Patrick Macnee

Patrick Macnee lived a long and full life. Last week he passed away at the age of 93. I realized that my youngest daughter was not familiar with his work, so I went through my video tapes and found the Avengers episode, “The Hour That Never Was,” and we watched it together.

I should not be sad about the death of an actor I never met, but it seems strange to have “lost” both Patrick Macnee and Leonard Nimoy in just a few weeks. Both portrayed characters on television that meant a lot to me when I was growing up. I look at John Steed, and I see the man I want to be. I look at Spock and see the man I truly am.

Whether he was acting in character or just being himself, Patrick Macnee seems to have been a genuinely nice person. He possessed a soft-spoken charm, which is a very appealing characteristic to have. He could approach life with a strong masculine personality, and yet he could also express a boyish excitement about what he encountered. Steed was one of the first crime drama characters to face danger with a merry quip. Other actors have made that nonchalance commonplace—think of Harrison Ford as Han Solo or as Indiana Jones—but Patrick Macnee expressed it first.

For centuries, audiences have gathered to view drama, and they have celebrated their favorite characters. From the heroes of Greek tragedies to Shakespeare’s Hamlet and MacBeth, memorable characters have shaped our view of who we are and who we can be. John Steed takes his place among the entertaining heroes from past times. (He even appears briefly in the Beatles’ cartoon movie Yellow Submarine.) A man can find far worse role models to imitate.