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Sylvester McCoy in an early 1990s agency publicity portrait

Sylvester McCoy (born 20th August 1943) played the seventh incarnation of the Doctor from 1987 to 1989 and reprised the role in the 1996 Doctor Who television movie. He is sometimes credited as Sylveste McCoy.



Prior to Doctor Who

He was born Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith in Dunoon, Scotland. In his youth, he trained for the priesthood, but gave this up and spent time working in the insurance industry. He worked in The Roundhouse box office for a time, where he was discovered by Ken Campbell.

He came to prominence as a member of the comedy act The Ken Campbell Roadshow. His best known act was as a stuntman character called "Sylveste McCoy", whose stunts included putting a fork and nails up his nose and stuffing ferrets down his trousers. As a joke, the programme notes listed Sylveste McCoy as played by "Sylvester McCoy", and after a reviewer missed the joke and assumed that Sylvester McCoy was a real person, Kent-Smith adopted this as his stage name. Notable television appearances before he gained the role of the Doctor included roles in Vision On (where he played Pepe, a character who lived in the mirror) and Tiswas. McCoy also portrayed in one-man shows on the stage two famous movie comedians, Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton. He also appeared as Bowers in the 1985 television mini series about Robert Falcon Scott's last Antarctic expedition, The Last Place On Earth, and had a small. unspeaking role in the 1979 film version of Dracula, with Laurence Olivier and Frank Langella. (McCoy had also played the title role onstage.) In his Sylveste McCoy persona, he appeared in the first Secret Policeman's Ball film, chronicling a comedy/musical program in support of Amnesty International. The film was released to DVD in Region 1 in early 2009 as part of a box set of the Secret Policeman's benefits.

Only months before being named the seventh Doctor, McCoy played a villain in a B-film entitled Three Kinds of Heat, which featured appearances by a number of Who alumni including Trevor Martin and, most notably, onetime Romana actress Mary Tamm, whose character gets killed off by McCoy's bad guy.

As the Seventh Doctor

The television years

He took over the lead role of Doctor Who in 1987 from Colin Baker, and remained until the series was shelved in 1989. He actually has the distinction of having played two incarnations of the Doctor; when Baker declined an invitation to record the regeneration scene in Time and the Rani, McCoy put on a wig and Baker's costume and, with his face obscured by special effects, filled in on the role.

In his first season, McCoy, a comedy actor, portrayed the character with a degree of clown-like humour, but script editor Andrew Cartmel soon changed that. The Seventh Doctor developed into a much darker figure than any of his earlier incarnations, manipulating people like chess pieces and always seeming to be playing a deeper game. McCoy generally approved of this, as it allowed him to play more of a dramatic role.

A distinguishing feature of McCoy's performances was his manner of speech. He used a slight Scottish accent, rolled his 'r's, and often placed emphasis on unusual syllables or words. This has the added (possibly intentional) effect of sounding a little alien, and wrong-footing the audience. It also made the viewer question established speech patterns often taken for granted. At the start of his tenure he used proverbs and sayings adapted to his own ends (eg. "There's many a slap twixt cup and lap" - Delta and the Bannermen), although this characteristic was phased out during the later, darker seasons of his tenure.

McCoy saw out the end of the program with 1989's Survival, the last regularly airing Doctor Who story until Rose, which aired in 2005.

At 5'6, he, as of the eleventh incarnation, remains the shortest man to play The Doctor.


Although McCoy only appeared as the Doctor for three seasons (plus Search Out Science, Dimensions in Time, the telemovie, and audio dramas), fandom treated him as the "current" Doctor from 1987 to 1996. He played the Doctor in the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time, and again in 1996, appearing in the Doctor Who television movie where he handed the role over to Paul McGann.

This view can be argued not just because he was the last actor to play the role, but also due to the Seventh Doctor's continuing presence as the Doctor in the Virgin New Adventures and in Doctor Who Magazine comics which continued to feature him some time after his last television appearance. Accordingly, some consider him to have beaten Tom Baker's seven year record as the Doctor, although by some criteria McCoy's record is beaten by Paul McGann who would be identified as the current Doctor from 1996 until 2005.

He has also returned to play the Seventh Doctor in a series of audio plays by Big Finish Productions. In the early 90s he also appeared in several independent, Doctor Who-inspired productions by BBV Productions, including The Airzone Solution (a science fiction film with no direct Who connection but which starred most of the surviving Doctor actors), and the spoof Do You Have a License to Save this Planet? in which he played a parody of the Doctor called The Foot Doctor. He also reprised the role of the Doctor for the animated webcast Death Comes to Time, the first made-for-Internet Doctor Who story.

Post-Doctor Who career

McCoy's more recent roles have included Michael Sams in the 1997 telemovie Beyond Fear, shown on the first night of broadcast of Channel Five.

He has also acted extensively in theatre in productions as diverse as pantomime and Molière. He played the role of Snuff in the macabre BBC Radio 4 comedy series The Cabaret of Dr Caligari, and The Fool in a Stratford production of King Lear by the Royal Shakespeare Company, opposite Sir Ian McKellan.

When the news of David Tennant leaving Doctor Who was announced and quickly spread, Sylvester McCoy said in an interview that he believed Andrew Sachs (best known for his role as Manuel in Fawlty Towers, who had appeared in the Shada webcast) would be best for the role. But he does approve the casting of Matt Smith

Recently, in "The Lollipop Man", an episode of the medical soap opera Doctors, McCoy played the role of Graham Capelli, a retired actor best known for playing the title character in a 1980s children's television character similar to the Doctor. The role was written as a tribute to McCoy. The episode featured several references to Doctor Who.

McCoy was attached to play Governor Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl when Steven Spielberg was attached to direct it in the early 90s, Disney didn't give permission for the fim to be made then. When the movie was greenlit the role was played by Jonathan Pryce.

Doctor Who-related credits


Doctor Who

Doctor Who Mini-Episodes

Doctor Who



BBV Productions

Big Finish Doctor Who Audio Dramas

Video Game

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Sylvester_McCoy. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the TARDIS Index File, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0 (Unported) (CC-BY-SA).
Wikipedia has a more detailed and comprehensive article on

This article uses material from the "Sylvester McCoy" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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