Roy Skelton: Actor best known as the voice of the Daleks and as Zippy and George in 'Rainbow'

Roy Skelton's verbal dexterity ensured that he achieved television immortality in two programmes, delighting and terrifying audiences in equal measure. As Zippy and George in Rainbow (1972-1992) he flitted seamlessly between the characterisation of a mischievous brown puppet of indeterminate species and his gentle, pink hippopotamus cohort. From an altogether different dimension and moral compass came Doctor Who's Daleks, voiced by Skelton between 1967 and 1988 (plus a 1999 Comic Relief swansong).

He was the eldest of two boys; when his parents' sweet shop business folded his mother became a housekeeper and his father a toolmaker for Raleigh in Nottingham. The acting bug bit early and he honed his stage skills during at his boys' club and during national service. He got a scholarship to the Bristol Old Vic and, upon graduating, appeared at the Theatre Royal there in the early 1950s in Macbeth, Christmas In King Street, Crime And Punishment and The Merry Gentlemen.

He fell into voice work accidentally, but quickly secured work in fare such as Picture Book (as Sossidge the dog, 1955), Rubovian Legends (1955), The Winkleburg Armourer (1956) and Toytown, as grumpy Mr Growser (1956). These led to the ITV daytime children's show Rainbow, which is still fondly remembered for the antics of its host Geoffrey Hayes and his housemates Bungle The Bear, Zippy (so named because his mouth could be zipped shut), George and the singing trio Rod, Jane and Freddy. Zippy sounded like a jollier Dalek, while George, who came later, was a softer, fuzzy vocal. Skelton also wrote 150 episodes of the show and after it was cancelled voiced the characters for a dance version of "It's A Rainbow" (reaching No 15 in the charts), and a cover of "It's Raining Men".

For Doctor Who he originated the singsong computer lilt of the Cybermen in 1966 and the following year took over "exterminate" duties in the staccato tones of those firm family favourites the Daleks. These voices were performed live in the studio, as were other horrors like the crystalline slave masters The Krotons (1968), to whom he gave South African accents as a sly political aside.

Versatile and very much part of the Doctor Who family, he also appeared on-screen as everything from a duplicitous miner in "Colony In Space" (1971) to a doomed alien king in "The Hand Of Fear" (1976). Other TV roles included Z-Cars (1968), Last Of The Mohicans (1971), the sitcom Take A Chance (1980, for which he also wrote), The Mock Turtle in Alice In Wonderland (1986) and The Bill (1989).

His first love was the stage and he preferred character parts, notably Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol and Gregory Solomon in The Price (which involved a two-hour, self-administered make-up job), after many juvenile leads. After playing Baron Hardup in Cinderella at the Ashcroft Theatre in Croydon (1967), he often returned to direct. His musical skills – he was a fine singer, accomplished pianist and self-taught saxophonist and clarinet player – helped him to West End in roles in Wild Thyme (1955), Oh! My Papa! (1957), Chrysanthemum (1959), and Trelawny (1972).

He viewed his profession very much as his day job, eschewing showbiz hobnobbing to spend time with his wife, daughters and five grandchildren. He first met Hilary Tooze when she was on a date with someone else at a nightclub in Notting Hill in 1957. It was announced that a patron who was a TV personality would be performing on stage and as a reluctant Skelton made his way to the microphone, he heard her comment, "that's no TV personality". Having wowed the crowd he whisked her up to dance and they married two years later.

He was a lifelong NottinghamForest fan; an unfulfilled ambitionwas to commentate on a game using Zippy's voice. He was also happyto adopt his famous alter-egos on demand and was quietly proud of his achievements.

Having semi-retired to Brighton he continued working in between much- loved trips abroad, latterly resurrecting Zippy on The Weakest Link (2007) and Life On Mars (2008). Having suffered a stroke, he succumbed to pneumonia, taking with him two significant chunks of the childhoods of several generations of viewers.

Toby Hadoke

Roy William Skelton, actor: born Oldham, Lancashire 20 July 1931; married 1959 Hilary Tooze ( two daughters); died Brighton 8 June 2011.

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice