As you must have heard by now, Sir Christopher Lee passed away on June 7. He was 93 years old.
He appeared in well over 200 movies and is considered one of the greatest cinema Draculas, if not THE greatest of all Time. And so many of his other great roles are hallmarks in their genres - Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes, and Sir Henry Baskerville, Saruman, Kharis the Mummy, de Rochefort and Fu Manchu. (Funny how so many of those originated in great works of literature.)
He did a fair amount of television as well, but he didn't really have that one defining character on the small screen. I think the closest would be Professor Stone and his android double in 'The Avengers', in a storyline that would have worked in 'Doctor Who'. (I always fantasize about Steed and Mrs. Peel meeting the Third Incarnation of the Doctor.)
If only he had been cast in some other TV shows over the years. There was no denying he was a great talent who could do more than horror roles - appearing in an episode of 'Charlie's Angels' and hosting 'Saturday Night Live' proved that. (In fact, his role as Mr. Death in an SNL sketch remains my favorite of his TV roles.)
So many TV shows could have used him, but as this is a Super Six List, I must limit my suggestions....
SIX TV SHOWS THAT SHOULD HAVE CAST CHRISTOPHER LEE
1] 'THE TWILIGHT ZONE'
As I mentioned, "Mr. Death" in that SNL sketch was my favorite of his TV roles, and I think that might have been a good fit for him in that dimension of Sight and
Sound. Not in the specific episode which featured Robert Redford - let's face it, there's no way Gladys Cooper would have opened the door to let Death in if he looked like Christopher Lee.
Another role which would have been perfect for him was the Devil. Sir Christopher would later play Lucifer in a pilot movie starring Sammy Davis, Jr., "Poor Devil". In 'The Twilight Zone', the Devil made several appearances and although he was portrayed by a wide variety of actors, it is accepted that each of them was Lucifer in another guise. One of the other fans at the T-Zone page on Facebook suggested that Lee could have been the Howling Man and I think that is the best option. I would just want a better make-up job for his transformation.
2] 'STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION'
Sir Christopher made an appearance on 'Space: 1999'.... How is it possible he never showed up at some point in the 'Star Trek' franchise? Seeing Lee perform opposite Patrick Stewart would have been incredible. (The world within the 'Babylon 5' space station would have suited him nicely as well. Perhaps as a techno-mage or soul hunter?) I could see Christopher Lee as a Vulcan high priest or even better as another facet of the Q Continuum taking human form. Yeah, nothing less powerful would have been good enough. Why didn't they make it so, Number One?
If one wanted to follow cliche, seeing Christopher Lee in his own opera cape facing off against the Third Incarnation of the Doctor would have made for a cracking serial at the time. And when the show rebooted in 2005, Ol' Rusty surely could have come up with a storyline fitting for his talent, against either Christopher Eccleston or David Tennant in the role of the Doctor.
I think he might have been a better choice for Lucius Petrus Dextrus, the Chief Augur of Rome in "Fires Of Pompei", instead of Phil Davis. Davis is one of my favorite actors, but he has a more contemporary air about him when he's acting, better suited for coppers and crooks in the present day. (In fact, my wish-craft is that he would play a Metropolitan DCI who travels with Peter Capaldi's Doctor. It would be a welcome change from all the women who have been the Companions so far.)
I might have included 'Murder, She Wrote' as a television mystery series for him - that is, until I read this excerpt from his obituary in The Telegraph:
After almost 20 years of playing Dracula, Lee eventually tired of the role. He moved to the United States where he enjoyed a lucrative career in both films and made-for-television mini-series such as The Far Pavilions and Shaka Zulu. While in America, Lee resisted all offers of parts in soap operas including Dallas and Dynasty.
“You find yourself appearing with 15 other guest stars,” he recalled, “and word gets round that you’re on the skids.”
'Columbo' was also known for stocking its episodes with guest stars - "The Most Crucial Game" was overloaded with them! But as the murderer in the episode, Christopher Lee would have been the focus of attention. And the haughty demeanor he exuded would make him a perfect foil for Peter Falk as the rumpled homicide detective. The height difference would have accented the dichotomy in their cat-and-mouse game.
As to which 'Columbo' murderer he could have played, I'd prefer an all new story for him during the classic years; that would have been best. But if he had to be swapped in for a previously cast actor, I would not mind seeing one of the roles played by the actors who were called upon again and again to be the murderer - Cassidy, Culp, McGoohan - be given to Sir Christopher instead. Maybe I surrender too easily to cliche, but in the classic NBC run, I could see him as the Great Santini, the magician/Nazi played by Jack Cassidy in "Now You See Him". In the ABC return for the series, perhaps Lee might have assayed the role of Erik Prince, undertaker to the stars. I'd believe him capable of lifting Rue McLanahan's corpse more than Patrick McGoohan.
5] 'THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW'
"This is getting to be like a bad horror movie.
All we're missing is Vincent Price and the thunder and the lightning."
How about Christopher Lee instead?
I think it can be assumed that Rob Petrie was a fan of horror movies. Not only because he watched that outer space alien invasion movie about the planet Twilo, but because he would mimic Boris Karloff on occasion. An appearance by Christopher Lee could have gone in two different directions:
1) By the time of the series, Lee was an established star of the Hammer films, having played Frankenstein's Creature and Count Dracula. He could have appeared in an episode as himself, making a guest appearance in a special Halloween edition of 'The Alan Brady Show'.
2) Falling back on yet another cliche, Lee could have played a mysterious stranger who at first appears menacing to the Petries. In the end, it would prove to have been a big misunderstanding.
What I wouldn't give to have seen Christopher Lee going toe to toe with Morey Amsterdam as Buddy Sorrell!
6] 'SESAME STREET'
This should have been Christopher Lee, not Liam Neeson.
Plenty of British stars have appeared over the years on this children's classic. (Here's 17 of them.)
I can't believe the Children's Television Workshop never got Christopher Lee to appear opposite the Count! It would have been supernaturally natural!