Fifty Years of Doctor Who, Part 8: The Seventh Doctor – Sylvester McCoy
Colin Baker departed the series in a huff, and Sylvester McCoy picked up his umbrella to show us what The Doctor could really become.
This is where I really fell in love with this series and The Doctor. They are also the seasons I have missed most. I only saw these episodes once, and most I didn’t even see completely beginning to end. When I did see them, originally, I was somewhere around 12-14, (about five years after the original air dates) just old enough to start identifying and understanding complex characters. It helped that this particular doctor evolved with me, starting as a great clown, proudly laughing in the face of universal destruction, and ending a dark manipulative defender of time. Just like me.
McCoy’s Doctor evolved more than any other. In the beginning, he relied on his background as a comedic actor. These are traits of the character you still see today because they were absolutely perfect for the character, such as his use of mixed metaphor, and mixed up turns of phrase, and interjection of seemingly meaningless absurdisms in his speech. I haven’t yet seen actors (playing The Doctor) match the comedic reliability of Sylvester McCoy. The best example I can think of is when The Doctor was selecting his new wardrobe after regeneration. This was the foundation of McCoy’s Doctor, the persistent clown. As the seasons progressed, of which he had three meager seasons to speak of, his character grew darker, manipulating his companion (particularly Ace), and those around him for his own ends. Granted his own ends usually involved saving the universe, and his friends, he still did what he thought he had to do to meet his objective. If you wanted to watch this progression the serials Dragonfire, Remembrance of the Daleks, and Ghost Light will offer the best examples. Unfortunately, these are not streaming anywhere official I can recommend, but the DVD’s are available.
Sylvester McCoy held the reigns as The Doctor from 1987 to 1996, but in this time, he was only given 42 episodes. This is the true dark ages of Doctor Who. The unnamed BBC executive (he is the Voldemort of Doctor Who fans) had won. The show was repeatedly delayed, moved and put on temporary hiatus just so the BBC could claim low ratings as justification to put the series “permanently” on hold. In actuality the ratings were not really the problem, Voldemort simply did not care for the show. Consequently we have the longest serving Doctor, in what amounts to a handful of stories and episodes. Some of these serials are considered some of the best of the series as a whole up to this point. I weep (figuratively) to think what it could have been without the undermining and death by a thousand inflicted upon the series. They took away his sonic screwdriver for crying out loud, granted this happened under Peter Davison’s watch, but they didn’t give it back because they thought was being, or going to be used by the writers as an easy out. Little did they know writers don’t need such a magnificent device to devise all too convenient escapes for their characters. If anything removal of this tool made the escapes seem all the more contrived, but I rant.
Sylvester McCoy is the best Doctor of the classic age, maybe of all ages. I don’t personally like to compare the old with the new, they are different breeds really. Still McCoy is my Doctor, and he always will be, he should be yours too.