Back in 2009, when Doctor Who star Sylvester McCoy heard that Matt Smith was cast as the 11th Doctor, he was concerned by Smith’s age.
“I thought, gosh. The Doctor’s old. That’s what it’s about,” said McCoy, who played the seventh incarnation of the Doctor from 1987-9. Smith, 26 when he got the part, was the youngest Doctor ever cast.
At the time, McCoy worried about that; the Doctor is one of very few heroes who isn’t young, but the ages of the actors playing him had, in 2012, been trending downward.
“I liked the idea that we have a superhero who was old,” said McCoy, 73, a guest at ConnectiCon 2017 this past weekend, of an older hero. “There are loads of superheroes that wear their underpants outside of their trousers and they have muscles and all that stuff. It was great having an older person. In a sense, for society, it was great: children growing up realizing an older person could be a superhero who doesn’t have to use his fists, but uses his brain to defeat evil.”
McCoy was later won over by Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor, which he called “brilliant,” and by Smith himself, who he met when he and fellow Who alums Colin Baker and Peter Davison filmed the Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, a parody about their quest to get into the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special.
And later, of course, McCoy’s concerns were allayed when the Doctor got an older face in the form of Peter Capaldi, who will depart the show during the Christmas 2017. (“This last season with Peter Capaldi has been absolutely stunning,” said McCoy.)
McCoy himself has never really left the Who universe. He still voices the seventh Doctor in audio dramas when he’s not acting on the stage, or appearing in films — like The Hobbit trilogy, in which he portrayed Radagast the Brown or Slumber, an American-British horror film due out this year, starring Maggie Q and Will Kemp.
Despite his long career, McCoy fell into show business. He first intended to be a priest, then worked in insurance for five years, before the ’60s hit, and as he says, it became “fashionable to be unemployed.”
McCoy wasn’t unemployed for long: he found himself working in the box office of The Roundhouse theater.
“They needed a hippie who could count,” he joked, “and I fitted the bill.”
He was discovered when The Ken Campbell Roadshow needed an actor on short notice, and from then on, McCoy was a performer, and never looked back.
“I have actually done it all. I’ve been on the street busking, I’ve done grand opera, and everything in between: circus, avant-garde theater, the lot! Television, film, radio, I did the very first Internet drama, which was called Death Comes to Time.”
The only thing McCoy says he hasn’t done yet is ballet, and he can’t get into that now: his ankles are surgically fused.
So, now that he’s done just about everything, what would he like to try next?
“Ballet,” he deadpanned.