As the 50th anniversary of the Dr Who approaches and we are treated to a nostalgic digest of Doctors past, it’s only natural that we would have an eye on the costume legacy of the good Doctors.
It all began in 1963 with the first Dr Who, William Hartnell, a rather dour and contradictory character dressed like a wealthy Victorian industrialist.
Patrick Troughton then took on the roll and developed a sort of Marx Brothers aesthetic that earned him the nickname ‘ The Cosmic Hobo.’
Jon Pertwee stayed with the eccentric theme but took it in a different direction: his Dr Who was a foppish, Oscar Wilde dandy.
When Doctor Who regenerated as Tom Baker the eccentric credentials were firmly established and you can only imagine how much fun the wardrobe department had with TB’s togs. His numerous flamboyant fedoras were crafted bespoke by famed hatters Herbert Johnson and it is a fact, a genuine tidbit of Dr Who trivia that TB’s scarf grew longer and longer throughout his tenure as Doctor.
By the time he died saving the Universe from the Master his scarf was twice as long as the original. In fact it was two older versions stitched together and patched with a waistcoat worn in the Terror of Zygon. Bonhams sold this iconic bit of Dr Who clobber at auction in 2005 for £7,800.
It all began to go a little ‘off message’ with Peter Davison dressed as an Edwardian cricketer, complete with cricket ball prop in his trouser pocket
And then in Colin Baker the costume department took it all a whimsy too far. The poor man had no hope of establishing himself as a credible Time Lord; it was in short a calamity of kitsch.
By comparison the seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy was a restful symphony in beige and brown. Like the fifth Doctor he did sport a Panama and like the fourth, a scarf, but there was definitely a sense that the Costume department were trying to re-establish trust and the whimsy was restricted to question mark canes and tank tops.
Paul McGann appeared as Dr Who only once in the eponymous TV movie of 1996. Not only was the film something of a wasted opportunity, failing to spark a return of the series but so was the costume. Too much of the Oscar Wilde lookey-likey, rent-a-Dickensian about it with nothing of the authentic individualism befitting a Time Lord.
When Dr Who did eventually make his return in 2005 it was something of a shock to see the Christopher Eccleston looking like a generic TV cop. But then Eccelston is a rather intense, brooding actor and you get the feeling that any sort of ‘fancy’ would not have gone down well. Either that or the production team was terrified of what at that point was regarded as a rather mixed legacy.
It seems that when the Doctor regenerated for the tenth time the makers were keen to stick to their less eccentric formula but David Tennant argued to be allowed to wear his own aged and rather scruffy Converse hi-tops. In the end he won and with the branding neutered he wore them to critical acclaim with his pinstripe suits and perpetually startled hair.
And so to present day. The Eleventh Doctor: the tweedy boffin in a bow tie. Of course we’re going to love Matt Smith in all his lovely British tailoring, he and the costume bods have done a wonderful job of rehabilitating the eccentricity of the classic Doctors.
It only remains to be seen what Peter Capaldi will do with the roll? A few weeks back Steven Moffat put out a press release saying he was staying well out of it. Entrusting the ‘shopping’ to Capaldi and a team stylist.
One can only wonder.
Maybe he’ll regenerate as a velvet jacket Pertwee throwback, he’s definitely got a flamboyant streak as wide as the Clyde. Or perhaps he’ll be the first Doctor with convincing facial hair? And we can even see him adopting a leather look, not in an Eccleston way but more of a cosmic biker/Time Lord physician. No, really….
The Dr Who 50th Anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor, will air in cinemas and on TV globally on 23 November 2013.
Peter Capaldi will make his debut as Dr Who in the Christmas Special when Matt Smith regenerates.
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