Sylvester McCoy has revealed he had his eye on the role of the Doctor in Doctor Who for years before he landed it.


The star, who played the Seventh incarnation of the Time Lord, attempted to secure the Sixth Doctor role over Colin Baker.

Chatting exclusively to, McCoy explained: "For years, people used to say to me, ‘You could be Doctor Who.’ I think part of the reason was I used to wear a scarf all the time…

"When Peter Davison was leaving, before Colin [Baker] came in, I got in touch with my agent and said, ‘Peter Davison’s leaving, shall we try and see [about] the Doctor?’ They’d already cast Colin so I’d given up. And then, two years later, Colin was leaving so again I got in touch with my agent and said, ‘Have another go.’ So my agent phoned John Nathan Turner and said, ‘I think you should see Sylvester McCoy.’ And John said, ‘Who?’"

He recalled: "John Nathan Turner came along to see [The Pied Piper] and went back afterwards, I learned many years later, and said, ‘I've found my new Doctor’.... Of course, I was handed this part. I was quite ignorant of it because I'd been working in the theatre for years. So I hadn't seen it, I had a distant memory of it. Patrick Troughton was my Doctor but it was a long, long time ago.

As Sylvester McCoy turns 80, he sits down with for an in-depth interview about life, Doctor Who...and spoons. Stay tuned across the weekend for more videos and stories from the Seventh Doctor legend.

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"And so I had no idea really what role I had been handed, and then discovered I'd been handed one of the great television acting roles where you could do anything with it. The canvas was enormous, and you could do all sorts of things and so that was a blessing."

Baker ended up playing the Doctor from 1984 to 1986 before being replaced by McCoy. He was let go from the series after then-BBC One controller Michael Grade – who was outspoken about his dislike for Doctor Who – only agreed to recommission the show if Baker was replaced.

Colin Baker in Doctor Who
Colin Baker in Doctor Who.

Baker has since recalled how he was invited by the BBC to return to film a single story for the following season 24, but refused.

At a BFI screening, he said: "This was in November and that would take place the following March/April... I wasn't going to commit myself to two weeks work the next March/April... and I'll be honest, I was hacked off. I saw no reason to be nice to them."

Addressing the audience, he added: "I forgot about you [the fans] – sorry. I was being brutally selfish at the time and I just felt annoyed. Because I loved that part... and I thought I had more to offer."

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Baker did propose that he could return for the entirety of the following season and regenerate at the end of it, but says he "never heard back" from the BBC.

The next season opened with McCoy wearing Baker's costume and a wig.

"Yes, you noticed did you?" he jokes. "[I'm] surprised, because they dressed me up. They put me in Colin’s costume. And they put a wig on me and I looked like Harpo Marx."

Naturally, he's quick to point out the bright side, though: "I'm an actor who’s played two Doctors! I was the only one - but there's another one come along, damn him! David! David [Tennant] is now playing Doctor number Ten and and Fourteen. I was Six and Seven - I got there first!"

Doctor Who is available to stream on BBC iPlayer. Episodes of the classic series can be streamed on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.

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