Okay, time to ‘fess up who my Doctor is:
McCoy is the man. I love that question mark handle umbrella of his and he rocks a terrible jumper like a God damn boss.
Yes, yes, yes; Seven is MY Doctor.
Don’t you dare look at me like that, Judgey McGee.
Actually, I’ll be a bit more specific- I’m a Seventh Doctor and Ace man. Season 24? Seven and Mel? Nyehhhh, not so much. He’s not yet quite the Doctor I recognise as Seven, and the stories are not amongst the shows finest achievements (*Cough* Time & The Stinking Rani) . And Mel? Good Christ on a cracker; Mel. I’m still baffled as to quite what the train of thought was with that one. I don’t actively despise season 24 as some Who fans do, you know the type, the ones who generally get a joy boner over hating stuff, but sure, that first McCoy year is not a patch on his second two. Or just about any season of Who. But then out went Mel, and in came Ace with a rucksack full of Nitro9, and we said a warm hello to season 25 with ‘Remembrance of the Mother-Flipping Daleks, yo!’ (it’s pre-production working title).
I was a weeny teeny child, so although I was watching I have no clear memory of if I even registered what a jump in feel and quality that was. But good gosh, that change is immediate; that new confidence, as though everyone had now had the time to fully grasp what it is they wanted to do with this era, what they wanted the show to be, and were now able to properly get on with it. New Script editor Andrew Cartmel was broken in to his role, Pip & Jane Baker no more than a distant, troubling dream, and was now fully in control of shaping the show to his vision. McCoy had found his sea legs as the Doctor and knew where he wanted to take his characterisation. Less clownish, more subtle. Mysterious. Shifty. Up to more than he’ll ever let on. Eyes full of ancient sorrow and regret. Sexy Jazz like that.
This is not to say there weren’t bumps ahead in the road, I’m not going to argue too heavily in favour of ‘Silver Nemesis’ for example (even if I loved the very balls of that story as a child) (And that American making of documentary that was on the VHS release but NOT the DVD release. GAH!?!). But any run that includes Remembrance, Ghost Light, Fenric, Happiness, Greatest Show, and so on cannot seriously be considered the embarrassment some fans will insist it is. And at the centre of it all, the Who-namic duo (I’m so sorry), the Doctor and Ace.
There are several justly celebrated double acts in the shows long history; Troughton and Jamie, Baker and Sarah Jane, Pertwee and Jo Grant, Davison and Kamelion, and right up there with them, McCoy and Ace. They just FIT. You can see how well they complement each other, how much they enjoy being in the same scene together, it just rolls off screen. And for one of the very few times in the classic run, Cartmel and his writers attempt to do something interesting with the companion, with the Doctor’s relationship with her. It’s like the Doctor wants to ‘cure’ her, he wants to make her face her fears, her dark memories, and overcome them. I’m not sure how much Ace actually appreciated the Doctor forcing her into these sort of situations, but it was great to watch, and was something we hadn’t seen on the show before. All too often whatever idea they had for a companion is pushed aside within a few stories, but not with Ace; right up to her final on screen story, ‘Survival’, Ace is pushed, prodded and examined by the writers. Putting the companion under the spotlight in this way is something we take for granted now, something viewers expect, but back then it seemed fresh.
And then the BBC went and ruined it all. The big meanies.
Had McCoy been allowed a fourth season, and had then moved on as he has suggested elsewhere that he probably would have, perhaps the next man in the door would have grabbed me even more. I would have been at an age where I was old enough to grasp and enjoy the show on another level than I had been during the McCoy years; would Seven have been usurped in my affections? Or had he caught me at the right age regardless and he would always by MY Doctor? Well, it’s all speculative at this point; McCoy was not replaced, there was no new Doctor, instead the show was cancelled and McCoy continued to be the Doctor in my mind. This was only bolstered as the years progressed and the show remained off air, partly by his continued appearances in the comic strip inside the pages of DWM, but mostly by the emergence of the Virgin New Adventure series of original Doctor Who novels. In these, Seven and Ace continued to thrive and I read each hungrily, even if the way they eventually took Ace was not to my liking. This cold, rubber-clad thing who seemed to basically hate the Doctor wasn’t the Ace I loved, who knows what on Earth they were thinking going down that path. But I digress, by not being replaced as the Doctor, even if he was now only in print, McCoy was cemented forever as my Doctor, despite the fact he would never appear on screen again.
And then he appeared on screen again! Albeit briefly for the McGann TV Movie. Yes, that was a mistake looking back, they should have started the way RTD did in Rose, have McGann as the Doctor from the very start, not chuck all this gibberish at brand new viewers right from the word go. But that doesn’t matter now; looking back from the position of a now thriving TV show, I’m so glad they gave McCoy his final wave goodbye, he deserved it.
In many ways, the fact McCoy’s version of the Doctor is one that is often attacked makes me love him all the more. Because we McCoy fans know that they’re wrong. Big up the ‘Dark’ Doctor.
There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea is asleep and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea is getting cold. Come on, Ace, we’ve got work to do.