Saturday, January 11, 2014

Doctor Who Saturday: The Style of the Doctor

Hello there and welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You. My name is Dave-El and I gotta say you look fantastic! Thanks for stopping by!

Today is Doctor Who Saturday when I turn my blog's attention to things Doctor Who

This week we saw a photo from Peter Capaldi's first day on the set of Doctor Who with co-star Jenna Coleman to start shooting for Series 8. 

As you can see, Peter is still in the Victorian era purple suit of Matt Smith's 11th Doctor so he must be readying up for some post-regeneration shenanigans.  (Which, hopefully, includes remembering how to fly the TARDIS.)

And I have a problem with this photo. I'm not sure how to say this so I'll just jump right in and say it.

Peter Capaldi looks good in the suit.

Well, he does.

Of course each Doctor charts their own path and rightly so. But still, could we make an exception? Just this once? I mean, it's a really sharp suit and deserves more than 1 year's worth of use. And who knows what Capaldi might actually wind up with? This suit works! Tweek it a bit as needed. I mean, the bow tie is gone (Sniff! Alas, poor bow tie!) so Peter wears a necktie. Maybe change up the color of the vest or something. But in some form or fashion, keep that suit!

Have I made it clear I like the suit?

When William Hartnell first took to Great Britain's TV screens as the first Doctor, his style of dress was out of kilter with the times. One wonders if he borrowed it from a shop mannequin back in the 1920's or earlier. His ensemble reflected well his age and temperament, a strong sense of "I don't care what you think."

Patrick Troughton's outfit did not vary wildly from Hartnell's but it seemed like it never quite fit right, giving the 2nd Doctor the rumpled look of a cosmic hobo.

Jon Pertwee's 3rd Doctor certainly had a flair for fashion, favoring velvet jackets and ruffled shirts. It was a style that epitomized late 1960's culture that had already passed by the time the 3rd Doctor fell out of the TARDIS in 1970. Even in the early 1970's, Pertwee's attire was a bit dated but he wore it very well. It takes a strong man to NOT look a fool while wearing velvet and ruffles.

It was with Tom Baker and the advent of the 4th Doctor that the Doctor's style takes a very marked turn off the beaten path. If the first three Doctors were behind the times, the 4th Doctor was off to the side of them. Oh there were strong Victorian influences in the 4th Doctor's look but it also looked modern and even a bit ahead of its time, all at the same time. 

But something begin to happen as the Doctor's clothes begin to morph into something less resembling an eccentric fashion choice and more a designed costume. In Tom Baker's last season, the browns and greys of the 4th Doctor's classic look gave way to burgundy with color coordinated coat, scarf, trousers, hat. It was a bit much for Tom Baker, especially when question marks were added to his shirt collar. It was not, all in all, a bad look but it did set a precedent for costumes over outfits. Outfits assembled from bits and pieces from backstage and thriftshops gave way to the stylized look of a proto-superhero.

If Tom Baker didn't like it, it was no matter because he was on his way out and John Nathan-Turner, Doctor Who's incoming new producer, was keen on the marketing possibilities associated with colorful and vibrant costumes. 

Peter Davison's 5th Doctor costume had the potential to be more garish than it was. Perhaps the dominant tan and white of the long coat and sweater balanced out the bright red highlights and the candy striped trousers. But nothing could prepare us for what happened next. 

Colin Baker once commented that the one good thing about the 6th Doctor's costume was while wearing it, he didn't have to look at it. Was the idea to come up with the most tasteless costume possible? Actually, yes, it was! And I suppose in that regard, this was a success. But the patch-work coat, pale blue kravat, yellow pint striped slacks, red socks fhwiua4yhc....sorry, went blind for a second there looking at this thing. Among the many other things working against Colin Baker, I wonder if the 6th Doctor might have had more of a fighting chance if he wasn't wearing the clown suit.

At first, Sylvester McCoy as the 7th Doctor didn't fair much better. In an effort to tame the excesses of the 6th Doctor's costume, the design for McCoy's ensemble centered on an extremely uninteresting tan coat. Too boring. But the excesses did not completely disappear as his sweater was adorning with millions and millions of question marks. But as the series progressed, the costume color became a bit darker and a bit more palatable as a result.

The excesses of trademarking question marks gave way to a return to Victorian era fashion with the 8th Doctor's American Cowboy -  European Buccaneer get up. Coupled with the long hair (a wig that Paul McGann did NOT care for), the 8th Doctor cut a dashing, almost romantic figure. It would have been great to see that costume get a bit more play. 

Colin Baker once plaintively asked, "Why does the Doctor even need a costume? Why can't he just wear clothes?" When the series was revived, that's what we got with a 9th Doctor in the most un-Doctor like attire ever: head to toe black. Christopher Eccelston with his buzzcut hair and black leather coat cut quite a figure distinct from all other Doctors. 

With the 10th Doctor, David Tennant's outfit was very much off the rack: striped suit, dress shirt, black neck tie and a long overcoat. It was the epitome of geek-chic and it was a masterfully defined image without being over the top. 

With Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor first adopted the look of a tenured professor at a liberal arts college. It was a look that screamed "Nerd!" and the Doctor just smiling and reassuring us that "Bow ties are cool." Again, a very unique look that didn't require the Doctor to look like he was cosplaying as a Batman villain. 

(And this stresses the importance of taking time with this very important decision. The first concepts for Matt's look centered on a kind of pirate motif. Matt wisely decided this wasn't a look he could see himself in. By contrast, since John Nathan-Turner was determined to launch at the 6th Doctor at the end of a season instead of the beginning, there was less prep time for costuming the 6th Doctor's look. Lesson learned, I hope.)  

As of The Snowmen, the 11th Doctor changed his look into something almost veers a little closer to costume land. A Victorian suit of a purple hue is not something that I can see being easily assembled off a rack somewhere. Still, it was a very distinctive look that did not make the 11th Doctor look out of place wherever in space or time he wound up. 

Yes, I liked that outfit. 

No, I imagine Peter Capaldi will not get to keep it. But I think whatever clothes will adorn the 12th Doctor's newly regenerated frame, I think I'll be okay with it. 

As long as it doesn't include a patchwork coat and dayglo yellow slacks.

Be good to one another.  


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