• Richard Franklin, who starred in over 40 episodes of Doctor Who as Captain Mike Yates, has passed away at the age of 87.
  • Franklin's character, Captain Yates, was brainwashed by the AI villain BOSS in 1973 but was kept on the show and became a fan-favorite.
  • The Yates character made appearances in various Doctor Who specials and even had a novel written from his perspective, titled The Killing Stone.

Just as the new trailer for Ncuti Gatwa's first season of Doctor Who was released, the actor Richard Franklin (not to be confused with the Australian director) passed away. He starred in more than 40 episodes of the iconic BBC sci-fi show, becoming iconic for his role as Captain Mike Yates, a member of the British military organization UNIT which helped defend Earth from alien attacks and often worked with the Time Lord. Franklin was 87 and died in his sleep on Christmas Day.

His friend Líam Rudden shared the news on Franklin's Twitter account, along with a statement from Franklin's family that reads, "It is with great sadness, that the family of Richard Franklin have asked me to share news of his passing, early this morning. Richard passed away peacefully in his sleep. Details of funeral arrangements will be shared here when announced. Sleep well Richard. #RIP"

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Franklin's Doctor Who character first appeared in 1971 during the eighth season, and became a fan-favorite. He was infamously brainwashed by the AI villain BOSS in 1973, and then became part of the plot to reverse time and return Earth to 'a golden age' (a very Thanos-like conspiracy). Instead of killing off his character like Franklin had expected, the writers decided to keep Captain Mike Yates around, and included him in a very '70s narrative in which he spends time at a meditation retreat while recovering. The events he uncovers at the retreat lead to the last episodes of the Third Doctor throughout 1974.

Yates returned for the 20th Anniversary Special in 1983 (The Five Doctors) and then in 1993 for the Dimensions in Time special. He can be seen in a photograph in the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, and Franklin even wrote a novel from the character's perspective, The Killing Stone.

Franklin was also familiar to fans of '70s and '80s British television in general. He was also famous for his roles in the dramatic shows Emmerdale Farm as Denis Rigg and in Crossroads as Joe Townsend. He was even cast in Rogue One: A Star Wars story as Death Star Engineer Sirro Argonne, likely because Welsh-English director Gareth Edwards was a fan.

A Very Different Doctor Who Is Coming

Richard Franklin's death is mourned by Doctor Who fans everywhere, and comes at a very interesting time for the show as it engages in yet another passing of the torch from Doctor to Doctor. Beyond that, the BBC is doing something very different with the show. As we previously reported about DIsney's new relationship with Doctor Who:

"After reigning as a sci-fi TV favorite for sixty years, the series is making a comeback, complete with a significant alteration that has provoked a range of responses from fans worldwide. This change comes as Davies, the visionary behind the series' successful revival in 2005, retakes the helm. Doctor Who is set to release new episodes on Disney+ for audiences beyond the U.K. and Ireland, but with a decreased number of episodes per season.

Beginning in 2024, with actor Ncuti Gatwa donning the mantle of the Fifteenth Doctor, the series will release a total of nine episodes annually – an eight-episode season complemented by a festive special. This adjustment represents a significant departure from the episode counts of previous seasons, which ranged from 13 episodes in the initial seasons of its modern iteration to as few as six episodes in the most recent special series."

It remains to be seen how well this will work out, but the Time Lord has been on our screens for 60 years on and off, so it's doubtful Doctor Who will disappear anytime soon.