Sylvester McCoy

6th1The final years of Doctor Who on BBC Television saw one last tumultuous regeneration sequence, a rather inauspicious (and somewhat unpopular) beginning, and then arguably a return to greatness before final extinction. When Sylvester McCoy stepped into the role of the Doctor, it wasn’t without its controversy; Colin Baker, unpopular with BBC executives, was offered one story to tie up loose ends (he naturally refused), and Bonnie Langford, unpopular with fans as Mel Bush, was remaining. Yet from his chaotic onset in “Time and the Rani” (complete with “regeneration” at the beginning — a wig and electronic gadgetry hiding his face), Sylvester McCoy proved that there was still life in the show.

For his first year, new script editor Andrew Cartmel brought a mixed bag of stories — the over-the-top “Paradise Towers,” the rather silly “Delta and the Bannermen” and the unfocused “Dragonfire”… until they found their new companion. With the departure of Langford came the arrival of Sophie Aldred as Ace, who offered the new Doctor his wide-eyed innocent (after a fashion). For the next two years, the two faced the Daleks and the Cybermen, the ancient evils of Fenric and the sinister might of the Kandyman. Cornball schemes of season 24 led to the grandiose stories of season 25, and the terrific writing that marked most of season 26 — including the confusing but awe-inspiring “Ghost Light” and the breathtaking themes of “The Curse of Fenric”. It seemed, after so many years of complaining, that someone was listening upstairs at the BBC. Could this be the return of true Doctor Who?

Alas, no. As Season 26 ended, so did Doctor Who, and in 1989, the show was no more. Doctor Who was gone, yet not forgotten… two years later, the Virgin New Adventures would begin, telling the further adventures of the Seventh Doctor and Ace (and later, Bernice Summerfield, Chris Cwej & Roslyn Forrester). And so the era of the Seventh Doctor continued in novel form, until McCoy returned in 1996 in a brief appearance as the Seventh Doctor in the FOX Television/BBC co-production of “Doctor Who: The Movie”, at which time he passed the baton to Paul McGann. Still, McCoy later joined fellow Doctor Who alumni Peter Davison and Colin Baker (and even Paul McGann) in the Big Finish audio range, reprising his role as the Seventh Doctor alongside Sophie Aldred’s Ace and Bonnie Langford’s Mel. McCoy and Aldred also starred as “The Dominie and Alice” (aka “The Professor and Ace”) in a brief series of audios for Bill Baggs’ BBV, and then returned to their Doctor Who roles in BBC Online’s webcast drama Death Comes to Time, a five-part serial broadcast in 2001 (pilot). While the Seventh Doctor may have regenerated, the Sylvester McCoy era is by no means over.

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