Best known for his portrayal of Seventh Doctor Who and Radagast the Brown in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit, the English actor and comedian Sylvester McCoy (Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith) was Born 20 August 1943 in Dunoon, on the Cowal peninsula, to an Irish mother and English father, killed in action in World War II a couple of months before his son was born. His maternal grandmother was from Portadown, Northern Ireland.
He was raised in Dunoon where he attended St. Mun’s School. He then studied for the priesthood at Blair’s College, a seminary in Aberdeen between the ages of 12 and 16, but he gave this up and continued his education at Dunoon Grammar School. After he left school he moved to London where he worked in the insurance industry for five years. He worked in The Roundhouse box office for a time, where he was discovered by Ken Campbell.
He came to prominence as a member of the experimental theatre troupe “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 (the name was coined by actor Brian Murphy, part of the Roadshow at the time), where his stunts included putting a fork and nails up his nose and stuffing ferrets down his trousers, and setting his head on fire. As a joke, the programme notes liSylveste McCoy as played by “Sylveste McCoy” and, after a reviewer missed the joke and assumed that Sylveste McCoy was a real person, Kent-Smith adopted this as his stage name. Some years later, McCoy added an “r” to the end of “Sylveste”, in part because of the actors’ superstition that a stage name with thirteen letters was unlucky.
Notable television appearances before he gained the role of the Doctor included roles in Vision On (where he played Pepe/Epep, a character who lived in the mirror), an O-Man in Jigsaw and Tiswas. He also appeared in Eureka, often suffering from the inventions of Wilf Lunn and as Wart, assistant to StarStrider in the CITV series of the same name. McCoy also portrayed, in one-man shows on the stage, two famous movie comedians: Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton. He also appeared as Henry “Birdie” Bowers in the 1985 television serial about Scott’s last Antarctic expedition, The Last Place on Earth. McCoy also had a small role in the 1979 film Dracula opposite Laurence Olivier and Donald Pleasence, and has sung with the Welsh National Opera.
McCoy became the Seventh Doctor after taking over the lead role in Doctor Who in 1987 from Colin Baker. He remained on the series until it ended in 1989, ending with Survival (see List of Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)). As Baker declined the invitation to film the regeneration scene, McCoy briefly wore a wig and appeared, face-down until the last moment before the regeneration commenced, as the sixth Doctor. He played the Doctor in the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time, and again in 1996, appearing in the beginning of the Doctor Who television movie starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. In his first series, McCoy, a comedy actor, portrayed the character with a degree of clown-like humour, but script editor Andrew Cartmel soon changed that when fans argued that the character (and plots) were becoming increasingly lightweight.
The Seventh Doctor developed into a much darker figure than any of his earlier incarnations, manipulating people like chess pieces and always seeming to be playing a deeper game. A distinguishing feature of McCoy’s performances was his manner of speech. He used his natural slight Scottish accent and rolled his rs. At the start of his tenure he used proverbs and sayings adapted to his own ends (e.g. “There’s many a slap twixt cup and lap” – Delta and the Bannermen), although this characteristic was phased out during the later, darker series of his tenure. In 1990, readers of Doctor Who Magazine voted McCoy’s Doctor “Best Doctor”, over perennial favourite Tom Baker. Since 1999 he has continued acting in the role of the Seventh Doctor in a series of audio plays for Big Finish Productions.
After the original series of Doctor Who ended McCoy appeared a number of televison roles including Michael Sams in the 1997 drama Beyond Fear, shown on the first night of broadcast of Five. He has also returned to play the Seventh Doctor in a series of audio plays by Big Finish Productions. In 1988, while still appearing in Doctor Who, McCoy presented a BBC children’s programme called What’s Your Story?, in which viewers were invited to phone in suggestions for the continuation of an ongoing drama..
In the early 1990s, McCoy was attached in the role of Governor Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl when Steven Spielberg was planning on directing, but Disney did not give permission for the film to be made. McCoy was the second choice to play the role of Bilbo Baggins in the Peter Jackson The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, but went on to portray Radagst the Brown instead in The Hobbit. In 1991, he presented the Doctor Who video documentary release The Hartnell Years showcasing selected episodes of missing stories from the First Doctor’s era.
McCoy has also acted extensively in theatre in productions as diverse as pantomime and Molière. He played Grandpa Jock in John McGrath’s A Satire of the Four Estaites (1996) at the Edinburgh Festival. He played the role of Snuff in the macabre BBC Radio 4 comedy series The Cabaret of Dr Caligari. He also appeared as the Sheriff of Nottingham in a musical version of Robin Hood that featured songs by British composer and lyricist Laurence Mark Wythe at the Broadway Theater, Lewisham in London. He also appeared as the lawyer Dowling in a BBC Production of Henry Fielding’s novel, The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling. In 2001 McCoy appeared in Paul Sellar’s asylum comedy “The Dead Move Fast” at the Gilded Balloon as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, playing the role of Doctor Mallinson. In 2012 McCoy played the part of the suicidal Mr. Peters in JC Marshall’s play, Plume, at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow. McCoy has also appeared with the Royal Shakespeare Company in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and in King Lear in 2007, playing the Fool to Ian McKellen’s Lear, a performance which made use of McCoy’s ability to play the spoons. The RSC production with McKellen and McCoy was staged in Melbourne, during late July/early August 2007 and Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand, during mid to late August 2007. It came into residence at the New London Theatre in late 2007, ending its run in January 2008. He reprised the role for the 2008 television movie.
In May 2008 he performed with the Carl Rosa Opera Company in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, playing the title role. He only performed with the company briefly, for the week of the show’s run performing at the Sheffield Lyceum. Despite being set in Japan, he was able to demonstrate his ability to play the spoons by using his fan. In 2009 McCoy played the character of Mr. Mushnik in the Chocolate Factory’s production of Little Shop of Horrors.
He has also made guest appearances in the television series The Bill, the Rab C. Nesbitt episode “Father” as Rab’s mentally ill brother Gash Sr and the Still Game episode “Oot” (AKA “Out”), where he played a hermit-type character adjusting to life in modern Glasgow, having remained in his house for over 30 years. In October 2008, he had a minor guest role as an injured ventriloquist on Casualty. In the same month McCoy guest starred in an episode of the BBC soap opera Doctors, playing an actor who once played the time-travelling hero of a children’s television series called “The Amazing Lollipop Man”. The role was written as a tribute to McCoy. In 2016, McCoy appeared in the three-part BBC series The Real Marigold Hotel, which followed a group of celebrity senior citizens including Miriam Margolyes and Wayne Sleep on a journey to India.
Best known for her portrayal of feisty Doctor Who companion Ace, alongside Sylvester McCoy, the English Actress Sophie Aldred was Born 20 August 1962 in Greenwich, London, but grew up in nearby Blackheath. She sang in the church choir of St James’, Kidbrooke and attended Blackheath High School from 1973 until 1980, before enrolling as a drama student at University of Manchester. She graduated in 1983 and decided to embark on a career in children’s theatre. She also sang in working men’s clubs around Manchester.
In 1987, she was cast as Ace in Doctor Who, initially for Dragonfire, the final story of the series’ twenty-fourth season. Her tenure on the show spanned the last nine stories of the programme’s original run, which ended in 1989. In January 1992, she guested in More than a Messiah, one of the Stranger original videos starring Colin Baker, also formerly of Doctor Who. Both before and since Doctor Who, Aldred has had a varied and busy television career, particularly in children’s programming, where she has presented educational programmes such as Corners, Melvin and Maureen’s Music-a-grams (which ran from 1992 to ’96), Tiny and Crew (which she presented, 1995–99), the BBC series Words and Pictures (since 1992), and also CITV paranormal show It’s a Mystery in 1996. She also played the character Minnie The Mini Magician from Series 8 onwards on CITV’s ZZZap! between 1999 and 2001.
Aldred has presented and sung in several BBC Schools Radio series, including Singing Together, Music Workshop, Time and Tune and Music Box. She has also performed on radio and in the theatre. In 1993 She reprised her role as Ace in the 30th anniversary charity special Dimensions in Time and the Doctor Who audio plays produced by Big Finish Productions. She was also set to reprise her role in Doctor Who: The Movie.
Throughout the 2000s she has worked extensively as a voice-over artist for television advertisements and has also provided voices for animated series such as Bob the Builder, Sergeant Stripes, the UK dubbed version of the CGI animated version of the Australian TV series Bananas in Pyjamas, El Nombre, Peter Rabbit, Noddy in Toyland, The Magic Key. She co-wrote the hardcover nonfiction book, Ace, The Inside Story of the End of An Era with Mike Tucker, and provided voices for the 2009 series Dennis and Gnasher, including that of title character Dennis the Menace. She was also a former presenter of the 1996 CITV Saturday morning magazine programme; WOW!. Since 2012 Aldred has provided the voice of Tom in Tree Fu Tom, a BBC children’s series. The series’ other main voice actor, David Tennant (who voices Twigs), previously played the Tenth incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who. In November 2013 she appeared in the one-off 50th anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. In 2018, Aldred was confirmed to reprise the role of Ace in six audio dramas set during the first season of Class.
Best known for his portrayal of The Master in Doctor Who English actor Anthony Ainley was Born 20 August 1932 in Stanmore, Middlesex, Under the name of Anthony Holmes, Ainley attended Cranleigh School from 1947 to 1950. His first job was as an insurance clerk which was followed by a period at RADA. He won the Fabia Drake Prize for Comedy whilst at RADA. His half-brother, Richard Ainley, was also an actor.
Ainley’s appearance tended to get him parts as villains, though an early regular role on British television was as Det. Sgt Hunter, sidekick to William Mervyn’s Chief Inspector Rose in the second series of It’s Dark Outside in 1966. Other notable roles include a subaltern in the 1969 film version of Oh! What a Lovely War, Dietz in the 1975 film version of The Land That Time Forgot, Reverend Fallowfield in the Tigon film The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), Henry Sidney in Elizabeth R (1971), Clive Hawksworth in Spyder’s Web (1972), Rev. Emilius in the BBC’s adaptation of The Pallisers, Johnson in the first episode of the BBC programme Secret Army (1977), and Sunley in The Avengers episode “Noon Doomsday” (1968). He was also one of the Hong Kong policemen who discover James Bond’s supposed corpse in the opening sequence of You Only Live Twice (1967). Ainley played the role of the wealthy young peer Lord Charles Gilmour in the ITV series Upstairs, Downstairs
He also appeared as Rev. Emilius in The Pallisers and following this He was offered the role of the Master in Doctor Who by John Nathan-Turner, who had worked on The Pallisers seven years before becoming producer of Doctor Who. Ainley first portrayed the Master in the 1981 serial The Keeper of Traken and appeared in almost every season up until the cancellation of the original series in 1989, including its final serial, Survival. Ainley’s Doctor Who appearances included: The Keeper of Traken 1981, Logopolis 1981, Castrovalva 1982, Time Flight 1982, The King’s Demons 1983, The Five Doctors 1983, Planet of Fire 1984, The Caves of Androzani 1984, The Mark of the Rani 1985, The Ultimate Foe 1986, and Survival 1989. He later reprised the role for the 1997 BBC computer game Destiny of the Doctors. Ainley’s great love of the role is often cited in documentaries and DVD commentaries. He even introduced himself to Script editor Eric Saward as The master and both Colin Baker and Kate O’Mara say that “He only ever wanted to play the Master.” Sylvester McCoy confirms that all he ever wanted to be is the Master, and he kept his role active, even not on set. “He was as scary off camera as he was on it.” Sadly though, Ainley tragically died on 3 May 2004.