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Och aye Dr Who!

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As Tennant Fever Sweeps Midlands, One Ex-Time Lord Calls For Billy Connolly To Be The Next Doc

A TIME Lord is coming to Birmingham - and he's promised to lop off a few heads while he's in town.

So who is this TARDIS-tinkering tyrant?

Well, he's most famous for starring in Doctor Who, and when he's off duty he has a distinctive Scottish burr.

Which means it's David Tennant, right?

Well, no, actually.

Tennant may be the real McCoy for modern fans of the popular science action show but it's Sylvester McCoy who'll be busting heads in Brum.

The diminutive actor played the Doctor in the late 1980s before the show was cancelled by the BBC.

These days he mostly works in theatre, and will be starring in the Alexandra Theatre's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's timeless operetta The Mikado.

Meanwhile, Tennant, the incumbent Time Lord is being mobbed every night of the week by Doctor Who fans anxious to see his performance in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Hamlet.


But as a former Doc, is McCoy jealous of this mass outbreak of Tennantmania?

"Not at all. I was a good friend of David's even before he got the role of the Doctor, and he's the most delightful chap.

"Plus there's the fact that we come from the same area of Scotland.

"I'd love it if the next Doctor Who was also Scottish.

"Billy Connolly would be ideal.

"He'd crack up the Daleks with a few well-timed gags, then afterwards they wouldn't be so morose.

"They might even come to the conclusion that you don't have to rule the universe to have some fun."

Unlike the dirging Daleks, it's obvious that McCoy doesn't take himself too seriously.

Even so, it would be understandable if the 65 year-old was frustrated because he never enjoyed the adulation Tennant is currently receiving.

When McCoy took over as Doctor Who in 1987, the longrunning programme was wilting.

The BBC no longer had faith in the adventures of a time-travelling eccentric, while the show was produced on a shoestring budget.

McCoy's performance was masterly and nuanced, but to no avail.

With the actor still in the helm, the show was cancelled in 1989.

Now Who has returned, lavished with cash and loved by the BBC hierarchy.

Is McCoy bitter that the Beeb couldn't see what a great show they had 20 years ago?

"I'm just glad it's on TV again," he says. "After it was cancelled, I fought for years to make executives change their minds. So it's good to know that I was right all along.

"Luckily I've had my own wee bit of fan fervour. Last year I was also in Stratford, acting opposite Ian McKellen in King Lear.

"Loads of Doctor Who fans came along to watch and get autographs afterwards.

"I didn't mind that they still thought of me as a Time Lord.

"It just meant that the Doctor was steering people towards Shakespeare, which is no bad thing."

Guiding sci-a fans towards the Stratford bard may be a point in McCoy's favour.

But lopping off heads is deanitely not.

So what exactly is going on at the Alex?

"The Mikado is a very bloodthirsty production," says McCoy.

"People who listen to the music might think it's sweet, but in reality it's about people being threatened with torture and execution.

"Although it's set in Japan, Gilbert And Sullivan were actually writing about the Britain of the Victorian era.

"We were doing a lot of nasty stuff back then with our Empire.

"That's why it's still so topical.

"These days you could look at the Mikado as a piece about American or Russian imperialism."

Like the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, McCoy could be viewed as a mixture of the tender and tough.

Before anding fame as an actor he trained to be a priest - then worked as a bouncer.

"I never really wanted to be a priest," he reveals. "I decided to do it for a bet. Me and my school friend, Danny Sweeney, bet each other that we'd go down and tell the local priest that we wanted to train for the priesthood.

Chickened out

"My pal chickened out, but out of bravado I went through with it, then stayed on for four years.

"Eventually, I decided that I preferred chasing skirt to wearing one.

"But it made great training for acting since both involve wearing a great costume and performing in front of a captive audience.

"I suppose you could also say Doctor Who is a religious show.

"The Doctor's like Jesus in many ways.

"He's a being from outside our world who is willing to risk his own life to save us all."

But did McCoy also risk his life when he was working as a bouncer?

The answer is... not really.

"I was an actor working at the Roundhouse in London at the time," he says.

"The Rolling Stones were playing there, so I was asked to work the stage as a bouncer.

"This was in the innocent days before violence was invented.

"So I just danced about the stage next to the band, then went for drinks with them afterwards.

"But I still learned a few things that night.

"So no-one better dive onto the stage during The Mikado.

"Or I really will be using my bouncer training to make sure that a few heads really do roll!"

The Mikado is at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham from September 23 to 27.

GRAPHIC: WHO'S WHO: Sylvester McCoy with his fellow Doctors Jon Pertwee, William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Paul McGann, Christopher Ecclestone and David Tennant. Main picture, Billy Connolly

Spelling correction: Christopher Eccleston

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  • APA 6th ed.: Jackson, Lorne (2008-08-24). Och aye Dr Who!. Sunday Mercury p. Sport, p. 6.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Jackson, Lorne. "Och aye Dr Who!." Sunday Mercury [add city] 2008-08-24, Sport, p. 6. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Jackson, Lorne. "Och aye Dr Who!." Sunday Mercury, edition, sec., 2008-08-24
  • Turabian: Jackson, Lorne. "Och aye Dr Who!." Sunday Mercury, 2008-08-24, section, Sport, p. 6 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Och aye Dr Who! | url=! | work=Sunday Mercury | pages=Sport, p. 6 | date=2008-08-24 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 May 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Och aye Dr Who! | url=! | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 May 2024}}</ref>