Set the story in Victorian London, give it a Sherlock Holmes rip-off, add a dash of misogyny, top it off with a lot of yellowface racism, and throw in a giant rat! What do you get? Doctor Who’s season 14 finale The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977). At least the costumes are by John Bloomfield, who had previously designed the costumes for miniseries The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970) and the 1972 movie version, plus the first season of the original Poldark (1975-1976). This was one of the most expensive serials produced by Doctor Who during the ’70s, and it mostly shows on screen, making it worth a review for the costumes alone.
Because, whoa, this was hard to rewatch for the story. I’ll summarize: The Doctor (Tom Baker) and his newest companion, Leela (Louise Jameson) arrive in London in the 1890s, where they get caught up in the mysterious disappearance / murder of several women. Leela, btw, is a “savage” who usually wears a skimpy outfit of animal skins and tends to solve most problems with violence first.
She was intended to be an “Eliza Doolittle” character for the Doctor to “educate,” and this episode goes OTT with that conceit. The good thing for Frock Flicks, at least, is that means she’s made to wear historical garb the whole time. She complains about it, but she does it, down to her undies … which she runs around in due to, um, plot reasons :-/
However, the costume is proper Victorian garb with correct hairstyling, which is pretty damn amazing! When she and the Doctor arrive, she’s wearing an adorable knickers suit, rather like what a woman of the period would wear to ride a bicycle. The jacket has huge leg-o-mutton sleeves and is piped all over along the seams, she’s wearing a high-collared blouse with a tie, and you can just barely see gaiters on her legs below the knickers.
However, Leela swaps places with one of the unfortunate victims, changing into that woman’s clothes. And for some reason, she has to remove the borrowed clothes and ends up running around in her underwear in the sewers. At least this shows that she’s wearing Victorian undies (though no corset). This is also the only time her hair is down.
When the Doctor and Leela attend the theater to get more info on the perpetrator behind this mystery, Leela is persuaded to wear a full ladies gown. +1 for the period hairstyle, -1 for obviously not wearing a corset.
The Doctor also wears Victorian costume in this episode — in fact, it’s the only serial in his entire run that the Fourth Doctor doesn’t wear his trademark long scarf! Instead, he wears a Sherlock Holmes inspired costume that John Bloomfield specially created for Tom Baker.
Do you remember this Doctor Who episode?