When Doctor Who returned to the air after the firing of Sixth Doctor Colin Baker, it was with Sylvester McCoy at the helm. Initially with the Sixth Doctor’s last companion, Mel (Bonnie Langford), and later with the much more popular companion Ace (Sophie Aldred), McCoy helped bring the series back from its short death.
That wasn’t enough to save the show, however. While the Seventh Doctor and Ace are both very fondly remembered, most of the stories in the McCoy era sucked and sucked hard. “The Happiness Patrol”, “Time and the Rani”, and “Paradise Towers” are remembered as some of the worst stories ever aired during the original series run.
But there were some diamonds in the rough, and surprisingly, I’ve found five that were surprisingly good. Given that there were a total of only twelve McCoy stories, that’s actually a much better ratio than one might expect. Let’s have a look at those five!
5. Dragonfire (Story 147, 1987)
Not so fondly remembered as “the one where the Doctor climbs off the edge of a cliff and hangs there for no obvious reason”, this story really has many things to recommend it. First, it’s the last story with Mel. Now I don’t really hate the character, and I feel that she redeemed herself quite a bit in the audio stories, but she was created to travel with the Sixth Doctor, not the Seventh. The two just do not pair well together, and saying goodbye to her was a fine thing.
This story is also great because, yay, it introduced Ace! Sure, she was a bit too much of the mid-1980s rebellious teen, but she marked a real turn for the series, bringing the Seventh Doctor (who is in an unusually philosophical mood in this story), into a time of great mystery and she was certainly a marked departure from the screaming women that the show had been so in love with before. Plus, hey, you gotta love any story with Sabalom Glitz and a man melting Raiders-style, and it is so very, very great seeing Ace wincing as Mel screams right next to her.