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Sylvester McCoy

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Sylvester McCoy
McCoy at the 2018 MCM London Comic Con
Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith

(1943-08-20) 20 August 1943 (age 80)
Other namesSylvester McCoy
EducationBlairs College
Occupation(s)Actor, physical comedian
Years active1965, 1973–present
Known forSeventh incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who
SpouseAgnes Verkaik

Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith (born 20 August 1943), known professionally as Sylvester McCoy, is a Scottish actor. Gaining prominence as a physical comedian,[1][2] he became 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. He is also known for his work as Radagast in The Hobbit film series (2012–2014).

Early life[edit]

McCoy was born Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith[3] in Dunoon, on the Cowal peninsula, to an Irish Catholic mother and an English father who had been killed in action in World War II a couple of months before McCoy was born;[4] he met his father's family at the age of 17.[3]

He was brought up primarily in Dunoon,[3] where he attended Saint Mun's School; he then studied for the priesthood at Blairs College, a seminary in Aberdeen between the ages of 12 and 16,[3] but gave this up and continued his education at Dunoon Grammar School.[4] After school he moved to London where he worked in the insurance industry for five years.[5] He worked in the box office of The Roundhouse for a time, where he was discovered by Ken Campbell.[6]


Early work[edit]

McCoy 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, who worked beside Kent-Smith at the Roundhouse Theatre and originated in the Wolfe Tones version of Big Strong Man[7]), 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. Every episode of the innovative ATV schools maths programme Leapfrog featured McCoy as "Bert" in wordless sequences filmed out of doors, as he attempted to form regular geometric patterns from different numbers of logs or carpet squares. He also appeared in Eureka, often suffering from the effects of inventions of Wilf Lunn, and as Wart, assistant to StarStrider in the Children's ITV 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.

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

Doctor Who[edit]

With Sophie Aldred during filming of Remembrance of the Daleks (1988)

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 (his twelfth and final serial as the Doctor). 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, with his face concealed by regeneration special effects. 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 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.[8] Since 1999 he has continued acting in the role of the Seventh Doctor in a series of audio plays for Big Finish Productions.

Peter Davison, McCoy and Colin Baker at the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend in 2013

In November 2013 McCoy co-starred in the one-off 50th anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.[9]

In January 2021, McCoy returned to the role of the Doctor alongside Bonnie Langford as Mel Bush, in "A Business Proposal for Mel!" This short, acted as an announcement trailer for 'The Collection: Season 24' Blu-Ray set, which was released later that year.[10]

McCoy reprised the role of the Doctor in the 2022 special "The Power of the Doctor", and again in the series Tales of the TARDIS.[11]

Later work[edit]

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 Channel 5. 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.

McCoy missed out on a role in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl[12] and was the second choice to play the role of Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's 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.

McCoy appeared as the lawyer Dowling in a BBC Production of Henry Fielding's novel, The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling. In 2001 he 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 he played the part of the suicidal Mr. Peters in JC Marshall's play, Plume, at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow.[13]

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,[14] 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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18][19]

McCoy in 2014

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.[20]

In 2017 he returned to the stage at the Edinburgh Fringe, in the production A Joke alongside Star Trek: Voyager actor Robert Picardo.[21]

The Hobbit trilogy[edit]

McCoy began filming for The Hobbit, a three-part adaptation of the book, in 2011. He portrays the wizard Radagast,[22] alongside fellow King Lear actor Ian McKellen who reprises his role as Gandalf.

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[edit]

McCoy and his wife, Agnes Verkaik,[23] have two sons. They were filmed for the Doctor Who serial The Curse of Fenric playing Haemovores, but their scenes were deleted from the finished release.[24] According to McCoy, his sons live in Holland and Thailand.[25]

He was brought up a Catholic by his maternal grandmother and aunts[4] but is now an atheist.[26]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, McCoy spent some of lockdown living in France.[25]



Year Title Role Notes
1979 Dracula Walter As Sylveste McCoy
All the Fun of the Fair Scotch Jack
The Secret Policeman's Ball Sylvester McCoy
1987 Three Kinds of Heat Harry Pimm
1995 Leapin' Leprechauns! Flynn
1996 Spellbreaker: Secret of the Leprechauns Flynn
1997 Beyond Fear Michael Sams
2000 The Mumbo Jumbo Mr. Tallman
2004 Griffin Grim
2006 The Battersea Ripper Duncan
2008 King Lear The Fool
2009 The Academy Felix
The Academy Part 2: First Impressions Felix
2010 Punk Strut: The Movie DJ
2012 Eldorado General Zwick
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Radagast
2013 The Christmas Candle Edward Haddington
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Radagast
Quest: A Tall Tale Ardan Voice
2014 The Seventeenth Kind Rusty
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Radagast
2017 Slumber Amado
2020 You Vasilij Grossman
The Owners Dr. Richard Huggins
Lost at Christmas Ernie
2022 The Munsters Igor


Year Title Role Notes
1965-1976 Vision On Various
1973 Roberts Robots Robot Entertainer Episode: "Dial C for Chaos"
1975 Lucky Feller Sylveste Pilot episode
1977 For the Love of Albert Cast Member Unknown episodes
1978 Leapfrog Bert All 28 episodes
1979 Jigsaw O-Man
Turning Year Tales Turps Episode: "Big Jim and the Figaro Club"
Jackanory Reader Episode: "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
The Secret Policeman's Ball Himself
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
1982–1986 Eureka Various All 32 episodes
1984 Starstrider Wart
1985 The Last Place on Earth Lt. 'Birdie' Bowers 6 episodes
No 73 Moving man Episode: "Moving Space"
Dramarama Donald Episode: "Frog"
1987–1989, 2022 Doctor Who Seventh Doctor 44 episodes
1988 What's Your Story? Narrator / Presenter
1988 Tomorrow’s World Himself Christmas special
1989 The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow Seventh Doctor
1990 Search Out Science Episode "Search Out Space"
1991 Thrill Kill Video Club Spoons Video
1993 Jackanory Storyteller 2 episodes
1994 Frank Stubbs Angus Episode: "Mr. Chairman"
1996 Rab C. Nesbitt Gash Senior Episode: "Father"
Doctor Who Seventh Doctor TV movie[27]
1997 The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling Mr. Dowling 4 episodes
1999, 2001 See It Saw It Jester 1 episode
The Lord High Chamberlain /
Aunt Grizelda
Episode: "Courage and Adventure"
2001 Casualty Kev the Rev Episode: "Life and Soul"
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 Episode: "Late of This Parish"
2008 Great Performances The Fool Episode: "King Lear"
Casualty Ashley Millington Episode: "The Evil That Men Do"
Doctors Graham Capelli Episode: "The Lollipop Man"
2009 Al Murray's Multiple Personality Disorder Nazi Doctor 1 episode
2013 The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot Himself TV film
2015 Crims Mr. Dunlop Episode: "Day Thirty-Six"
2017–2018 Sense8 The Old Man of Hoy 4 episodes
Zapped Lord Protector 3 episodes
2017 Sarah & Duck Comet Episode: "Comet's Coming"
2018 Holby City Clive Brooker Episode: "All Lies Lead to the Truth"
2019 Thunderbirds Are Go Aezethril the Wizard Episode: "Endgame"
2023 Tales of the TARDIS Seventh Doctor Episode: "The Curse of Fenric"
2024 Father Brown Dr. Angus McClurgy Episode: "The Hermit of Hazelnut Cottage"

Short films[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2002 The Shieling of the One Night Fergus
2008 Pass Them On The Administrator
2015 The Last Conjuror Arthur Roberts
2016 Tale of a Timelord The Doctor
2018 Beauty Henry
2021 24 Carat Seventh Doctor

Direct to video[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1991 The Hartnell Years Presenter
1993 The Airzone Solution Anthony Stanwick
1994 The Zero Imperative Dr. Colin Dove
1996 Bidding Adieu Himself Documentary
2001 Do You Have a License To Save This Planet? 'The Foot Doctor' Short film

Video games[edit]

Year Title Voice role Notes
1997 Destiny of the Doctors Seventh Doctor [28]
2015 Lego Dimensions Archive voice
2024 Fallout: London Mysterious Scientist 1 Guest role[29]

Other works[edit]


Year Title Role Company Director | Notes
2014 Three Sisters Dr. McGillivrey Tron Theatre, Glasgow Andy Arnold adaptation by John Byrne
2022 Apartness Christopher K4K Films and Shortcut Productions

Audio drama[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1995 Prince Caspian Reepicheep BBC Radio 4 Dramatisation
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
1997 The Last Battle
1998–2000 The Time Travellers The Professor BBV Productions
1999–present Doctor Who: The Audio Adventures Seventh Doctor Big Finish Productions; 140 episodes
2001 Doctor Who: Death Comes To Time BBCi; 5 part webcast
2007, 2012 Bernice Summerfield Big Finish Productions; 2 episodes
2011-2013 The Minister of Chance The Witch Prime Radio Static; 5 stories
2015 The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty: The Dragon And The Raven Cedric the Shipwright
2016 The Diary of River Song Seventh Doctor Big Finish Productions; Series 2 (2 episodes)

Direct to video[edit]


  1. ^ Cavan Scott; Mark Wright (2013). Doctor Who: Who-ology. BBC Books. p. 42. ISBN 978-1849906197. McCoy's mastery of physical comedy led to his working relationship with producer Clive Doig, who employed him on shows ranging from Vision On to Jigsaw
  2. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (2008). A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television. McFarland & Co. ISBN 978-0786437160. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Pelley, Rich (20 November 2020). "Sylvester McCoy's teenage obsessions: 'I was the twist king of Dunoon'". The Guardian.
  4. ^ a b c Smith, Kenny (13 March 2018). "Doctor Who star steps back in time to Dunoon childhood". Scottish Field. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  5. ^ Sylvester McCoy TV Biography Archived 3 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 19 November 2013
  6. ^ a b "People buy Doctor Who drinks". icBerkshire. Trinity Mirror. 3 April 2003. Archived from the original on 15 January 2007. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  7. ^ McCoy, Sylvester (17 November 2023). "Sylvester McCoy". My life in a Mixtape. BBC Radio2. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  8. ^ McCoy 32.3%, Tom Baker 28.7%, Doctor Who Magazine, May 1990.
  9. ^ "The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot", BBC programmes, retrieved 26 November 2013
  10. ^ "A Business Proposal for Mel! The Collection: Season 24 Announcement Trailer Doctor Who". BBC Studios. Retrieved 17 April 2024.
  11. ^ "Doctor Who: Welcome to The Whoniverse where every Doctor, every companion and hundreds of terrifying monsters live". BBC Media Centre. BBC. 30 October 2023.
  12. ^ Courtney, Kevin (15 September 2012). "Then & now Sylvester Mccoy, actor". The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  13. ^ Fisher, Mark (5 March 2012). "Plume – review". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  14. ^ "King Lear – cast list". RSC web site. Archived from the original on 9 March 2007. Retrieved 16 March 2007.
  15. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (26 November 2008). "Ian McKellen's King Lear to ring in the Christmas cheer for Channel 4". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  16. ^ "Little Shop of Horrors (Mon 4 – Sat 9 May 2009)". Liverpool Empire. Archived from the original on 19 July 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2014.
  17. ^ "Father, Series 5, Rab C Nesbitt – BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  18. ^ "BBC One Programmes – Doctors, Series 10, "The Lollipop Man"". BBC. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
  19. ^ David, Semple. "How I brought back Sylvester McCoy as Doctor Who". Den of Geek. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
  20. ^ "BBC One - The Real Marigold Hotel, Series 1 - The female residents". BBC.
  21. ^ "Theatre review: A Joke - The Scotsman". Archived from the original on 17 June 2019.
  22. ^ "Sylvester McCoy Is Radagast the Brown". Filmonic. Archived from the original on 4 October 2011. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
  23. ^ "Sylvester McCoy | A Brief History Of Time (Travel)". www.shannonsullivan.com.
  24. ^ "The Curse of Fenric". Retrieved 5 January 2023.
  25. ^ a b MacKenzie, Steven (21 March 2021). "Sylvester McCoy: 'Wisdom? Me? What wisdom have I got?'". The Big Issue.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ "Doctor Who movie producer says BBC didn't want Sylvester McCoy to appear". Radio Times. Retrieved 17 April 2024.
  28. ^ Farnell, Chris (13 March 2024). "Why Has There Never Been a Truly Great Doctor Who Video Game?". Den of Geek. Retrieved 17 April 2024.
  29. ^ McNulty, Thomas (19 May 2022). "Fallout: London Mod Boasts Doctor Who Voice Talent". ScreenRant. Retrieved 3 February 2024.

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