Sylvester McCoy (born Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith; 20 August 1943 in Dunoon, Scotland) is a Scottish actor. 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" in a play entitled "An Evening with Sylveste McCoy", where his stunts included putting a fork and nails up his nose, stuffing ferrets down his trousers and setting his head on fire. He later became a pantomime performer for Vision On, a long-running 70's children show targeted specifically at deaf children, primarily as a denizen of a topsy-turvy world available through a magic mirror.
He's nowadays best known for playing the magnificently hammy Seventh Doctor on Doctor Who. By technicality, he's also the only actor to play two different incarnations of the Doctor, Fake Shemping for the recently-fired Colin Baker for the opening of "Time and the Rani". He also has the dubious distinction of being the last Doctor in the regular television series (he regenerated into Paul McGann at the start of the TV movie) until the revival in 2005. He was also the first Doctor to be webcast, voicing the 7th Doctor in the special "Death Comes to Time" (which was never intended to be particularly canonical, and has since been well and truly jossed).
Despite his tenure being cut criminally short by the network (he planned to stay on for just one more season before leaving, but the show got canned before his departing episode could even be decided on), he remained the canonical Doctor during the bulk of Who's cancellation years, long enough to appear in a lot (and we mean a lot) of Doctor Who Expanded Universe novels. Freed from the constraints of G-rated telly and providing the equivalent of Doctor Who methadone for the fans, the New Adventures books (barring a few significantly less canonical ones, like Lungbarrow) had an enormous lasting impact on future writers of the TV series; most notably Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat. A Tenth Doctor story, "Human Nature" (and its accompanying second part, "The Family of Blood"), was adapted from an NA book of the same name. McCoy still regularly enjoys new adventures in Big Finish Doctor Who. Because he is a darling and an entertainer at heart, McCoy is also notorious for having returned to the role often in less-than-legal circumstances, such as the Wilderness Years BBV Productions audio series about "The Professor & Ace" (as part of which Robert Shearman, later to write "Dalek" for the revived series, got his first crack of the whip at the Doctor), the fanfilm Gene Genius, or, as recently as 2019, Doctor Who: The Movie.
Has the dubious distinction of being the shortest actor to play the Doctor at 5'6", a record he now shares with fellow 5'6" Jodie Whittaker.
Other works featuring McCoy include 1985 miniseries The Last Place on Earth, in which he played a member of Robert Scott's doomed South Pole expedition. He tried out for the role of Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings. While that role went to Ian Holm, Sylvester McCoy would later get cast as Radagast the Brown Wizard in The Hobbit film trilogy. In 2017 he made a quite surprising break from his typical family-friendly roles as "The Old Man of the Hoy" in Sense8, an extremely paranoid Sensate whose first line is "Holy shit!"
Tropes associated with this actor include:
- Cool Old Guy: And HOW. Playing the Doctor and Radagast, and attracting 90% youngsters to his panels (whereas a small portion of their audience were the people who grew up with him)? Major cool points there.
- Darker and Edgier: Although Colin Baker was trumpeted as a return to the show's darker roots, the New Adventures are about as 'adult' as Doctor Who is ever going to get; experimenting with Cyberpunk, Cosmic Horrors and (gasp!) sex and swearing. The 7th Doctor himself is quite menacing in cold print, and though he's on the side of the angels, there is a clear divide separating the nigh-omnipotent Time Lord from human beings. These themes would be revisited in the David Tennant era. Although less extreme than the New Adventures, the last two of his three TV seasons had introduced the characterisation of his Doctor as a sometimes-ruthless Chessmaster, and were considerably darker than his very comedic first season.
- Disappeared Dad: A very sad example, in that his father was killed in action in World War II a month before McCoy was born. His parents had only been married for about a year prior to his father being killed.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: The whole thing. For much of his life he thought his name was just "Kent Smith". His mother didn't tell him his full name until mid-way through school. He was named after his father. It made him cry.
- Fun Personified: Doctor Who spoon dance!
- He's also got the unique habit at conventions to be completely unable to sit on a chair at the stage, frequently wandering around his audience and happily taking questions himself. Of course, this habit endears him even more to his audience.
- Keet: To the point where he had to have both of his hips replaced because of it.
- Large Ham: Just watch him perform one of the Eleventh Doctor's speeches. He manages to out-ham Matt Smith by several light years.
- Those Two Guys: With Ian McKellen. They first appeared together as the Fool and King Lear in the RSC's 2008 production of King Lear, and later in The Hobbit movies, where Sylvester played Radagast to Ian's Gandalf. A joke in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot revolves around McKellen first having no idea who McCoy is, and then, when he remembers, he states that shooting an upcoming scene without him might actually be an improvement.
- Trrrilling Rrrs: One of his trademarks. Big Finish, of course, frequently uses it in Big Finish Doctor Who. Just try listening to stories like "Red", sorry, "Rrrrrrred!"
- Vaudeville: McCoy came to prominence with the Ken Campbell Roadshow, which resurrected classic music-hall and variety acts and tropes (sometimes with a post-modern twist). He put his talents at stage magic and proper clowning to good use in Doctor Who, where he's forever throwing in little bits to make a more interesting visual or a little joke, as Patrick Troughton used to do.
- What Could Have Been: He was the second choice for Bilbo Baggons in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The role, instead, would go to Sir Ian Holm.