Doctor Who Profile: The Seventh Doctor

Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor

Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh DoctorThe Seventh Doctor

Portrayed by: Sylvester McCoy

Companion(s): Mel, Ace

Tenure: 12 stories, from Time and the Rani (Sept, 1987) to Survival (Dec, 1989)

Signature look: Light jacket, panama hat, umbrella, plaid pants, and sweater vest, all adorned with far too many question marks

Catchphrase: The Seventh Doctor doesn’t have a catchphrase so much as a few recurring speech patterns. He rolls his Rs rather drrrrrrrrrramatically and he frequently jumbles idioms and well-known expressions.

Personality: The Seventh Doctor begins his tenure as a rather comical, light-hearted figure. Sylvester McCoy was known for his vaudeville-style clowning and humor and the early Seventh Doctor stories play into this. As his stories progress, however, he becomes a much darker, more still figure and he’s perhaps the most manipulative and deceptive of the Doctors. He has an incredibly close bond with Ace, who is very much his protégé and a daughter figure, and this relationship is a clear precursor to the more intense, more closely-examined Doctor/Companion relationships to come in NuWho (minus the romance). It’s highly implied during this time that the Doctor has a far more significant, secret past than his “Time Lord on the run” cover story, but this is quickly backed away from later. This ominous, looming secrecy gives the Seventh Doctor an air of foreboding and drama that counterbalances his early and occasional silliness quite well.

The only TARDIS team this Doctor has is his one story with both Ace and Mel, so instead-
Best Companion:
Ace, and it’s not even close

Worst Companion: Mel. See above.

Signature foe: Fenric, despite only appearing in one story, is one of the most memorable of the Doctor’s many villains

Best Stories: Ghost Light and The Curse of Fenric make for a pretty great one-two punch, with close examination of Ace’s psyche and her troubled childhood and these, along with the solid, if not great, Survival demonstrate just how thoroughly the series had recovered since its creative doldrums (though this didn’t prevent its “hiatus”, read: cancellation)

Worst Stories: There are several contenders, unfortunately- Paradise Towers has significant problems, Dragonfire is fairly dreadful, and Silver Nemesis is perhaps the worst Cyberman story the series has done, which is saying something.

Highlights of tenure: Generally, the single biggest highlight of the Seventh Doctor’s tenure is his relationship with Ace. More specifically, though- pondering tea and sugar in Remembrance of the Daleks, chess with Fenric in The Curse of Fenric, and his wonderful final speech in Survival

Lowlights of tenure: The easy choice is the Doctor dangling from the world’s smallest ledge in Dragonfire, but let us not forget the rap that opens The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

Regeneration/First Words: The Seventh Doctor regenerated after the Sixth Doctor hit his head on the TARDIS console mid-flight (yeah…). His first words are, “Oh no, Mel”

Death/Final Words: The Seventh Doctor dies after Grace runs into trouble as she’s performing heart surgery on him after he’s been shot multiple times (she thinks he’s human and doesn’t account for the second heart). The anesthesia given to him, despite his protestations, causes problems with his regeneration into the Eighth Doctor. The Seventh Doctor’s final words are, “I’ve got to stop… him…” (the Master)

Memorable quotes:

– [re: humanity] “Your species has the most amazing capacity for self-deception, matched only by its ingenuity when trying to destroy itself.”  Remembrance of the Daleks

– “I loathe bus stations. Terrible places. Full of lost luggage and lost souls.”  Ghost Light

– [closing lines of the Classic series] “There are worlds out there where the sky is burning and the sea’s asleep and the rivers 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.”  Survival

Other notes: The Happiness Patrol. Not sure where exactly it belongs on this profile, as it has some fantastic elements and some dreadful ones, but it’s certainly worthy of note. Also, though one might not guess this based on the Doctor’s shockingly appropriate final lines in Survival, the last story of the Classic era, when filming finished on season 26, everyone thought the show was coming back. It eventually did, but not until 2005, when it was rebooted by Russell T. Davies.

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