Rooftop Roundtable: Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor


Here at Project: Rooftop, we rarely venture outside the world of superhero costume redesign for our discussions, but I have to say, I think The Doctor falls under our purview. Although he didn’t originate in comics, he is pretty dang superhero-y, really. Last of his kind (sometimes), alien with superpowers (in a pinch), with rad transport (even radder on the inside), special weapons (let’s call them tools), and of course, sidekicks (COMPANIONS, man). Anyway, coming off of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor exit this past Christmas, Doctor Who resumes later this year with Peter Capaldi tuckering (deep cut) into the much-beloved role, with his brand new wardrobe. Let’s take it to the Rooftop Roundtable for thoughts! –Dean

Dean: First, where does an 800 pound slimfit wool topcoat sleep? On my Christmas wishlist.

Joel: It’s a stark look with just a smidge of showbiz flash. Not a huge departure from the silhouette of Eleven’s pseudo-Victorian outfit, but with a more severe palette. There’s been a lot of talk about how it connects to the Third Doctor’s look (and the peculiar pose Capaldi is striking seems to be a nod to that), but it puts me in mind of the outfit Colin Baker says he put together when he was first cast as Six. Having been told that this was going to be a more serious Doctor with darker themes, he described dressing “like Hamlet,” with simple shapes and a lot of black (the producers, of course, dictated a slightly different look).

Okay, so, to break it down: we have a Crombie coat, which is a elegant type of men’s coat that has been in style for about a hundred years. It’s a very skinny version of one, tight enough to fit the style of the moment, but also echoing back to Regency-era mens wear. Excellent. That sort of timelessness always plays well for time-travellers.

We have what I guess has been generally agreed to be a cardigan, although it might be a sweater vest, given the lack of bunching in the arms. Either way, It adds just a bit of casual slump to what is otherwise a very buttoned-down look. And I’ve heard speculation that the buttons on the cardigan are mis-matched. That would be a very subtle nod to the Doctor’s eclecticism, but I don’t see it.

White shirt with long, pointed collar and french cuffs? Personally, I think a spread collar looks a lot better when going tie-less, but I suppose they are emphasizing the shift from Eleven, and the long points bring a lot of attention to the place where the bow-tie isn’t. It’s a crisp white, which is the most formal element of the whole costume. If they want to soften the look at all, simply changing this out for a light blue or ivory or something would immediately have that effect. I think those are french cuffs, the kind you wear with cufflinks, but they might be portofino (or “James Bond”) cuffs. If french, I’m excited to see what kind of cufflinks the Doctor wears, and how long it takes Etsy to be overrun with hot glue-gun knock-offs.

I have some pretty strong reservations about the pants. 1. They do not fit. This isn’t an opinion, that photo is an objective depiction of what ill-fitting pants look like. 2. The tightness around the calves contrasts badly with the slightly bulky shoes. 3. The leg-cuff ends prematurely. 4. Black/charcoal is an awkward pairing with Navy Blue. 5. But most importantly of all, for the love of gawd, who thought of putting pleats on skinny pants? DO NOT PUT PLEATS ON YOUR SKINNY PANTS. YOU WILL LOOK LIKE YOU ARE WEARING A DIAPER. Fortunately, the pants are the single easiest part of this outfit to change without anyone noticing. Let’s all assume that these are “For Placement Only” pants.

And then, the Doc Martens! Worn by punks and bobbies alike, they’re very English, and eminently practical. Good for running, very durable. Come with a “for life” guarantee, which is a real deal when you’re a Time Lord.

Dean: Yeah, my hope is that the pants are going to be swapped out, and that damn well better be a cardigan. I don’t think I can stomach a sweater vest, though I said the same thing when Matt Smith’s Doctor swipe Tucker Carlson’s bow tie. Now Malcom Tucker wants Rick Santorum’s vest? Please no.

This is a bit inside baseball, but I wonder if the tie-less, buttoned-up look is a BIT of a swing at Elementary, the (arguably more enjoyable, demonstrably less filler-packed) modern day Sherlock Holmes series NOT co-created by Doctor Who series showrunner Stephen Moffat. On Elementary, that’s Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes look. It’s most likely completely unrelated, but it does seem like an oddly specific choice, and would completely overrule the distinctiveness of the same choice for JLM.

I love the coat so much, and I like that we aren’t departing too much from Matt’s second look, just modernizing it. Red and blue have been major color themes throughout the show since Moffat took over, and Matt’s purple coat seemed like the obvious combination to conclude his run. I have to admit, this navy and bright red appeals to me even more, though. With the white shirt, it’s properly Union Jack’d up. Good and superhero-y, like I like things.

Erica: Whenever I look at this picture I’m wondering where the “The Doctor is back, and now he means business” tagline is. I’m really torn on this. There were a lot of similarities in how they presented Tennant and Smith, so I like the departure, but at the same time I wonder if it’s trying too hard to look cool (although I’m sure oldschool Who fans thought that about Eccleston).

ANYWAY. I wish we could see the jacket in a normal resting position because unless he’s going to have Fabio-style fans on him all the time it won’t be blowing back enough to reveal the red all the time. Although it could make for a great reveal. Every so often the Doctor unbuttons that one jacket button, throws open the jacket and we get a flash of red- and that’s when you know IT’S ON. I’m with Joel though. I can’t get over how fitted his shirt, jacket and cardigan are and how baggy his pants are at the crotch. It’s like he’s planning to smuggle things.

Vito: I have to say I’m a little let down by this choice. I really wanted a mod-via-punk-via-ska rudeboy look. This isn’t bad, mind you, but I didn’t get what I want, so :P::::: or whatever.

Anyhow, I’m really distracted by the color of the pants more than I am the fit of them. I see what you guys are saying, but the navy/black combo is really hurting my eyes. That’s the kind of fashion emergency I was guilty of in high school because, “Who cares? I go to school to learn, not for a fashion show!” I was known for quoting Will Smith, apparently.

So, if I ignore the bottom half of the outfit (love the Docs…that’s pretty close to my original vision), the top, to me says magician. Not entirely inappropriate; the Doctor is a magician of sorts. I mean, Three was almost over the top in that magician look, with his ruffled shirt and cape. The addition of the cardigan (or sweater vest) is a bit much…I get that you travel through space and time, and it might get cold, but dang, that seems cumbersome. On first glance, a sweater vest is the likelier of the two, and while, aesthetically, it seems to tie the look together, I can’t see why a waistcoat was necessary.

Glen: You guys have pretty much covered it. There’ve been some action photos of the Doctor and Clara shooting on location since this promotional image came out, and they confirm that the pants look even worse than feared. Big roomy pleats + skinny calves = Legs that look like ice cream cones, and loins that look like one big honkin’ scoop of butter brickle. Um. If butter brickle were black. Is there black ice cream? Licorice? Wow, that sounds foul. Perhaps I should’ve stuck with the diaper analogy. Abort. Abort.

Point is, they look sort of exultantly, defiantly terrible, even on a tall, skinny drink of [space beverage] like Capaldi, which is how you know pleats are to be abjured, always, forever, by all sentient beings.

Ditto sweater vests, unless 1. It is 1966. 2. You are a member of The Association. 3. You are singing your hit “Cherish”. 4. You are on the Ed Sullivan Show. And even when all four of those conditions are met IT’S STILL A GRAY AREA.

I, like Vito, get a stage magician vibe from this particular Crombie coat, which is a shame because “saves the universe” and “good at close-up magic” occupy two very different areas of my brain. I know, he’s quirky. And Troughton’s Doctor was given to such whimsical pursuits. Still doesn’t scan.

I get that they’re going clean, ascetic, stripped down vibe, but a white shirt buttoned to the top takes me to a whole Space Mormon place, and I’m looking for a punch of color somewhere up there. Here’s where I confess that the question-mark-accessory motif that I know causes so many fans to roll their eyes is a thing I’ve always dug. Showy, a wink to the show’s title back before such winks were rare, but I’ve always loved it. Maybe Joel’s right, and we’ll get some question-mark cufflinks. I know they’re cheesy, but this look needs something to pop, besides the coat’s lining.

The Doc Martens, on the other hand, are perfect. Inevitable. Feel as if they have been prophesied for generations, and have arrived here before us simply, flawlessly — in that they occupy the teeeeeensy Venn Diagram intersection fo “British” and “Badass” (see also, “Jason Statham” “”Never Mind the Bollocks” and “Dame Judy Densch”).

No one’s mentioned the wedding ring, barely visible in this photo and very prominent in those location shoot photos. That seems like something engineered to set the fanbase off. I’m just grateful it’s not one of Pertwee’s old pinky rings, because they were gross. You never knew if that guy was gonna save time & space or hit on you at an EST seminar.

Joel: Wait, wedding what? Really?

Dean: Looking forward to half a dozen Tumblr theories on what that’s about.

14 comments to “Rooftop Roundtable: Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor”
  1. I like the coat and the overall look. I agree with the cut and color of the pants. I think a charcoal grey would look better, along with a slimmer, pleat-less cut.

    I don’t like the cardigan. In this context, I think it ages him and makes him look too grandpa.

    I wish he had a simple necktie. The shirt buttoned all the way up with nothing looks odd with nothing there.

  2. Not really being so much of a Doctor Who fan anymore, I’m really hoping for a Doctor who harkens back to the first three incarnations – grumpy, sarcastic and daring. It seems that, for the costume, there has been an attempt at this, what with the red lining (3’s cape), weird trousers (2) and the ring (1). However, the end result looks… well… quite boring. Especially considering this is the Doctor. I often use a ‘head-and-shoulders’ test: if you were to take a picture of the Doctor, featuring only head, shoulders and part of the chest, you would usually find some element that makes him instantly recognisable, and not just a publicity still of the actor (e.g. 5’s decorative vegetable, 4’s scarf, or even 9’s different coloured t-shirts under the leather jacket). With this outfit, I’d say it fails this test. Nothing on the lapels, no hat, not even a pattern on the shirt? Presumably he’s not going to go around with his crombie coat conveniently flapping open to reveal the red lining, so even that dash of colour will be hidden most of the time.
    At the end of the day though, whatever he wears, he needs to be written better… and for that we’ll just have to wait and see.

  3. The Crombie coat isn’t *only* a 200-yr-old brand, known for outfitting Lords and Viscounts, it’s also one embraced by the Ska-Punk scene in the late 60’s – early 70’s in the UK, during the brief period when “Skinhead” didn’t mean “racist fascist a-hole.” So it’s of a piece with the Docs (or Loakes, the Internets really aren’t quite convinced yet). Which by the way seem to be ankle-high boots, not shoes.

    The pleated trousers, as Glen quite rightly points out, are so horrible they either are meant to be temporary, or meant to represent that weird eclectic, alien quality that keeps the Doctor from ever being merely an earthly superhero. I can’t say I disagree with the intent, if that’s it, but it can hate the execution, and look forward to doing so for an indefinite period.

    I would have gone with either a banded collar, to throw in a little truly antique fashion, or just bit the bullet and let him keep Smith’s spread collar, which wouldn’t be as ugly buttoned up. I notice by the way that Steven Moffatt’s collars often look like that, in interviews. To me, it just screams “lives in parents’ basement, and might have human body parts in his mini-fridge.” I do hope that it’s at least a brief moment if not a plot point, since bow ties were Eleven’s thing and Clara would object if Twelve tried to wear one.

    The red lining of the coat should look great if he ever needs to run. Does anyone know if this show has running in it?

  4. Oh, and I too have seen the photos from the shooting they did a few days ago, which Glen referenced. The vest-sweater-whatever thing pooches out at the midsection in a really stupid and ugly way, too. For a costume with so many fitted elements and clean lines, they sure provided a lot of demonstrably wrong parts for us to latch onto.

    No, seriously, the part of the sweater that isn’t held in by the coat juts out like a little paunch, and an alien creature could literally latch onto it and reel the Doctor in. I fear for his safety.

  5. Traditionally, cardigans are vests. Generally, the distinction between cardigans and sweater vests is the buttons, at least in my experience.

  6. Thanks for those links, Pablo!

    Even if they’re doing a little tailoring, it’s kinda weird that two of the items are nearly off-the-rack from one manufacturer, isn’t it?

  7. I remember reading that the costumer for SHERLOCK is nervous, because the coat Cumberbatch wears is no longer made, and they only have like 2 or 3 of them on hand. Perhaps the use of stuff more off-the-rack for Twelve is a response to that, in some way.

    Or maybe, they’re being (sort of) nice to cosplayers. No need to spend 50 hours cutting and sewing; just spend £900!

  8. Since this site is about costume re-designs, I thought someone might have mentioned the costume designer. This is Peter Capaldi’s costume, but the design credit should mention Howard Burden. Costume designers deserve credit for their work as much as comic book illustrators do.

  9. There is so much suedehead in this look, I am amazed you cats managed to miss it. The shirt buttoned to the top with long point collar, the crombie, the cardigan, docs, and yes skinny pants with pleats.
    You can argue that you need pleats when you have over the waist pants. The hips are wider than the waist and the extra material has to go somewhere. If you cut the pattern to fit the waists you get weird wrinkles/flares at the hips. The “carrot-fit” is a hipster thing in Northern Europe these days too, taking exercise pants (good for running) to fashion.

  10. You know, I had meant to talk about the punk roots of the thing. I’m not super-literate on my British punk groups, but this made me thing of the Teddy Boys as much as anything. But I’d already written such a wall of text, that I figured it was best to let it be.

    I’d also meant to talk a bit more about the Regency silhouette. The pants actually fit that, as well as the coat. I can’t really imagine why someone would decide to suddenly emulate that look for a contemporary character, but, I dunno, maybe someone’s a big Jane Austen fan?

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