Being as I am rather in a bad mood with men at the moment (but only the ones who’ve actually ‘done me wrong’, dear possible male readers -assuming I have *some* male readers- not you sterling chaps) and the weather is making me flop rather than pop, I’m seeking therapy in all forms. My current favourite type is Duran Duran.
I’m in a bit of an Eighties mood at the moment. Proper Eighties though. Proper New Romantic extravagance which could, quite frankly, be from any era and was itself a version of Glam Rock (my usual homeland). But the electric beats and boys with big hair and make-up are currently floating my boat. Although, saying that, a gift-wrapped Gene Hunt wouldn’t go amiss either.
A few weeks ago I went to Liverpool to see the Durans and, thankfully, my slightly obscured view of the stage (get some raised seating, Echo Arena!!) had one exception of a nearly perfect tunnel view of John Taylor. Who might just be the most beautiful man ever to have lived.
I’ve had a thing for him ever since View To A Kill, and that naughty little eyebrow raise after his shooting frenzy. My main squeeze as a five year old (I started young) was Morten Harket, so I never obsessed about John T. as much as I might. My taste has also, latterly, tended to lean towards the slightly more unconventional looking men of the world. But when Double D made a comeback with Ordinary World and Come Undone in the early 90s, I completely fell in love with his slightly more rugged prettiness and *that* excessively ruffled shirt from the latter video. I’m not sure it gets much sexier than that?
[Some kindly soul has also created a compilation of swoonworthy John Taylor moments on YouTube (for serious fans only).]
Now, thanks to the lovely Miss Senti and Penny Lane [the best possible type of groupie and the loveliest gals I could hope to meet], I’ve taken to occasional forays into New Romanticism at Electric Dreams nights. There’s nothing more wonderful for someone like me, who was born at completely the wrong time, than to dress up authentically with kindred spirits without a care and to lose yourself in music which makes your heart skip a beat. I want to do it with every era I possibly can. It’s the most amazing feeling.
My profile picture to the right is from the last time we went (I wore Sarah Whitworth and had the side hair-do) and this time I wore a dress by Symphony of Shadows and unfortunately it was so hot I had no choice but to put my hair up (which feels desperately unnatural to me…).
We do totally lose ourselves in the era. Watching Duran Duran and Adam Ant videos, laughing at Nick Rhodes’ clear revulsion at location filming (regard the length at which he holds his sparkler away from his hair in this video) and what it must do to his hair and make-up, cooing at John Taylor’s cheekbones, running away screaming in horror at Simon’s hair and clothes in the All She Wants Is video and booing every time possible Duran screentime is wasted on models, children and Andy Taylor.
So on Sunday when I emerged from the Eighties cocoon we had created this weekend, I found myself anticipating people looking a certain way. I was expected to see big, highlighted hair and mascara on each and every man I walked past. Oh! the crushing disappointment when each and every one failed me. I don’t even want to go to Hoxton, before anyone says it, because they just don’t do it properly. In fact, no one does it properly. Even at the Electric Dreams night. The men just don’t make an effort.
Where are all the New Romantic boys?
If you find one, please return him to me immediately. A-thank you.
One of the pet peeves of the vintage lover is when you’re reading your vintage copy of Petticoat or 19 or somesuch, that you can’t just walk into a shop the next day and buy the dress of your dreams – like the first reader of the magazine could have done.
One of the best things about my being geeky enough to buy a lot of these magazines is that sometimes, just sometimes, I can actually offer the item for sale. How lovely is that? From this delightful 4th April 1970 issue of Petticoat, we have a feature on appliques in all forms.
I have but one word for the, I assume, competitor who clicked my Google sponsored link 18 times in the space of five minutes.
That is all.
The departure of Lis Sladen in 1976 saw the first ‘Who foray into the notion of a ‘themed’ companion, which would prove to be a popular move by the production team and influenced the show until it went off-air in 1989. Leela (1977-78) was a warrior woman, human but from another planet where society had devolved into tribal rule. Yeah yeah. Mainly just an excuse for a sexy woman, Louise Jameson, to run around wearing a scanty leather bikini. However, we will forgive this rather sexist development because, quite frankly dear reader, Leela kicked serious ass.
She was also not the most conventional looking of women, and you can just visualise a modern version of Leela would involve silicone breasts, big capped teeth (*cough* Billie Piper *cough*) and perfectly coiffed hair and make-up. Leela was authentically a bit grubby, skinny and tribal in her movement and expressions. The outfits as well, are sexy in a mid-70s porn kind of way. Revealing, but not particularly enhancing and I spend most of my time watching her wondering if she’s feeling a bit chilly. I mean, Sarah Jane goes scampering back to the Tardis in her bikini in Death to the Daleks (The Doctor promised her a beach holiday, the swine!) but Leela just ploughs on through every situation in her teeny tiny leathers. Atta girl! Occasionally she relented, usually only on Earth though, and picked up some more appropriate clothes for the adventure.
Sadly by the end of her story, the writers dumped on her character from a great height. Her departure involved rapidly falling in love with some guy she’s only just met on the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey, shacking up with him and K9 the dog. What? Leela, Warrior Princess does housewife duties? Where did that come from? Thankfully Gallifrey gets destroyed in the Time War just pre the new series, so hopefully Leela went into battle all leathers blazing and redeemed the character we all knew and loved.
Once more, The Doctor was companion-less. But this time, for the first time ever, he would not choose his travelling partner. It would be chosen for him by his own people. Yes, finally the Doctor travels with another Timelord. Well, a lady. Romana (short for Romanadvoratrelundar – cos you would wouldn’t you?) was more of an equal intellectually but, rather like those fresh out of university 1st class honours type people who think they know everything there is to know about the world, was very green when it came to anything out of her comfort zone of education. So we still saw the Universe from the perspective of one like ourselves, which is clearly an important aspect of the show’s success.
Romana (Mark I, 1978-79) was aloof, frosty but a perfect foil for the exuberant, worn-around-the-edges Tom Baker Doctor and remains possibly the most glamorous companion the Doctor ever had. She initially appears in a breathtakingly beautiful white goddess dress and also dons a luxurious feather coat, which I’m almost 100% sure is one of Servalan’s old cast-offs from Series 1 of Blakes 7. That’s a fan fiction I’d like to read.
Frankly her entire season is a masterclass in late Seventies glamour, from the stunning white dress and boots in The Armageddon Factor to the purple velvet ensemble (with covetable jaunty hat) in The Androids of Tara. Not necessarily to everyone’s taste but Mary Tamm looks incredible in everything. Then, she’d look amazing in a used bin liner quite frankly.
When Tamm regenerated into Lalla Ward as Romana (Mark II, 1979-81), she also lost the assured glamour of her predecessor, as well as her haughty demeanour and frosty relationship with The Doctor. Her first costume is a pink version of The Doctor’s. Which is either a stroke of genius or the most unthinkably twee and patronising thing to ever happen to a companion. I still can’t decide which.
Poor Lalla seemed to get the bum end of the deal when it came to her wardrobe throughout her entire tenure in the show. From maternity smocks to Victorian bathing costume to pseudo-riding gear, even a school uniform.
Ah yes. The school uniform. If ever you need an explanation for why Romana Mark II is such a popular companion in the face of her being….how you say…a bit crap, then the heady combination of school uniform and formative male minds and hormones should give you a bit of a clue. By way of explanation of my previous comment about her crapness, I find Lalla Ward’s acting to be atrocious. Dodo was positively Shakespearean compared to her. I’m sure she’s a lovely person, and she was terribly engaging with Tom Baker (mainly because they were bonking by this point) but I just can’t warm to her. And I like all companions. But then, her target audience really was the male of the species. All flicky fine blonde hair, big teeth and kinky outfits – but nothing substantial enough to capture my attention.
Her one saving sartorial grace is the stunningly beautiful dress she wears in Creature from the Pit. But rumour has it the dress was intended for Mary Tamm before pregnancy meant she had to leave, which is why it doesn’t really suit her shape very well. But it is a lovely dress, so she gets one single gold star for that.
And that, dear readers, brings us to the end of the Seventies companions. Lalla borders into the Eighties, but I really don’t want to have to touch on her again, so I will return with: a noble native of Traken, the Mouth on Legs, a fake American, the most unbelievable teenager portrayal in the known universe and……Bonnie Langford.
Oh yes. You have been warned. We’ve already kinda hit the peak. It’s just downhill from now on. But I’ve started now, so I have to finish. Dear god, do I? Really? Yes…..my OCD tells me I must…..*sigh*
Caroline John as Liz Shaw (1970). Possibly the best pins in Who History, Caroline John was the natural successor to Wendy Padbury’s brainbox character of Zoe. Except Liz (great name, non?) was a modern day woman who just happened to be a brilliant scientist in her own right.
Brought in as UNIT’s replacement for The Doctor initially, she would end up ‘assisting’ him (in his exile on Earth) for four stories in Jon Pertwee’s debut season as The Doctor. She was the perfect foil for his slightly pompous, dandy Doctor, being as she was rather down-to-earth and of a relatively equal intellect (for an earthling anyway).
She also ran around in some seriously scanty skirts, fabulous knee high boots and even a floppy hat in The Ambassadors of (ping!) Death. Thus showing that the length of a gal’s skirt is not relative to the size of her brain. And also, yet again, proving that Doctor Who was no place for maxi skirts.
Overshadowed by her successors, and sidelined somewhat by her brief tenure by The Doctor’s side (she never even got a jaunt in the Tardis, poor love!) Liz Shaw is one of my favourite companions – for she was an intelligent, independent woman who neither needed, nor fell in love with, The Doctor.
Dear, lovely intelligent Liz Shaw. So of course the producers decided to continue in their inspirationally modern slant on the screaming companion character in the newly liberated Seventies. Right? Wrong. Say hello to Jo Grant (1971-73), and her knickers.
I’ve already blogged about Miss Grant as a Fashion Icon, thanks to her prediliction for dressing in head to toe Biba. Jo was wonderfully ditzy, seemingly rather dim and considerably younger than her predecessor. The implication was made that her promotion into UNIT was thanks to some healthy nepotism, but she was certainly a bright spark when it was needed. Although always with a giggle and a flutter of those spidery Biba eyelashes.
The Doctor certainly seemed to enjoy her company, although I would dispute that he preferred his companions to be a little bit screamy and stupid. He was certainly frustrated by her silliness, and charmed by her hidden depths, which would imply that he really does prefer a bit of spunk and spark in his companions. Jo was rather too much the adoring girl though, which often brought out the most patronising aspects of her mentor’s character.
All this aside, and I’m not even sure where I stand on Miss Grant – except that I would happily stand on and squish her in an attempt to get into her wardrobe and steal most of her gear, she was certainly adorable, always fabulously attired and occasionally quite brilliant. I won’t go into specific episodes because each and every one is a gem where Jo’s clothes are concerned, and each and every one is a Biba gem at that!
They returned to a slightly more sophisticated young woman for the next occupant of the Tardis wardrobe. This time dressed in Biba rivals Lee Bender for Bus Stop, Sarah-Jane Smith (1973-76 and beyond) was a fiesty reporter/journalist type who would stride headfirst into situations and enjoyed an occasionally snippy dialogue with her first Doctor. This first generation Sarah-Jane was my favourite and, unlike most people, I truly loved (and never questioned) that she was paired with Pertwee in The Five Doctors in 1984. Alas though, it eventually went horribly wrong with The Doctor’s regeneration and the introduction of a certain Mr Harry Sullivan.
Originally, the replacement for Jon Pertwee had been intended to be an older actor in the same vein as William Hartnell’s interpretation of the character. So producers had hired Ian Marter to play a new male companion (the first since Jamie left in 1969), because they felt they needed a virile young man to do….well, virile young man things. Nevermind that they already had Elisabeth Sladen as a strong female character, of course they needed a chap for chap things. In the end, as we now all know, they hired a young Tom Baker for the role who was perfectly capable of running around and in no need of a Harry Sullivan. So with effectively a ‘spare’ companion, they had to relegate poor Sarah Jane to mere screaming, girly companion character to give Harry enough to do (and provide enough of a contrast to the two male leads).
Harry: I say Doctor, steady on now old chap….I mean…..golly…..gosh…..that’s really rather beastly….
Sarah Jane: *wibble* *scream*
Doctor: There’s just no debate is there?
Now I love Harry and his excessive poshness. But thankfully he was let go by the end of this debut Fourth Doctor series, and Sarah Jane was finally able to regain her place as The Doctor’s main squeeze. Although she never did quite recover from this volte face in her characterisation, and remained perhaps a little too girly and screamy for my liking. Luckily, Sladen has had another chance (or three) at the role (most recently in her own series spin-off from ‘Nu-Who’) and has returned to the stronger character I so adored in her first series with Pertwee.
Style-wise, she must be applauded for never wearing a mini skirt and thus breaking with classic Who tradition that, regardless of how long skirts may be outside the Tardis, the companion always deems a mini skirt to be suitable quarry-sprinting attire. She donned a very cutesy print maxi dress in The Masque of Mandragora, one of Victoria’s alleged cast-offs (peculiarily Edwardian for Miss Waterfield but we’ll let that go) in The Pyramids of Mars and who on earth could forget the Andy Pandy striped dungarees from her departure story, The Hand of Death?
Let’s just pretend her rescue from a little tumble down a slight incline in The Five Doctors never happened shall we?
Part II coming soon (where we see the true meaning of the phrase “One for the Dads”, see where Servalan’s cast-offs ended up and try to work out why on earth a fully grown woman in a school uniform would be such a popular companion?).
…if you’re going to engage in a bit of label-swapping, which of course is fraud and completely illegal – not merely a ‘folly’ of vintage dealing, when it comes to Biba it would help if you didn’t use the relaunch label from the 90s. That’s all I’m sayin’……
My apologies for my prolonged absence lately. I do have many more blog posts to come but I’ve been rather caught up in real life stuff the past few weeks. Some of the more fun stuff has involved….