The Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy


Old Curmudgeon
Jun 25, 2014
Pittsburgh, PA
Over the last few weeks I managed to watch the entire Seventh Doctor run (seasons 24 through 26) and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It doesn't have the best start but it picks up quite a bit and finishes pretty strong. Sylvester McCoy is pretty charming as the Doctor and who doesn't love the way he rolled his 'R's. Although he starts out a bit clownish eventually we see his darker more manipulative side. Season 24 overall is kind of mediocre but ends with a solid finale.

"Time and the Rani" is arguably one of the weakest debuts of any Doctor and sadly we don't get to see Colin Baker regenerate into Sylvester McCoy. Still it manages to be silly and fun. The design of the Lakertyans was pretty bad and they wore these awful orange and yellow costumes. I thought the Tetraps three-eyed bat design was interesting however they do feel like theme park mascots. Highlights include a wardrobe montage that homages the second, third, fourth and fifth Doctor's costumes, Albert Einstein showing up and great performances from both Sylvester McCoy and Kate O'Mara who returns as The Rani.

"Paradise Towers" gives us a look at the breakdown of society when the Doctor and Mel visit a futuristic residential building complex. The robotic Cleaners are a bit clunky looking but they still manage to be pretty threatening. Richard Briers give a good albeit over-the-top performance and the stories Nazi-esqe villain. Seeing Mel have tea and get captured by cannibal old ladies was kind of funny. I also liked the design of the robot that attacks her in the swimming pool.

"Delta and the Bannermen" not a great story but still pretty fun and is full of cheesy 1950s music and fashion as the Doctor and Mel go to a holiday camp. One of the bus passengers turns out to be the Chimeron Queen escaping the genocidal Bannermen the Doctor must protect the campers, the Queen and her egg hatched daughter and heir who are the last of their species. The old beekeeper was kind of funny as was the Bannermen getting attacked by bees after being covered in honey. I also thought the two American CIA agents were pretty funny as well.

"Dragonfire" is easily the best serial of season 24 and introduces Ace as a companion as well as sees the departure of Mel. Can't say I was sad to see Mel go as I found her rather annoying. Ace on the other hand is one of my all time favorite companions. This story also sees the return of Sabalom Glitz who had previously appeared in "The Mysterious Planet". Edward Peel was pretty good as the story's villain Kane and I liked the use of his icy touch to freeze people to death. The 'dragon' design is a bit goofy looking and reminds me of a cheap knock off of the Xenomorphs from Alien. The scene where The Doctor is hanging from the railing appears again in "The Name of the Doctor" witnessed by a splintered version of Clara Oswald.
Season 25 was better than the previous season and starts off very strong.

"Remembrance of the Daleks" is a fantastic story that sees Daleks battle renegade Daleks as the Doctor returns to 76 Totter's Lane in 1963 (which originally appeared in the very first episode "An Unearthly Child"). There is some really epic action throughout this serial. Ace beating a Dalek with a suped-up baseball bat is one of my favorite moments of the entire series. Love the Hand of Omega scenes as well. The Daleks wobbling around outside over the asphalt always make me laugh. One of my favorite stories to rewatch.

"The Happiness Patrol" is a pretty solid story with some interesting subtext as the Doctor and Ace arrive on a world where sadness is against the law. The design of the Kandyman robot was fun and whimsical and I especially liked how is spiral eyes actually spun. His kitchen workshop design was also well done right down to the moving parts. One of my favorite moments of the serial features The Doctor playing the spoons while bluesman Earl Sigma jams away on his harmonica.

"Silver Nemesis" The Nemesis comet returns to Earth and unleashes a silver statue that will destroy the planet when reunited with its metal bow and arrow. Different factions compete for control over the Nemesis including a sorceress and her servant from the 17th century, Neo-Nazis and the return of the Cybermen. This was a pretty interesting story and I thought the Doctor using Nemesis to destroy the entire Cyber-fleet was a satisfying conclusion. The significance of the chessboard in this serial will be mentioned again next season in "The Curse of Fenric".

"The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" The Doctor and Ace visit the Psychic Circus where visitors are forced to perform for a strange family who destroys anyone who fails to entertain them. There's a lot of fun in this episode; killer robot clowns, a rapping ringmaster and a surprise werewolf transformation. Sylvestor McCoy performing magic for the Gods of Ragnarok is one of his best scenes and his speech in defeating them was excellent.
Season 26 is quite good. It's a shame that after this we don't see the Seventh Doctor again until the '90s TV movie.

"Battlefield" The Doctor, Ace and the Brig take on the sorceress Morgaine of Arthurian legend. This serial sees the return of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart which is also the final appearance of the actor Nicholas Courtney in the series. UNIT and the Third Doctor's car Bessie also make return appearances. Love the reveal that the Doctor ends up being Merlin at some point in his future. Ace rising from the water with Excalibur just like the Lady of the Lake was a pretty cool visual. Some good action throughout this serial including UNIT fighting Mordred and his knights. I really like the over-the-top demonic special effects makeup of The Destroyer.

"Ghost Light" is an excellent period piece with an eerie atmosphere throughout complete with a moody old house during a thunderstorm and a cringe worthy use of live bugs and taxidermy. Fantastic performance from Sophie Aldred as Ace who is forced to return to a haunted house that terrified her as a child and we get an interesting reveal about her past. The special effects makeups for Nimrod and the animated Husks were pretty creepy. I thought the irony of the anti-evolutionist Reverend Matthews devolving into a monkey man was superb. Great resolution and I like that they ended with a joke.

"The Curse of Fenric" fantastic story it really has a lot going for it including a Lovecraftian vibe, vampires, zombies, WWII England, an eerie crypt marked with ancient runes and a Viking curse, Soviet soldiers and an interesting manipulative villain. I really liked the special effects makeup used for the Ancient One as it looked like something from a Lovecraft story. The Doctor pitting the Ancient one against Fenric and them both destroying each other was an excellent conclusion. There's also some great personal growth for Ace and a look at the darker side of the Doctor's personality.

"Survival" sees the return of Anthony Ainley as the Master which is also his final TV appearance in the series. The Doctor and Ace return to her home town of Perivale to discover that her old friends are disappearing. The Master traps them on another planet that slowly turns the inhabitants into feline creatures. The Cheetah People riding around on horse back reminded me a bit of Planet of the Apes and I would really like to see them return to the series. The Doctor and Midge playing chicken on dirtbikes was kind of epic as was the conflict between the Master and the Doctor on the dying planet at the climax of the episode. Sylvester McCoy's final speech at the end was a nice conclusion to the series but it's a shame this was the last episode before the show went on hiatus.
I always saw McCoy as a talentless waste of space, and his antics did no favours for a series already facing the axe from an unsympathetic BBC leadership.

Obviously McCoy wasn't entirely responsible for cancellation, but many people stopped watching because they found him irritating, and the falling audience figures were all the BBC needed to move the programme to a weeknight slot before cancelling it altogether.
From what I can remember, I felt Battlefield would have made a good last story, iirc the final scene of the Doctor, Ace and The Brigadier(s?) sitting in the garden having tea just felt like an ending to me. But then it has been so long I could be wrong.
One of my earliest memories is of Ace running from cybermen. Top companion.
I agree with Jesse, that McCoy started badly and got much better. Furthermore, following Colin Baker, as he was, many of us were looking forward to a return to the strong doctors of yore. So when he began as a a buffoon didn't look good.
Add to that that he started off with Mel, who was the architypal screaming companion, it didn't bode well. But McCoy became much more interesting as time went on, and when Ace arrived, I felt we were well back on track.
And then it ended!

As for ending with Battlefield, you may be right that it was a good solid closure, but it would have denied us 3 more series of Ace, so I'm happy that it didn't, even if I found Survival pretty poor.
I have to wonder if fan reaction at the time was what gave the push to change McCoy from his more cartoonish antics into a more series and at points dark take on the character as the show progressed.

From what I can remember, I felt Battlefield would have made a good last story, iirc the final scene of the Doctor, Ace and The Brigadier(s?) sitting in the garden having tea just felt like an ending to me. But then it has been so long I could be wrong.

At the end of Battlefield the Doctor is cooking while the Brig works in his garden. Ace leaves with Doris, Shou and Bambera in Bessie to have a "girl's night out".
Well, I'd already stopped watching during Colin Baker. And not only because I couldn't stand him (which I couldn't, or Peri or Mel) but because I was just too busy with RL - studying, working, having fun, courting my future wife, travelling back home again - putting it on midweek at that early time did it no favours at all, and I was never home at that time - I couldn't afford a VCR and DVD recorders weren't around yet. These stories weren't bad at all - Remembrance of the Daleks has to be one the all-time best.

The BBC maintain that it cost too much to make for the audience it received but with those dodgy costumes and sets you have to wonder where that money was spent. I do think it stopped being a TV show that both adults and children could watch together; which it had originally begun as, and which was captured again when it began in 2005. That is also the reason the 1996 TV film didn't work - I for one, liked that "grown-up, hi-tech" Doctor but it didn't appeal to the core audience that it needed to.

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