It’s a double birthday bonanza today, as we celebrate two of the best frenemies in all of time and space. Whip out your spoons for a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Sylvester McCoy and the late Anthony Ainley!
Sylvester McCoy turns 73 today. The lovable Scottish actor played The Seventh Doctor from 1987-1989. He was the final Doctor to appear in the original television run. He made his first appearance in Time and the Rani wearing a curly blonde wig in one of the more questionable regeneration sequences to date! He played the part up until Survival, then returned in the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie to regenerate into Paul McGann. Initially a more clown-like interpretation of the Time Lord, he eventually developed into one of the darkest Doctors yet. During his three-year tenure, he travelled with companions Mel and Ace in memorable adventures including Remembrance of the Daleks.
McCoy has been a regular fixture at conventions and Big Finish since leaving the show. He also teamed up with Fifth Doctor Peter Davison and Sixth Doctor Colin Baker in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Also, did you know? He played Radagast the Brown in Peter Jackson’s trilogy of The Hobbit films too!
As with many of his previous regenerations, there were constant thorns in The Seventh Doctor’s side. Chief among them was The Master played by Anthony Ainley, who would have been 84 today. Ainley is the longest-serving Master to date (1981-1989) and was only the second actor since Roger Delgado to be a recurring Master. He made his debut in The Keeper of Traken, where Geoffrey Beevers’ Master takes over the body of Trakenite scientist Tremas (also played by Ainley).
This devious new Master was ultimately responsible for The Fourth Doctor’s regeneration, and he continued to cause havoc for all of the succeeding classic Doctors up until the final confrontation in Survival. In fact, Ainley’s Master has squared off against all of the classic Doctors, encountering the First, Second, and Third Doctors in 1983’s The Five Doctors special. He would later reprise his role for the 1997 Destiny of the Doctors computer game. Sadly, Ainley passed away in 2004 at the age of 71.