This is where it all gets a bit painful, especially if you were around at the time. Everything about the early attempts to make Sylvester McCoy into the Seventh Doctor seem to indicate that as far as the production team were concerned, the Colin Baker-era had been right with the costume, but the character wasn’t friendly enough: too pompous, and no fun.
Which, let’s be honest, is exactly wrong. The Doctor can be as haughty as he likes, but he can’t keep riffing on that same question mark idea over and over. He can be as silly as he likes too, to lull his enemies into believing him an idiot, but he still has to be the Doctor at the end of the day. And the Doctor has a very dark side.
Thankfully, efforts were made to sort this out, and the costume the Seventh Doctor started his tenure with was not the one he wore at the end. Trouble was, by the end fewer people were bothering to watch, so for better or worse, it’s the early version which tends to linger in the public consciousness.
The good news for anyone attempting to dress up as the Seventh Doctor is that you can go for plainer versions of his clothes, stuff you can probably pick up a thrift stores, and claim it’s supposed to be from that late-period. So long as you’ve got the hat, no one’s going to complain too hard.
1: Hair – not really a ‘do’ so much as a bit of a head-mess. If you’ve got hair, you can probably use your own, if not, try and find a quite ratty wig somewhere and pull some of the strands out, remembering the high forehead all the while. Then whack the hat on the top.
2: Shirt – another white shirt, please. No need for question marks this time. They will be well represented elsewhere.
3: Tie – for the first time, the Doctor just wears a conventional necktie. Something paisley and dark will do fine. The Seventh Doctor does not think bow ties are cool.
4: Waistcoat – no thank you. What we need instead is that yellow sweater with all those red question marks on it. Cos he’s not just a Time Lord, you see, he’s an enigma, an eternal mystery, a cypher if you will…(et bloody cetera).
5: Jacket – A lightweight cream or off-white lineny affair, the kind of thing you’d see on a British civil servant who works in the embassy of a hot, humid country, like Singapore. The Seventh Doctor likes hard-wearing clothes, worn in layers, in case they land on the sun or something.
6: Pants – plaid again. This time a normal cut, not too tight or too loose, and the right length, neither showing off or hiding the shoes.
7: Shoes – yep, actual shoes this time. Two-tone brogues in brown and cream, if I’m not mistaken, of the sort you’d see on Bertie Wooster (him again) when visiting friends in the country.
Accessories: The Seventh Doctor likes to accessorize. He has his question mark umbrella, his panama hat with the paisley hatband, the paisley scarf, the paisley handkerchief, the fob watch attached to his lapel. His is the fussiest costume since the Fourth Doctor, but on a smaller scale. The Seventh Doctor is physically a lot smaller than most of his predecessors, and he wears clothes that suit his stature.
Here he is battling the Master (who appears to be dressed as Spock The Vampire) in one of the latter Seventh Doctor adventures. You’ll notice the costume is already a lot darker, and the Doctor is being a lot less silly.
Coming soon: How to dress like the Eighth Doctor.
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