Doctor Who's Eleventh Doctor almost had a very different look

Writing about 2500 years ago, the philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus observed that the only constant in life is change — "life is flux," as the Ancient History Encyclopedia has it. Rarely has popular culture embraced that as thoroughly as the BBC's Doctor Who, a time travel/sci-fi series that ran from 1963-89 before relaunching in 2005.

Broadcast technology and special effects, even for a weekly series, have changed enormously in the more than 50 years the show's been in production. Part of the genius of the show's narrative is that the lead character, referred to as The Doctor (The Doctor is most emphatically not Doctor Who), changes out from time to time, beginning with the first incarnation, played for three years by William Hartnell. He was followed by Patrick Troughton (three years), Jon Pertwee (four years), Tom Baker (the longest so far, at seven), and then, at two years each, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy. (For those who've lost track, we're up to 13 now, says the BBC.) Each time The Doctor changes — "regenerates," in the language of the series — the new actor brings a new personality to the character, and a new wardrobe that reflects that change. When the show re-launched in 2005, all of those traditions came with it.

Matt Smith was The Doctor and Karen Gillan was companion Amy Pond

By the time the 11th doctor rolled around, played by Matt Smith, the costuming process was described (by Ray Holman, the show's costume designer) as "massively collaborative," says Radio Times. Smith's Doctor was a study in contrasts, looking like a schoolboy, but with 2,000 years of life experience. The showrunner, Stephen Moffatt, described 28-year-old Smith's Doctor as "an old man trapped in a young man's body."

A tweed jacket was sort of a starting point — an older look on a younger man, and Smith's idea — he wore one to the first costume session. Smith also gets credit for suggesting his character's bow tie. (As that Doctor frequently remarked, "bow ties are cool.") "Matt put it on and that was it: we all instantly knew it was right," Holman remembered. According to Holman, his own professional secret "is dressing the actor appropriately – doing the right thing for that person. It's all about making them feel good."

That's not to say there wasn't a certain amount of trial-and-error in the process. CTV Sci-Fi Channel reports Smith telling a 2017 fan convocation in Toronto, "I tried so many costumes on and at first he (The Doctor) was quite pirate-y — he was in stripes and like a long coat and he looked a bit like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean." Fortunately for all of us, wiser heads prevailed.