The Doctor Who Ratings Guide: By Fans, For Fans

Sylvester McCoy

(1943- )

The seventh Doctor's era
The Seventh Doctor, ("Unlimited rice pudding"), the grand chessmaster of a thousand boards, whose era spanned the crossover of the series into original novels, ultimately telling an epic story of the fall and redemption of a tragic hero.


Why Sylvester McCoy Is My Favorite Doctor by Carl Malmstrom 12/4/97

Almost all actors who have played the Doctor, I have felt, were masters of the role each in their own way. William Hartnell created the role and brought the necessary idea of what "The Doctor" should be to everyone, at least within a season or two. Troughton was the intelligent clown always (hopefully) a step ahead of the enemy, Pertwee the subtle but strong defender against all things either green and slimy or those having goatees, Tom Baker the totally unpredictable, but extremely well-acted wanderer often turned reluctant crusader, Davison the kind, sensitive self-sacrificer, Colin Baker the...well, the exception to the rule, and Sylvester McCoy was the dark, sometimes brooding chess master who often took the weight of the world (if not the universe) on his shoulders for the greater good of all the oppressed.

There is very little about Sylvester McCoy I did not like. I liked his first appearance in Time and the Rani. His mixed aphorisms and obvious care for his companions and the Laykertians struck a chord with me saying, "This is what the Doctor should be." Later on, as he became more plotting, the humor thinned, but stayed just as unpredictable. And not only was it unpredictable, but here's the catch: you had to think about it. His plottings, too, I felt, fit in well with the Doctor. Before he had always bumbled through space, but now he had a purpose: he had a universe to go out there and defend. He needed his companions with him; they weren't just window dressing as they had sometimes been in the past. Sometimes, too, things didn't always succeed without a price. This is an important point in life. Winning can often cost as much as losing.

So while most Doctors not only played the Doctor but played it masterfully, I found Sylvester McCoy's Doctor to be, to me, what Doctor Who was all about. He was kind and strong, but could be vulnerable; he was funny, but intelligently funny, too; he was a masterful plotter, but could make mistakes. After all, not even the Doctor is perfect.

Light and Dark by Oliver Thornton 29/3/98

Apart from repeats, Sylvester McCoy is the third Doctor I saw on T.V. but the first I thought of being "the" Doctor rather than "a" Doctor. It took a while even so for him to gain this kind of appreciation in my mind, but that was just while he developed his character sufficiently to be able to portray it properly.

I have frequently mentioned elsewhere that there is a macabre humour running throughout the Seventh Doctor's televised stories, though not always explicit, it is always there. Sylvester McCoy's Doctor is the first Doctor ever to be really, frighteningly, angry. If I imagine the other Doctors saying the same lines from those scenes, other emotions would be to the fore in the voice, and the facial expressions and bodily movements would be very different. Yet there is a powerful sense of fun which doesn't always come out in many of the Doctors there have been.

The other big contrast in this character is that between doing good and the means he uses. For example, in Ghost Light the Doctor takes Ace back to a place that he knows she hates. When she discovers what he has done, it is one of the most shocking scenes up to that time, and yet the Doctor's method helps her overcome the fear and hatred she felt and has a curative effect by the end of the story. He was willing to do something very hurtful and painful to Ace in order to achieve the benefit he hoped to give her.

Sylvester McCoy, to me, is one of the more alien of the Doctors, along with Tom Baker and to a certain extent Patrick Troughton. It is very clear that this is someone who has seen far more than one lifetime's worth of events, and has faced more terrors and evils than an entire planet could hold. He has limits, but it takes far more than humans alone can contrive in order to reach them.

The Seventh Doctor is not energetic in the way that some Doctors are, but powerful like the apparently still river which nevertheless has a strong current that would carry you away should you wade too deep.

Hit McCoy's Scripts With The Demat Gun by Lee Carroll 9/11/98

I must start out by saying that, perhaps by no fault of his own, the Seventh Doctor, played by Sylvester McCoy, is just about at the bottom of my list of Doctors. I like Sylvester McCoy very much, but his scripts stunk like liver.

I am an American fan, whose first Doctor was the inimitable Tom Baker. As more of the series' early years were shown, I reveled in the history and whimsy of Doctor Who.

When Sylvester McCoy came along, I hoped for a much-needed renewal of a great character. Unfortunately, Sly McCoy's immense talent was wasted on poor scripts. The mastery of the Seventh Doctor, first over his companions, and later over the entire universe, confounded much of the Doctor's appeal for me.

Instead of following an underdog nonconformist for whose life was a series of endless possibilities for adventure and mystery, I watched the Seventh Doctor with a growing feeling of roll-your-eyes boredom.

Why? Every adventure from Greatest Show on aggrandizes the Doctor into a supra-genius trans-time mastermind, a far greater force than the puny enemies he encounters and even the insignificant race that he comes from. "Oh, I'm much more than just a Time Lord, Davros! Hey, and I think it's time to flush Skaro, too!" Come on. There is no sense of mystery or challenge for the Seventh Doctor. McCoy instead had to try to build mystery into the stultifying concept, "How great and almighty am I, really?" Talk about a scriptwriting fan's wish fulfillment.

When we began to think of the Doctor as an ultra-powerful champion of good, it ruined the identification that the audience had with him. Worse, it eliminated suspense and turned entire story arcs into waiting games for the next sophomoric point of scriptwriter philosophy.

Take Ghost Light. The Doctor tortures Ace into spiritual growth. Not the actions of a friend, but an overlord. Take Silver Nemesis. Did the Cybermen have even a shade of a chance? Take Battlefield. The Doctor as Merlin, pushing the easily hypnotizable Earthlings around, eulogizing the Brig years before death? What a poverty of imagination.

The Doctor as Merlin. Humph. After that, I actually expected the Doctor and Ace to materialize in the 1st century A.D. and give the Apostle Paul a good scare. "You're back already?"

Here's a last example. You know Brain of Morbius? What if that was not Tom Baker, but Sylvester, scripted by Ben Aaronovich and script-edited by Andrew Cartmel. Yikes. That cool story, which originally ended with the Doctor's defeat (!) by Morbius, "A Time Lord of the First Rank," would have been a disaster. No, McCoy would have body-slammed Condo, healed Sarah's blindness with a touch, and hit Morbius with The Spatula Of Rassilon before Morbius could get to it.

Thank you, I will stick to the first five Doctors, and give McGann (or whomever) a chance.

A vote for the Seventh Doctor as the best by Tammy Potash 13/6/00

'Splendid chap, the Doctor, all of them." Yes, true, but for me the seventh is the real McCoy (sorry). I started watching Dr. Who with the advent of Davison. Literally -- my first episode was Logopolis. I was a devout fan; I had a crush on him, too -- he's still the only Doctor I find physically attractive. then came Caves of Androzani. I had heard on the news Davison was leaving, but not when. Each episode after I heard became a nailbiter. Would he make it through? At the end of Androzani, I cried. My doctor was gone! I understood regeneration, and had seen other doctors, but he was special.

Then came The Twin Dilemma. Oh god. Apart from when he tried to kill Peri, which I was in favor of, I cringed through the episode. Not only was my Doctor gone, this guy was a complete bastard, with awful clothes, an awful companion, and an awful personality to match. I suffered through the Colin era, with but a few brief spots of light. I wasn't about to quit watching, because I learned to tolerate him (just). Then he was gone.

I hadn't heard about his being fired, and so the start of Time and the Rani surprised me with the lack of a regeneration scene. But I didn't care, he was gone, and anyone else could only be an improvement.

Sylvester charmed me from the get-go. His incredibly mobile face could convey any emotion he wanted. I loved his umbrella and his hat, so reminiscent of the 5th Dr. Paradise Towers had me in stitches. With the introduction of Ace, it was clear this was a more alien Doctor than say Davison or Troughton, yet not off-putting like Colin. I liked the Doctor a bit dark, yet not so disturbingly violent as Colin's seemed to be. From then on, and especially in the Virgin line, he became what I once heard him referred to as the TCB (taking care of business) Doctor, yet he was never too engrossed to stop and play the spoons or do card tricks for the crowd. Dark yes, manipulative, yes, and yet still essentially good, he also had some of the best companions ever. He deserved a far better send-off than he got in the telemovie. The small man with the scottish burr, the hat, and the umbrella will always be the Doctor I carry around in my hearts.

A Review by Rob Matthews 17/8/00

Having been reacquainting myself with the oh-so-short McCoy era, I must take issue with Lee Carroll's review. He/she (sorry, it's a gender-ambiguous name) points out that the seventh Doctor's scripts aggrandise him as an 'ultra-powerful champion for good', against whom enemies do not stand a chance, and who is no longer a figure of audience identification.

Well, for starters, this was a show called 'Doctor Who'. It was not the Doctor with whom we were asked to identify, but his human companions. And by the time Sylvester McCoy was brought on board the Tardis, the Doctor had been battling successfully against evil for twenty-three years (several hundred in the context of the show). Maybe it just so happened that he was getting good at it. If you're going to say McCoy's enemies never stood a chance, you might as well say that neither did any of the other Doctors. It's just that he went about the business of battling the baddies in a more organised fashion. Throughout the entire course of the show, the Doctor would always come up with an ingenious method of defeating the villain at hand anyway. Is there any real difference, in terms of suspense, between having the Doctor suddenly come up with a solution in the last episode and having the Doctor reveal a solution he'd been planning all along in that same last episode? I don't think so. We all know that he's going to win anyway, because it's a bloody television show. At least the scripts had a new take on the typical Who formula.

Anyway, I think reports of the seventh Doctor's omnipotence have been greatly exaggerated. He may focus on the bigger picture, but he still has no idea what the consequences (the 'ripples' he mentions in Remembrance) will be. The small events, the things happening directly around him, are out of his control. In Ghost Light, he releases the Light creature because he wants something big to happen, but doesn't have any grand plan of how he will deal with the 'fireworks' once they start. In Curse of Fenric, this 'supra-genius trans-time mastermind' can only look on in agonised horror as two innocent men are sealed into a tunnel full of vampires two feet away from him.

He 'eulogises the Brigadier years before death'? Er, that's because he thought he was dead. And anyway, it's just possible that a thousand year-old man who dips in and out of eternity might have somewhat of a different perspective on the lives of his mortal friends than we do ourselves. And what about the fantastic energy of the Dr/Ace partnership? This chemistry was created by the complete contrast of the characters - a wise, ancient, manipulative Time Lord and a flawed, ingenuous human girl. Okay, the Doctor manipulates Ace too, but his only motivation for that can be wanting to see her grow as a person. And that is the action of a friend - albeit an unorthodox one with a space/time machine.

Of course, the seventh Doctor was really two characters. The one he played in season 24 was not really the same one we saw in the two remaining seasons. I didn't especially like him until Remembrance of the Daleks, and Ace spoke for the audience when she said "Oh no, not the spoons again" in Greatest Show. That silly little man had by this point been left behind.

But the last two series of Doctor Who (particularly the final one) were revitalised by this new approach to the Doctor. It was an original and enjoyable new direction, and it produced a couple of classic stories. No, it's not the same as when Tom Baker was the Doctor, but why is that a bad thing? Why remake stories that already exist? Why not build on the past and have a Doctor who has evolved during his travels?

Having seen his stories again, I'd put 'Sillybugger McCoy' - as I once thought of him - up there with Troughton.

Not the Greatest by Mark Irvin 1/10/01

Part one - His Scripts

"Complete rubbish" was the phrase that I once associated with the with the Seventh Doctor. Stories such as The Happiness Patrol or Delta and the Spannermen ( er...sorry Bannermen) were enough to make me think... Who the hell was making this show?.

However as time has passed I think that this judgement may have been a touch overcritical. Being born and breed on Tom Baker reruns (thanks to ABC Australia) McCoy was only the second Doctor that I had seen - or had been old enough to remember for that matter. Comparing these two eras one after another is like driving a clapped out Holden Gemini after being at the wheel of a B.M.W.

After seizing the opportunity to view Davison, Pertwee, Troughton, Hartnell and Colin Baker I quickly realised that the quality of the show had been very inconsistent to say the least. For example, compare these titles to each other for each Doctor.

Caves of Androzani - The Awakening (Oh God help us all)
Inferno - The Time Monster (DANGER! - sleep inducing)
Attack of the Cybermen - The Mark of the Rani
The Chase - The War Machines
Tomb of the Cybermen - The Krotons

It seems that everyone had their fair share of shockers.... some apparently more than others. On the very few occasions that Baker and to some extent Troughton had an average story, their superior acting ability would still make it worthwhile viewing. This could definitely not be said about McCoy and Co.

But these shockers actually showed that some of McCoy's stories weren't really all that bad. The Curse of Fenric was superbly original and I loved Silver Nemesis. Tales such as Survival and Battlefield were decent enough but no one in their right mind could seriously consider them as contenders alongside The Deadly Assassin or City of Death.

A previous reviewer has pointed out that fans have the mentality that "No, it's not the same as when Tom Baker was the Doctor" Well of course it isn't! It's about as half as good - half the amount of decent episodes...... there is nothing wrong with expecting the continuation of quality storylines and characters whoever the actor portraying the doctor is. I'm all for something new, just so long that it isn't complete crap. Fans didn't want remakes of old stories, they just wanted a return to the standard that the show had when Tom Baker was at the helm. Instead of week in week out entertainment, the show gradually degenerated into a rotation of average to pathetic with something worthwhile popping up occasionally. Interestingly, this decline coincided with the appointment of John-Nathan Turner, Hmm.

Part two - The Man Himself

To be honest McCoy's portrayal of the Doctor was fair enough. (Although it was disappointing to find out that Colin Baker got the axe to may make way for him.) He did at times come across as bit of know all and that accent of his managed to annoy the hell out of me. But really, was Jon Pertwee much different or worse? He appeared to be more alien than some of his predecessors and his dark side that emerged during his latter episodes was an interesting development.

The Seventh Doctor's greatest strength was within his partnership with Ace. Rarely has the show seen a better Doctor/Companion relationship. Arguments about home made explosives, Ace's insistence on referring to the Doctor as Professor and the often general sense of fun between the two was always enjoyable to watch.

In summary, the Seventh Doctor was an ultimate culmination of the six that were before him. McCoy produced a Doctor that probably wasn't the greatest, but overall it was an honest effort and a fitting way to bring the show to it's final conclusion.

My Seventh Doctor by Joe Ford 27/8/02

"What! Slyvester McCoy as the Doctor! That guy who shoves ferrets down with his unmentionables taking on the role of our hero!" I can still hear the fans outcry now. I don't think any other is Doctor is so widely judged... some people love him (stand up Paul Cornell and Kate Orman), others dispise him (I've read a particularly nasty letter in TV Zone that called him and Aldred "Dumb and Dumber!"). What could possibly be the reason for this huge scope of feelings towards one character.

Well to be honest it's because everyone is right. The Seventh Doctor is a great character. But he's also a terrbile character. Let me elaborate...

I actually enjoy watching this Doctor on screen. Despite my many negative comments during certain reviews of mine (Paradise Towers, Curse of Fenric) ovrerall Doc number seven gets a thumbs up from me. He is a very complex character, with grand schemes up every sleeve (but often under the pretense that he's just landed somewhere by accident) and quite a manipulative soul. I don't think this has really been tried since Hartnell's time but McCoys Doc couldn't always be trusted, he would do what must be done to carry out his plans even to the point of turning his best friend against him (Fenric). Now I'm not saying that the others Doctors didn't have nastier moments (Pertwee was sometimes brutally arrogant and Colin had a real violent streak) but with McCoy it always seemed so cool, so calculated and manipulative. Shrouding his true intentions behind a smile and that goofball nature, you should never put your faith entirely into this Doctor. I like that sort of grey ambiguity. It's very brave.

In McCoy's era more than any other there are unexpectadly powerful moments and these almost always originate from this complicated character. The famous 'gun scene' in The Happiness Patrol is shocking considering it's garish surroundings and his confrontation with Morgaine in Battlefield, given the show's lightweight atmosphere is just as good. The emotions that wash across McCoy's face after Morgaine talks about her love for Arthur is a very revealing moment for his character. Also worthy of considerable praise is the look he gives Karra in Survival after he manages to snatch Ace back from giving into her animal instincts, it is enough to knock the wind out of you and McCoy does it all with his eyes. It is these moments, and sometimes that's all there is, moments, but they stick in your head long after you've forgottern about his stupid goofballing in his first season.

The seventh Doctor had this wonderful ability to be tender. Not the bland smiles'n'handshakes of Davison but genuinely compassionate and understanding. Silver Nemesis for all its zillion faults has one brilliant scene where Ace admits she is scared of the Cybermen (although I cannot think why!) and the Doctor touches her shoulder and asks for her forgiveness, telling her to go back to the TARDIS. It is a remarkable moment. His comfort of Ray in Delta and the Bannermen also struck a chord in me. One the Doctors (all of them) biggest strength is his compassion to others but none of the others seemed quite as human as McCoy and given his manipulative nature its all the more impressive.

And THANK GOD one the best features of the era (and the Doctor) was how he actually got on with his companions! Bloody amazing... see Mr Saward, this is how you make an endearing TARDIS crew, not by having them bitching at each other all the time but by showing some mutual affection and respect. All praise to Andrew Cartmel for creating two pleasant companions to travel with the Doctor, even Mel despite her screaming was bubbly and entusiastic about their travels. Not something you could say about Tegan or Peri is it? The scene where McCoy and Aldred poke their noses into the communications room in Curse of Fenric is a great example of the warmth the Doctor and his companions shared.

So there are some great reasons to watch. it would appear our initial fears about McCoy were premature... or were they?

The Seventh Doctor was the most inconsistently acted and written Doctor yet. Oh my giddy kippers... don't shoot me for that one! It's true... although I will admit the introduction of the darker, untrustworthy seventh Doctor in Rememberance of the Daleks was a major plus point for the character and the series I cannot (hand on heart) describe the change as plausible or realistic. When Colin came back a little gentler in Trial it didn't feel half as forced as this. Gone is the pratfalling, the goofing and stupid sayings and in steps this darker model. Erm... why? What caused this sudden change? His life changing adventure on the planet Svartos (I think not!). And yet in Happiness Patrol he's back to goofing again, with his bottom sticking out of the go cart and his fun and games at the forum. And then he's serious again for Silver Nemesis. And then he puts on a daft show for the Gods of Ragnorok in Greatest Show in the Galaxy... you see what I mean? On, off, on, off... he's like a hot and cold tap of intense drama and screwball humour which in induvidual stories might work but taking the era as a whole looks clumsy. There was a more consistent tone in the last, great year but it was too late to untap that potential... the show was gone.

Also Slyvester McCoy, whilst having some fabulous acting moments (the cafe scene in Rememberance) was easily the most disapointing 'actor' of the lot. He couldn't do anger at all. Some of his dramatic speeches were blown out of the drama pool by his rushing and spitting ("Evil since the dawn of time!"... "And make it snappy you metallic moron!"). His "Morgaine... if they're dead!" was just awful. People moan about Colin for his performance in Mindwarp but god during his era he was consistently GOOD, despite some of the scripts. McCoy was not.

He also had a tendency to be drowned out by the much more interesting and better played Ace. Particular examples are Ghost Light and Survival. He had some good moments in these stories but I can think of a dozen more for Ace. The difference between him and Davison being drowned out by their companions was because Tegan, Adric and co weren't interesting at all, they just bitched, bitched, BITCHED!

And need I mention the face gurning?

But I don't want to end this review on a negative note because, as I mentioned, I do like the Seventh Doctor. There are enough good qualities to make him watchable. He was a brave attempt to do something new with the character, he blew me away with those 'moments' I mentioned and he was pretty fab throughout his entire last year too. He had some great stories, and some great moments, he just wasn't great.

Good, but not great.

A Review by Ronald Mallett 13/3/03

The character of the 7th Doctor returned some sense of true mystery to the character of the Doctor. The 7th Doctor emerged as a dark, manipulative individual who always knew more about what was happening than he said. While his demeanour was often unassuming, eccentric, off-beat and seemingly light-weight there were flashes of a more amoral meddler who most definitely always had his own agenda.

While the perky, straightforward "good girl with excellent mind" character of Mel made a good foil for the early Chaplinesque phase (Season 24), the introduction of Ace gave the show a perfect balance between the cerebral and the brawn. She was an English street kid, clever with explosives and possessing a quick wit and some interesting background details that gradually emerged, culminating in the classic The Curse of Fenric! Ace watched the Doctor's back while he meddled - often without explaining much about what was happening to her, which was a constant source of frustration.

Like all Doctors, there had to be elements of their character which served to lower their threat rating in order to prevent the villains from wanting to eliminate them too early! The 1st Doctor's great age hid an agile and devious mind. The 2nd Doctor's harmless, eccentric exterior hid a definite genius. The 3rd Doctor was more physical and his slightly effeminate manner of dress served to hide that element of his character. The 4th Doctor who was obviously more an apparent threat to the forces of evil (due to his height and dominating presence) counterbalanced this with his decided eccentricity (dress, eyes and banter) which made people unfamiliar with his mental powers doubt his abilities. The 5th Doctor's youth and boyish charm hid his abilities in exactly the inverse manner that the 1st Doctor had done. Like the 3rd Doctor, the 6th model was more openly heroic and possessed a more decided physical presence like the 4th Doctor, but his eccentric manner of dress and mood swings undermined any confidence his enemies might have in him. It has been argued that the 7th Doctor began life as a carbon-clone of the 2nd Doctor. They just replaced the recorder with the spoons. Like the 2nd Doctor, his Chaplinesque mannerisms masked great mental powers.

As with all Doctors, the 7th Doctor's character was given scope to grow over his tenure. While he began life as a sort of bumbling buffoon who liked to play the spoons and unintentionally misquote the verbose phrases of his predecessor, this aspect was gradually toned down. As seen by his performance for the Gods of Ragnorok in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, or the way he twirls his hat at the end of Survival, he always retained elements of the consummate showman. But there were also continual hints throughout Seasons 25 and 26 that the Doctor might prove to be something other than just a Time-Lord. He became increasingly dark and brooding as his adventures became more gothic. It was clear that the Doctor's great age and experience brought with them a kind of emotional baggage that weighed heavily on him. It also became clear to Ace that he was playing games on a cosmic scale. There hadn't been as much doubt about the Doctor's origins since before the story The War Games featuring the 2nd Doctor in Season 6. Like the 7th Doctor himself, his stories were often confusing and certainly open to interpretation - a plot device often used in the television series The X-Files.

Sadly like his predecessor his TV adventures ended abruptly, while the character was in his prime. The later New Adventures novels phased in a more relaxed, less-manipulative version of the character before his regeneration was featured in Doctor Who The Movie - effectively relegating his status to that of a "past Doctor"!

A Review by Lance Bayliss 27/9/04

How does one best sum up Sylvester McCoy in his role as the Doctor? The thing about 'Doctor McCoy' (cue laugh track for the lame joke) is that his three seasons - and one final TV appearance in Doctor Who and the TV Movie - each have such a varying contrast. Arguably as much so as any change that occurs to Tom Baker's Doctor between the years of 1974 and 1981.

But rather than running through the tired cliches that you've all heard so many times before ("Comically inept" Doctor gives way to "Moody" Doctor, who gives way to "Dark and Manipulative" Doctor) I'll instead concentrate on an item that is painfully obvious on screen to those in the know, but is very rarely - if ever - truely dissected. That of the 7th Doctor being 'Chaplinesque' (tm).

Many have claimed Patrick Troughton's portrayal of the Second Doctor to be 'Chaplinesque'. Yet there is little proof of this on screen. Yes, the Second Doctor is slightly comical, and his dress style has more than a little in common sometimes to Charlie Chaplin's eternal creation, the Little Tramp (or 'The little fellow' as Chaplin himself called the character). But the Second Doctor, beyond those superifical differences, is by and large a singular creation of Patrick Troughton in his entirety. On closer inspection, there's nothing particularly 'Chaplin' in it at all.

This is not true of Sylvester McCoy. When people refer - in passing - to the 7th Doctor being sort of like the Second Doctor, what they mean is the mild Chaplin template. But the McCoy Doctor is actually far, far more 'Chaplinesque' than Troughton's portrayal. To the point where I would not be surprised if JNT's original instructions to McCoy were somthing to the effect of "Well, Sylv, we want you to play him like Charles Chaplin, playing the Tramp playing the Doctor". Or similarly misguided words to that effect. Not that this is such a bad thing.

Examples? The costume, while not precise, has a bit more of the Chaplin feel to it than the Troughton one did. Complete with umbrella and straw hat, McCoy's Doctor - at a glance - can be seen as looking similar to the Tramp. The colours are inverted (whereas the Tramp tended to wear mostly black, McCoy's initial costume is mostly white), but the look is there.

Mannerisms. This is where - whether consiously or unconsiously - McCoy shows that Chaplin was always an influence. Doffing his hat as he meets people. Twirling his umbrella. Specific examples include the way he slides around corners in Dragonfire (indentical to Chaplin's trademark running style in many of his films), or the way he flips the TARDIS key into his pocket at the start of Survival (the Tramp used to use this trick with his pocket watch, trying to flip it into his waistcoat pocket in pointless efforts to impress the ladies in some of Chaplin's earlier films). This last one is also repeated, briefly, in the 'hologram' sequence in the Cloister Room during the TV Movie (just to prove that even as late as 1996, Sylvester McCoy was still using Chaplin's tramp as an influence).

Anybody of you out there who has studied Charles Chaplin's films, or is merely (like myself) a fan of them, will notice these regular inferences. There are many more than those which I have listed above, but those are the more obvious ones. They extended beyond Season 24 too, so the charge that McCoy might have stopped being 'Chaplinesque' by his last season is proven wrong (even his fatal fall in the alleyway in the TV Movie is a movement right out of the Tramp's school of falling down).

Even my own personal perception of McCoy's acting ability tallies up with this. I've always thought McCoy to be a variable "verbal" actor -- often, his lines simply come out more than a bit garbled and on opposing occasions completely impossible to understand. But my opinions of him as a "visual" actor are much better. Sylvester McCoy is the one Doctor who can make me shiver merely by staring at somebody in a particular way. In the TV Movie, his dialogue numbers around five or six lines in total, yet in those early sequences of him inside the TARDIS he conveys so much merely through the use of his expression. The mild, friendly manner in which he reads his book. The irritated look he gives the record player when it repeats. The look of sheer horror, and then sudden realisation, as he looks at the broken casket from which the Master has escaped. I have no doubt at all in my mind about McCoy's abilities as a purely visual actor -- he's fantastic. Just like Chaplin. Chaplin's "talkie" films weren't all that bad, but one must concede that it's in the silent art of visual acting and mime in which he flourishes most.

So, in conclusion, being a fan of Charles Chaplin and his little Tramp, I find a great deal during all 13 of McCoy's televised outings which I can latch onto and enjoy. Far from jettisoning the more overt Chaplin-like moments after his first season (as many fans mistakingly claim) he actually continues to use them as late as his final turn in 1996. And far from the typical fan perception, he's far more the Chaplin Doctor than Troughton ever was - a carbon copy in some cases. His ability to convey dialogue wasn't always spot on, but McCoy's ability to make things clear with only a glance is part of what helped propel his 7th Doctor into the 'less talk, more thought' hero of over 50 New Adventure novels. And therefore, as a fan of Chaplin, McCoy's Doctor will retain a soft spot in my heart. Fancy that for a reason to like an actor playing one of the Doctors!

A Review by David Rosenthal 18/5/06

Sylvester McCoy was was a very good Doctor. He was very mysterious and manipulative. He would answer questions, but that would always raise more questions. Later had he continued they were planning for him to be a reincarnation of an ancient Time Lord during the Rassilon era. In Rememberance of the Daleks in one of the deleted scenes he says "I am far more then just a Time Lord". That answer would have headed towards that idea; too bad they had to delete that great quote.

Too bad his introduction had to be utter rubbish, with him wearing a Colin Baker wig and regenerating into himself. In his first season he was a lot like Troughton. But in his last two he had his very own dark, mysterious, manipulative side, but of course he was a dramatic, heroic Doctor.

Too bad he had to get such a bad start and such a short ending to his era. Oh well Sylvester. But you were a great Seventh Doctor.