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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 18 July, 2001, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Sylvester McCoy quizzed
To watch coverage of the forum, select the link below:

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Scottish actor Sylvester McCoy began his acting career onstage but soon moved into television, starring in such popular 70s children's TV shows such as BBC One's Vision On and Tiswas.

But he is probably best known for his role as the seventh Doctor Who from 1987-89.

Since 23 November, 1963, Doctor Who has been entertaining millions of television viewers.

He opened his three-year reign as the eccentric Doctor with the question mark walking stick, but evolved into one of the darkest and most manipulative Doctors.

His stint as the Doctor ended when the show was pulled after falling ratings - but he briefly featured in the made-for-TV film of 1996 before he "metamorphosed" into the eighth Doctor, Paul McGann.

He has now returned to the role for the first Doctor Who adventure since 1996, and the first Doctor Who online drama.

The broadcast was posted on BBC Online on 13 July and also features John Sessions and Stephen Fry.

What is it like being known as one incarnation of Doctor Who? What stories does he have of his years in the role? Does he foresee a future for Doctor Who on the net?

Sylvester McCoy (and a Dalek) took your questions in a live forum.


Highlights of interview:


Newshost:

As the Doctor you have conquered time and space and now you have conquered cyberspace with the first online adventure - are you back for good?


Sylvester McCoy:

That depends on the powers that be and I haven't got those kind of powers. Hopefully, the response to the online adventure has been very encouraging so perhaps, you never know, someone at the BBC might listen to that and fill this new slot up with a thing called Doctor Who.


Newshost:

The first question comes from Lewis in Essex who asks: When can we expect the next episode of "Death Comes to Time"?


Sylvester McCoy:

It was a pilot episode that was made for Radio 4 and then the people at Online heard it, thought it was wonderful and decided to put it out. According to the producer, if there is a big response to it then perhaps we will finish it.


Newshost:

It has been more than 10 years since there was a Dr Who TV series and John Hill, Kent asks: Do you think Doctor Who deserves its place in broadcasting history?


Sylvester McCoy:

Yes, I think it does. It ran for 26 years - there was a 7 Years War and that ran for 7 years and its got a place in history and we ran longer.


Newshost:

A question that so many people have e-mailed to ask, including Alan from London: Would you come back as the Doctor in a TV series if asked?


Sylvester McCoy:

Yes I would, although I would be quite surprised, if not delighted, if they did ask me. I loved playing the doctor - it was great.


Newshost:

You say you are quite surprised - quite surprised to be asked or quite surprised that it would come back?


Sylvester McCoy:

I would be quite surprised to be asked but I would be delighted if I were and I would say yes if I were asked.


Newshost:

A question from Japan, Olly Hogben asks: In science fiction, people like Alec Guinness and Patrick Stewart are sometimes typecast as "Obi-wan Kenobi" and "Jean-Luc Picard". Do you worry that you will be typecast as the Doctor forever?


Sylvester McCoy:

No. I did, but I don't now - I have accepted it. That is the way it is and the best thing to do is enjoy it - so I have - rather than rail against it.


Newshost:

David Brook from Bournemouth asks: If Dr Who does come back, how would you like to see it as a TV series?


Sylvester McCoy:

The writing is the most important element - good writers writing for it and good stories. More complex than, say, science fiction shows that come from America. That is what it was like before - that was the magic essence of it - and that is how I would like to see it come back.


Newshost:

Paul Ilett in Southend-on-Sea asks: Has British TV missed the boat because America has done so well with series like Buffy and Start Trek?


Sylvester McCoy:

Yes, I think we have missed the boat over here by somehow turning against science fiction. I think it is a very British thing. In America, they have a great desire to turn science fiction into science fact whereas in Britain we like historical programmes - we like to look backwards. I think we have got to start looking forward and our culture - and television is part of our culture - should show this. We should have more science fiction on television and on radio. When we do it well it works - Doctor Who did.


Newshost:

John Peterson, Grimsby asks: What do you make of the many on/off stories about a Doctor Who film that may/may not be being made?


Sylvester McCoy:

No I have heard nothing about this.


Newshost:

Going back to 1989 when the BBC decided to put the programme "to sleep" for a while - how did the cast and yourself react to the news?


Sylvester McCoy:

We were very disappointed because there was a feeling that there was a new growth in the universe of Doctor Who. The fan club was growing, the Doctor Who magazine was selling more, the people were getting excited by the new writers that had been found and so we felt that things were growing. We were getting to a very interesting point in the Doctor's journey but sadly it didn't make it. So we were frustrated and a bit annoyed.


Newshost:

Mr Fish, London asks: Would you agree that you were a very good Doctor at a very bad time?


Sylvester McCoy:

Yes I have to agree with that.


Newshost:

Anthony Taylor asks: Would you then do anything differently if you could go back to 1989 with the way the series was progressing and your own performance as the Doctor?


Sylvester McCoy:

I was progressing to a more darker doctor because I had this feeling that he was more like the Ancient Mariner and I've done quite a lot of Samuel Beckett plays over the last few years and the producer and director spoke about Death Comes to Time as being more "Beckettian" - not necessarily written like the great Samuel Beckett but the character is a much more tortured character. So that is where it would go if it came back and if I was doing it. Because that is the way we hope it went in the Online version that is going out.


Newshost:

Chuck Foster asks: Do you get any pride in the fact that you are the first doctor to take the leap into cyberspace with an internet broadcast?


Sylvester McCoy:

I am delighted because it is quite historical. Even for the BBC in terms not just of science fiction but in drama alone, this is the first time it has ever been done I believe.


Newshost:

You mentioned some of the darker elements you brought to your portrayal as the doctor and all the different actors who played the doctor brought different elements to it. Do you look at other actors and have a favourite Doctor?


Sylvester McCoy:

I suppose my favourite doctor was Patrick Troughton and that is because he was the very first doctor I ever watched and he got me hooked on the programme. I have to say all the others are great because they are all taller than I am.


Newshost:

Robert De Valle from Michigan in the United States asks: Are you aware of the rivalry that exists between the fans of who their favourite Doctor is and why?


Sylvester McCoy:

Yes I know it is bizarre and I don't pay much attention to it. Some people are appalled by other doctors and some people love them. Once I met someone and he had about 25 Doctor Who books, posters, postcards - the lot and he asked me to sign and he was so excited. He said, Doctor Who was his favourite programme and this was wonderful - please sign all of these - you are my fifth favourite doctor! Well I was at least happy not to be his least favourite.


Newshost:

If you were asked to play the Doctor again on TV would you make any changes to the way the doctor was dressed?


Sylvester McCoy:

Yes, I would get rid of the question mark pullover. I think the costume I wore in the so-called American version where I handed over to Paul McGann - I liked that costume a lot. It would be hopefully something along those lines.


Newshost:

Were you happy with the television movie that the BBC and America made?


Sylvester McCoy:

It sort of fell between two stools really. In a sense - and this is only in hindsight - I think they shouldn't have had me in it. Although I enjoyed it immensely and it was great. I do however think it made it too complicated for a new audience because it was aimed at an American audience that was virginal to Doctor Who - that hadn't really seen it before. So having me alive and then suddenly disappear and the complication of the handover was maybe just a bit too much.


Newshost:

Do you have a favourite Doctor Who enemy of all time - is it the Daleks?


Sylvester McCoy:

Well I have to say that because otherwise I would be in real trouble! I didn't feel I was a true Doctor until I worked with the Daleks and also I was so delighted to be in the episode where we see how a Dalek gets up the stairs.


Newshost:

Dave Johnson in Sheffield asks: Are there any Doctor Who monster or villains that you didn't work with in the series that you would have like to?


Sylvester McCoy:

The Yeti I suppose. I don't remember working with them. I remember the Yeti in the underground was a really scary one and I was twenty-two years-old when I saw that episode.


Newshost:

Gary Jones in Port Talbot, Wales asks: Since your last appearance as the Doctor, you and other actors involved in the show have kept in touch by convention appearances, doing series stories and now this online adventure. What is it so special about Doctor Who that makes you come back for more?


Sylvester McCoy:

I enjoy the conventions because it gives you a chance to do a particular type of performance. It is more to do with the performance rather than Doctor Who that necessarily gets me there. But when I am there it is great to see my old friends - they have all become really good mates through the conventions. Also you get to know certain fans and you get very fond of them.


Newshost:

Do you think that Doctor Who still has a place in the schedules of the BBC and is it worth being brought back?


Sylvester McCoy:

Yes I do. Some people think it was of its time but I think this time can always be now. I realise now why the Daleks terrorised the nation was because in the back of our minds was that we had not long before gone through the Second World War and the fascist hordes coming over the hill were a bit like these Daleks. The Cold War, the Stalanists and the atomic bomb all of that was reflected in the Daleks - that reflected that time. But now we seem to be going back to that time with what is happening in America - the crass politics that is forcing us back into fictionalising areas - these dangers will arise and you need Doctor Who to put it all right!



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