This post consists of my recommendations for Sylvester McCoy, the Seventh Doctor, find previous Classic Doctors by following the links below.
- William Hartnell, The First Doctor Recommendations.
- Patrick Troughton, The Second Doctor Recs.
- Jon Pertwee, The Third Doctor Recs.
- Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor Recs.
- Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor Recs.
- Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor Recs.
- Complete list of stories on DVD in my Doctor Who Master Post.
Sylvester McCoy, along with Peter Davison, and the new series David Tennant, is my favorite Doctor. During McCoy’s time as the Doctor, the production team deliberately worked to make the Doctor more mysterious, and even, “more than just another Time Lord,” as the Doctor states to Davros in Remembrance of the Daleks.
The Doctor and Mel land on IceWorld a trading post on the frozen dark side of a planet, which is ruled by the meglomaniac dictator Kane, who can only exist at sub-zero temperatures. While the Doctor goes on a quest to find the legendary dragon in the depths of Ice World, Mel befriends Ace, a teenager from Earth who’s working as an waitress at the spaceport café. The Doctor discovers the dragon hides a powerful crystal that Kane covets.
Dragonfire is Mel’s last story, and introduces Ace. The Doctor and Ace have a mentor – student relationship that suits the characters well. The story is filled with metaphysical references and some excellent dialogue.
Remembrance of the Daleks is the unofficial 25th Anniversary special, and contains references to An Unearthly Child. The TARDIS lands at Coal Hill Secondary School in 1963. The Doctor and Ace met Group Captain Gilmore, and the scientists Rachel and Allison who are investigating an alien invasion. The aliens turn out to be white Imperial Daleks, who are using a transmat station to send Daleks from an orbiting spaceship to the basement of the school, to find the Hand of Omega, a remote stellar manipulator left in a coffin by the First Doctor. However, renegade Daleks are also looking for the same thing, as well as fighting the Imperial Daleks, and use a child connected to a battle computer as a weapon.
Remembrance is just… wonderful. Daleks fighting each other, with 1960s Earth as their battlefield, as well as revelations of the Doctor’s past and a dark side to the Doctor’s nature make this story really work.
Validium is a living metal created by the Time Lord’s founder, Rassilon, as Gallifrey’s ultimate defense. An asteroid of the stuff lands in 1638, where Lady Peinforte uses it to create a statue that will be her weapon. The Doctor squelches her plans by sending the statue into an orbit that brings it near Earth every 25 years causing disasters. Lady Pienforte, uses the statue’s arrow to travel to Windsor in 1988. A group of Nazi’s who have the statue’s bow, also show up in Windsor to find the statue. And the Cybermen also arrive.
The VHS video tape of Silver Nemesis was an extended edition (the episode was originally planned to be four parts, but was cut down to three for broadcast – therefore the extra footage existed). Unfortunately, the DVD is only the original three-part version, as aired. I really wish both versions were included on the DVD set – and, though I seldom buy things twice, I would buy a Special Edition of Silver Nemesis that included the extra footage. As a three-parter, the story is more confusing, but it’s still a great story. It again, not only brings-up the Doctor’s past, but makes the character more mysterious.
The Doctor and Ace encounter Ancelyn, a knight from another dimension, who calls the Doctor, Merlin. They also encounter Modred, and his mother, Morgaine, a sorceress who is looking for Arthur, Excalibur, and conquest. The Doctor encounters the new Brigadier for UNIT, Winifred Bambera; and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is called out of retirement to help. Morgaine first raises the monster, the Destroyer, and when Lethbridge-Stewart defeats it, threatens to use the nearby nuclear missile from UNIT’s convey.
This story is simply brilliant. It has some truly wonderful moments, as well as the Doctor explaining to Ace that the reverse of Clarke’s Law is also true, “Any advanced form of magic is indistinguishable from technology.” And Morgaine is from another dimension anyway. But whereas other episodes of the previous 25th Anniversary Season refered events from the Doctor’s past, this story refers to events from the Doctor’s future: where he will travel to Morgaine’s dimension and become known as Merlin.
The Doctor and Ace arrive in Perivale in 1988, at a strange house called Gabriel Chase, which in Ace’s time is considered haunted. An alien ship is hidden beneath the house, and though it’s alien captain pretends to be the Victorian gentleman of the house, he is not – he controls the other residents of the house. He keeps an explorer named Redvers Fenn-Cooper captive in the house, but wishes to have him assassinate Queen Victoria. Meanwhile, Ace releases Light – a mysterious alien who catalogs all the species of Earth, then becomes frustrated when they evolve into new species, and wishes to destroy the planet to keep it stagnant.
Although complex, and requiring multiple viewings, Ghost Light has a spooky atmosphere, as well as filling in some background for Ace, and hinting that the Doctor knows more about her than he’s revealed so far.
The Doctor and Ace arrive at a secret British naval base at the end of World War II. At the base, Dr. Judson, is working on a device, called Ultima, to break the secret German ciphers. The Base commander, however, plots to hand the Ultima machine to the Russians because he’s rigged it with deadly neurotoxin. Meanwhile, Dr. Judson tests the Ultima machine, by translating ancient Norse runes, thereby releasing Fenric, an ancient Norse harbinger of doom. The Doctor had actually encountered Fenric seventeen centuries ago and trapped it. The battle between Fenric and the Doctor, in the form of a chess match, also involves Ace, who becomes an unwitting pawn.
Fenric is a complex episode, and it puts the Doctor’s entire relationship with Ace in a new light, as well as revealing how she ended-up on Iceworld in the first place. However, despite the new complexities in their relationship, Ace continues to be the Doctor’s companion.
The Doctor and Ace go to Perivale in her time, only to discover a number of Ace’s old friends have disappeared. Her friends have been transported to the planet of the Cheetah people, where the planet’s atmosphere causes people on the planet to become savage cat people. The Master is also on the planet, he contacts the Doctor to rescue him, because he’s become trapped on the planet – and it’s savage effects are also beginning to change him into a cat-person.
This is the last story for classic Doctor Who, and although it has an inexpensive look, to say the least, the story is quite different as the struggle to maintain civilization not savagery is largely internal. There is also some really great dialogue, especially the Doctor’s concluding speech, delivered as he and Ace walk off into the forest back on Earth.
“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where 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, somewhere else the tea is getting cold. Come on, Ace, we’ve got work to do.” –the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), “Survival”, BBC, 1989
And that’s it – all the Classic Doctors. I hope these posts encourage Doctor Who fans, especially those who started watching with the New Series, to dip into the Classic Series and experience some of the great older stories.
What are your favorite Sylvester McCoy stories? Do you have others to recommend? Let me know in the comments.