Only Fools and Horses couldn’t have been as successful as it was without the likes of David Jason, Nicholas Lyndhurst, or Lennard Pearce, and these three, along with Buster Merryfield, are rightfully celebrated for their incredible work on the show, but it wasn’t all down to them.
The show was always blessed with a stellar supporting cast, regulars like Roger Lloyd-Pack’s Trigger and John Challis’ Boycie becoming a huge part of what allowed the show to continue as long as it did. But as well as the regulars, the show featured countless one-off characters that helped drive the plots of some legendary episodes.
Whilst there are lots of great one-off appearances to choose from, we’ve attempted to boil it down to the top five from the entire show’s run, and since Only Fools always attracted such great talent, we’ll also take a look at just what each of the actors featured went on to star in. So in no set order, read on to find out:
Appearing only in the third episode of season five of Only Fools, The Longest Night, Lennox first introduces himself brandishing a pistol as ‘the Shadow’, or at least that’s what he claims the police call him for his stealth. He tells Del, Rodney and Albert “I’m a man of mystery me, a master of disguises, the man with a thousand faces.” Comparing himself to the Scarlet Pimpernel and even quoting some of his own terrible poetry.
In the end, it turns out Lennox Gilbey isn’t really a hardened criminal and is just down on his luck and trying to beat poverty, Del takes pity – and sees an opportunity – as he comes up with the perfect solution to Lennox’s conspiracy with Mr Peterson and Mr Clark which sees them all avoid the police with Lennox landing a new job and Del walk away with £1,000.
Played by Vas Blackwood, Lennox remains one of the most memorable one-off characters of them all. But since his Only Fools appearance Vas, 59, has appeared in plenty more hits, from Casualty and the Lenny Henry Show on TV, to films like Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Mean Machine on the big screen.
Kenneth ‘Jumbo’ Mills was an ex-school mate and business partner of Del’s who had flown off to Australia as a young man and made his fortune. As Del had helped him emigrate with a £200 gift, Jumbo wanted to repay the favour when he turned up in season five episode six: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
He told Del if he came with him and worked as his partner he would finally be the millionaire he’d always dreamed of, despite Del’s teasing over his baldness. Del eventually decides to turn down the offer as he can’t bear to leave Rodney, Albert and the rest of his life behind.
Played by Nick Stringer, Jumbo Mills had a booming Aussie accent and gave audiences hearty laughs as the Trotter mercilessly teased him about his belief his hair would grow back “any day now”. Since appearing in the show Nick, 73, has appeared in Holby City, The Bill and films like The Edge of Love, starring Keira Knightley, and I Know You Know starring Robert Carlyle.
‘Retired jewellery dealer’ Arnie appeared in just one episode, Chain Gang in season six. In this, he offers Del an opportunity to buy £25,000 worth of chains for £12,500, so Del puts together a ‘multinational consortium’ of himself, Trigger, Boycie, Albert, and Mike. After Arnie has an apparent heart attack in a restaurant though, both he, the consortium’s money, and the gold chains vanish.
At this point, Del and the gang realise Arnie must have ripped them off, and they quickly track him down, pulling a scam on him and turning the tables as they replace his fake ambulance with their own and snatch him as he tries to pull the scam on another unsuspecting victim, everyone eventually getting their money back.
Arnie was played by Philip McGough, who since then has appeared in TV shows like Bad Girls and Jonathan Creek, and films including the 1999 Les Miserables and the 2006 Ed Norton thriller the Illusionist.
Appearing only in the 1983 Thicker Than Water episode, Reg Trotter, is the estranged father of Del and son of Grandad Trotter. Lazy and workshy, Reg is an all-around nasty piece of work, and walked out on Del and the family when Rodney was just 5.
He arrives back in Peckham hat in hand to tell Del and Rodney he’s suffering from a hereditary blood condition that the boys should get screened for. It soon transpires that Reg is lying though, as Del finds out he’d not been a patient in hospital, but a porter who stole a load of supplies, using them to spin his web of lies. After this Del gives him a couple of quid and they send Reg on his way, with none of the other Trotters ever seeing him again.
Whilst not a pleasant character, Reg is very important in understanding the bond between Rodney, Del, and Grandad, making him one of the best one-off appearances. He was played by Peter Woodthorpe, who sadly died aged 72 in 2004 after a glittering career that included turns in Inspector Morse, Jane Eyre, and Merlin, as well as a host of TV and film credits in the 1960s and 70s.
Whilst they’re mentioned multiple times throughout Only Fools and Horses as a sinister presence driving the plots of different episodes, the Driscoll Brothers Danny and Tony, only actually appeared in one episode. This was the season six episode Little Problems, in which Rodney and Cassandra finally marry after Del fixes a number of problems bugging Rodders ahead of the wedding.
In the episode, Del makes a bad deal and ends up owing the gangster brothers £2,000, but he can’t give this to them as he’s promised it to Rodney as a wedding present. The brothers give him extra time after Del reminded them he’d looked after their mother while they were in a young offenders’ home, but they promised him a beating if he didn’t cough up, one which he eventually received.
Danny Driscoll was played by Roy Marsden, 81, who made his name as Adam Dalgleish in ITV’s TV adaptations of P.D. James’ novels and later also appeared in Doctor Who. Tony was played by Christopher Ryan, 72, who first made his name as Mika in the Young Ones, and after Only Fools appeared in Absolutely Fabulous, One Foot in the Grave, and later also appeared in Doctor Who. Both also reprised their roles as the Driscoll brothers in Only Fools spin-off The Green Green Grass.