I was particularly saddened, like so many millions, to hear that Sir John Hurt had passed away. I only met him once (pretty much my only celebrity encounter) in a restaurant on the Isle of Man (when all I could think to say was 'You're John Hurt' - which I kinda think he knew anyway) so I cannot claim, by any stretch of the imagination, to have known him but, like many people, I felt, thanks to his long and successful acting career, that in someway I did.
That face, that beautifully 'lived-in' look and (most importantly) that voice.
I first saw him in Alien, back in 1979, his character being [SPOILER ALERT] the first human host of the H.R.Giger-inspired multi-limbed-nasty. Even today the painstakingly slow exo-archaeological investigation of the hatching alien egg makes me feel decidedly queasy...
Later on, I discovered the TV series I Claudius, in which he was third emperor Gaius (Caligula), a truly plausible, mesmerizing and utterly terrifying performance. I only have to hear him utter the line "Do you think I'm mad?" to be reduced to a quivering wreck.
And then, of course, among the many, many roles, we've had (another of my personal favourites) Harold 'Ox' Oxley, one-time colleague of Indiana Jones in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, an archaeologist driven to madness by an obsessive search (and, yes, I have met people exactly like this)
But in 2013 he played a role that he will, for many, be most fondly remembered: the 'War Doctor'
In recent debates surrounding the future of long-running SciFi series Doctor Who (generated now that Peter Capaldi has announced he's hanging up his hoody), many journalists have (rather scandalously) forgotten Sir John's contribution. No, the next actor / actress to play 'the Doctor' will NOT be number 13, thank you very much, for there have, thanks to the devilishly-complex mind of showrunner Steven Moffat, already been 13 incarnations of the Time Lord (Capaldi being the final one to date). In fact, there he is, sandwiched in between Doctor no. 8 (Paul McGann) and Doctor no. 10 (Christopher Eccleston):
Rest in peace Sir John: actor, performer, gentleman, one-time hellraiser, Roman emperor, astronaut, Time Lord, surprised restaurant guest and celluloid archaeologist. You will be greatly missed.