The original series of Doctor Who lasted 26 seasons, from 1963 to 1989. Thanks to his ability to regenerate his body when he’s close to death (as long as it’s not damaged too greatly and death isn’t instantaneous), the Doctor displayed 7 different incarnations over those many adventures. With the exception of a TV movie in 1996 that introduced the 8th Doctor, the TV show did not return until 16 years later in 2005 when we met the Doctor’s new 9th incarnation.
The first four incarnations had a strange dress style, a mixture of Edwardian and Victorian touches with a flair for the ridiculous. The 5th, 6th and 7th Doctors comprised what later came to be known as the “costume era”, wearing strangely stylized outfits decorated by question marks. The 8th went back to a more classic, slightly steampunk look before later (as we recently discovered) adopting a leather, Naval jacket.
The new series Doctors have gone for more modern looks but have each maintained a style that has made them stand out in many environments. So let’s take a look, shall we?
9TH DOCTOR – THE WAR SURVIVOR
“Do you wanna come with me? ‘Cause if you do, then I should warn you, you’re gonna see all sorts of things. Ghosts from the past. Aliens from the future. The day the Earth died in a ball of flame. It won’t be quiet, it won’t be safe, and it won’t be calm. But I’ll tell you what it will be… The trip of a lifetime!” – The 9th Doctor, from BBC trailers
The Doctor regenerated into his 9th incarnation in the aftermath of the Last Great Time War. This new version of the Time Lord, played by Christopher Eccelston, was born out of violence, pain and survivor’s guilt. In his previous eight lives, he had been a renegade Time Lord. Then the war happened and he was forced to go from roguish adventurer to being a soldier. Now he was the last of his kind, piloting the last TARDIS in the universe, his homeworld gone.
This was a Doctor who had to learn how to operate in a universe where he couldn’t rely on the Time Lords to look after paradoxes and where he couldn’t call on them for help if things got beyond his control. He was on his own and so he was more a man of action rather than the ancient scientist exploring for its own sake. Before he even had time to look at a mirror and see what his 9th face looked like, this hero was off and running, ready to bomb an entire building to slow down an invasion of plastic Auton warriors.
The 9th Doctor could be harsh, offering no aid to the a future-born human being who had been willing to commit mass murder for the sake of money. He was edgy, prone to mood swings, and didn’t deal with anything he considered as a waste of his time. He was also plagued by the fear that the Last Great Time War had turned him into a simple killer and he took any setbacks or defeats very personally. He would joke around and act easily distracted, but when he saw that danger was about, humor largely went out the window. When he saw a threat, this Doctor became focused, snarky and short-tempered.
“You think it’ll last forever: people and cars and concrete. But it won’t. One day it’s all gone. Even the sky…” – The 9th Doctor, from “The End of the World”
His outfit definitely fits this attitude. A leather jacket, long-sleeved shirts of various solid colors, short-cut hair, and simple trousers. It’s simple, pragmatic, no-nonsense. It allows the Doctor to blend in with the crowd and the 9th Doctor definitely preferred this more than some of his previous incarnations. What’s more, this Doctor, despite being a man of action, was not one who necessarily needed to save the day all by himself. In several adventures, he was content to be an enabler who guided others to become heroes in their own right.
But the Doctor is a paradox in all his incarnations and this one is no exception. The 9th incarnation’s wardrobe makes him stand out in other centuries just as much as the old Edwardian and Victorian style outfits he wore stood out during trips to the 20th and 21st centuries.
When Paul McGann was cast as the 8th Doctor in 1996, he mentioned that he thought it would be fun to explore the darker side of the Doctor’s nature and that this could be visually symbolized with short-cut hair and a dark leather coat. He was told that such a look would not work for the Doctor. Christopher Eccleston proved to us all just how wrong that idea was.
“And if you wanna remember me, then you can do one thing. That’s all, one thing…
“… Have a good life.” - The 9th Doctor, from “The Parting of the Ways”
10th DOCTOR – ROMANTIC GEEK ADVENTURER
“I’m the Doctor. And if you don’t like that, if you want to take it to a higher authority, there isn’t one. It stops with me!” - The 10th Doctor, from “New Earth”
Just before ending his 9th life, the Doctor was faced with a no-win scenario similar to what he faced at the end of the Last Great Time War: either accept defeat or release a doomsday weapon that would take out everyone, enemies and friends alike. But this time, he decided that he’d rather be defeated and branded a coward than be a man who engaged in a Pyrrhic victory. This choice justified that he was not a simple killer, that he was still an explorer who treasured adventure more than being a bringer of death and destruction. And so, with some of his guilt lifted, he entered his tenth life, as portrayed by actor David Tennant.
In his 10th incarnation, the Doctor cut himself some more slack. He was no longer haunted by the fear that he was a killer (though he would later develop the new fear that he turned others into soldiers and killers). He allowed himself to indulge in distractions and simplistic joys of life, such as edible ball bearings and tiny shops. The 9th Doctor had been adamant in not letting people in past a certain point, such as avoiding having dinner and engaging in relaxed conversation with a companion’s family. But the 10th Doctor was far freer with his emotions, actively seeking out new friendships. This led him to become more emotionally vulnerable than many of his previous incarnations, but he saw this vulnerability as a human-like quality that was to be prized. He freely admitted he was lonely and sometimes referred to his centuries-spanning life as a curse. He was not ashamed of any tears he shed and he was always sincere and hurt when he saw that he couldn’t help, often saying, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“You can spend the rest of your life with me. But I can’t spend the rest of mine with you.” – The 10th Doctor, from “School Reunion”
The 10th Doctor represented perhaps the most human aspect of the Time Lord hero. As such, he had perhaps the most “normal” style of fashion. He usually wore a shirt and tie and one of two suits, a blue one with brown stripes or a brown one with blue stripes. Often he’d wear running shoes and an overcoat to complete the look. This guy doesn’t look like an ancient Time Lord so much as like an eccentric human scientist.
And perhaps that’s what he wanted to be half the time. This was a Doctor who, despite a demand for honesty and facts, enjoyed hiding in self-deception at times. He avoided discussing his past and where he came from more than past incarnations did. He revealed to one companion that he lied about his people and home still being around because it was nicer to pretend it was so. And he one admitted that, like his 5th incarnation, he didn’t actually need the glasses he sometimes donned (which he called his “brainy-specs”), he just wore them sometimes when he wanted to look clever.
With the shoes and hipster glasses, the outfit is serious enough to be professional, but also gives off a sense of whimsy. That’s the 10th Doctor in a nutshell.
Fun Trivia: If you watch the 10th Doctor choosing his look in the TARDIS wardrobe (in “The Christmas Invasion”), you can see elements of clothing belonging to the various Classic Series Doctors in the background.
“You weren’t there, in the final days of the War. You never saw what was born… Not just the Daleks, but the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, the Could-Have-Been-King with his army of Meanwhiles and Never-weres. The War turned into Hell!
“… You see now? That’s what they were planning in the final days of the War. I had to stop them!” – The 10th Doctor, from “The End of Time”
11th DOCTOR – YOUNG FACE, ANCIENT SOUL
“All of time and space, everything that ever happened or ever will… Where do you want to start?” – The 11th Doctor, from “The Eleventh Hour”
In his last adventure, the 10th Doctor was forced to directly confront his actions during the Time War. In his 9th and 10th lives, the Doctor often referred to his people as a wise and benevolent race, similar to how some people will focus only on the positive aspects of departed family members. But fans of the Classic Series remembered that many Time Lords were manipulative ego-maniacs, determined to preserve their place of power in the universe and founded by a tyrant named Rassilon who actually kidnapped people from other times and worlds, forcing them into combat and deadly games for his own sick amusement. In his final adventure, the 10th Doctor was forced to confront this dark truth again and realized that if he were forced to live through the Last Great Time War again, his actions would not change. This seemed to bring a new peace and acceptance to his life. This was strengthened when he spent his last hours visiting and checking on every single, living companion that he had traveled with in all his lives and saw that they were, on the whole, people who improved the world rather than create more violence. And he carried this new sense of stability into his next incarnation.
“I don’t look back. I can’t. But the last time I was dying, I looked back on all [my old traveling companions], every single one… And I was so proud.” - The 11th Doctor, from “Death of the Doctor” (The Sarah Jane Adventures)
In his 11th incarnation, the Doctor has gotten over most of his survivor’s guilt and remorse concerning the Last Great Time War. The 9th and 10th incarnations avoided the topic of the war and took several hours or days of prodding before they admitted to their companions that the Time Lords had all been killed in a war But when his companion Amy Pond asked about his people, the 11th Doctor didn’t go into detail but he didn’t avoid the topic either. He simply said that he was the last Time Lord, that the others had died during a “bad day”, and that he would love to forget it but he never, ever did. So he does not indulge in an avoidance of major, uncomfortable truths, as opposed to the 10th incarnation’s spoken attitude that it was nicer to pretend otherwise. Nor is he as emotional when he talks about it. In other words, the Doctor has, in his 11th life, settled back into a persona closer to his classic selves. This makes sense since the new creative/production staff is trying to evoke an atmosphere closer to the Classic Series. And the outfit certainly matches that idea.
“There’s something you better understand about me, ’cause it’s important and one day your life may depend on it… I am definitely a madman with a box!” - The 11th Doctor, from “The Eleventh Hour”
Many of the classic Doctors took on a role of being an older brother and teacher to their traveling companions. The 7th Doctor’s companion Ace even took to calling him “Professor” rather than “Doctor” on many occasions (which irritated him to no end) since he treated her as a student and would often challenge her to figure out what was happening around them rather than giving her the answers about what he had figured out. He often saw their travels together as not merely adventures but a chance to teach these humans about how wonderful and fascinating their universe truly was. The 11th certainly fits into this mold, dressed as if he’s an old-fashioned college professor, insisting that “bow ties are cool” no matter how much others tell him otherwise.
In fact, the 11th Doctor’s persona seems to share a lot with his 2nd and 7th incarnations and his outfit seems to be a combination of those two looks. His sportcoat looks very much like what the 7th Doctor (who acted as a strange, moody teacher to his companion) wore and the bow tie is similar to what the 2nd Doctor (who acted as a lovable uncle and described himself as a “cosmic hobo”) wore throughout his life. Actor Matt Smith has actually admitted that the 2nd Doctor, Patrick Troughton, has been a big influence on his performance.
Just like the 2nd Doctor in his early days, the 11th Doctor also has a growing fascination with hats, adopting a fez in his first year of adventures and grabbing a Stetson in the upcoming sixth season. Time will tell what other headgear he will grab before he regenerates into this 12th form.
Fun Trivia: The 11th Doctor puts together his outfit by stealing clothes from a hospital locker room. This happened before when the 3rd Doctor and the 8th Doctor each needed some new clothes hours after their regeneration.
“There’s one thing you never put in a trap. If you’re smart, if you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow, there’s one thing you never, ever put in a trap…
“… ME.” - The 11th Doctor, from ‘The Time of Angels”
And that wraps it up for this look at the new series Doctors. Hope you dug it. Until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off!
Alan Kistler writes the comic book history/fashion column Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. He is an actor and freelance writer living in New York who has been recognized by Warner Bros. Films and major media/news outlets as a comic book historian. He is also the creator/host of the web-show “Crazy Sexy Geeks: The Series.” He knows entirely too much about the history of comics, Star Trek, Doctor Who, time travel, and vampires that don’t sparkle.