“Starstrider” – McCoy Before “Doctor Who”

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In September of 1987, Sylvester McCoy became the seventh actor to canonically play the character of Doctor Who, but a few years before that he was in another British sci-fi show so obscure that we could not even find pictures or videos of it on the internet. The show ran for two season between 1984 and 1985, and was titled Starstrider.

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Seriously, there are no pictures from “Starstrider” on the internet.

Starstrider was a children’s quiz show that was produced by Granada Television and aired on ITV. The host was Starstrider, a space being from the planet Ulphrates III on the search for intelligence. In 1984 for the first season Starstrider was played by Roger Sloman whom some might remember as Murray in the original Max Headroom (1985) TV movie. The following year Starstrider was played by Jim Carter whom most will recognize as Charles Carson from the show Downton Abbey, even though Carter has been in various other more geeky films such as The Golden Compass and Dinotopia.

Jim Carter

The faithful servant Charles Carson was once a Master of the Universe.

Sylvester McCoy co-hosted both series, playing Starstrider’s hapless assistant Wart. Both the host and co-host would greet the teams each week with the words, “Hello and welcome” and similarly they would end the show saying, “Goodbye and farewell.” Whereas Starstrider was a solemn and stern character, Wart provided more of the comic relief and drew upon McCoy’s background in clown work. Short in stature already, McCoy’s Wart would bow and scrape before his master Starstrider and seem even smaller despite limbs flailing in all directions most of the time.

Each week three teams of four youngsters from schools around the country played over five rounds in a science fiction environment. Rounds one and two were quiz question based with fingers to the buzzer, but round three had a member of each team riding on a mechanic rodeo bull,  redressed as the alien beast known as the Grunderhunter, while answering quiz questions. Round four was a round called the ‘Light Maze’ in which a team member was blindfolded and was guided through the maze by the other team members. The maze had red squares and white squares on the floor and if they stepped on a white square they scored 10 points for their team but if they stepped on a red square they lost 10 points. Round five was back to fingers on the buzzer for quick fire quiz questions.

There were not any prizes as such on the show but the teams did take home a Starstrider goody bag, including a pin badge, a sweatshirt and a mug. British kids in the 1980’s were easily appeased.


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