David Warner is one of my all time favourite actors. He has amassed a truly impressive body of work across so many different genre’s and mediums. This is a man who has been Hamlet and The Doctor!
Of course a genre fan such as myself knows him mostly from his many science fiction and fantasy roles, also as a 90’s baby I know him as the voice of a villain in just about every single cartoon I grew up watching.
In this article am going to take a look at what I feel are Warner’s greatest roles, hint most of them are villainous.
10/ Dr Erasmus Pea/ The League of Gentlemen Apocalypse
I am a huge fan of The League of Gentlemen series, however the film I didn’t think was quite as good. I don’t think it was utterly without merit, but like a lot of fans I felt it focused on the wrong characters. However having said that there were lots of laughs and certainly the inclusion of David Warner as the deranged villain Dr Pea was a master stroke. The League of Gentleman had always been very closely inspired by old classic horror movies so to get an old veteran from these types of film as the most insane, over the top and nasty villain the franchise has ever seen (and that’s saying a lot) truly was nothing short of genius.
9/ Ed Dillinger/Sark/MCP/ Tron
The 1980’s cult classic saw Warner play 3 different roles all of which were villainous. Warner however wonderfully demonstrated his versatility as an actor by making all 3 characters very distinct and unusual. Dillingerr the human villain ironically appeared in a very robotic, cold and straight way, whilst Sark a computerized villain is portrayed as a very emotional character. It couldn’t have been easy for Warner to play 3 such different characters, but he managed it perfectly and made each one unique in their own right.
8/ Henry Niles/ Straw Dogs
A more sympathetic performance from Warner as the hapless village idiot Henry Niles. Warner is able to inject a certain child like innocence into the character that makes you sympathise with him no matter what. Its a complete contrast to the normally intellectual and vicious characters he is known for playing. Sadly however I feel Warner’s performance in this film is often overlooked as he doesn’t have as much screen time and obviously Dustin Hoffman gives a truly stellar performance as well as a man who is pushed over the edge. Still Warner I feel holds his own and plays off of Hoffman perfectly. For me the most effective moment in the whole film is at the end when they are both in the car and Hoffman’s character is supposed to be taking Warner home and we discover that he has been driven completely insane. “I don’t know my way home”, “That’s okay I don’t either”.
7/The Doctor/ Doctor Who Unbound
Now as we all know David Warner never played the Doctor on television, however he has to date played the role in two audio stories in the Doctor Who Unbound series. The Doctor Who Unbound series for those of you who don’t know are stories that are set in an alternate canon. Warners Doctor is an alternate version of the third Doctor as played on television by Jon Pertwee. Warner’s Doctor is a third Doctor who was exiled to earth at a much later point and thus not around to stop many of the aliens invasions in Pertwee’s time. My favourite of the two stories he was in would definitely be the second story “Masters of War”. Not only do I think its a very interesting and new take on the Daleks, but Warner and Nicholas Courtney play off of each other perfectly. I think Warner would be a great choice to play the Doctor on television. Obviously before it wouldn’t have seemed practical as the new generation of Who fans were used to young dashing Doctors. However with Capaldi taking over and bringing us a darker, older Doctor I’d say that Warner could easily take over and mark a return to a real old Hartnellesque Doctor. Warner has in fact had many roles in Doctor Who including two villainous roles in the Fourth Doctor audio adventures and the Tenth Doctor animated series “Dreamland”. His only live action role to date in the show was in the 2013 episode “Cold War” where he played a more sympathetic character Professor Gisenko. I would like to think his Doctor on television would be more like Grisenko a nice, eccentric, sweet old grandfatherly figure rather than just a retread of his Unbound Doctor.
6/ Captain James Sawyer / Honblower
One of Warner’s darkest characters, Warner in my opinion completely stole the show with his powerful performance as the insane James Sawyer. Sawyer was somewhat different to a lot of Warner’s other more charming, calculating villains in that from the very beginning we can see that this man is a dangerous fanatic, prone to fits of psychopathic rage and completely unstable.
5 /Edward Charlton/ From Beyond The Grave
One of Warners most famous horror roles, Charlton is a man who is haunted by a Demonic mirror that drives him into becoming a murderer until he eventually takes its place. This is a particularly interesting performance from Warner as here he gets to show us a man slowly driven to the brink of madness. Charlton starts out as a perfectly ordinary man, but ends up as a monster in every sense of the word.
4/Keith Jennings/ The Omen
One of Warners most famous roles simply because of his spectacular death scene where he is decapitated. Warner later joked to frequent co-star Mark Gatiss that he lost his severed head in the divorce.
3/ Evil/ Time Bandits
One of Warners most famous roles the character of Evil is obviously a fairly straight forward villain. His name is well Evil, but still Warner manages to make it work and relishes every moment as the arrogant super villain who claims to have created himself!
2/ Ra’s Al Ghul/ Batman The Animated Series
Warners finest vocal performance in my opinion. Batman the animated series marked the first time Ra’s Al Ghul had appeared outside of the comic books and I feel they portrayed him the best. Warner feels like he was almost born to play the scheming, arrogant supervillain. As far as I’m concerned Warner was as well cast as Ghul as Mark Hamill was as the Joker.
1/ Gul Madred/ Star Trek The Next Generation
This was not the first time Warner had appeared in Star Trek. He had been in both the 5th and 6th films alongside the original crew. However this was by far and away his best performance. “The Chain of Command” two parter are among the best episodes in any Star Trek series and its down to both Patrick Stewart and Warner’s performances. It could not work without either of them as they play off of each other so well. Obviously Stewart is perfect at conveying Picard’s agony as he is brutally tortured by Madred, but at the same time Warner is every bit as effective at portraying Madred’s ruthlessness and determination to force Picard to talk. You genuinely believe if there is any enemy who can break Picard its Madred. At the same time however what is most disturbing about Madred is how he is not unlike a lot of Warners other villains shown to be a complete monster. He has many human moments such as when we see him playing with his daughter which just makes his torture of Picard even more disturbing. That a seemingly ordinary man who can show compassion and love could inflict this kind of pain and misery on another life form for hours on end with flinching is more horrifying than if it were a complete monster doing it.