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Sylvester McCoy was a step in a different direction for the producers of Doctor Who. Beforehand, every new Doctor had been selected due their sterling work in the dramatic or comedic arts — and was then expected to perform in a show with a broad appeal for children. Sylvester was already a children’s entertainer when he was cast on Who, having made his name performing madcap antics on various kids’ TV shows. After the ‘serious actor in a colorful coat’ Colin Baker era, this felt like a fresh approach, albeit one which needed tempering with lots and lots of serious storylines, lest the show vanish in a puff of space whimsy.
Anyway, here are some of the things Sylvester did before and after his time as a Time Lord:
Here he is in Vision On (about three minutes in), the ’60s art and cartoons show that made him a household name for a generation of children, even though at that time, the name was Sylveste, and not Sylvester:
Here he is in 1973′s Roberts Robots, playing a robot entertainer:
And here he is on anarchic Saturday morning kids’ TV show TISWAS, some time in the late ’70s, pretending to be flower. You don’t get this kind of thing with Colin Baker:
And here he is enjoying a spot of snail-racing in 1979′s Big Jim and the Figaro Club:
And here he is alongside Sir Laurence Olivier, in 1979′s Dracula (5:30 or thereabouts):
On a similarly bleak note, here he plays Lt. ‘Birdie’ Bowers , one of the ill-fated travelers with Scott of the Antarctic.
Here he is in 1986, playing alongside Mary Tamm (of Romana fame) in the (possibly not very expensive) action movie Three Kinds of Heat:
Then there were two years (1987-89) where he played some kind of very famous time traveler in a shoebox, or something, after which there were quite a few straight-to-video parodies of the show he’d just left, because it had been axed:
And then, back to scene-stealing cameos in comedy shows again, with the likes of Still Game, from 2004 (seven mins or so):
Or for something more upmarket, here’s his Fool, in the 2008 Trevor Nunn production of King Lear, starring Gandal- sorry, Sir Ian McKellen:
And best of all, Sylvester is currently filming with Peter Jackson in New Zealand, and will be making an appearance in both of the new Hobbit movies. You can’t keep a good fool down!
Next: Paul McGann
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic