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Fashioning the FUTURE

In creating the costumes for Doctor Who’s future societies, designers have often sought inspiration from the past…
Louise Pajo as Gia Kelly in The Seeds of Death (1969). Louise’s costume was designed by Bobi Bartlett.

It’s often noted that films and television series set in the past say more – through sets, make-up and costume design – about the periods in which the productions were created than they do about the period in which they’re set. One need only consider Irene Sharaf’s inauthentic – but hugely influential – designs worn by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 film Cleopatra to appreciate the truth of this idea.

This tendency is even more evident in science fiction, as the interests, aspirations and anxieties of the present are projected into the future. Consequently, a long-running series such as Doctor Who, with its many, often contradictory, representations of the future, provides a wealth of glimpses into the past and the numerous cultural and artistic influences upon the creative process.

The series’ first visit to humanity’s future occurred with The Sensorites, the penultimate serial of the 1963-64 season. As such, it remains the series’ first example of something which would become a recurring motif: space wear. Daphne Dare’s costuming is informative. Instead of the expected bulky suits, the crew of the story’s unnamed spacecraft are decked out in streamlined uniforms with tight, lapel-free jackets and bow ties that are tucked under the collar. They are, effectively, a futuristic take on the airline uniforms of the early 1960s, indicating immediately the degree to which deep-space travel has become, in the 28th century, a commonplace.

By contrast, Dare’s costuming for The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964), far from looking forward into the future, dips back into then-recent memories of the Second World War. This relates perfectly to Dalek creator Terry Nation’s concept of the Daleks as representing the implacable single-mindedness of Nazi oppression. Consequently, there is nothing futuristic about the look of London’s residents in 2164. They are, in the main, dressed in heavy tweed jackets and sweatshirts, dating from the mid-20th century in both style and cut. This is far from accidental; indeed, the serial’s director, Richard Martin, has since described the scenes set in the resistance headquarters as having “a marvellous… almost French resistance feel”. The connections, through costuming, with the recent past are an elegant and effective means of portraying the drama, recognisable even to younger audience members through British films produced in the immediate post-war period.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Doctor Who’s predictions of the future have depicted the destruction of planet Earth and the ultimate collapse of the universe. Alien superpowers have subjugated star systems and galactic empires have fallen, leaving only a few witnesses to the end of time itself. This lavish publication sets the TARDIS co-ordinates for a journey into this dangerous realm, exploring landmark episodes and meeting the talents who brought them to the screen. Packed full of exclusive features, including a wealth of previously unseen images, this is the essential guide to the series’ greatest futuristic adventures.