Stewart Bevan obituary

<span>Photograph: ITV/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: ITV/Shutterstock

The actor Stewart Bevan, who has died aged 73 after a short illness, was a welcome presence on British television over the years. A fresh-faced juvenile lead, later a reassuring and genial character player, he gave solid performances that were grounded in reality but not without flair.

He featured in the long-running series Doctor Who, in 1973’s The Green Death, remembered fondly by viewers as “the one with the giant maggots”. The departure of popular companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) called for someone special to lure her away from third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, and to this end the charismatic Welsh eco-warrior Professor Clifford Jones was conceived.

Michael Briant, the director, was having trouble casting this part but was reluctant to interview Bevan because he was Manning’s fiance at the time. He finally relented and discovered that Bevan was exactly what he was looking for: handsome and with the requisite crusading zeal and lightness of touch.

Bevan’s obvious rapport with Manning also helped to make her departure one of the series’ most memorably tear-jerking. Bevan himself was an empathic anti-capitalist vegetarian, guitar player and writer of poetry – all of which contributed to making Jones a believable character.

Although he and Manning had split up in 1976 he reunited with her to play Cliff in a couple of short films used as trailers for the 2019 and 2020 Blu-ray releases of Pertwee’s Doctor Who episodes and for a retrospective documentary, Keeping Up With the Joneses (2019).

Stewart was born in St Pancras, central London, to a canteen manager, Gwen (nee Snow), and truck driver, Ray Bevan, who became the personal driver to the celebrity hairdresser Raymond Bessone (aka Mr Teasy Weasy), while Gwen became his housekeeper.

Raised in Southall, Middlesex, Stewart walked out of his school aged 15 after he was caned for standing up for a Sikh classmate. Working at Pierre Cardin’s London fashion store he attended amateur dramatics classes and was emboldened when he won an award for playing Alec in Noël Coward’s Still Life at a drama festival held at the Questors theatre in 1964, and so enrolled at the Corona theatre school.

On only his second day there he auditioned to play a schoolboy in the landmark Sidney Poitier film To Sir, With Love (1966) and in 1967 worked as a dancer with Jayne Mansfield when she toured the UK in cabaret. He was soon getting big-screen credits – including Lock Up Your Daughters! (1969), the horror films Burke & Hare and The Flesh and Blood Show (both 1972), Steptoe and Son Ride Again (1973), The Ghoul (1975), and the John Wayne vehicle Brannigan (1975).

After Doctor Who he appeared in many popular drama series – from Public Eye (1975) to Silent Witness (1997) via Shoestring (three episodes, all 1979), Blake’s 7 (1980) and The House of Elliot (1994).

He had a stint in the soap opera Emmerdale (1977, then called Emmerdale Farm) as Ray Oswell, caught in a storm and seeking help with his pregnant wife, played by Virginia Moore. He and Virginia fell in love off-screen and they remained together for the rest of his life, settling in Suffolk.

He also featured in Douglas Camfield’s all-star TV version of Ivanhoe (1982) and Noel’s House Party (1993-94) – which required sharp improvisational skills in order to pull off elaborate pranks on unsuspecting victims. He was also a familiar face on TV adverts – in the 80s for Fairy Liquid and the 90s for Kellogg’s Bran Flakes.

His theatre highlights were his West End debut in the first production of Conduct Unbecoming (Queen’s theatre, 1969-70), taking the lead role when the play toured the UK in 1971, and touring with David Soul in Ira Levin’s Deathtrap in 2002. His last film role came in the Jack Thorne-scripted The Scouting Book for Boys (2009).

He is survived by Virginia and their daughters, Coral and Wendy. His three sisters predeceased him.

• Stewart John Llewellyn Bevan, actor, born 10 March 1948; died 20 February 2022