Sylvester McCoy

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Sylvester McCoy
Sylvester McCoy at The Television & Movie Store in Wallyford, Scotland, UK, on 12 April 2008
Sylvester McCoy at Joyce Cartwright's book emporium , Wallyford, Scotland, UK on 12 April 2008
Born Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith
(1943-08-20) 20 August 1943 (age 78)
Dunoon, Scotland, UK
Occupation Actor
Years active 1979-present
Television Doctor Who (1987–1989, 1996)

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 and for his role as the wizard Radagast the Brown in Peter Jackson's film adaptations of The Hobbit.

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


McCoy in 2014

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 serials). As Baker declined the invitation to film the regeneration scene, McCoy briefly wore a wig and appeared, face-down, as the 6th 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]

Peter Davison, McCoy and Colin Baker at the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend.

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 telemovie 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.[citation needed] 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.

McCoy performing with Sandi Toksvig in The Lovely Russell Concert in June 2008

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,[11] a performance which made use of McCoy's ability to play the spoons. The RSC production with McKellen and McCoy was staged in Melbourne, Australia 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.[citation needed]

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.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14][15]

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,[16] alongside fellow King Lear actor Ian McKellen who reprises his role as Gandalf.[17]

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 has been expanded for the films.



Year Title Role Notes
1979 Dracula Walter As Sylveste McCoy
All the Fun of the Fair Scotch Jack
1987 Three Kinds of Heat Harry Pimm
1995 Leapin' Leprechauns! Flynn
1996 Spellbreaker: Secret of the Leprechauns Flynn
2000 The Mumbo Jumbo Mr. Tallman
2002 The Shieling of the One Night Fergus Short
2004 Griffin Grim
2008 Pass Them On The Administrator Short
2009 The Academy Felix Short
The Academy Part 2: First Impressions Felix
2010 Punk Strut: The Movie Dj
2012 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Radagast
2013 The Christmas Candle Edward Haddington
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Radagast
Quest: A Tall Tale Ardan
2014 The Seventeenth Kind Rusty Short
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Radagast
2015 When the Devil Rides Out Walther
Journey Bound The Mechanic
The Candy House Norman Davies


Year Title Role Notes
1965 Vision On Various
1973 Roberts Robots Robot Entertainer Episode: "Dial C for Chaos"
1975 Lucky Feller Uncredited Pilot episode
1977 For the Love of Albert Cast Member Unknown episodes
1979 Jigsaw O-Man
Turning Year Tales Turps Episode: "Big Jim and the Figaro Club"
Jackanory Reader Episode: "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
1980 BBC2 Playhouse Kerwin Episode: "Electric in the City"
1981 Big Jim and the Figaro Club Turps 5 episodes
Tiny Revolutions Cabaret comedian TV movie
Tiswas Various
1982 Eureka Various
1983 Eureka PC Dunworthy
1984 Starstrider Wart
1985 The Last Place on Earth Lt. 'Birdie' Bowers 6 episodes
No 73 Moving man Episode: "Moving Space"
Eureka Various 2 episodes
Dramarama Donald Episode: "Frog"
1987-1989 Doctor Who The Doctor 42 episodes
1988 What's Your Story? Narrator / Presenter
1989 The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow The Doctor
1991 Thrill Kill Video Club Spoons Video
1993 Jackanory Storyteller 2 episodes
Dimensions in Time The Doctor TV short
The Airzone Solution Anthony Stanwick Video
1994 Frank Stubbs Angus Episode: "Mr. Chairman"
The Zero Imperative Dr. Colin Dove Video
1996 Rab C. Nesbitt Gash Senior Episode: "Father"
Doctor Who The Doctor TV movie
1997 The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling Mr. Dowling 4 episodes
Beyond Fear Michael Sams TV movie
1999 See It Saw It Jester 1 episode
2001 See It Saw It The Lord High Chamberlain /
Aunt Grizelda
Episode: "Courage and Adventure"
Do You Have a License to Save This Planet The Foot Doctor Video short
Casualty Kev the Rev Episode: "Life and Soul"
2001-2002 Doctor Who: Death Comes to Time The Doctor 5 episodes
2002 Hollyoaks Leonard Cave 1 episode
The Bill Ian Drew Episode: "010"
2004 Still Game Archie Episode: "Oot"
2006 The Bill Morris Shaw Episode: "457"
Mayo Reverend Beaver 1 episode
2008 Great Performances The Fool Episode: "King Lear"
King Lear The Fool TV movie
Casualty Ashley Millington Episode: "The Evil That Men Do"
Doctors Graham Capelli /
The Amazing Lollipop Man
Episode: "The Lollipop Man"
2009 Al Murray's Multiple Personality Disorder Nazi Doctor 1 episode
2012 Highway to Hell Video
The Academy: Special Felix TV movie
2013 Doctor Who: The Ultimate Guide Himself
The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot Himself
2015 Crims Mr. Dunlop Episode: "Day Thirty-Six"

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2015 Lego Dimensions The Doctor Voice; archive sound


  1. MARK FISHER (1 March 2012). "Interview: Sylvester McCoy, actor - Performing Arts". Retrieved 16 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Sylvester McCoy TV Biography. Retrieved 19 November 2013
  6. 6.0 6.1 "People buy Doctor Who drinks". icBerkshire. Trinity Mirror. 3 April 2003. Archived from the original on 15 January 2007. Retrieved 30 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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. "King Lear – cast list". RSC web site. Archived from the original on 9 March 2007. Retrieved 16 March 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Little Shop of Horrors (Mon 4 - Sat 9 May 2009)". Liverpool Empire. Retrieved 30 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Father, Series 5, Rab C Nesbitt - BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 11 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "BBC One Programmes – Doctors, Series 10, "The Lollipop Man"". BBC. Retrieved 28 October 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. David, Semple. "How I brought back Sylvester McCoy as Doctor Who". Den of Geek. Retrieved 28 October 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Sylvester McCoy Is Radagast the Brown". Filmonic. Retrieved 28 October 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. The Hobbit on IMDb

External links