lord scientist, the Rani. She later reprised the role for the rather horrible 30th anniversary special, “Dimensions in Time”. Then in 1995 and 2003, she appeared in two episodes of Absolutely Fabulous, playing Paty’s older sister.

O’Mara was fairly active on Twitter, leaving behind one final Tweet on March 17.

“Thank you so much for your kind tweets. It’s both humbling and completely overwhelming to read all of your messages. Much Love x”.

She is survived by her son, Christopher, and her sister, actress Belinda Caroll.


Sic Transit Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967 – 2014


So apparently I’m the only person who was unaware that Philip Seymour Hoffman had a drug problem. This became a very serious problem today, when he was found dead of an apparent drug overdose.

Hoffman first came to the public eye in a big way in 1997 when Boogie Nights was released. From there his career slowly, steadily, improved, culminating in his 2005 Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor in the title role in Capote. He also received numerous other awards and nominations, including three more Oscar nominations.

Hoffman was known for a largely quiet acting style. His characters seldom screamed or acted out. Even his villain characters, such as Owen Davian in the under-rated Mission Impossible III, tended to be quiet characters.

But that quiet apparently hid some serious demons. Hoffman went public with drug problems last year when, after a long span of sobriety, he checked into a rehab center. It seems, sadly, that the rehab was ineffective, as it is believed he died from a heroin overdose.

Hoffman was a brilliant and talented actor who will be severely missed.

Sic Transit Cal Worthington, 1920 – 2013

For this man, I can think of no better obituary than this.

Sic Transit Roger Ebert – 1942 – 2013


This is a hard obituary to write. Unlike with previous obits I’ve written, this one is for someone with whom I was, at least vaguely, acquainted. I had an infrequent email relationship with Roger Ebert; one that mostly consisted of my sending him links to things that, more often than not, he’d tweet or send out on Facebook. I even solicited his advice on what restaurants to go to while visiting Chicago last year, advice he was happy to provide.

Roger Ebert has died of cancer at the age of 70. This was a return of cancer which he, and everyone else, had hoped was long gone. Instead it returned with an apparent vengeance, ending his life only two days after he’d posted up a very cheerful, upbeat article that seemed ironically optimistic about the future.

Though I’d only recently started writing to him, I’d been aware of Roger Ebert since I was a child. At the Movies, under its various titles, was something my mother always seemed happy for me to watch. Seeing him and Gene Siskel sparring with each other was a fascinating exercise, and I loved the way that they constantly seemed to be pushing directors to make better films than they were.

It was through Roger Ebert that I’ve discovered directors like Lang, Murnau, Herzog, Wilder, and others. It was through him that I experienced films I’d never heard of before, like Ace in the Hole, M and Sunrise. His audio commentary on Citizen Kane remains one of the best commentaries I’ve ever heard, and his collections of writings, most notably a memorably-titled collection of reviews of bad films, were always incredibly good reading for me.

Ebert’s death leaves a real hole in the film criticism business, and it’s worth noting that, from now until my own death, anytime someone says the words “film critic”, Roger Ebert will be the first image that comes to mind.

Sic Transit Neil Armstrong – 1930 – 2012

A man who stepped small and giant for all of humanity.

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon and one of only a handful of humans in our entire history to do so, has died from complications resulting from heart surgery. He was 82.

Armstrong was born in Ohio, as were an insanely large number of other astronauts and aviation types.He served in Korea and then worked as a test pilot. In 1962 he became an astronaut and in 1965, he was commanding Gemini 8 when the vessel had technical issues. Armstrong was able to bring it back safely. He then did not travel into space again until 1969 when he commanded Apollo 11, and, on July 20 of that year, became the first person to walk on the surface of the Moon. Day later, he, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin returned to Earth and a hero’s welcome.

Life after NASA wasn’t especially easy for Armstrong, a man whose career basically peaked when he was 38. He spent time teaching and largely avoided the public eye. Whereas Aldrin seemed content to rake in piles of cash exploiting his visit to the Moon, Armstrong seemed to shy away from money and fame. He was out doing things in 2009 to mark the 40th anniversary of the landing, and that’s the only time I personally recall seeing him out in the public eye.

Armstrong’s come about because of the efforts of thousands of people around the world. To one extent he was “just” the one who got lucky enough to be picked as the man who stepped on the Moon first. I don’t doubt that there were dozens of others who were equally qualified and could have done the job just as well; Aldrin for one.

But while he was “just” that lucky one, he was, indeed, that very lucky one. He was the first human being to stand on the surface of a planetary body other than Earth, and that made him one amazing man indeed. Godpseed, Neil Armstrong.

Sic Transit Mary Tamm – 1950 – 1920

Last month the Doctor Who world was rocked by the death of Caroline John. Last year we lost both Elisabeth Sladen and Nicolas Courtney. Today comes the news that Mary Tamm, best known for her role as the first Romana in “The Key to Time” series, has died at the age of 62.

Tamm was born in the UK and started performing on stage in 1971. She then appeared in various small film roles, but became most famous for her role in the season-long Doctor Who story arc, “The Key to Time”.

Despite being a major Doctor Who fan, I hadn’t seen the entire KTT series until just a few years ago. I was pleased by it for several reasons, and one of the most notable was Mary Tamm, who brought a wonderful energy to the character of Romana. Her ability to appear completely bored by the antics of whatever enemy was capturing/menacing her was truly priceless. She returned to the role in 2005 for Big Finish audio in their Gallifrey series, and earlier this year recorded a series of stories with Tom Baker, reuniting her with the Fourth Doctor after all these years.

Tamm had been scheduled to be at last year’s Gallifrey convention, but had dropped out due to illness. Now we know what that illness was. She is survived by her husband and family, and shall be deeply missed.

Sic Transit Andy Griffith – 1926 – 2012

Actor and singer Andy Griffith has died at the age of 86. He was best known for his role in The Andy Griffith Show and later in Matlock and also fairly well-known as a singer.

Griffith was born and raised in North Carolina to a decidedly blue collar family. He discovered the performing arts in high school, and merged those with his love of religion when he became active in his church’s band. From there it was a few short steps to acting, and soon he was performing locally. It wasn’t too long after that that he began performing for larger audiences and soon was getting more and more attention, leading to numerous roles on TV.

He began his role on The Andy Griffith Show in 1960, and it was a role that would provide for him until 1968, which is a pretty good run by anyone’s standards. He returned to his most famous role on a couple occasions in reunion shows. Then in 1986, he began his role as a lawyer in Matlock, which ran until 1995.

Personally I’ll always remember Griffith for his impressive performance as Lonesome Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd. There he plays a convict and singer who is discovered by a radio reporter. Soon he’s singing for larger and larger audiences and, in short order, has his own TV show. Then he begins to dabble in politics and styles himself as something of a king maker. Things get ugly fast. It’s a great movie and he’s great in it. If nothing else, it’s fascinating seeing him play a villain.

Griffith was by all accounts a hell of a nice guy, in addition to being a great actor and singer. He will be missed.