News broke today that genre GOAT David Warner died of cancer at the age of 80. He is remembered as a titan of theater, a nuanced performer, and a caring friend. But to those of us who were not able to see him onstage or meet him in person, he will always be Nergal, the lonely demon who lives at the earth’s core in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. Poor Nergal. Warner’s gift was taking the talent and pathos he amassed at the Royal Shakespeare Company and weaving it into every role, no matter how stupid. It’s easy for someone to be good at playing Hamlet. It’s very difficult to elicit sympathy for someone called the Lobe.
Thankfully, much of Warner’s silliest work is available to stream. He did excellent work in cartoons, in Star Trek after Star Trek, and even in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Here, the best of the worst of Warner:
Warner had an extensive voice-over career, including this semi-forgotten Kids’ WB show. Freakazoid! was a Steven Spielberg joint that just didn’t have the staying power of Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures. But what the show lacked in buzz, it made up for in hula girls and Hello, Dolly! parodies. It was a show on which pretty much anything could happen, and Warner’s the Lobe was often holding on to the plot for dear life.
Freakazoid! isn’t free to stream anywhere, but you can rent it on most of the big streamers. The Freakazoid!–Teen Titans Go! episode, on the other hand, is available on HBO Max.
Quest of the Delta Knights
This movie asks Warner to throw a cup of his own piss at someone, and he still crushes. The late-era MST3K flick features Warner in a double-cast role as both the Evil Queen’s henchman and the Chosen One’s mentor. He never lets on to how beneath him the movie is, which one cannot say for Richard Kind in his one-scene-wonder performance. MiSTies will remember this episode as the only one to feature Pearl Forrester (Mary Jo Pehl) in the theater riffing with the bots.
MST3K season nine, episode 13, is free to stream on YouTube (keep circulating the tapes) or available for purchase on the MST streaming app, the Gizmoplex.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Warner was in the TNG two-parter responsible for this meme of Picard. What’s more, he did it as a goof. Here’s what Warner had to say about the gig (via Memory Alpha): “I took over on three days’ notice. It was another makeup job. It was with Pat Stewart, who’s an old colleague. It was great to be a part of that. I thought, Oh, I’ve done two of the others, the old classic ones, and here I am in The Next Generation. I’ll go for it.” This is some classic British character-actor shit — the indifference to the source material, calling someone “Pat.” Warner had no idea he was starring in an episode that would set up conflicts that ran through Deep Space Nine. And they gave him so little prep time that he actually did his whole role off cue cards. “Every line I said, I actually was reading it over Patrick’s shoulder,” he said, “or they put it down there for me to do it.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation (as well as Warner’s turns in the movies Star Trek V and Star Trek VI) is streaming on Paramount+.
Dude was in Tron. ’Nuff said.