Roger Delgado

Roger Caesar Marius Bernard de Delgado Torres Castillo Roberto (1 March 1918 – 18 June 1973) was a British actor, best known as the first actor to play The Master in Doctor Who.

Roger Delgado
Roger Caesar Marius Bernard de Delgado Torres Castillo Roberto

(1918-03-01)1 March 1918
Whitechapel, London, England
Died18 June 1973(1973-06-18) (aged 55)
Cause of deathCar crash
Years active1939–1973
Known forFirst actor to play The Master
in Doctor Who (1971–1973)
Spouse(s)Olga Anthonisz; div.
Kismet Shahani (1957–1973; his death)

Early life

Delgado was born in Whitechapel, in the East End of London; he often remarked to Doctor Who co-star and close friend Jon Pertwee that this made him a true Cockney,[1] as he was born within the sound of the Bow bells, even though his mother was Belgian and his father was Spanish. He did not live in the East End, but was brought up in Bedford Park in west London.[2] He attended Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, a Roman Catholic secondary school in Holland Park, and the London School of Economics for a brief period but did not complete his degree.[3] He served in the Second World War with both the Leicestershire Regiment and the Royal Corps of Signals, attaining the rank of major.[4][5]


Delgado worked extensively on the British stage, and on television, film and radio. His theatre debut was in 1939 and his first television appearance was 1948.[6] He appeared in the 1955 BBC Television Service serial Quatermass II, the 1956 Powell and Pressburger wartime drama Battle of the River Plate, and came to wide popular attention in Britain when he played the duplicitous Spanish envoy Mendoza in the ITC Entertainment series Sir Francis Drake from 1961 to 1962, after which he was in much demand. An in-joke in the 1971 Doctor Who story Colony in Space refers to that role, when the Brigadier tells the Doctor not to worry as the suspected sighting of the Master "was only the Spanish Ambassador". Delgado was frequently cast as a villain, appearing in many noted British action-adventure TV series by ITC, including Danger Man (1961), The Saint (1962 and 1966), The Champions (1969), and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (1969).

Delgado made a total of 16 guest appearances in ITC shows, the most of any actor, with his last completed role being ITC's The Zoo Gang (1974). He also appeared in The Avengers (1961 and 1969), The Power Game (1966), and Crossfire (1967). His films included The Terror of the Tongs, The Road to Hong Kong, The Mummy's Shroud and Antony and Cleopatra.[7] He began work as The Master on Doctor Who in late 1970, his first broadcast appearance being in the January 1971 adventure Terror of the Autons. He subsequently reprised the role of the Master in many of the Third Doctor serials, including The Mind of Evil, The Claws of Axos, Colony in Space, The Dæmons, The Sea Devils, The Time Monster and Frontier in Space.[8] The Master's story arc was to have ended in The Final Game, which was planned as the final story to feature Pertwee's Third Doctor, but the story was scrapped following Delgado's sudden death and replaced with Planet of the Spiders.[9]

Personal life

His first marriage was to Olga Anthonisz. The marriage ended in divorce.[10] Delgado married Kismet Shahani in 1957 and they were together until his death in 1973.[11]


Delgado died on location in Nevşehir, Turkey, whilst shooting La Cloche tibétaine (Tibetan Bell), a Franco/German television mini-series[12][13] portraying Citroën motoring expeditions in 1931–32 which traversed Asia, from Peking and Beirut. Delgado appeared in one episode of this production. He was killed, along with two Turkish film technicians, when the car in which he was travelling went off the road into a ravine. He was 55 years old.

Until 2017, there was mystery surrounding the fate of Delgado's remains. It appears that his ashes were scattered on 27 June 1973, in area RB3 (Plot 43) of the Garden of Remembrance at Mortlake cemetery, North London. He was cremated at Mortlake.[14]

The serial he was filming in Turkey continued production and was completed after his death. The series was broadcast on French and German television in 1974–1975; Delgado can be seen in episode 4 as the minor character Paco.[15]

Jon Pertwee often remarked that Roger Delgado's death was one of the reasons he decided to leave Doctor Who the following year.[16]



Year Title Role Notes
1952 Murder at Scotland Yard George Grayson
1953 The Broken Horseshoe Felix Galegos
The Captain's Paradise Kalikan policeman
Blood Orange Marlowe Released as Three Stops to Murder in USA
1954 The Belles of St. Trinian's Sultan's Aide Uncredited
Third Party Risk Detective Gonzales Released as The Big Deadly Game in USA
1955 Storm Over the Nile Native spy
1956 The Battle of the River Plate Captain Varela, Uruguayan Navy
1957 Manuela Stranger 1957
Man in the Shadow Alberto Uncredited
1958 Sea Fury Salgado
Mark of the Phoenix Devron
1959 First Man into Space Mexican Consul – Ramon de Guerrera
The Stranglers of Bombay Bundar Uncredited
1960 Sands of the Desert Abu Nial
1961 The Singer Not the Song Pedro de Cortinez
The Terror of the Tongs Tang Hao
1962 Village of Daughters Francisco Predati
The Road to Hong Kong Jhinnah
Guns of Darkness Hernandez Voice
In Search of the Castaways Patagonian Prisoner
1963 The Mind Benders Dr Jean Bonvoulois Uncredited
The Running Man Spanish doctor
1964 Hot Enough for June Josef
1965 Masquerade Ahmed Ben Faïd Uncredited
1966 Khartoum Uncredited
The Sandwich Man Abdul – Carpet Seller
1967 The Mummy's Shroud Hasmid
1968 Star! French Ambassador Uncredited
1969 The Assassination Bureau Bureau Member Uncredited
You Can't Win 'Em All Capt.Enver and two others Voice, Uncredited
1970 Underground Xavier
1972 Antony and Cleopatra Soothsayer


Year Title Role Notes
1958 The Adventures of Robin Hood Ambassador Episode: The Minstrel
1959–1965 The Third Man Luis Mendoza / Henri Banear 4 episodes
1961 Danger Man Von Golling Episode: Under the Lake
1962 Z-Cars Gregori Katsybalis Episode: Business Trip
1971 The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes Silva Episode: Madame Sara
1971–1973 Doctor Who The Master 37 episodes, recurring role
1972 The Persuaders! Estoban Episode: To The Death, Baby
1973 Play of the Month Officer of the Holy Brotherhood Episode: The Adventures of Don Quixote
1974 La Cloche tibétaine (Tibetan Bell) (fr) Paco Episode 4. (Final appearance. Died during filming.)


  1. The Making of Doctor Who, 1972, p. 31
  2. Harmes, Marcus (2017). Roger Delgado: I am usually referred to as the Master. Fantom Publishing. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-78196-300-5.
  3. Harmes, Marcus (2017). Roger Delgado: I am usually referred to as the Master. Fantom Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-78196-300-5.
  4. "Roger Delgado". Metacritic. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
  5. "The UNIT Family: Part Two". Day of the Daleks (DVD special feature). BBC. 2011. ASIN B004VRO89C.
  6. Harmes, Marcus (2017). Roger Delgado: I am usually referred to as the Master. Fantom Publishing. pp. 27, 47. ISBN 978-1-78196-300-5.
  7. "Roger Delgado obituary (The Times) - the Doctor Who Cuttings Archive".
  8. "Frontier in Space ★★★★".
  9. "BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Planet of the Spiders - Details".
  10. Harmes, Marcus (2017). Roger Delgado: I am usually referred to as the Master. Fantom Publishing. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-78196-300-5.
  11. "Roger Delgado (letter) — the Doctor Who Cuttings Archive".
  12. "Funeral Directors and services — Roger Delgado". Family Announcements.
  13. "Kasterborous Doctor Who News and Reviews / Roger Delgado's Last Appearance: Found! – Kasterborous Doctor Who News and Reviews". Kasterborous Doctor Who News and Reviews. Archived from the original on 25 May 2015.
  14. Harmes, Marcus (2017). Roger Delgado: I am usually referred to as the Master. Fantom Publishing. p. 213. ISBN 978-1-78196-300-5.
  15. "La Cloche Tibetaine". La Cloche Tibetaine.
  16. "Exclusive First Look: The Final Curtain Part 1 – Doctor Who – Planet of the Spiders". YouTube. BBCClassicDoctorWho. 4 March 2011.
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