Intergalactic Man of Mystery

Review of The Doctors Revisited - Seventh Doctor

In his own way, Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy was also the "last of the Time Lords," since it was after his three series on the show that the BBC put it on ~ahem~ indefinite hiatus. As such, he took a lot of blame for Who's apparent demise, and many fans never particularly liked him.

If you're a regular reader, you're probably aware that I don't share that opinion of Seven. I was therefore quite happy to see the Revisited series continue the upbeat, celebratory tone it has maintained through every episode. Instead, it focuses on McCoy's Doctor as one who brought some mystery back to the character.

Guests on the episode (McCoy himself, Companion actresses Bonnie Langford and Sophie Aldred, and current era behind-the-scenes folk Steven Moffat, Marcus Wilson, Nicholas Briggs, and Tom McRae) agreed that while Seven came across as a clown, there was something "more" lurking underneath it all (much like Two, come to think of it). Especially at the beginning, he had a very vaudevillian veneer, and he loved to confuse his enemies (and occasionally friends) with trickery and sleight of hand. But there was never any doubt that he had a plan to get out of whatever situation he was in, and there was something almost sinister about the secrets he seemed to be keeping. As his series went on, his character continued to gain richness and texture; he got more complex, darker, and lonelier.

The transition worked particularly well as he moved between Companions. His time began with the boisterous Mel, with whom he had a very different relationship than his previous incarnation had. Somehow, they worked better together and showed more rapport than repartee.

Seven's real rapport, though, was with "Ace," a rebellious teen girl whose real name was Dorothy McShane. More than any other, fans of the post-Hiatus era will recognize Ace as modern Companion material; she paved the way for all the sassy, self-sufficient young ladies we've seen since the show's revival in 2005. There is something really special about Seven and Ace, and the dynamic between them is quite interesting. After all, although the Doctor eschews violence, he has no qualms pointing Ace at a problem that could use a little destructive force. More, though, they come across as patron and protégée, with the Doctor keen to test and extend Ace's knowledge. That is, perhaps, why I love this pairing so much.

By the time we get to the Seventh Doctor, there really aren't any new "famous foes" to discuss, so Revisited includes the Rani (in her second and final appearance) and the Daleks/Davros. Unfortunately, the Rani's turn with Seven is a much poorer story than when she clashed with Six, but she herself is still an awesome character. Another renegade Time Lord, she is a brilliant scientist without any morals to guide her research. And she's usually pretty glam. One thing I do love about her meeting with Seven is her clear contempt for him, which leads to some fairly amusing snark.

Moving on to the Daleks, the episode mentions how much fun the pyrotechnic team had with explosions throughout Remembrance of the Daleks (the story broadcast immediately following this special). We see how the Daleks bring out some of the darkest moments of the Doctor here, yet his approach is to mock them rather than lecture (see, for example, the famous "unlimited rice pudding" speech). Thus, Seven "set the trajectory for the modern Doctors," as Moffat put it; he could be as silly as you please, but when the chips were down, he'd turn to ice.

Personally, I would love to see Capaldi take on a bit more of this "dark Doctor" persona. If he were to bring back some mystery and (true) menace to the role, I'd be one happy camper. We haven't really seen a lot of that in recent years, and I think more along these lines would make for some wonderfully engaging stories.

Of course, what other reaction can you expect of a Seventh Doctor fan?

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Comments

Agree totally with your view of Seven, one of my faves too. I thought his whole third series was just brilliant, with The Curse of Fenric being my all-time favorite Who story. I also enjoyed the singular relationship he had with Ace. There are persistent rumors that had the show continued he would have started giving her Time Lord training. And I think a darker take would definitely suit Capaldi, but not necessarily with the angst we saw with Smith and particularly Tennant, just more mysterious.

By Chuckyl (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

Yes—I was actually getting really tired of The Lonely God, and even some of the actions Eleven took were a bit ... much. So yeah, I'd really like to see just-under-the-surface menace out of Capaldi's Twelve. That's the kind of "dark and mysterious" that I liked in Seven, and hope to see again soon! :)

By mrfranklin
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