8 Crazy Costumes of Classic ‘Doctor Who’

In 2005, Doctor Who returned to TV screens with a new cast and crew.  After being off the air for over 15 years, a lot had changed in the TV landscape.  With shows like Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica having reboots of their own that paved the way for Who to return, it would not be the same show that earlier generations remembered.

One of the biggest differences was the ending of the serial format that had served the show well for twenty five years.  Another was the upgrade to how the show looked.

Gone were the obviously rubber costumes and over the top masks that did little to suspend disbelief.  The show would now have world class effects, make-up and costumes.  But for many people who had hidden behind the couch as children, this was a sad state of affairs.

Here is a list of the best (worst) looking aliens from each of the original series’ Doctors.

William Hartnell (The 1st Doctor): The Sensorites in “The Sensorites”

Serial synopsis: The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan arrive in the TARDIS on board a spaceship. Their initial concern is for the ship’s human crew, who are suffering from telepathic interference from the Sensorites, but Susan communicates with the Sensorites and finds the aliens fear an attack by the humans and are just defending themselves. Travelling to the Sense Sphere (the Sensorites’ planet) the Doctor seeks to cure an illness to which the Sensorites and Ian have succumbed but finds it has been caused by deliberate poisoning. The political manoeuvring of the Sensorite City Administrator poses another threat to the TARDIS crew as he seeks to discredit and implicate them.

This episode has the distinction of being the first in the series to flat out state that it occurred in the future.

This race all appear almost identical, even to themselves.  Their clothing made it possible to tell them apart as various accessories denoted ranks among them.  With large bulbous heads and large, lidless black eyes these telepathic creatures lived on the Sense Sphere.

Russel T. Davies who produced the rebooted Doctor Who series stated that the Sensorites were a major influence on the creation of the Ood.  In fact, he revealed that the Ood Sphere and Sense Sphere were part of the same star system.

Patrick Troughton (The 2nd Doctor):  The Fish People in “The Underwater Menace”

Serial Synopsis: The TARDIS arrives on an extinct volcanic island. Before long, the travellers are captured and taken into the depths of the Earth, where they find a hidden civilization — the lost city of Atlantis.  The Atlanteans worship a goddess named Amdo and use fish people — men and women operated upon so that they can breathe under the sea — to farm the plankton-based food on which they survive. A deranged scientist, Professor Zaroff, has convinced them that he can raise their city from the sea, but actually he plans to drain the ocean into the Earth’s molten core, so that the resultant superheated steam will cause the planet to explode.

With scaly skin, large, fish like eyes, gills and fins the Fish People are the working class citizens of Atlantis in the fifth serial of the fourth season of Doctor Who.

While never shown again on screen the Fish People have appeared in comic book form (“An Adventure in Brine and Plaice” and “Summer Wholiday”) as well as being mentioned when the 12th Doctor takes Clara to meet them in the episode “The Caretaker.”

Jon Pertwee (The 3rd Doctor): Arcturan and Alpha Centauran in “Curse of Peladon”

Serial Synopsis: The Doctor and Jo make a test flight in the TARDIS and arrive on the planet Peladon. Seeking shelter, they enter the citadel of the soon-to-be-crowned King Peladon, where the Doctor is mistaken for a human dignitary summoned to act as chairman of a committee assessing an application by the planet to join the Galactic Federation.

This episode marked the 4th appearance of the Ice Warriors and the first appearance of both the Arcturans and the Alpha Centaurans.They were both so strange that Pertwee gets two for the price of one on this list.

The Alpha Centauran possessed tentacle-like limbs, each tipped with claws.  Their round heads were featureless except for one very large eye.  Though green in color in most circumstances they could change their hue based on their emotion.  Though their voices sounded feminine they were hermaphroditic.

They did reappear in the following serial, “The Monster of Peladon” and the 12th Doctor episode “Empress of Mars.”

The Arcturans could not survive off their own planet and required a full life support system, of which the most vital part was the helium regenerator.  They resemble humanoid skulls with tendrils.  While they never appeared again in the show they have appeared in several novels and one audio adventure from Big Finish.

Another interesting note on this episode, the king of Peladon is played by the real life son of the 2nd Doctor.

Tom Baker (The 4th Doctor): The Wirrn in “The Ark in Space”

Serial Synopsis: The TARDIS lands on a space station orbiting Earth in the distant future. It’s seemingly deserted, but the Doctor, Sarah and Harry soon discover that they are not alone. Thousands of humans are in cryogenic sleep, and while they’ve slept their Ark has been invaded. A parasitic insect race, the Wirrn, have taken control and threaten the very future of mankind.

Roughly human sized with the anatomy of an insect, the Wirrn are memorable for one thing.  When they take over a host they not only have all the racial memories of their species but of the being chosen to be their host.  In this episode that host is Noah, the mission commander of the station the Doctor, Sarah, and Ian find themselves on.

It is not the final look of the Wirrn that is of interest here.  It is that this is one of the earliest known uses of bubble wrap on TV.

They did return in a Big Finish audio adventure of the 8th Doctor (Paul McGann) and the 6th Doctor (Colin Baker).

Peter Davison (The 5th Doctor): The Tractators in “Frontios”

Serial Synopsis: The TARDIS arrives on the planet Frontios in the far future, where the last vestiges of humanity crash landed years earlier. The struggling colony is beset by disasters, including deadly meteorite showers and the disappearance of several prominent colonists who have been sucked down beneath the ground. The Doctor, Tegan and Turlough discover that the culprits are Gravis and his Tractators, giant insects with incredible powers over gravity. The Gravis intends to transform Frontios into an enormous spaceship, and spread the terror of the Tractators across the galaxy.

This was the 3rd serial of the 21st season of the show.  It introduced a new species that had apparently attacked Turlough’s home world long ago, the Tractators.

The Tractators were generally insect like in appearance.  Their backs were covered with scales and there were two antennae on their heads.

The costumes were so uncomfortable in the hot studio that they had to have air pumped into them due to insufficient ventilation.

They did appear in both comic and audio form with Peter’s successor the 6th Doctor.

Colin Baker (The 6th Doctor): The Vervoids in “Terror of the Vervoids”

Serial Synopsis: The Doctor is now allowed to present evidence in his season long trial for his defense. He chooses events from the future, in hopes that it will prove he has reformed after the Thoros-Beta incident. During the presentation, some details appear altered from what the Doctor reviewed, furthering his suspicions that evidence is being tampered with. In the year 2986, the Doctor and his new companion Mel (Bonnie Langford) answer a distress call from the interstellar ship Hyperion III. The ship is sabotaged and people are dying at the hands of the Vervoids, plant-like humanoids whom the Doctor learns were genetically engineered to be slaves. Although the Doctor and Mel are able to stop the Vervoids, he admits that none of the Vervoids survived the voyage. The Valeyard—under Article 7 of Gallifreyan law—charges the Doctor with genocide.

This serial was something new, The Doctor tells a story from his own future to justify his continued existence to the Timelords during his trial.  It also introduces Mel as a companion but she is never seen on screen meeting him for the first time.

The Vervoids are a type of artificially created humanoid plant.  They are the size of humans with pink heads surrounded by petals.  When panicked they could release a swamp gas out of their mouth or shoot poisoned darts out of the short tendrils at the end of their arms.  Living for about a year they were created as slave labor for humans.

They would be mentioned in the episode “Ultimate Foe” which followed directly after and ended the televised stories of the 6th Doctor.

Sylvester McCoy (The 7th Doctor):  KandyMan in “Happiness Patrol”

Serial Synopsis: Terra Alpha is under the steel fist of Helen A and her executioner, a sadistic robot made out of sweets called the Kandy Man. Joy is perpetual on Terra Alpha, because to be unhappy invites the wrath of Helen A’s crack police force, the Happiness Patrol. Allying themselves with Terra Alpha’s oppressed natives, the Pipe People, a former Happiness Patrolwoman named Susan Q and blues player Earl Sigma, the Doctor and Ace must end Helen A’s reign of terror.

Kandyman was a pathological, psychopathic killer robot who worked as an executioner for Helen A, the Margret Thatcher like leader of Terra Alpha.

Its outer shell was made of various confectioneries like licorice, sherbet, marzipan, and caramel.  It used sweets as a means to execute people when they were so good that people couldn’t resist devouring them.

During part three of the serial, when the Kandyman is underground he is missing the metal brace around his mouth.  This kind of thing happened a lot in the classic series.  In this case, the brace was added after those scenes were shot to help hide the features of the actor.

Bassett Foods had a mascot with a similar appearance that prompted their CEO to complain to the BBC.  Their response was that no copyright had been infringed but they could promise the character would never return to the show.

The character would, however, appear in multiple comics and Big Finish audio adventure.


We hope you enjoyed this look back at some of the crazy creatures from the original run of Doctor Who.  Were there other creatures that scared you or made you laugh back in the day?  Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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