Grading Doctor Who Costumes

The Doctor is many things: the Oncoming Storm, the Last of the Time Lords, the Valeyard, etc. But one he or she has not received enough credit for is Fashion Icon. Especially in recent years in seems Doctor Who has served as an inspiration for both cosplayers and those looking for a unique sense of style. I remember early in Matt Smith’s tenure there was a global run on tweed. Even now in the promotional images it is clear that Ncuti Gatwa’s take on the Doctor will have style for days. So let us grade the costumes worn by the Doctor over the past sixty years.

The First Doctor: Six decades ago Doctor Who was pitched to the BBC as something that could be educational….maybe. So it was fitting that William Hartnell’s attire was something scholarly that invoked someone academic holding knowledge beyond our understanding. With a black coat and off-white waistcoat he comes across the the grand old wiseman of the universe. As the first, he established the idea of the Doctor dressing in a way that stands out due to his alien nature but still looks like something a normal person would wear. Grade: A

The Second Doctor: Even this early in the show it was clear, bow ties are cool. While Patrick Troughton kept the unique trousers of his predecessor, he wore them baggier as the overall style he went with was more of an eccentric alien hobo. Troughton marked a hipper Time Lord, and while he tried to look distinguished with his sport coat and bow tie, the manner in which he wore them along with his Beatles-inspired haircut added an element of coolness. Grade: B+

The Third Doctor: It was the seventies and Doctor Who wanted you to know it. In working for UNIT, Jon Pertwee’s Doctor seemingly took his fashion inspiration from rockstars of the era like Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, and Jimmy Page. This is reflected in his frilly white shirt and velvet smoking jacket combined with a cape he often wore. With the show filming in color now, his glam style truly popped. Grade: A

The Fourth Doctor: Arguably the most iconic Doctor of the classic era, the image of a man with a Bohemian-influenced brown coat and massive scarf is instantly identifiable with the Time Lord. The strange nature of an alien mucking about in time and space while having fun and munching on Jelly Babies comes through loud and clear here. This look has been cemented in pop culture to this day as the perfect costume for the Doctor and there is a good reason for it. Grade: A+

The Fifth Doctor: The Doctor plays cricket apparently, or so costume designers apparently thought. After the wildly popular Tom Baker left the role with his iconic look, Peter Davidson had big shoes to fill as the Fifth Doctor. Being the youngest actor to play the role, one can see the logic in dressing the doctor in something athletic in nature with a stalk of celery as a nice eccentric accessory to the look. Grade: B-

The Sixth Doctor: Well….this is terrible…. When Colin Baker took on the role of the Doctor he envisioned something dark and subtle which would be fitting for someone who traveled around time and space mucking around. Sadly, the powers that be decided to go in the complete opposite direction. An obnoxious rainbow colored monstrosity, was meant to convey his alien-ness but instead just made him look like a mental patient. As some small consolation some of the comic and Big Finish audio adventures has allowed the Sixth Doctor to wear a royal blue coat but sadly that is not what we got onscreen. Grade: F

The Seventh Doctor: After the garishness of his predecessor, the Seventh Doctor wore a smarter and more mature garb. It was also a bit more subdued to he could operate more inconspicuously as his Doctor often did. As Sylvester McCoy brought a darker edge to the character it was a clever move on the wardrobe designer’s move to have his coat take on a darker shade as his tenure continued. As far as accessory pieces go an umbrella is an unconventional move, but somehow makes sense with the ensemble. Grade: B

The Eighth Doctor: It had been years since Doctor Who had been on our screens, but now he was back in a TV movie with Paul McGann tasked with introducing the iconic Time Lord to a new generation. With his charming, romantic take on the character, the Victorian gentleman garb he decides on while going through a hospital locker room is quite fitting. The formal yet vintage look proved to be the perfect look for a time traveler in the 90s. Grade: A

The Ninth Doctor: After the false start of the TV movie, Doctor Who truly returned in top form in 2005 with Christopher Eccelston as the Doctor. He had no scarf, no cricket gear, and no umbrella, as the last survivor of the Time War, he opted for a basic in black style with a weathered leather coat. Given how much time had passed since the series was last on the air, a more subtle look was definitely right as it did not alienate laypeople afraid of science fiction but was also logically something the Dcotr would wear appeasing longtime fans. Grade: A-

The Tenth Doctor: The term “geek chic” was coined for this look that sums it up perfectly for the style of this era’s most popular Doctor. A slim fitting pinstripe suit combined with a long brown coat is just odd enough to be Doctor-ish but still looks like something cool and hip with a certain trendy geekiness. Part of its appeal was hitting at just the right time as Converse Chuck Taylors were in a bit of a resurgence from their intended athletic purposes to being footwear for the punk rock, counterculture ilk which fits this version of the character. It helped that David Tennant himself has a natural charisma and coolness to make this look that much more slick. Grade: A+

The Eleventh Doctor: Matt Smith has said when his costume was originally pitched it resembled something pirate-esque. He made the decision that this was the kind of attire someone else would pick out for the character, not one the character would pick out for himself. The end result assured everyone that bow ties were cool. The costume he picked out took inspiration from Troughton’s attempted scholar look but with a modern spin. During the Eleventh Doctor’s run we see the Doctor change costume drastically after losing his friends, the Ponds and gaining a new companion in Clara. It was a sharp Victorian-inspired take on his tweed and bow tie. Grade: A-

The Twelfth Doctor: In contrast to his predecessor, Peter Capaldi opted for a more subdued and minimalist look for his Doctor (“100 Pure Rebel Time Lord” as it was dubbed). A slick but no frills navy coat with red lining over a waist coat and pressed white shirt seemed to fit his Doctor. Over time, at the suggestion of Clara he began to incorporate a red velvet coat as it looked more “Doctor-y”. Despite being a grumpy old man, the Twelfth Doctor seemed to have the coolest alternate costumes of any Doctors, bringing a cool rockstar flair to the look. So in this grade Peter Capaldi gets bonus points for said cool variant costume of a post-punk t-shirt with hoodie, sunglasses, and plaid trousers. Grade: B+

The Thirteenth Doctor: As the first woman to take on the iconic role of the Doctor, Jodie Whittaker had a lot riding on her making history. The overall outfit was inspired by a photoshoot of women putting there own spin on classic masculine blue collar work clothes that seemed to fit perfectly. It is natural that in paving a new path in Doctor Who, Whittaker would pay tribute to the past as well. This includes nods to pieces reminiscent to previous Doctors, like horizontal stripes on her shirt resembling the pattern of the Fourth Doctor’s iconic scarf. In a particularly nice touch, costume designer Ray Holman, added the violet shade worn by the Suffragettes to the interior of the Doctor’s new overcoat. . Grade: B+

The Fourteenth Doctor: We currently have a first in the show’s history. During the fiftieth anniversary special it was mentioned that the Doctor would inevitably revisit some of “the old favorites” during his regeneration cycle. And now it has come to pass as David Tennant is the Doctor once again. Only now David Tennant is older and wiser and his costume has evolved to match that. It is similar enough to the Tenth Doctor’s suit but smarter and more updated. Pinstripes on a suit has been replaced by tartan pattern on a waistcoat. The brown coat is now a more subdued navy, but the Chucks remain, because why mess with success. Getting only a glimpse of this look in “Power of the Doctor” it gives us something new and stylish to look forward to in the 60th. Grade: A