'Doctor Who' And 'Flash Gordon' Actor Peter Wyngarde Has Died

Peter Wyngarde, the actor best known for roles on Jason King, Doctor Who, and Flash Gordon, has passed away. He was 90.

The news broke via the BBC, who reported that the actor had died at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London following a long illness.

"What a life," Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss tweeted earlier today. "What a legend. Jason King is dead. Long live Jason King!"

Wyngarde's agent and manager, Thomas Bowington, described him as "one of the most unique, original and creative actors" he had seen.

Besides his genre work, Wyngarde appeared in Robert Rossen's Alexander the Great (which starred Richard Burton) and Jack Clayton's horror classic The Innocents. Wyngarde (and Jason King) was a partial inspiration for the character of Austin Powers, a pastiche of '60s and '70s British spies.

In 1959, he starred in ITV's South, a period drama about the American Civil War in which he played a Polish army lieutenant who had to decide who he loves: Miss Regina, a plantation owner's niece; or a (male) officer called Eric MacClure. Per the BBC obituary, "the series was broadcast live at a time when homosexuality had not been decriminalised in the UK, the drama received scathing reviews in the press."

Wyngarde himself was gay, although he did not come out until later. In the '70s he was convicted of lewd behavior after being caught with a man, and while it was a setback for his career, Wyngarde reportedly liked to downplay its significance.

Much of Wyngarde's early life is poorly-documented, leading Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell (also known for his work in novels and American comics) to tweet, "It's terrible and impossible that #peterwyngarde is dead" and, linking to the star's sketchy and caveat-heavy Wikipedia page, "Such an extraordinary, detail-disputed, life. He was oddly magnificent."

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Wyngarde has an unexpected comics legacy thanks to John Byrne's affection for the British TV series The Avengers: The X-Men villain Jason Wyngarde (Mastermind) was partially inspired by Jason King and Peter Wyngarde.

Mastermind, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, had first appeared in the 1960s, but Byrne reinvented the character, giving him the appearance and identity of Jason Wyngarde (named for Wyngarde and Jason King) for the X-Men's first confrontation with the Hellfire Club in the late 1970s. Mastermind often uses his powers to give himself an illusory handsome appearance, and the version seen in those '70s stories was pretty obviously drawn from Jason King.