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All hail the mighty Alan Dale!

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All hail the mighty Alan Dale!
From 1985, Alan Dale entered many millions of households on a daily basis as the loveable Jim Robinson in Neighbours until the character suffered a fatal heart attack in 1993. But Dale avoided the obscurity that befalls the majority of former soap stars (or allegedly kebab meat in the case of Bouncer) by nabbing recurring parts in major shows like The O.C. and Ugly Betty before his characters on those were also killed off by heart attacks. Talk about getting typecast!

But fortunately, the institution known as Alan Dale has scooped an impressive number of stints in a dazzling array of cult shows along the way. Here's a look at those televisual entities that have been fortunate enough to have had Dale in their midst. It's time to build a shrine...

Time Trax: Mr Bergdorf - 1994

Just one year after he left Ramsay Street, Alan Dale played a role very different to Jim Robinson when he guest starred in this sci-fi show as the ruthless head of an organised crime unit in episode 'The Crash'. Significantly, the series was an Australian-American co-production, which helped the New Zealand-born actor take a step towards the States from The Antipodes.

Space: Above And Beyond: Colonial Governor Borman - 1995

Dale only turned up in the pilot episode of the short-lived Fox series, which featured a group of marines trying to repel alien invaders in the year 2063. The show was created by X-Files writers Glen Morgan and James Wong, which stood Dale in good stead for later work in that franchise.

The Lone Gunmen: Michael Wilhelm - 2001

The episode 'Eine Kleine Frohike' was a curious tale of an elderly female Nazi assassin lurking in suburbia, with Dale integral to the plot as Michael Wilhelm - the revenge-fuelled son of one of the murderous woman's victims. He hired Fox Mulder's nerdy pals to capture the Nazi, although proving her identity turned out to be a pain in the ass - quite literally. In addition, Dale got to play on one of the Gunmen pretending to be Wilhelm through one of those Mission: Impossible style face masks. Call him Mr Versatility.

The X Files - Toothpick Man - 2002

The truth is out there? Not necessarily, but the casting directors of the iconic show quickly wised up to the fact that Alan Dale is out there, available and eminently watchable following his Lone Gunmen appearance. They rewarded him with the recurring role of the 'Toothpick Man' in several episodes at the end of the show's run. The character effectively stepped into the nicotine-stained chair of the departed Cigarette Smoking Man as the head of a shady new syndicate, although he was later exposed as an alien. Shame we didn't get this kind of plot twist on Neighbours. Then again, there was Mrs Mangel...

Star Trek: Nemesis - Praetor Hiren - 2002

It was Dale's turn to make inroads into the Star Trek franchise next, as he popped up under plenty of makeup as the head of the Romulan Senate, learned politician Hiren. However, after he declared that the military should keep its nose out of state affairs, he perished when the Senate is blown up.

At least it was a more explosive demise than the usual heart attack that befalls Dale's characters.



24: Vice President Jim Prescott 2002-2003

No, not John Prescott. That would be too much of a stretch for even the mighty Dale. Instead, the role of Vice President Jim Prescott in Day Two of 24 was a small but crucial one, as he instigated a successful coup to remove President David Palmer from office temporarily by invoking the 25th Amendment. Jack Bauer was not pleased. Once Palmer proved that his actions were sane and his powers restored, Prescott tendered his but this was refused. He continued as VP throughout Day Three, but was only seen on screen briefly chatting to Palmer via a video-conference. Dale reprised the role, albeit in a purely vocal capacity, for the computer game version of 24 in 2006.

Torchwood: Dr Aaron Copley - 2008

Former Neighbours stars are mostly seen on British shores to share the stage alongside Lionel Blair and the Krankies, but Dale turned up in Cardiff with a very different mission in the episode 'Reset'. As the dodgy Dr Aaron Copley, he not only took on 'Bloody Torchwood', but he also had Martha Jones to deal with. That's enough to make any man (or viewer) quake in their boots.

Head of pharmaceutical company The Pharm, which dangerously experimented on alien lifeforms to find miracle cures for humans, the ruthless Copley ended up with a bullet in his head courtesy of Captain Jack (who will shoot his load at anything with a pulse). Yet just before, Copley actually killed cast regular Owen Harper, who was later resurrected in a slightly zombiefied state.

Lost: Charles Widmore - 2006 - Present

Still going strong in the current season of Lost, Dale's legendary turn as the creepy businessman Charles Widmore sees him emerge from the shadows in the past or present every few episodes to add a further piece to the show's mysterious mythology. Widmore first turned up at the end of the second season in a plot concerning his daughter Penelope's relationship with the straggler Desmond. Yet the full extent of his influence has only recently emerged, as he was behind the bunch of mercenaries who first located and attacked the island.

As Ben Linus has become more sympathetic and formed alliances with certain crash survivors, Widmore has emerged as the apparent Big Bad of Lost. In Dale's capable hands though, Widmore is far from the one-dimensional bad guy, as a certain degree of humanity has shone through. Who would have thought that when Jim Robinson crumpled into a heap that 15 years later the actor behind him would play such a pivotal part in one of the world's most popular and talked about programmes?

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