Jacqueline Pearce was born in Woking, Surrey. She trained at the British stage school RADA and at Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio in Los Angeles.
Despite having appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, she remains best known for her role as Servalan in the British science fiction TV series Blake's 7 (1978–1981). It has been suggested that the character of Romana in Doctor Who was originally modelled on Servalan's image, which in turn was partly modelled on the up-and-coming Margaret Thatcher.
Jacqueline Pearce starred in two Hammer horror films, The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile, which were filmed simultaneously on the same location with largely the same cast and both released in 1966. Other film roles include Sky West and Crooked (1965), the Carry On film Don't Lose Your Head (1966), Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968), White Mischief(1987), How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989), and Princess Caraboo (1994).
As well as appearing in the BBC children's programmes Dark Season and Moondial, Jacqueline Pearce has appeared in the Doctor Who serial The Two Doctors as Chessene, a bloodthirsty alien. She has more recently been associated with Doctor Who through her appearance in The Fearmonger as Sherilyn Harper, an audio drama by Big Finish Productions, and as Admiral Mettna in the webcast story Death Comes to Time. She made a memorable appearance playing the role of Rosa Dartle in the 1974 BBC series of Charles Dickens's David Copperfield. She also appeared as an associate of the assassin Carlos in the 1988 television movie, The Bourne Identity.
Pearce has also made frequent guest appearances in TV series such as: Danger Man, The Avengers, Man in a Suitcase, Public Eye, Callan, Dead of Night, Special Branch, The Zoo Gang, Spy Trap and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.