The Fifteenth Doctor’s costume is secretly brilliant, and most Doctor Who fans missed why

Tom Percival
Still of Doctor Who

There’s been a lot of talk recently about Doctor Who and the Fifteenth Doctor’s sartorial choices. Specifically, some fans have taken umbrage with the character’s lack of a signature style.

Since the show’s revival (and even before), all the Doctors have had an iconic outfit or signature statement piece in their wardrobe. For Ten, it was his greatcoat; Eleven had bow ties, Thirteen her rainbow shirts, and who could forget Four’s scarf?

Yes, their exact outfits would change occasionally, but they each had a look and a silhouette that was instantly recognizable. Then came Doctor Who Season 14 and Ncuti Gatwa, and all of this changed. 

The newest Doctor hasn’t had a set style. His wardrobe has been as flexible as the Master’s morality, and he’s worn everything from elegant kilts to stylish ’60s suits and even gorgeous tailcoats suitable for a Bridgerton ball.

Clothes maketh the… Time Lord?

Millie Gibson and Ncuti Gatwa as Ruby and the Doctor in Doctor Who Season 14

Fans, though, are creatures of habit, and they like it when the Doctor has a defined personal style. As such, there have been some grumbles online about this ‘change’ to the Doctor. 

I can understand why. Giving the Doctor a unique costume makes cosplay easier; it gives them a definitive look for fan art, and it’s been a tradition going back as far as when Tom Baker was in the TARDIS.

Yet I believe the decision not to give the Fifteenth Doctor an outfit he wears in every episode is a bit of brilliant visual storytelling. Allow me to explain.  

The Fifteenth Doctor isn’t like the Doctors that came before him. He’s more relaxed and at ease with who he is after spending his fourteenth life in therapy with Donna Noble. As a result, he lacks the self-consciousness of his previous incarnations, all of whom had a particular chip on their shoulder.

I don’t mean that they were argumentative or anything like that (although some were); I mean that they hadn’t dealt with the trauma of their lives, and they let it define them. As a result of never dealing with all the loss in their lives, they gripped onto the only permanent thing in their life: their own identity and the idea of the Doctor.

Style over substance

Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson as the Doctor and Ruby on Doctor Who

They wrapped themselves in the armor of their name and identity. They were the Oncoming Storm, the Hybrid, the Timeless Child! All terrifying titles, tawdry quirks, and over-the-top eccentricities. It made the Doctor a legend, a brilliant, fearless warrior, and a complete fraud. 

The last few incarnations of the Doctor have been bordering on self-parody. Their inability to process the unbelievable grief they’d experienced had left them a shell that looked and sounded like the Doctor, but they’d lost the spark that set them out into the universe in the first place. 

This isn’t me bashing the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Doctor’s either. It’s in the text. The Fifteenth Doctor literally tells the Fourteenth they need to take a break to process everything they’ve been through in their long, long life. Thirteen, meanwhile, wore a smile but hid her insecurities and loneliness from her companions. 

Millie Gibson and Ncuti Gatwa as Ruby and the Doctor in Doctor Who

These examples are hardly the first time we’ve seen the Doctor struggling, though the Twelfth Doctor nearly chose not to regenerate. They were so tired after years of fighting. All of which brings me back to the Doctor’s outfit choices.

What better way to make an immediate impression than by wearing an eccentric outfit that stands out? Even better, if you’re a famous time traveler, why not wear the same clothes all the time and then people will know exactly who you are the moment they see you. It smacks of a person with low self-esteem who needs to be seen as the thing they most want to be: in this case, the Doctor of legend. 

So why doesn’t 15 do this? Because he’s in a healthier place. He doesn’t need to be the dauntless Doctor all the time; he can be vulnerable and tender. He doesn’t need his armor on all the time because he’s just him, and he’s the first incarnation in a long time to realize that’s good enough.

If you’re a fan of the renegade Time Lord and want to know how to dress like the Doctor, we’ve got you covered. We’ve also got a list of the best Doctor Who villains and a full breakdown of the Doctor Who season 14 release schedule. That’s not all, though we’ve broken down all the best Doctor Who season 14 theories as well.

Finally, why not check out our list of all the best TV shows coming to streaming this month?

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