Once again it is my pleasure to present a recently published article from the Doctor Who Appreciation Society's magazine Celestial Toyroom. Just published in the Christmas issue 380/381(with a splendid Target books homage by cover artist Lee Carey), this is a companion piece to the earlier essay on design in the Classic Series, which you can find here, that covered the work of Peter Brachacki and Ray Cusick.
Part 1 / Cyber Suits You, Sir!
By the time of The Chase, Hartnell’s hip-ness was simply, and rather embarrassingly for the production team, reduced to featuring a clip of The Beatles on the TARDIS’ time/space visualiser. Ironically, in that very moment, the programme saw its own future. Those loveable Liverpool mop-tops, in hindsight, tell us more about the incoming actor Patrick Troughton and what the series would become, narratively and visually, than they do about the soon to be departing Hartnell and the previous two years of adventures.
Whilst we may utter the cliché ‘the swinging sixties’ and pay lip service to The Beatles, we must remember that the period was overshadowed by the threat of nuclear war and the assassinations of JFK and RFK, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. It could be said that, for Britain particularly, it was the death of Winston Churchill in 1965 that represented the extinguishing of the last embers of Empire. A new Britain was already waiting in the wings. Violence, fear and, indeed, revolution was reflected in all the new, exciting, radical, and subversive events and trends of the period. New forms of artistic practice were explored in an attempt to redefine the artist’s role in society.
Design, especially fashion, architecture and industrial design, embraced the twin concerns of 1960s society – looking optimistically forward into the future, egged on by NASA’s progress in landing a man on the moon, with a quiet agonising about the Cold War and hope for protection against the spectre of nuclear war. The imagery of the Cybermen and the couture of the times reflected the fear of nuclear war in the gas-mask like aesthetics of helmets and futuristic plastic survival suits as well as Pedler’s notion that advanced humans would replace their entire bodies with plastics and metal. Early US space suits, another major influence on the look of the Cybermen, were adapted from pressure suits designed for pilots of high altitude military and experimental aircraft. The first designs for use in space were the American A7L and Soviet Krechet suits. These were designed for walking on the moon during the space race of the 1960's and provided the basis for those used aboard space station and shuttle missions.
There is also the development of the humble wet suit to consider too. In the early 1960s, the British Dunlop Sports Company brought out its yellow Aquaforte neoprene wetsuit, whose high visibility was designed to improve diver safety. Now the foam rubber was sandwiched between two protective fabric outer layers, greatly increasing the tear-resistance of the material. An external layer also meant that decorative colours, logos, and patterns could be made with panels and strips sewn into various shapes. The development of the space suit and the wet suit from the 1960s to the 1980s resembled the Cybermen design similarly evolving from the jersey and vinyl outfits of The Tenth Planet, the looser silver boiler suit of The Moonbase through to the silver wetsuits of The Invasion and The Wheel In Space, all augmented by furniture coverings, vacuum cleaner tubing and practice golf balls to complete the iconic look. By the 1980s, the men from Mondas (or Telos, take your pick) were also getting serious with modified flight suits.
> Part 2: Mods On The Moon