Born in Dublin, Ireland, Parkes moved to Canada in 1956. His acting career has spanned film, radio, television, and the stage. Parkes worked often on CBC radio, beginning in 1959, and shifted into television and film, acting in such diverse series as the 60's ecological adventure series The Forest Rangers, children's show The Littlest Hobo, and the detective series Cagney and Lacey. In 1968, Parkes won the first Canadian film award (then called the Etrog and now known as the Gemini) for his portrayal of Uncle Matthew in the movie Isabel. He also received the Andrew Allan Award in 1983 for best radio actor.
When he was cast in Fraggle Rock, Parkes was just finishing a regular role as another type of "doc," playing Dr. Edmund Lowe on the Canadian TV series Home Fires. After Fraggle Rock, in addition to returning as Doc in A Muppet Family Christmas, Parkes continued to work in children's television, guest starring as alcoholic photographer Phil (opposite Sesame Park puppeteer Nina Keogh) on the TVOntario puppet series Today's Special, and appearing regularly on PBS's Shining Time Station as store owner Barton Winslow. In 1999, he appeared with Willem Dafoe and Billy Connolly in The Boondock Saints (playing a Tourette's syndrome-afflicted bartender, coincidentally also named "Doc"), and remains active as of this date.
In an interview following the end of the Fraggle Rock series, Parkes remarked, "I miss my Sprocket." When the series ended, as with other cast members, he was presented a piece of the set mounted with a tiny plaque as a gift.
Greer, Sandy. "Small Screen." The Toronto Star, August 2, 1986