The original television series Doctor Who began in 1963, the day after President John F. Kennedy died. It was intended to be a program that children and parents could watch together, where adventures through time and space would give children education in basic science, Earth history, and morality. Initially a mysterious figure, the star of the show became the character known only as the Doctor.
Eventually, we did learn some things. The Doctor came from a society of people known as Time Lords on the planet Gallifrey, a world lit by twin suns in the constellation of Kasterborous. Gallifreyans were natural “time sensitives” due to their proximity to a gap in the “space/time vortex” and members of the noble class were trained to become Lords and Ladies of Time.
Some time after having at least one grandchild, he decided he could no longer put up with the rigid rules of his planet - that Time Lords were meant only to observe the “lesser races” of the universe and to never interfere. He stole a broken down timeship (a “TARDIS”) from a repair shop and hotwired it. He then began his true life in full, adventuring from one end of the universe to another, sometimes even journeying into other universes and dimensions. As a renegade, he was forced to give up his rights, birthright and even, apparently, his birth name. Thus, even his own people, when they encountered him again later, would never use his true name. He was simply “the Doctor” now.
One of the ideas of the show is that Time Lords have the ability to regenerate their entire body as a means of cheating death (provided you haven’t used up all your regenerations, the death isn’t instantaneous and/or there isn’t too much damage to the body). Though his memories and the core of his personality remain the same, the Doctor has worn different bodies with different personality quirks and, as a result, has altered his fashion choices quite often. So let’s take a look back at the first four Doctors.
FIRST DOCTOR – GRANDFATHER PARADOX (1963-1966)
“Back when I first started at the very beginning, I was always trying to be old and grumpy and important. Like you do when you’re young.” – Tenth Doctor, from the Doctor Who charity episode “Time Crash”
The First Doctor was played by William Hartnell. This man, who was said to be from “another world, another time” was a contradiction. He was an elderly man traveling with his granddaughter Susan, yet he often acted childish and immature. It sometimes seemed that she was taking care of him rather than vice versa. He appeared at times to be powerful and gifted with incredible knowledge, yet it was clear that he has absolutely no control over his time ship (the “year-o-meter” broke, so he couldn’t determine a time destination even if he’d wanted to). And though he claimed to be an exile, it was also clear that he was some kind of fugitive, as he occasionally made remarks hinting that part of his wanderlust was a fear of being discovered if he stayed in one place for too long.Initially, the character of the Doctor was to be somewhat sinister and cold, someone who could just as easily be a danger to his comrades as a friend. This makes sense considering what we later learned about Time Lords and how they were often dismissive of “lesser races.” But William Hartnell made the suggestion that this was only a show the Doctor put on and that, once he learned to let his guard down, he would be a much more amiable (albeit still grumpy) character. Hartnell said he wanted the Doctor to be a “cosmic lama of the stars,” with a personality that was a mix of Father Christmas and the Wizard of Oz. Producer Verity Lambert agreed and so, by the third adventure, this old, gruff man began to develop into the playful and arrogant hero we know and love today.
“As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves.” – First Doctor, from “The Edge of Destruction”
The First Doctor’s black coat and tie, in conjunction with his slicked back hair and fierce look, definitely makes him seem like a stern figure. You could easily picture him lecturing a room full of students. On rare occasion, you’d see him toss on a cape and maybe even a black cap, giving him the impression of a Dickensian character, familiar to us yet clearly out of place.But the entire outfit isn’t serious. Notice the trousers. The pattern makes them playful and casual, clashing with the feeling given by the rest of the outfit. Actor Tom Baker, who played the fourth incarnation of the Doctor, described it as “anti-fashion” but since we learned from the start that the Doctor is from another world, we can interpret this instead as a sign that he might operates by a different/alien fashion sense. The trousers could almost be pajamas and their look gives off a spark of playfulness, which makes sense since the Doctor, in all his incarnations, has a Puckish quality to his persona.
“Your ideas are too narrow, too crippled. I am a citizen of the universe. And a gentleman to boot!” - First Doctor, from “The Daleks’ Master Plan”
SECOND DOCTOR – COSMIC HOBO (1966-1969)
“Life depends on change and renewal. . . I’ve been renewed!” – Second Doctor, from “The Power of the Daleks”
Patrick Troughton was the first actor who had to convince audiences that it was possible to have a new, different Doctor and yet accept him as the same character. In fact, Troughton initially believed that TV audiences would not accept the idea of the Doctor changing his form and some of his personality quirks (the process would not be called “regeneration” until about eight years later). It took three phone calls to convince him to come on board.
Whereas Hartnell was a gruff grandfather who was really a big softy when you got to know him, Troughton’s Doctor was a lovable uncle. He was an intelligent, sensitive man who often played the cowardly fool, either to make his friend laugh or to trick enemies into underestimating him. The Second Doctor refused to admit he couldn’t control his ship, yet embraced the fact that he was basically a homeless wanderer. With wrinkled shirts, a bow tie that was often crooked, and trousers that clashed with his coat, this Doctor was an incarnation that Troughton jokingly described as a “cosmic hobo” or “space pixie.” His outfits definitely said “laid-back clown” rather than “authority figure,” fitting nicely with his personality.“I am not a student of human nature. I am a professor of a far wider academy of which human nature is merely a part.” – Second Doctor, from “The Evil of the Daleks”
To enhance the ridiculousness of his look, Troughton once wore a stovepipe hat and on other occasions sported a large fur coat (no doubt fake fur, considering the Doctor’s loving attitude towards animals).
The Second Doctor’s adventures were in black and white, but he later appeared in color when he teamed up with some of his other incarnations. When he met his Sixth incarnation, he wore simple, drab colors, but in “The Three Doctors,” where he teamed up with the First and Third Doctors, he wore a bright blue shirt that definitely underlined his clownish aspect.And for you trivia fans out there, it was the Second Doctor who first used the famous sonic screwdriver and who began the habit of using the alias “John Smith,” which (coincidentally or not) was also the name of his granddaughter Susan’s favorite musical artist. He also met and befriended a Col. Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, who then realized just how much Earth was now a target to alien forces since it was drawing attention to itself with radio/TV transmissions and satellites. When the Second Doctor met Alistair again, the man had been promoted to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and was now head of the UK branch of an alien-fighting organization he had helped found: the United Nations Intelligence Task Force (or U.N.I.T.).
Patrick Troughton has become the favorite Doctor Who actor for a few of the later folks who played the Doctor, including Tom Baker and Matt Smith.
“Our lives are different to anybody else’s. That’s the exciting thing, that nobody in the universe can do what we’re doing.” - Second Doctor, from “Tomb of the Cybermen”
THIRD DOCTOR – THE DANDY EXILE (1970-1974)
“If I could leave I would, if only to get away from people like you and your petty obsessions!” – Third Doctor, “The Claws of Axos”
Jon Pertwee played the Third Doctor. At this time, the program was going under some changes. To save on budget, it was decided to focus on Earthbound stories for a while. In the next season premiere, the Doctor crash landed on Earth, his TARDIS broken and his knowledge of time travel science blocked out by the Time Lords. In order to have the resources required to perhaps shot-wire his time ship, the Doctor agreed to be the scientific advisor of U.N.I.T., teaming up once again with Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (though the Brig would occasionally insist that the Doctor was actually his employee).
Since the Brigadier wanted his superiors to think that he was employing a human scientist rather than an alien, he asked for the Doctor to give him a real name to put in the paperwork. The Doctor officially became “Dr. John Smith” of U.N.I.T. (though, eventually, many people in the organization did indeed learn of the man’s alien nature, since the Doctor himself rarely bothered to keep quiet about it).Trapped in one time and place and forced to work with the military, this Doctor quickly developed into a stern, sarcastic, short-tempered person. He took life much more seriously than his previous incarnation, spending every spare moment he had in his lab as he tried to fix his TARDIS. Because he was more actively engaged in military situations and had to fight normal humans as often as aliens who could be disabled by sonic attacks, the Third Doctor became far more prone to physical confrontation. In several adventures, he would be cornered by human enemies, only to respond with a display of alien martial arts, which he claimed was a Venusian equivalent of karate or aikido.
“Courage isn’t just a matter of not being afraid, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.” – Third Doctor, from “Planet of the Daleks”
With the legal authority of U.N.I.T. behind him and his constant production of high-tech gadgets, this Doctor was a James Bond-esque take on the character. Like the First Doctor, this third incarnation was a little bit in love with himself and felt the need to remind others of his importance and ability. Hence, every one of his outfits were attention grabbing and with an old-fashioned sense of sophistication. At the same time, the outfits were often a bit flamboyant, reminding us that the Doctor was still a bit of a nut at heart.
After getting more used to his Earthbound allies and developing a deeper friendship with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, the Doctor began to lighten up. Then, after teaming up with his previous two incarnations to save Gallifrey, he was rewarded with technology that could repair his TARDIS and restored memories of time travel science. He had his freedom again (so long as he occasionally did a mission for the Time Lords black ops organization, the Celestial Intervention Agency). Following this, the Third Doctor became less sarcastic and more jolly. He even stuck around with U.N.I.T. a while longer still, perhaps because he’d grown to truly enjoy the people there.This Dandy Doctor, as fans often called him, didn’t have one set type of outfit, but went through many that all seemed to have the same frilly shirts or the same air of pompousness. It certainly made him a very memorable man to come across. Jon Pertwee played this incarnation for five years, which was the longest Doctor run ever up to that point. “A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting!” – Third Doctor, from “The Time Warrior” FOURTH DOCTOR – ALL TEETH AND CURLS
“There’s no point in growing up if you can’t be childish sometimes!” – Fourth Doctor, from “Robot”
During the 26th season run of the Classic Doctor Who series, Tom Baker may have proven himself the most famous, playing the role for seven years on-screen. Having lived in a monastery and then operated in the military before deciding to be an actor, Tom Baker brought a new perspective to the role and very much wanted to emphasize that the Doctor was an alien first and foremost, with reactions and idiosyncrasies that reminded us he was not a creature born or raised on Earth. This was helped by the fact that Tom Baker himself was notoriously weird and a little ridiculous at times. According to writers on Doctor Who, if you sometimes said "Good morning," to Tom Baker, the actor would immediately ask, "Is it?" He would examine the sky and his surroundings and declare, "Yes! It's a wonderful morning!" Then he'd grin broadly as he went on his way.
Perhaps because his third incarnation had been exiled to one place and time for so long, the Fourth Doctor exhibited extreme wanderlust, determined to never stay in one place for too long. When the Third Doctor had been poisoned with radiation, he should have died, so great was the damage, and it was only thanks to another Time Lord coming to his aid that he was able to regenerate at all. Even when the regeneration was assured, the other Time Lord stated that (perhaps because of just how much damage the radiation had done) the Doctor's fourth incarnation would be "somewhat erratic." That's usually true during the first hours after regeneration anyway, but the Fourth Doctor maintained displays of being bizarrely scatterbrained, constantly changing the subject during conversations, sometimes interrupting himself with stray thoughts he would voice aloud. He also had a strange habit of offering the candy known as jelly babies to nearly everyone he encountered, sometimes at the most inappropriate moments.
“You and I are scientists, professor. We purchase the right to experiment at the cost of total responsibility.” – Fourth Doctor, from “Planet of Evil”
Tom Baker saw the Doctor as a bohemian scientist/pilgrim, one who accomplished who didn't often build gadgets or make elaborate plans but preferred to rely on what was handy and leave himself lots of opportunity for improvisation. His whole ensemble suited his eccentric, absent-minded professor mentality and brought back the Second Doctor's idea of being a homeless traveler. If Willy Wonka had been a Time Lord, he would’ve been a lot like the Fourth Doctor.
One link between most of the outfits the Fourth Doctor wore was that he often added a multi-colored scarf that varied in length from about 10 to 20 feet. He claimed that at least the first of these scarves had been knitted for him by Madame Nostradamus.”You’re a classic example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain.” – Fourth Doctor, from ”The Robots of Death”
Behind the scenes, the original scarf used on the show came about because Tom Baker and the producers decided that his Doctor would wear an eccentric colored scarf. The show hired a knitter named Begonia Pope, providing her with lots of yarn to choose from since the producers were not sure how much would actually be needed. After she was left with the task, Begonia realized she had not asked how long the scarf was supposed to be and was too embarrassed to ask later. So she used ALL the material that had been left for her. Upon seeing the finished product, Tom Baker loved the ridiculous length of the scarf so much that he made it the trademark of his incarnation, calling for a whole set of similar products.
The fact that the Fourth Doctor often dressed in several pieces meant that he could fit into a variety of circumstances. And like his previous three incarnations, he would sometimes wear a special outfit for a specific adventure, such as when he donned Holmes-like garb in the TV story “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” (which was also the first adventure to introduce the Time Agency, of which Jack Harkness was a member). For a while he wore a vest and old-fashioned tie, then later simply a white shirt with the collar unbuttoned. He went from wearing sport coats to wearing long coats and trench coats. His footwear went from shoes to good traveling boots. Whatever garment he wore, there was still no mistaking the Fourth Doctor with enormous eyes, trickster grin, and Bob Dylan-esque hair (seriously, that hair is amazing).Interestingly, it was during Tom Baker's tenure that we finally got to really see Gallifreyan fashion. During a Second Doctor adventure "The War Games," we saw a few Time Lords dressed in simple robes as they held court. In the Fourth Doctor TV story "The Deadly Assassin," the hero returned to his home planet Gallifrey and wound up sporting the orange colored robes of his native clan, the Prydonians (known for their cunning and manipulation). Other Time Lord clans wore similar official robes and collar, though of different colors. Some Prydonians were seen wearing crimson, though why this was so wasn't explained. All the collars were decorated on each side by the Seal of Rassilon (which was also considered the general seal of the Time Lords, since Rassilon was the one who brought them time travel and TARDISes). These outfits and similar ones have been seen for brief times in the new Doctor Who series.
During Tom Baker’s final season as the Doctor, John Nathan-Turner took over as the main power behind the program and started making some changes. One thing he did was to give the Doctor a new uniform look rather than just a dress sense. This season began what Whovians often refer to as the "costume era" of Doctor Who, which lasted throughout the 1980s and the next three Doctors. John Nathan-Turner put Tom Baker in a crimson over coat, crimson trousers, crimson hat, and a new scarf that was various shades of red. He also added question marks to the shirt collar, to give the Doctor a mysterious symbol similar to the icons and monograms of various superheroes.Tom Baker disliked this style very much, feeling it was too much of a costume rather than a direct character wardrobe choice. He felt that it seemed more like a parody of his Doctor's outfit rather than something his incarnation would actually wear. Along with this, he did not agree with John Nathan-Turner's new insistence that Doctor Who focus on more serious, straightforward science fiction stories and not be as funny or have silly moments purely to entertain. Tom Baker had rather enjoyed the humorous moments of the show and the occasional self-aware dialogue.
“The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.” – Fourth Doctor, from “The Face of Evil”
That wraps it up for now. Join us again soon and we'll look at the next four incarnations of the Doctor. Until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off.
[Alan "Sizzler" Kistler is an author and actor living in New York City. His books include The Unofficial Batman Trivia Challenge and The Unofficial Spider-Man Trivia Challenge. He has been recognized as a comic book historian by publishers and news media outlets. He has spoken on Star Trek, Doctor Who, women in TV/film, vampire fiction, and the evolution of superheroes at various conventions and the Paley Center. He believes Isaac Asimov should be required reading in schools. Archives of his work can be found at: http://AlanKistler.com. His Twitter handle is: @SizzlerKistler]More Agent of S.T.Y.L.E.'s:
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