So I need to start this by talking about Dick Van Dyke. And why not? There is a scene in Mary Poppins where Bert dances around like a penguin, and something becomes very clear at that point: it’s not just Mary who is magical. Bert has a magical pair of trousers. We don’t actually see the moment where the magic happens, but his trousers suddenly take on a life of their own. The legs get baggier and he manages to pull the crotch down almost to his ankles, while still keeping them up around his waist, so he can attach his legs together to dance like a penguin. Now that’s what I call a deep rise on a pair of trousers. If he pulled those up he could tie the waistband around his neck like a scarf. And when he finishes his dance they magically transform back into a normal pair of trousers.
And of course, Doctor Who always borrows from the best, and where Dick Van Dyke leads, the Doctor follows. Because the Doctor has magic clothing as well. The magical aspect of his clothing that will be most familiar to readers of this blog will probably be his pockets, which are dimensionally transcendental, just like the TARDIS. There are many examples of this, most notably during the Tom Baker era, but the Doctor finally confirms our suspicions in The Runaway Bride:
DONNA: How did that fit in there?
DOCTOR: They’re bigger on the inside.
This is an homage to Mary Poppins (oh yes it is), with her dimensionally transcendental carpet bag, containing a lamp stand amongst other things. But there is much more to the Doctor’s magical clothing than bottomless pockets. His clothes also regenerate with him. It’s subtle, but it happens, in The Power of the Daleks, Castrovalva (regenerating shoes) and The Twin Dilemma (the regeneration washes mud off his jumper). In Robot, the Doctor is able to change clothes instantly, so he has a wardrobe full of time travelling garments as well. That might explain why his coat and hat vanish between The Sontaran Experiment and the Doctor appearing on Skaro at the beginning of Genesis of the Daleks. His time sensitive clothes don’t like being snatched out of time and go off in their own direction. Most magical of all is his scarf, which obviously likes to go off on its own adventures. In The Robots of Death it vanishes and reappears a couple of times without explanation, it pops up in the Matrix in The Deadly Assassin, although the Doctor doesn’t conjure up his coat to go with it, it gets trapped in the TARDIS door in Shada, but objects to travelling in the vortex and magics itself inside the TARDIS by the time it arrives in Professor Chronotis’s room, and in Logopolis it obviously decides to be a loyal companion by materialising back around the Doctor’s neck when he regenerates, although it was last seen tripping up the Master on the gantry above.
The Doctor also likes to go in for clothes that change colour from time to time. In Pyramids of Mars his tie can’t decide whether to be orange or brown, and in The Mysterious Planet, the Doctor’s trousers prove themselves every bit as sentient as Dick Van Dyke’s, undecided which hideous colour scheme to go with: striped yellow and brown, or just very bright yellow. But it’s not surprising really. The Doctor is a Time Lord, and they are clever people. In The Five Doctors they even have a transmat with a built in cloak dispenser.
Some of the Doctor’s companions of course select clothes from the TARDIS wardrobe to wear (apart from the ones who never change their clothes and therefore must be very smelly indeed – Adric, that means you). And the TARDIS therefore obliges by providing the companions with magical clothes of their own. There are loads of examples of this, so let’s have some bullet points, because we all love those.
- Susan has magically disappearing socks in The Edge of Destruction. Presumably they dematerialise if her feet get too cheesy.
- Liz’s tights must have come from the same magic clothes shop as the Doctor’s tie and trousers, because they can’t decide what colour they want to be in The Ambassadors of Death. Jo’s tights behave in exactly the same way in Frontier in Space, although occasionally they decide to become invisible instead.
- Jo also has other colour-changing clothes: her shirt changes colour in Colony in Space while she walks through the TARDIS doors, and changes back again later when she is being held hostage. It must have an indoor-mood and an outdoor-mood.
- In The Curse of Peladon, Jo’s shoes morph into a strapless version of themselves when she goes mountain climbing. Handy, that.
- Peri also has magic shoes. In The Two Doctors they change completely when she walks into the TARDIS.
The amount of times companions run around in heels on alien landscapes, they must have some magic properties as well. Clothes in Doctor Who often seem to have quick-drying properties too, and not just the Doctor and his companions. In Doctor Who and the Silurians, Quinn has an instant-dry coat, and Jo has instant-dry boots and trousers in Carnival of Monsters. Peri’s bikini dries the moment she enters the TARDIS in Planet of Fire. As for Mel, her white trousers have some serious stain-repelling coating on them, as she is able to sit in a dirty pipe in Time and the Rani and keep them spotless. The Rani takes a leaf out of her book and goes for some magic trousers of her own in the same story, which are a different colour outside to when she is inside.
It is also possible to detect the work of somebody like the Meddling Monk throughout history. He has obviously supplied the Romans with zips so Barbara can wear a zip up dress in The Romans, and one of the ancient Greeks has been provided with some trainers specially to watch the Mayan dance in Four to Doomsday. And I don’t know what kind of a costume shop provided the fancy dress for the masquerade in Black Orchid, but George’s harlequin costume does a fine job of curing his hunched back.
More recently, the Doctor has obviously decided to make good use of all this magical clothing lark by going around naked while wearing holographic clothes (The Time of the Doctor), and persuading Clara to do the same, which must have come in handy when we see them having a hug. River Song is a little more modest with her magic clothing, which she is able to change just by spraying herself with a perfume bottle.
So what does all this mean? Well, like Mary Poppins, Doctor Who is all about magic, and his magical clothing is clearly proof of that. Oh, and the whole premise of Doctor Who owes its existence to Dick Van Dyke.
What is Who? Magic clothing.
…until the next article in this series, in which I will try to illustrate why it is actually something else altogether. RP