Underrated: Sylvester McCoy



Mr Sylvester McCoy was the seventh incarnation of the most famous Timelord and I would argue that his time at the Tardis was one of the more interesting and that he as an actor was not fully appreciated. We all have “our” Doctors – usually the first one we remember watching – and there will be a generation to whom Mr McCoy is their Doctor, but his time was cut short and the BBC rather cowardly left the show and him out to dry.

He has connections to Aberdeen in that he attended Blair’s College on the South Deeside Road from the ages of twelve to sixteen with an eye to becoming a minister or a monk (famously of course the fourth Doctor Tom Baker had been a monk – must be something about the Doctor that attracts them). For various reasons he never made it into the world of religion – mostly because when he returned to his native Dunoon and went to the Grammar school there he discovered girls and this pretty much changed his perspective on life and the monastic life.

HIs acting and performance background is wide and varied from comedy sketches and stunts to working at the RSC in the big Shakespearian Plays. From Vision On to Tiswas he was a fairly well-known face to the younger generation and his Doctor was a great mix of the clowning Doctors of Patrick Troughton and as the character developed he showed the gruffness of William Hartnell and he added his own edge to the Doctor – a darker edge that we hadn’t seen before. He showed a harshness and the alien aspect of the character that we hadn’t seen before. The show was finding it’s feet again after being messed around by those behind the scene on the show and of course the BBC. And then it was gone.

In 1989 Sylvester’s Doctor and Sophie Aldred’s Ace were ripped from the schedules after falling ratings – well if you put it up against Coronation Street on a Wednesday night…it was a deliberate tactic to finally cancel the show. I always felt that Sylvester was treated badly as he was almost the scapegoat, “The man who was at the controls when the Tardis crashed” – but he was one of the best things about the show at the time. What I find amazing is that he still loves the show. Yes, he has grievances about the way he and the show were treated but when you hear him speak about the show it is with fondness and his continued association with the “Big Finish” audio adventures and the fact he appears on shows about the modern version shows his attachment to the show and character.

Now he’s been working in New Zealand with Peter Jackson on the Hobbit trilogy and on his last day of filming Jackson told McCoy that he was glad to have worked with HIS Doctor. Sylvester McCoy will always have an important part in my childhood. I’d watched both Peter and Colin in the role, but with Sylvester there was an ownership as I grew up and started to fully understand the stories and fall in love with the show.



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