Edward Hardwicke, who played Dr. John Watson opposite Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes on television in the 1980s and ’90s, died of cancer in Chichester, England on Monday. He was 78.

The English actor took on the Watson role in the second year of the series after David Burke dropped out. His Watson was an intelligent, unflappable counterpoint to Brett’s brooding, melodramatic characterization of the detective, not the comic relief seen in some portrayals.

Hardwicke played Watson from 1986-88 in “The Return of Sherlock Holmes,” from 1991-93 in “The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes” and in 1994 in “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.”

“People said I seemed to be an older, graver Watson. That always worried me a bit,” Hardwicke once confessed.

Hardwicke was born in London, the son of actors Cedric Hardwicke and Helena Pickard. He made his film debut in an uncredited bit part in 1943 film “A Guy Named Joe,” starring Spencer Tracy.

Hardwicke and Brett, who died in 1995, were both in the National Theatre between 1964 and 1972 when the late Laurence Olivier was leading the company.

“Shadowlands,” a film about the unlikely romance of Oxford academic C.S. Lewis and the American Joy Davidson, gave Hardwicke his most acclaimed film role as Lewis’ brother Warnie. He was also known for playing a character based on war hero British Army officer Pat Reid in the BBC drama “Colditz.”

The actor also had roles in Shekhar Kapur’s biopic “Elizabeth,” starring Cate Blanchett, and in Roman Polanski’s 2005 film “Oliver Twist.”

In addition Harwicke did voicework for videogames including “Napoleon Total War” and “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary.”

He is survived by his wife, Prim Cotton, and two daughters by his previous marriage.

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)