Peter Cushing (26 May 1913-11 August 1994) played the eccentric Dr. Who in two mid-1960s movies (Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.) based on the Doctor Who television series. He is perhaps best known for playing Baron Frankenstein and Professor van Helsing in Hammer films, often appearing opposite his close friend Christopher Lee, as well for his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars.
Apart from his role as Dr. Who, Cushing was considered to take over from First Doctor William Hartnell or Third Doctor Jon Pertwee. In the first case, he turned down the role. In the second, he would have accepted if prior commitments had not made this impossible. He had also appeared on a list of actors who could potentially play the Frankenstein-like role of the mad surgeon Solon in the Fourth Doctor story The Brain of Morbius.
Cushing was born in Kenley in Surrey on 26 May 1913. He was raised in Kenley and Dulwich, South London. He left his first job as a surveyor's assistant to take up a scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After working in repertory theatre, he left for Hollywood in 1939, but returned in 1941 after roles in several films. His first major film part was as Osric in Hamlet (1948) with Laurence Olivier.
Cushing played Sherlock Holmes many times, starting with Hammer's The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), the first colour Holmes film. He followed this up with a performance in 16 episodes of the BBC series Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (1968), of which only six episodes survive. It co-starred Nigel Stock as Dr. Watson. Cushing played the detective in old age, in The Masks of Death (1984) for Channel 4.
In 1989, he was created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
He retired to Whitstable, where he had bought a seafront house in 1959. He died from cancer in Canterbury in 1994, aged 81. He was married to the actress Helen Beck from 1943 until her death in 1971. His love for her has become one of the most warmly regarded aspects of his star persona, and he famously named a rose after her on the BBC programme Jim'll Fix It.
- After attending the Star Wars premiere at Mann's Chinese Theatre with Frobisher in May 1977, the Sixth Doctor remarked that Tarkin looked familiar and that he seemed to remember meeting his granddaughter once. (PROSE: Mission: Impractical)
- Cushing subsequently starred in the 1980 science fiction film Prey for a Miracle, which was inspired by the UFO / gods scare caused by the Latter-Day Pantheon in New York City in March and April 1965. He played the lead role of "the mysterious government adviser, Doctor Who", a character loosely based on the First Doctor. However, a film critic for the magazine Film in Focus noted upon the film's release in November 1980 that Cushing's "endearingly eccentric professor [was] as fictional as the rest of Prey for a Miracle" as what little was known about the real life "Doctor" suggested that he was "a shadowy, manipulative figure." (PROSE: Salvation)
- Prior to 1969, William Bishop saw a film featuring Cushing about a cursed stone. (PROSE: Mind of Stone)
- He attended Iris Wildthyme's party in Hobbe's End in 1972. (PROSE: From Wildthyme with Love)
- According to Kate Stewart, the Doctor was friends with Cushing. UNIT realised this when he started showing up in films after his death. The Doctor's tenth and eleventh incarnations enjoyed the two Dalek movies and even pitched him a third one by telephone. (PROSE: The Day of the Doctor)