Doctor Who costumes: What should the doctor of Ncuti Gatwa wear?
And yet, this approach can fail when attention is drawn to it. It’s more noticeable in the 80s because for Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Tom Baker (in his last season) the costumes seem designed. In Season 12, there’s a reason why Tom Baker wears the same clothes in every story (each story immediately follows the previous one), but after that his costume changes from time to time. For the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors their costumes are a reminder that they are a character from a television series. Obviously they are, but usually you’re not supposed to think about them while watching.
The doctor’s clothes = the doctor’s personality
For the most part, each Doctor has a consistent look and style with occasional color and accessory changes. This often leaned towards the 19th and early 20th century in terms of styling influences, mixing Victorian and Edwardian looks for the first three Doctors. The Doctor’s clothes often reinforce his personality: the paternalistic handyman of the Doctor of Hartnell, the disheveled facade of Troughton, the glam rock commander of Pertwee. With Tom Baker, we moved to France (specifically a 19th-century Montmartre performer) giving his doctor a distinct visual identity that helped make him the show’s visual shorthand. Other stories had Victorian/Edwardian scientists battling monsters (The time machine is an obvious example), none resembled the paintings of Toulouse-Lautrec.
It’s not until the Fifth Doctor costume – inspired by a photo of Peter Davison playing cricket and another Edwardian look – that we have the Doctor in the same clothes everywhere (and not ones that quite match to the initial ‘Old Man in Young Man’s body’ concept for the Fifth Doctor). With the Sixth Doctor – despite the garish color scheme – the Doctor’s clothing is once again evocative of Victoriana. It is the deliberately contrasting colors that match the strong personality of this doctor.
The Seventh Doctor’s costume always returned to British history, but the 24-year-old show’s reference points had evolved with him, circa the 1920s and 30s. Originally intended to be a more child-friendly doctor, the first McCoy’s costume mixes awkward Bertie Wooster with an eccentric professor. Paul McGann’s costume is a “Wild Bill” Hickok costume for a party (Hickok was an American Wild West hero who told crazy stories about himself and was a mix of soldier, spy and showman). Combined with a wig to mimic the hair McGann had when he auditioned, the vaguely Byronic image connected the effervescent Eighth Doctor to romantic poets and their emphasis on strong emotions.
Moving From historical influences to contemporary influences
When Doctor Who returned in 2005 Christopher Eccleston’s 9and The Doctor was a clean break, in terms of image. He wore contemporary clothing devoid of eccentricities, matching the actor’s take on the role. With David Tennant, the inspiration was contemporary again: a mix of star chef Jamie Oliver and geek chic (a fashion trend that seems to be mostly about wearing thick-rimmed glasses). Set photos from the 60th anniversary shoot have leaked with Tennant wearing the same silhouette with slight modifications. Matt Smith continued the geek chic with his braces and boots while looking back to the past: a bow-tie tweed outfit that looked like a mix between Second Doctor and Indiana Jones workwear. Tennant and Smith, like most Doctors, had a few different outfits to match a specific style that changed from story to story.
Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor bridged the gap between Smith and Tennant, wearing outfits with a clear Jon Pertwee influence (actually trying on one of Pertwee’s velvet coats in his trailer), but occasionally walking around in cardigans and hoodies. This shifting between different outfits and mixing things up is enough to counter any possible questions about body odor and whether the TARDIS has a Febreze dispenser. Jodie Whittaker and designer Ray Holman were inspired by a late 80s magazine showing women in menswear, and like the 9and Doctor, his coat offered a distinctive silhouette while the t-shirts and sweaters changed.