Sylvester McCoy

Sylvester McCoy (born Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith; 20 August 1943) is a Scottish actor, best known for playing the seventh incarnation of the Doctor in the long-running science fiction television series Doctor Who from 1987 to 1989—the final Doctor of the original run—and briefly returning in a television film in 1996.

Sylvester McCoy
McCoy in May 2018.
Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith

(1943-08-20) 20 August 1943
Years active1965–present
TelevisionDoctor Who (1987–1989, 1996)

Early life

He was born Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith in Dunoon,[1] 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.[2] He was raised religious, but is now an atheist.[3]

He was raised primarily in Dunoon[4] 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.[5] He worked in The Roundhouse box office for a time, where he was discovered by Ken Campbell.[6]


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 listed Sylveste 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.[7]

McCoy also had a small role in the 1979 film Dracula opposite Laurence Olivier and Donald Pleasence,[8] and has sung with the Welsh National Opera.

Doctor Who

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.[9] Since 1999 he has continued acting in the role of the Seventh Doctor in a series of audio plays for Big Finish Productions.

In November 2013 McCoy co-starred in the one-off 50th anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.[10]

Career post Doctor Who

McCoy's television roles since Doctor Who have included 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.

He 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.

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.[6] 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.

On stage he 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.[11]

McCoy has 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,[12] 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 of the production.

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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15][16]

In January and February 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.[17]

In 2017 he returned to the stage at the Edinburgh Fringe, in the production A Joke alongside Star Trek:Voyager actor Robert Picardo.[18]

Video games

McCoy returned to the role of the Seventh Doctor in 1997, recording new audio for the video game Doctor Who: Destiny of the Doctors.

The Hobbit trilogy

McCoy began filming for The Hobbit, A three-part adaptation of the book, in 2011. He portrays the wizard Radagast,[19] alongside fellow King Lear actor Ian McKellen who reprises his role as Gandalf.[20]

Although the character of Radagast is only alluded to in The Hobbit, and only a minor character in The Lord of the Rings, the part was expanded for the films.

Personal life

Sylvester has a daughter and two sons one of whom is Sam Kent-Smith, who was a 3D artist on the Doctor Who video game Return to Earth.[21]


Audio drama

1999–present Doctor Who: The Monthly Range Seventh Doctor
2001 Doctor Who: Death Comes To Time Seventh Doctor 5 part webcast on BBCi
2007 Bernice Summerfield Seventh Doctor Story: "The Final Amendment"
2011 Doctor Who: The Lost Stories Seventh Doctor 4 stories
2012–2016 Doctor Who: Novel Adaptations Seventh Doctor 8 stories
2012 Bernice Summerfield Seventh Doctor Story: "Many Happy Returns"
2014–2015 The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Seventh Doctor 7 stories
2015The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty: The Dragon And The RavenCedric the Shipwright
2015 Doom Coalition Seventh Doctor Story: "The Eleven"
2016 Doctor Who: Classic Doctors, New Monsters Seventh Doctor Story: "Harvest of the Sycorax"
2016 The Diary of River Song Seventh Doctor 2 stories
2018 The Seventh Doctor Adventures Seventh Doctor 4 stories


Year Title Role Notes
1979DraculaWalterAs Sylveste McCoy
All the Fun of the FairScotch Jack
1987Three Kinds of HeatHarry Pimm
1995Leapin' Leprechauns!Flynn
1996Spellbreaker: Secret of the LeprechaunsFlynn
2000The Mumbo JumboMr. Tallman
2002The Shieling of the One NightFergusShort
2008Pass Them OnThe AdministratorShort
2009The AcademyFelixShort
The Academy Part 2: First ImpressionsFelix
2010Punk Strut: The MovieDj
2012The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyRadagast
2013The Christmas CandleEdward Haddington
The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugRadagast
Quest: A Tall TaleArdan
2014The Seventeenth KindRustyShort
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesRadagast
2015When the Devil Rides OutWalther
Journey BoundThe Mechanic
The Candy HouseNorman Davies


Year Title Role Notes
1965Vision OnVarious
1973Roberts RobotsRobot EntertainerEpisode: "Dial C for Chaos"
1975Lucky FellerUncreditedPilot episode
1977For the Love of AlbertCast MemberUnknown episodes
Turning Year TalesTurpsEpisode: "Big Jim and the Figaro Club"
JackanoryReaderEpisode: "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
1980BBC2 PlayhouseKerwinEpisode: "Electric in the City"
1981Big Jim and the Figaro ClubTurps5 episodes
Tiny RevolutionsCabaret comedianTV movie
1983EurekaPC Dunworthy
1985The Last Place on EarthLt. 'Birdie' Bowers6 episodes
No 73Moving manEpisode: "Moving Space"
EurekaVarious2 episodes
DramaramaDonaldEpisode: "Frog"
1987–1989Doctor WhoSeventh Doctor42 episodes
1988What's Your Story?Narrator / Presenter
1989The Noel Edmonds Saturday RoadshowSeventh Doctor
1991Thrill Kill Video ClubSpoonsVideo
1993JackanoryStoryteller2 episodes
Dimensions in TimeSeventh DoctorTV short
The Airzone SolutionAnthony StanwickVideo
1994Frank StubbsAngusEpisode: "Mr. Chairman"
The Zero ImperativeDr. Colin DoveVideo
1996Rab C. NesbittGash SeniorEpisode: "Father"
Doctor WhoSeventh DoctorTV movie
1997The History of Tom Jones: A FoundlingMr. Dowling4 episodes
Beyond FearMichael SamsTV movie
1999See It Saw ItJester1 episode
2001See It Saw ItThe Lord High Chamberlain /
Aunt Grizelda
Episode: "Courage and Adventure"
Do You Have a License to Save This PlanetThe Foot DoctorVideo short
CasualtyKev the RevEpisode: "Life and Soul"
2001–2002Doctor Who: Death Comes to TimeThe Seventh Doctor5 episodes
2002HollyoaksLeonard Cave1 episode
The BillIan DrewEpisode: "010"
2004Still GameArchieEpisode: "Oot"
2006The BillMorris ShawEpisode: "457"
MayoReverend BeaverEpisode: "Late of This Parish"
2008Great PerformancesThe FoolEpisode: "King Lear"
King LearThe FoolTV movie
CasualtyAshley MillingtonEpisode: "The Evil That Men Do"
DoctorsGraham Capelli /
The Amazing Lollipop Man
Episode: "The Lollipop Man"
2009Al Murray's Multiple Personality DisorderNazi Doctor1 episode
2012Highway to HellVideo
The Academy: SpecialFelixTV movie
2013Doctor Who: The Ultimate GuideHimself
The Five(ish) Doctors RebootHimself
2015CrimsMr. DunlopEpisode: "Day Thirty-Six"
2016The Real Marigold HotelSelfBBC2 TV Documentary Series
2017Sense8The Old Man of Hoy
2017Sarah & DuckComet
2019Thunderbirds Are GoAezethril the WizardEpisode: "Endgame"

Video games

Year Title Voice role Notes
2015Lego DimensionsSeventh DoctorArchive voice


  1. MARK FISHER (1 March 2012). "Interview: Sylvester McCoy, actor – Performing Arts". Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  2. Professional Biography on official website
  3. So you believed in God back then? "I did, yeah" And do you now? "No, I think it's awful", Doctor Who Magazine, 19 August 2010.
  4. "Sylvester McCoy Says ..." The Sci-Fi Sea Cruise website. Retrieved 3 February 2007.
  5. Sylvester McCoy TV Biography. Retrieved 19 November 2013
  6. "People buy Doctor Who drinks". icBerkshire. Trinity Mirror. 3 April 2003. Archived from the original on 15 January 2007. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  7. Sylvester McCoy on IMDb
  8. IMDb film profile (Dracula)
  9. McCoy 32.3%, Tom Baker 28.7%, Doctor Who Magazine, May 1990.
  10. "The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot", BBC programmes, retrieved 26 November 2013
  11. Fisher, Mark (5 March 2012). "Plume – review". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  12. "King Lear – cast list". RSC web site. Archived from the original on 9 March 2007. Retrieved 16 March 2007.
  13. "Little Shop of Horrors (Mon 4 – Sat 9 May 2009)". Liverpool Empire. Retrieved 30 April 2014.
  14. "Father, Series 5, Rab C Nesbitt – BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  15. "BBC One Programmes Doctors, Series 10, "The Lollipop Man"". BBC. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
  16. David, Semple. "How I brought back Sylvester McCoy as Doctor Who". Den of Geek. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
  17. BBC
  18. "Sylvester McCoy Is Radagast the Brown". Filmonic. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
  19. The Hobbit on IMDb
  20. KnowledgeBase. "Doctor Who: Return to Earth". VGFacts. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
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