Pulp and Dagger


This is kind of an unusual piece for Pulp & Dagger, but I just wanted to take a rather belated moment to comment on the passing of actor John Colicos.

photo copyright the Associated PressFor those who don't know, John Colicos was the veteran Canadian actor whose roles placed him on stage, radio, film, and television, appearing in Canada, England, the United States and, no doubt, elsewhere. A classically-trained actor, among his numerous credits it was reported that he was the youngest actor to have ever tackled the lead in King Lear at London's Old Vic. Often typecast as the heavy, he was a versatile performer, playing in period pieces, or contemporary dramas (I recall him vividly from the fine CBC TV movie, "The Last Season", playing the crusty-but-sympathetic Polish-immigrant dad to Booth Savage's troubled hockey star). But the reason he is of interest to P&D readers is that Colicos was a popular actor among science fiction fandom.

Perhaps his first foray into SF was portraying Klingon General Kor in an episode of the 1960s TV series, Star Trek, called "Errand of Mercy" (a Shakespearian quote). It was a significant role as it was the episode that introduced the Klingons to the Star Trek mythos, and Colicos' purring, scene-chewing, R-rolling delivery left an indelible impression. After that, he would make many appearances in SF series (reprising General Kor more than once in the spin-off, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). In his native Canada he could be counted on to add a touch of old school theatrics to genre series like The Starlost, War of the Worlds, Beyond Reality, Alfred Hitchcock Presents (the 1989 revival) and others. In film he tackled the role of Allan Quartermain in the film King Solomon's Treasure -- and if the movie was received poorly, none could fault Colicos' performance in a rare, heroic lead role. On American TV Colicos' most significant SF role was as the conniving Count Baltar in Battlestar Galactica.

Colicos died in March, 2000, but I only became aware of it recently -- from a passing comment in another context. That's part of what motivates me to write. Oh, I'm sure his death got a write up here and there at the time, and I'm sure it was noted in SF magazines such as Starlog. But obviously it wasn't that well reported, or else it wouldn't have come as a surprise to me some nine months later. And that's too bad.

Colicos was one of a kind. He could be hammy, yes -- he'd have been the first to agree. But in a genre given to gaudy costumes and larger-than-life deeds, Colicos was right at home. In fact, in interviews, one got the impression that Colicos was quite at ease with his genre fandom, unlike some actors who see it as slumming while they wait for a legitimate gig. Colicos didn't seem to mind that, with all his extensive, high-brow theatrical credits, he was arguably loved best by fan-boys who knew him as Baltar or Kor.

He died in Toronto, where he made his home and the city in which he was born. He leaves behind a wife and two sons.

When I think of John Colicos, I think of an actor who, if I had ever found myself in the position of making a movie or a TV series, his name would've been at the top of my casting list. And maybe for an actor, that's the best thing you can say.

John Colicos (1928-2000) -- our TV's will shine a little less brightly without him.

Editorial by D.K. Latta

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