Some quotes from Sylvester McCoy during the filming of the 1996 TV movie. He talks about handing over, about the script changes that occurred, about conventions and about how the BBC treated ‘Doctor Who’ in the late 1980’s.
“When the new ‘Doctor Who’ came up, last year, 1995, and they asked if I’d do the hand-over, I thought ‘Yes, I would’, because I’d always agreed from the very beginning that that’s what I’d do. And coming over here, I love travelling, coming to America… originally I thought it was going to be made here, it’s now Canada. I was looking forward to it all. But I didn’t expect much, I thought it’d just be a quick handover, under the titles, and it was, but then, things take time, the script arrived, I said I’d do it, and they got very excited about the fact that I was going to do it. And they rethought the opening a bit, and the upped what I was doing, and I saw that and got very pleased, ‘Oh, it’s a nice little chunk to re-establish myself before I say bye’. Just before I left, they send another rewrite, and it was now back to where it was before. I felt slightly disappointed, because if they’d left it as it was originally, just a tiny little bit, I wouldn’t have been too upset. I’m not upset now, but it’s the games they play.
“I wonder how Paul McGann is going to be able to deal with the world of ‘Doctor Who’, I mean he’s quite a private person, really, and the thing when I first took over, I was amazed by it all, because I didn’t realise… I got the job on the Monday, and on the Thursday I was flown from London to Atlanta and I was just amazed by the commitment of the fans in American to the programme. I was asked all sorts of questions, one fan got up and said ‘Excuse me, Mr. McCoy, Doctor, when you were in your third persona, what were you thinking when you thinking when you opened the TARDIS door onto the planet Thal or whatever?’. I thought he was kidding, but then looking in his eyes I realised he wasn’t, he believed in this, he believed that the Doctor existed. So I had to answer that question and think ‘Who was I in the third persona?’, and of course it was dear old Jon Pertwee, so I did a Jon Pertwee impression and the rest of the audience laughed but this man didn’t. As an actor you do all sorts of things and you respect the profession but this man took it so seriously.
“Another thing Paul has to contend with is… ‘Doctor Who’ is a very unusual television role, where you’re immediately compared to someone else. Someone once said to me that it’s like Hamlet in the theatre, you’re the Hamlet of your generation, if you’re lucky enough to be chosen as such, and also you’re compared with all the other Hamlets. And it’s the same with ‘Doctor Who’. And as it’s my final days, it makes you reflect on the opening days, and in a way I felt unjustly treated by some committed fans of the programme, who have since become friends, and it’s great that they’re over it all, but they were very quick to jump onto a bandwagon of condemning me even before they’d even seen one shot of what I was doing, even though I admit that when they did see me in the role, I probably confirmed some of their fears. But the thing with ‘Doctor Who’ is you have to be given time to develop it, or at least I had, and I think by the end of it I had developed something that was in the right vein, or the strong vein, of the universe ‘Doctor Who’ existed in. But that opening year was a bit of a pain, even though I’m quite thick-skinned.
“I was thinking about the justice of the way the BBC treated ‘Doctor Who’, more from ignorance than anything else. They would chop and change it, move it around. They used to do twenty-six episodes, that had a build-up effect, it had an effect of regularity, a regular place, and people would watch it and know it’s there. But when you move it about, they lost it. An audience is essentially very lazy, they don’t want to chase it around, only the dedicated fans do. And when they looked at my viewing figures, I was having to defend myself. One of the best seasons I did was only four million people watching it, but there was a reason. And that was (a) because they moved it around, (b) because they changed the amount of programmes, (c) because they put it up against ‘Coronation Street’, and in the last season ‘Coronation Street’ were bringing in a Friday programme and advertised themselves heavily, and they started their season of Friday programmes when we started our season, and the BBC responded by not putting any advertising out at all, really, in fact friends of mine, close friends, didn’t realise that ‘Doctor Who’ was on the telly. No-one knew it was on, and that’s the bit about it that really does rankle, that sense that it failed, that perhaps I was part of that. But I think I’m arrogant enough to know that I wasn’t, that third season was great, and I think if we’d gone to a fourth season it might have been really great. But we didn’t, and life is full of regrets and I’m delighted now to be back saying goodbye in this grand way in Vancouver, which is doubling for San Francisco!”