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Royce Mills

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2019-06-13 Times.jpg


Voice of the Daleks who spoke his lines, holding his nose, into an old microphone 'preferably with a broken diaphragm'

On a professional network of actors advertising their skills, Royce Mills described his voice as "friendly, fun, happy, informed, reassuring, rich, sophisticated, versatile, warm".

They were indeed qualities he could convey with a mellifluous aplomb, though none could be said to apply to his most famous role, the harsh, robotic timbre of the Daleks in Doctor Who.

Mills voiced the extra-terrestrial mutants in numerous episodes of the series and intoned "exterminate!" at three incarnations of the Doctor — Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy.

Contrary to popular belief, he created his Dalek voice without electronic enhancement from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which created the other sound effects for the show. The key, he said, was to "hold your nose and use a really old microphone, preferably with a broken diaphragm.

"We were hidden among the sets on the floor, crawling around after the Daleks," he recalled. "It was quite ridiculous, but tremendous fun: His final (non) appearance came in 1988 in Remembrance of the Daleks. He voiced a Supreme Dalek, which self-destructed after the Doctor announced that the rest of the mutant race had been wiped out. The programme could not do without the Daleks and they eventually returned, but Mills had moved on.

By the time he joined the Doctor Who cast in the early 1980s, he was already a familiar face on TV as a comic actor, typically playing an affable, bumbling middle-class Englishman with a needy grin alongside Morecambe and Wise, Dick Emery, Les Dawson and the like.

A West End veteran, a linchpin of the Theatre of Comedy, a Gilbert and Sullivan regular, and a National Theatre player, Mills was described by The Stage as "a master farceur and impeccable company member". He was also a popular pantomime dame of formidable proportions who came, he joked, in a "52E".

He was born Anthony Royce Mills in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, in 1942. He never knew his father, Herbert, whose disappearance remained a mystery that he never felt the need to investigate. He and his mother, Winifred, a concert pianist and BBC regular, went to live with her parents in the Sussex seaside town of Eastbourne.

Her connections led to his TV debut in BBC's Children's Hour aged 13. 1 can't remember what I did, but that's when the rot set in: he quipped. By then he was at Eastbourne College, where he told his housemaster that his mother could not afford to pay the fees. The school sent him to the manager of the Grand Hotel with a letter commending him for employment and he paid for his education by working in the kitchens.

That led to performing in Sunday night cabarets at the hotel, then work on Eastbourne Pier with the comedian Sandy Powell. Put in charge of the props, he was required to fill a dozen pint glasses for Powell to drink in his famous Chelsea pensioner sketch. Instead of tinted water, Mills filled them with beer. The next morning a badly hungover Powell sacked him.

On leaving school he trained at art school in Wimbledon and then as a set designer at the Guildhall. He remained an enthusiastic amateur painter all his life, but switched to an acting course and won the Carleton Hobbs award, which carried with it a placement with the BBC's drama department.

In the event Mills did not take up the bursary, for he had landed a job with the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford. Surrey. However, the award afforded what he called "preferred status" with the BBC and his channel debut came in 1969 in Oh Brother! starring Derek Nimmo. He also made a memorably weedy Nausius in Up Pompeii! alongside Frankie Howerd.

Admirers of his comic skills included Morecambe and Wise, who at the end of one show orchestrated a fake argument and stormed off the stage leaving Mills to sing Bring Me Sunshine on his own.

He is survived by his wife, Emma (nee Taylor), a singer and music teacher whom he met in 1992 when both appeared in Some Like It Hot in the West End, and their two sons, Max and Charlie, who are musicians. He is also survived by two daughters from an earlier marriage, to Una Morriss: Samantha, a teacher, and Miranda, who works for a nutritional magazine.

Typically, he took it in his jovial stride that his disembodied voice in Doctor Who remained his best-known role. "Being a Dalek was a bit of a conundrum: he admitted. "But I needed the money and nobody cared."

Royce Mills, actor, was born on May 12, 1942. He died after a brief Illness on May 21, 2019 aged 77

Caption: Royce Mills in 2005 and, left, a Dalek

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  • APA 6th ed.: (2019-06-13). Royce Mills. The Times p. 54.
  • MLA 7th ed.: "Royce Mills." The Times [add city] 2019-06-13, 54. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: "Royce Mills." The Times, edition, sec., 2019-06-13
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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Royce Mills | url= | work=The Times | pages=54 | date=2019-06-13 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=28 July 2021 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Royce Mills | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=28 July 2021}}</ref>