Young actors dream of playing a variety of great roles, but they also fear never being offered one at all. There is, however, a third way: being famed for a single role, in one of the best-loved TV shows ever. This can bring a peculiar blend of attainment and limitation, which many performers would happily settle for.

Ian Lavender, who has died aged 77, took this route with grace and patience as Private Frank Pike, the timid teenage rookie of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard in Dad’s Army. Lavender appeared in all 80 episodes from 1968 to 1977, and features in the single most shared moment, when a captured German U-boat officer responds to some schoolboy rudery by ordering the boy soldier to give his name, causing Arthur Lowe’s Captain Mainwaring to bark: “Don’t tell him, Pike!”

So revered is the series that episodes up to 56 years old are still showing on BBC Two and the rerun network Gold. The sitcom continues to be the only classic TV show that has no need to run an episode as a tribute when a lead actor dies – it will be in the schedules anyway – although, poignantly, Lavender is the last of the main actors to be lost.

The Guardian

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A contribution from The BFD staff.