Meet the Time Lords: The Many Faces of Doctor Who

Faces of the Doctor; BBC

When the BBC announced that Jodie Whittaker would be the first female Doctor Who, fans of the long-running science-fiction series were quick to query: "What will she wear?" It wasn't a jab at her sex; far from it. Clothes have always maketh the man, especially when that "man" is an enigmatic Time Lord with the power to traverse dimensions and raise himself from the dead.

In the 54 years since the titular Doctor of "Doctor Who" made his debut on British television, the renegade alien has regenerated a new body — tics, temperament and all — more than a dozen times.

As a result, Whovians await the unveiling of a new Doctor's costume, which typically precedes the next Doctor's official debut, with fist-pumping anticipation. And for good reason: The outfit typically offers clues about his — and now, her — nascent and often startlingly mercurial personality, which can swing from clownish, to sardonic, to bellicose, and all points in between. Read on to see how the Time Lord has changed over time.

UP FIRST: William Hartnell

The First Doctor (1963-1966)

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The original Doctor, played by William Hartnell (and by Richard Hurndall and David Bradley in cameos after Hartnell's death) was literally without precedent. An elderly curmudgeon, he displayed occasional flashes of empathy, particularly with his granddaughter Susan.

Although ostensibly late Victorian-Edwardian, his look was a hodgepodge of eras you couldn't quite pin down. He matched a wing-tipped shirt, a vest, a frock coat and checkered pants, along with a ribbon tie, which he fashioned into a bow. Occasionally, he pulled out a fob watch or a monocle, or topped his noggin with a triangular hat known in Central and South Asia as a "karakul."

The overall effect was that of an itinerant out of time and space. He was a cipher, an unknown quantity who bore more than a whiff of danger. His outfit would serve as a template for future incarnations.

NEXT: Patrick Troughton

The Second Doctor (1966-1969)

Everett Collection

When Hartnell's failing health sounded a possible death knell for "Doctor Who," the producers of the show came up with a radical idea. Since the Doctor was an alien with alien biology, why not give him the ability to recover critical trauma — or even roll back death — by physically reinventing himself? After collapsing from the strain of battling a race of murderous cyborgs known as the Cybermen, the Doctor regenerated for the first time, manifesting a new visage: Patrick Troughton's.

Personality-wise, the Second Doctor was his predecessor's polar opposite. If Hartnell's Doctor was the cantankerous pensioner who wanted the damn kids off his spaceship, Troughton's was the lovable buffoon who knew a great deal more than he let on.

Nicknamed the "cosmic hobo" by viewers, the Second Doctor was an equally playful dresser. His bow tie was permanently askew. His wild mop of hair — coupled with baggy, plaid trousers and an oversized jacket he almost certainly lifted off some unsuspecting soul — gave him a puckish, Stooge-like air. He also brandished a recorder, mostly for music but occasionally to communicate with other, melodically inclined species.

NEXT: Jon Pertwee

The Third Doctor (1970-1974)

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After the Doctor's fellow Time Lords exiled him to Earth for breaking their laws of noninterference, forcing a regeneration in the process, the "cosmic hobo" morphed into the "space dandy."

Paternalistic, authoritative, yet unwaveringly moral, this Doctor worked as a scientific adviser for the military organization UNIT. A suave pugilist, he was also adept in the art of "Venusian aikido."

As played by Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor had flair to spare. A frilly Byron shirt; a lush, velvet jacket; and a flashily lined cape became his visual calling cards. Memorably, he was known for his James Bond-like rides: a bright-yellow roadster named Bessie that featured an anti-theft forcefield, a remote control and an inertial-dampening hyperdrive, along with a hovercraft-esque vehicle that fans dubbed the "Whomobile."

NEXT: Tom Baker

The Fourth Doctor (1974-1981)

Frank Barratt/Getty

If your idea of the Doctor is a lanky buffoon with wild eyes, untamed curls, a Cheshire Cat grin and a comically long scarf, you have Tom Baker to thank. Baker assumed the role after Pertwee's Doctor expired from a lethal dose of radiation. He would go on to play the Time Lord for seven consecutive seasons, making him the longest-performing — and arguably, most iconic — Doctor in the show's history.

A bohemian free spirit with an offbeat, often hammy sense of humor, the Fourth Doctor was by turns charming, manic and brooding. Although he often feigned the fool to throw the people around him off-balance, Baker's Doctor could also be callous, capricious and even cruel.

He favored a fedora, a patterned vest, a spiffy cravat and a velvet frock coat that proved an endless source of Jelly Babies. His famous 12-foot-long muffler, explained in the show as the work of one Madame Nostradamus, was the real-life product of an overenthusiastic knitter whom the BBC commissioned.

"The multicoloured scarf came about after Jim [Acheson, the BBC's costume designer] bought a wagonload of wool," Baker recalled in 2013. "He gave it to a woman who was so excited at being asked to work for Doctor Who that she started knitting it and just didn't stop. When we went to her room, it was so full of scarf, we couldn't get in. She offered to cut it up, but Jim wanted to keep it."

NEXT: Peter Davison

The Fifth Doctor (1982-1984)


Falling to his death, the Fourth Doctor made way for the Fifth, a role that Peter Davison embraced with youthful earnestness. Honest and sensitive, with an almost human-like vulnerability, Davison's Doctor was the quintessential British gentleman. He enjoyed tea and cricket, and abided by an unerring sense of fair play.

The Fifth Doctor dressed the part, too, opting for a V-neck cricketer's sweater, a cream frock coat with contrast piping, brown-and-beige striped pants, white plimsolls, a roll-up Panama hat, and a stalk of celery on his left lapel.

He later claimed that the celery would turn purple in the presence of certain gases in the "Praxis" range to which he was deathly allergic. If that happened, he would eat it, and "if nothing else, I'm sure it's good for my teeth," he said.

NEXT: Colin Baker

The Sixth Doctor (1984-1986)

Everett Collection

The Fifth Doctor eventually succumbed not to Praxis gases but rather "spectrox toxaemia," a fictional disease brought on by exposure to a valuable but neurotoxic mineral. His regenerated self, played by Colin Baker, was turbulent, intractable and bombastic. To further estrange him from Davison's Doctor, Baker's iteration was also an unrepentant egotist, though he had moments of genuine warmth.

The Sixth Doctor didn't suffer fools gladly, but he wasn't above dressing like one. His retina-searing ensemble included a crazy quilt of a frock coat, a gingham or tweed vest with ladybug or bear-face buttons, striped yellow carnival-barker pants, a polka-dot ribbon tie, and orange spats over green ankle boots.

Baker himself tartly described the look as an "explosion in a rainbow factory."

NEXT: Sylvester McCoy

The Seventh Doctor (1987-1989)

Everett Collection

Baker's Doctor was near-universally loathed, and he was swiftly and unceremoniously replaced by Sylvester McCoy's Seventh. Although he began his run as a comical, whimsical character, the Seventh Doctor later took a much darker, almost Machiavellian turn. Cunning and prone to ruthlessness, he saw himself as a grand chess master who manipulated friends and enemies like pieces on a board.

Though less idiosyncratic than the Sixth's, the Seventh Doctor's attire was hardly nondescript. There was the cream, single-breasted, safari-styled jacket; the tartan or paisley scarf; the brown plaid pants with red suspenders; and the pièce de résistance: a yellow sweater vest plastered in its entirety with red question marks and turquoise zigzags.

On his head, he wore a colonial-style Panama hat with a paisley band and a flipped-up brim. He wielded an umbrella with a red question mark for handle.

McCoy's Doctor would eventually replace his light-colored jacket with a deep-brown one, perhaps to reflect his more nebulous intentions.

NEXT: Paul McGann

The Eighth Doctor (1996)

Everett Collection

The Eighth Doctor would be the shortest-lived Doctor — on-screen, at least. He made his main appearance in the 1996 "Doctor Who" television movie, which was meant to serve as a backdoor pilot to a new TV series on Fox. Although the series never materialized, Paul McGann continued to play the Doctor in various spinoff media — most notably, the audio plays from Big Finish Productions.

The Eighth Doctor was a romantic, almost tragic figure. His Victorian-esque look, mined from a Wild Bill Hickok costume he filched from someone's locker, comprised a green velvet frock coat, a high-collared dress shirt, a gray cravat, gray-green trousers and a double-breasted silk vest. He topped everything off with a gold pocket watch and chain.

In "The Night of the Doctor," a mini-episode that the BBC released prior to its "Doctor Who" 50th anniversary special, the battle-worn Eighth Doctor wore soiled and battered garb that reflected his new wartime reality.

NEXT: John Hurt

The War Doctor (2013)

Adrian Rogers/BBC

As the Time War between the Time Lords and their mortal enemies, the Daleks, wore on, the Doctor realized that the universe didn't need a doctor but a warrior. He regenerated into a young John Hurt, who fought in the Time War for so long he grew into, and ultimately died of, old age.

The War Doctor, retconned into the timeline by the 50th anniversary special, was a jaded man filled with self-loathing and simmering rage. He was more comfortable with weapons than his predecessors were, although he was known to charge into battle unarmed and still emerge triumphant.

Hurt's Doctor took the standard elements of his usual getup — a long coat, a cravat or scarf, a collared shirt, a waistcoat and trousers — and pummeled the life out of every last inch. He finished off his look with a bandolier. Suffice it to say, this Doctor was far from business as usual.

NEXT: Christopher Eccleston

The Ninth Doctor (2005)

Everett Collection

The Ninth Doctor, portrayed by Christopher Eccleston, kicked off Doctor Who's revival in 2005. Russell T. Davies, the showrunner, described the character as a "stripped-down" version of previous Doctors.

Constantly reliving the horrors of the Time War, during which he believed he was responsible for the demise of his entire race, the Ninth Doctor was a shell-shocked husk of a man, hiding his guilt and regret behind a mask of buoyant energy and flippancy.

After 16 years off the air, the show wanted to return the Doctor Who mythos to its basics, and the Doctor's costume was similarly pared down: a black leather jacket, T-shirt and jeans — no fuss, no muss.

NEXT: David Tennant

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Jasmin Malik Chua
Contributing Writer

Jasmin Malik Chua is a fashion journalist whose work has been published in the New York Times, Vox, Nylon, The Daily Beast, The Business of Fashion, Vogue Business and Refinary29, among others. She has a bachelor's degree in animal biology from the National University of Singapore and a master of science in biomedical journalism from New York University.