Origin – Gallifrey
(Actor) Born : 20 August 1943 –
Doctor Reign – 1987 – 89
“You don’t understand regeneration, Mel. It’s a lottery, and I’ve drawn the short plank!” The Seventh Doctor
The Seventh Doctor’s reign, was steeped in much controversy from the outset and this was no more realised – than Sylvester McCoy’s; first appearance in the show.
As we have explored, in the Sixth Doctor’s profile. Colin Baker was unceremoniously dumped from the role – so was unwilling to return – to be part of the regeneration sequence.
With other Doctors, the regeneration (generally) happened at the end of their final season (bar the First and Fidth Doctor’s) but with this regeneration – from Sixth to Seventh. It happened at the beginning of McCoy’s new era. It was weak (even taking into account the fact Colin Baker refused to return) and did a major disservice; to the talents of Colin Baker.
Whilst travelling, the Tardis – carrying the Sixth Doctor and Mel, are attacked by The Rani; who fires a couple of warning blasts at it. The Tardis then materializes on a strange planet. We see the feet of some hairy creature, approach the Sixth Doctor’s unconscious body, lying on the floor – face down.
As the creature (we later learn, is a ‘Tet-trap’) turns the Sixth Doctor over, tbe regeneration begins. It is unclear, as to what actually “killed” the Sixth Doctor; some BBC insiders actually claimed that the Sixth Doctor ‘fell’ off of an exercise bike! (which could be seen at the back of the Tardis – just before the regeneration!)
However, one of the more convincing theories, is that the Sixth Doctor did this willingly – to prevent the Valeyard, from becoming the next regeneration.
But the simple truth is, Colin Baker was fired and wouldn’t return to do the regeneration; so they did it quickly and ruthlessly – using McCoy in both roles. To get the Seventh Doctor’s reign underway – in Season 24.
Time and the Rani – 1987, had the Doctor and Mel – meet the Rani again, on planet Lakertya. Where the Rani intended to use the Doctor’s intellect, to harness the destructive power of a passing asteroid, made from “strange matter”.
This serial is notable – on two counts: it was written before the actor was chosen – so did not showcase McCoy’s strengths adequately. It introduced the Doctor’s post regeneration trauma – as a kind of comical jester, spouting bad puns and general gibberish.
This was to be McCoy’s early trademark – along with a question-mark shaped umbrella, for the first season of the Seventh Doctor. Afterwards, the Seventh Doctor would become interesting – darker, more moody and intrespective. The Doctor’s backstory would be fleshed out more, than any recent incarnation; as the hastily thrown together writing team – began to make their mark on the show.
Additionally, we were treated to the information; that the Seventh Doctor (at the time of regeneration) was roughly; 953 years-old.
Paradise Towers – 1987, had something to say about Thatcher’s 80’s Britain; punctuated by gangs of punky feral-youths, called “Kangs”; who were at war, with each other, in a decaying – showpiece towerblock of the future.
Delta and the Bannermen – 1987, had an interesting concept of an Alien Princess – on the run, from an intergalatic hit squad. However, some of the punch was lost; amongst the jokey 1950’s setting and seeming over-reliance, on guest-appearances of TV stars – of the day.
By this point, companion Mel – was fast becoming the most annoying person on TV. Whose sole-talent, seemed to be a high-pitched scream; which she unleashed like a sonicboom – at every ‘dangerous’ opportunity.
Doctor Who (as a show) – at this time, was much derided in the media; as having become too camp and silly. With Mel – the most irritating companion, specifically singled out – for harsh criticism.
McCoy’s time – in Doctor Who (like Colin Baker), was punctuated by below-par scripts, acting and an over-reliance on every kind of celebrity guest-star; that the producers could lay their hands on.
However, where it did succeed over almost every previous Doctor Who – was in the Special-effects (SFX). Which at the time, where top-notch – even for BBC TV. McCoy’s era, had a new computerised title-sequence. Dispensing, with the time-tunnel effect; for deep-space, galaxies and fleeing asteroids.
Doctor Who – was attempting to drive itself forward into the 90’s. Nowhere, was this better realised – than at the end of Dragon Fire; with the grotesque Indiana Jones-style melting face of its principal villain; Kane. Dragon Fire, also introduced the Doctor’s new companion; Ace (as Mel left, to give all of our ears a rest!).
Season 25 got off to a much better beginning, with the excellent – Remembrance Of The Daleks; which brought back Davros and warring factions of Daleks. In tribute to the 25th anniversary, it was set in 1963 – and linked into the events, surrounding An Unearthly Child and the First Doctor.
This serial – also usefully built on the Dalek story, by bringing the war between the Supreme Daleks and the Rebel Faction, to a conclusion (of sorts).
It is also notable, as the first time the Daleks finally overcome the in-joke of stairs – always being an obstacle; by engaging hovermode, the Daleks also, sported a new cool infrared point-of-view.
The Seventh Doctor, also had a run-in with Davros; who was masquerading – as the Dalek Emperor. Davros was attempting to acquire a device; which could manipulate time-and-space, called ‘The Hand Of Omega’.
The First Doctor had hidden it, in London 1963; in the events just prior to An Unearthly Child.
The Seventh Doctor became the destroyer of worlds, as Davros unleashed the power of the Hand Of Omega; which the Doctor had reprogrammed and it obliterated – planet Skaro.
This was a pivotal moment for the Seventh Doctor, as the Time Lord showed – a darker streak of retribution. As the Daleks and Skaro were destroyed, the Doctor taunted Davros – for his arrogance.
“Your species has the most amazing capacity for self-deception, matched only by its ingenuity when trying to destroy itself!” [Seventh Doctor about humans] – Remembrance Of The Dalek’s
Any early momentum, built-up by Remembrance Of The Daleks. Was lost by the awful The Happiness Patrol: another satirocal reference to Thatcher’s 80’s Britain. Featuring, a tyrannical female despot (modelled on Thatcher) named ‘Helen B’. It also featured, the Happiness Patrol; a kind of secret police. Which kidnapped citizens – if they were caught being ‘miserable’ – in public.
One of the lowest points in Doctor Who history (to nearly equal the Myrkka) was the ‘Kandyman’. A drooling Bertie Bassett robot – with a high pitched voice – which ran around the set, like it was on – a Saturday Morning kids TV show!
Silver Nemesis got season 25 slightly back on track; by reintroducing the Cybermen. Battling both the Doctor and Fourth Reich Nazi’s – in an interesting tale; set between Earth 1600’s – and the 20th Century.
Greatest Show In The Galaxy finished season 25 – and put every Doctor Who viewer off, going to the Circus; with a tale about freaky alien clowns. Controlled, by their evil circus masters – the gods of Ragnarok. Who fed-off of the fun, like energy-vampires.
“Among all the varied wonders of the universe, there’s nothing so firmly clamped shut as the military mind!” Seventh Doctor
Season 26’s Battlefield saw the final appearances of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Bessie (the Third Doctor’s wheels) and UNIT. The Brigadier was brought out of retirement, to aid UNIT – in a battle against space-knights from another dimension; fighting with UNIT – over the body of King Arthur. King Arthur was in suspended animation – in a spaceship at the bottom of a lake.
The Doctor was recognised by the knights, and referred to as ‘Merlin’. Whilst the Doctor was unable, to recall having been Merlin but it provided a nice reference to a potential future adventure.
Ghost Light, was notable as the actual last episode of original Doctor Who – ever produced. However, when it was broadcast – Curse of Fenric and Survival; came after. Ghost Light, featured more backstory for Ace, as she revisited a house in Perivale, London – from her past.
Curse of Fenric pitted the Doctor, against an evil ancient entity, called the Fenric; during World War 2 – in Northumberland. The Doctor having originally trapped the entity, by beating it – at chess; is forced to replay again, to save humanity.
This is set, against a background of the Fenric turning all nearby people into Werewolves. A young lady with a baby – who is saved from their clutches, turns out to be Ace’s mother; in a “future paths entwined – in the past” moment.
Survival, was the final broadcast serial of season 26 – and the last ever broadcasr original-era story. It would, in itself – come to highlight everything that was wrong; with the Seventh Doctor’s era.
It was an overly-camp, hammy, and a lazy story. Punctuated by poor acting from Anthony Ainley – in The Master’s last original era appearance.
Survival, had the Doctor returning Ace – to her home town of Perivale, only to notice that people were disappearing. They were being stolen, by a race of cat-people; from another dimension (who looked like they had walked off of the set of the “Cats” Musical).
The Doctor, is thrown into this other-world; where he meets the Master. Who has been aiding the Cheetah People, by creating a “bridge” with Earth.
The Master, affected by this strange feline world, is slowly turning into a humanoid feline and after a time; the Doctor also starts to be overcome with the same change.
The episode climaxed, with the Doctor and Ace escaping back to the real world; leaving the Master stuck – in the Cheetah World; as it disintegrated. The serial ended, with the Doctor and Ace wistfully looking forward to their next adventure; as they wandered off together down a hill.
“There are worlds out there, where the sky is burning and the sea’s asleep, and the river’s dream. People made of smoke, and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea’s getting cold! Come on, Ace – we’ve got work to do!” Seventh Doctor to Ace.
The Doctor Who producers knew that cancellation, was now a certainty. The (above) monologue – by the Doctor, was recorded later and inserted over the scene, near the end of Survival – to sign off the show.
Pre-production for season 27 was underway, when production was officially shut down – in August 1990; after 27 years of continous running. The BBC confirmed, that there would be no further Doctor Who produced, in the forseeable future.
In the end, the Daleks, Cybermen, Davros, Ice Warriors, Wirrn, Sea Devils, Silurians, Yeti and countless other Who villains; couldn’t stop the Doctor. The biggest villain – in the end, turned out to be the BBC top-brass themselves, as they wielded the axe on the show.
Doctor Who – in 1989 was tired and in many respects, living on former glories. The Seventh Doctor was being rewritten by a younger (and more dynamic) team of writers. However, they weren’t given enough time to save it.
Producer JNT – has to shoulder, a considerable amount of the blame. As he didn’t exert enough direction and quality-control when the show – was crying out for it.
As to McCoy, he was ok – as the Doctor. He brought alot to the role in terms, of the many different facets of personality. He could be whimsical and silly, quickly changing to moody and angry. He could be alien, such as when he was unable to console one of the human characters (called Ray) over their loss, in Delta And The Bannermen.
Doctor Who – ultimately though, was the sum of all of its parts (actors, writers, producers, directors, etc); and they were all failing – one-by-one.
And with that, the classic series of Doctor Who was shelved. An era, which began in 1963 with William Hartnell, was over.
As we shall see later. Doctor Who would continue to cause controversy, in the future; with the treatment of McCoy in the regeneration scene (which was as ill thought-out as Colin Baker’s) in Doctor Who : The TV movie; 7 years later.
Following a seven-year hiatus, from around 1989 – until 1996. Doctor Who returned – when a joint collaborative effort; between BBC and U.S. Fox network. They produced a pilot together, for an intended American TV series; which aired in the UK, in May 1996.
Paul McGann was chosen, as the Eighth incarnation of the Doctor – and Sylvester McCoy returned to provide some continuity, with a regeneration sequence.
Doctor Who : The TV movie, was intended – to loosely continue the series narrative, and backstory of the original show; but take it, in new directions. It’s primary focus, was to gauge interest – in a big-budget American TV series remake; so was written with this in mind – as it played rather loose and fast with the timeline.
Doctor Who : The TV movie, opens with the Master (presumably the Anthony Ainley – Master), being tried and executed – on Skaro by the Daleks (Skaro that was destroyed in Remembrance Of The Daleks). The Master’s final request, is for the Seventh Doctor – to come and take the ashes; back to Gallifrey.
Quite why the Daleks were trying and executing the Master and then allowing the mortal enemy of the Daleks – the Seventh Doctor (who destroyed Skaro!) – to pop by and pick up his ashes; is anybody’s best guess! Maybe done more for dramatic effect than a serious tie-in.
So, the Seventh Doctor is travelling alone with the Master’s ashes; in a newly fitted-out Tardis. This Seventh Doctor, is visibly older than when we last seen the Time Lord – and now travels without a companion.
It is not clear, how much time has passed since Survival or what happened to previous companion; Ace. However, the Seventh Doctor is alone. Suddenly, a strange ooze pours out of the Master’s casket and enters the Tardis Console; forcing it to land in Chinatown, San Francisco; on New Year’s Eve – 1999.
Exiting the Tardis, to have a look around (this is where things got horrible for McCoy). The Seventh Doctor is shot, by a gang of street-punks and rushed to the local Hospital.
Although not mortally wounded, the fumblings of the hospital Doctors (during surgery) who do not realise they have a two-hearted alien on their hands, ‘kill’ the Seventh Doctor; on the operating table. The Seventh Doctor even tries to remonstrate with the Doctors, before drifting out of conciousness – as the administered drugs, kick in.
As much as an ending, for a Doctor (and some were poorer than others); this was about as horrible, as it got – for an outgoing Doctor. McCoy, for all of his faults; deserved a much better send-off. Especially, after being – such a good sport and returning to film this (see Colin Baker’s regeneration saga).
In some ways Sylvester’s end, is more pointless than Colin Bakers, because unlike Baker’s regeneration; they had the use of the preceding actor and this was seemingly, the best transition – that they could come up with.
Overall, McCoy’s era can best be summed-up overall, as a hit-and-miss period; in the show’s history. The Seventh Doctor was improving with time, as each season went by. The show-case season 25 was arguably – the best that the McCoy years – ever managed. It would also have been interesting, to see where McCoy’s Doctor could have gone; with another season and with a new decade (in the 1990’s). Alas, it was not to be.
The Real McCoy – Season Perspective – A Summary
Season Twenty-Four – 1987 :
Time And the Rani🔵🔵🔵⚪⚪
Delta And the Bannermen🔵🔵⚪⚪⚪
Season Twenty-Five – 1988 :
Remembrance of the Daleks⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Happiness Patrol🔵⚪⚪⚪⚪
The Greatest Show In the Galaxy⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Season Twenty-Six – 1989 :
The Curse of Fenric⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The TV Movie🔵🔵🔵⚪⚪