Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who costume is both fun and important


The BBC released a photo of Jodie Whittaker’s official Doctor Who costume and it’s everything the first female Doctor’s outfit needs to be.

A new Doctor Who era is about to begin. Jodie Whittaker will make her debut later this year as the franchise’s first female Doctor, a huge, historic step for a series that’s been around for over 50 years. We won’t really get to see her properly until Season 11 begins. (She’ll only appear in Christmas special “Twice Upon a Time” for a handful of minutes.) But now we know a little bit more about what to expect when we do.

The BBC released the first official image of the Thirteenth Doctor’s costume, and it is fantastic. Not just because it’s quirky and bizarre (it is), but because Doctor Who uses it to take full advantage of the specific cultural moment the show finds itself in. This is an outfit for a new era, a new Doctor, an entirely new phase of a series some complain has grown too complicated and difficult in recent years.

It’s a clear visual clue that Season 11 – and Thirteen herself – will be something altogether different.

Thirteen’s costume is bright and colorful, something of an immediate departure from Eleven and Twelve, who both tended to favor darker or more subtle colors. However, her outfit doesn’t just look great. Her signature look also manages to respectfully pay tribute to many previous Doctors, and carefully thread the needle between functionality and style. Since this is our first female Doctor, that’s actually a much bigger deal than you might think.

Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor. Image: Steve Schofield/BBC Worldwide

Her ensemble contains subtle references to multiple previous incarnations of the character. The suspenders scream Matt Smith. Those high-waisted pants are all Patrick Troughton. And the long coat looks a lot like Peter Davison’s, complete with stripy edging. Just without the weird celery this time. (Sorry, folks that love it. I think it’s bizarre.) Actually, Thirteen’s new coat hits a couple of previous Doctor notes in one go. The coloring also echoes Sylvester McCoy’s jacket, but the length is all David Tennant. And, of course, there are the stripes on her sweater and in the lining of her coat. It’s hard not to look at that color combination and not immediately see the pattern of Tom Baker’s famous scarf.

The entire outfit is a rather lovely homage to the Doctor Who that’s come before, and a perfect note to strike in a new Doctor’s debut. Because as we all know, this is a big deal. Thirteen is the series’ first female Doctor, and as such, she carries a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Obviously, Thirteen needs to be her own character, which is why her look is both so distinct, and generally unlike anything that’s recently come before. (Certainly in modern-day Doctor Who in any event.) But, like it or not, she’s also going to have to convince some portion of the Who audience that she’s still the same character they’ve watched in thirteen previous versions, who also happened to all be men. Giving her the armor of an outfit that includes pieces of those previous looks is smart. It will remind viewers that even though the Doctor’s a woman now, she’s still the Doctor. She still carries all those previous incarnations around with her. Quite literally, in some cases.

More importantly, in the case of the series’ first female Doctor, the show wisely resisted the urge to go too girly. When they made the Master a woman, the Mistress wore an outfit resembled nothing so much as an evil Mary Poppins, complete with heeled boots and a sonic umbrella. Now, an over the top diabolic nanny look certainly isn’t out of character for the Master, who’s swanned around in everything from stylish suits to pleather jackets to dramatic capes. (And disguised himself as everything in between in the meantime.) But it’s certainly not an accident that Doctor Who chose to make Missy so extremely feminine. Just look at how strong her eyeshadow game stays in the Vault during Season 10.

Thirteen’s look, on the other hand, is much more utilitarian. It seems made, most obviously, for dashing around the universe having adventures. It looks comfortable as can be. She’s wearing short pants, rather than a dress or a skirt. (And I feel 100% confident guessing that they have pockets.) Most importantly, she’s wearing sensible lace-up boots, rather than high heels. Thirteen’s footwear could have so easily ended up a Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic World situation, as we all watched her flee from Daleks or other galactic dangers in stilettos. And it means a whole lot that it isn’t.

Of course, Doctor Who shouldn’t write a female Doctor the same as a male version. Thirteen should get the chance to be a woman. The show shouldn’t run from the challenge of exploring her feminine side or how her new gender impacts her relationships with those she meets along the way. But it’s such a relief to see that the show isn’t choosing to overemphasize her gender here, or handicap the character by forcing the Doctor into an outfit that’s about little more than fulfilling a stereotype.

Mostly, I’m just so excited she’s wearing flats. And if you look closely – you can see she’s wearing not just one, but multiple pairs of earrings. Earrings! Maybe we really can have it all.

Next: Doctor Who: Three new companions for Thirteen

Doctor Who returns this Christmas with “Twice Upon a Time”, Peter Capaldi’s final episode as the Doctor. Whittaker’s Season 11 will begin next autumn.