The Seventh Doctor – the underrated Doctor?

I think just about everyone has a view on which Doctor was the best in Doctor Who. The series has run for 55 years and included 13 different Doctors (14 if you count the War Doctor) giving plenty of characters to chose from.

Traditionally the Doctor that you saw as a child is generally the favourite but there are exceptions to the rule. I think that there are few that would deny that Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee and David Tennant (in the new era) were exemplary Doctors, with great acting and stories.

Doctor Who is of course all about character and story. For 55 years the BBC has told a raft of moral tales through the prism of change and sci-fi and with the addition of Jodie Whitaker sets to continue to do so. It has never been shy of tackling difficult subjects or for being scary and these elements account for its longevity.

So where do I stand on the Doctor Who debate? There is in fact only one Dr Who that I dislike – Colin Baker, the sixth, for some reason his portrayal is lacking in a way that I find hard to define, it’s kind of like that subtle gut instinct that something isn’t quite right rather than the blare of trumpets announcing disaster.

Sylvester McCoy was my Doctor, I grew up during the 80’s and so Peter Davison and Colin Baker were also around at the time. I enjoyed Davison’s tenure as the Doctor and having said what I have about choosing the Doctor you grew up as the best, I have to say, that for me McCoy’s Seventh incarnation is the best. I may be dazzled by rose tinted glasses or perhaps it is my love of supporting the underdog, and McCoy definitely seems to be the most under-appreciated of the Doctors, he was after all at the helm when the series was cancelled in 1989. Best is perhaps the wrong word in this case, perhaps interesting is more apt, but first a little background.

Sylvester McCoy regenerated into the role in 1987 and appeared in 42 episodes covering 12 stories over 3 seasons. He was accompanied by the Sixth Doctors Assistant Mel (Bonnie Langford) and Ace (Sophie Aldred). It was this later pairing that I found more enjoyable.

McCoy portrayed the Doctor as a juxtaposition of the dark and the light. He was represented as the classical Greek muses of Tragedy and Comedy, at one point he was the clown in motley and then the swift hand of vengeance. He played the role with a depth which was only bettered I think by Tom Baker and David Tennant. His Doctor had gravity and a world-weariness long before it became a trope in the newer seasons.

McCoy and Ace were perfect partners and although one was definitely in charge their partnership felt more of equals. Ace had her own strength that complimented that of the Doctor.

I  am not so blind as to think all of McCoy’s stories are masterpieces, in fact, I do not think that they come into their own until the last 4 episodes. Remembrance of the Daleks and Silver Nemesis were pearls in the early episodes but they were dragged down by The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.

The final season included Battlefield (My all-time favourite story), Ghostlight, The Curse of Fenric and Survival. They represented Mythos, Gothicism, Horror and Nature and wove a narrative that gave the Doctor a darker tone, of someone with a past that we, who have watched him for generations do not know. This is a man who knows his stake in the universe and accepts it, perhaps more so than any other Doctor before him. I would go as far as to say that he was the prototype of the modern Doctor Who and he ended far too soon, although Big Finish has continued his adventures in books and audio dramas. He was also the best part of the Eighth Doctors short tenure in Dr Who the Movie.

McCoy’s Doctor truly seemed to be an amalgam of his previous incarnations, more so than any of his predecessors you can see elements of Hartnell, Troughton, Baker and Pertwee in his performance. I could believe his wisdom, his knowledge and the weight of years upon him. It was McCoy’s dedication to the character and his theatre background that helped give this weight and care the series

I must confess I am not a Doctor aficionado, I know enough as a Sci-fi fan and have watched every single Doctor in action, and this is, of course, a personal view but it is a debate I think all fans of the show relish right up there with the great debate of which is better Star Trek or Star Wars.

Perhaps its churlish to focus on choosing one Doctor, they are the same person, after all, on reflection, it feels a little like being asked to choose your favourite child. Perhaps the truth is we don’t need to focus on one but to enjoy the whole?


Disagree? Then tell me why I am wrong in the comments below.

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