By 2013, the Steven Moffat/Matt Smith-era of Doctor Who was well into its third season (“series”).
With the exception of the 2011 Christmas special, “The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe,” there had been a nearly year-long hiatus between the end of season 6 and the beginning of season 7. Even that was only a brief run of five episodes (now typically regarded as “season 7a”), followed by yet another six-month hiatus, with only a Christmas special to tide the fans over until the so-called “season” continued.
In addition to the long gaps of time between irregular bursts of episodes, the show had gone through not one, not two, but three different costume designers over the preceding two seasons. The changes in the 11th Doctor’s ever-expanding wardrobe grew increasingly obvious, and more of a departure from his established “look.”
Enter costume designer Howard Burden, who generally stuck to Matt Smith’s season 6 look for season 7a, then introduced a radically new costume for the Doctor in the 2012 Christmas special, “The Snowmen.” In the interview below, he said that he was told partway into the season that he could actually change the “look” of the character:
Once “season 7b” began airing in spring of 2013, the 11th Doctor permanently switched to a (mostly) brand-new costume. The bow tie would, of course, continue to remain a fixture on his new ensemble, and perhaps the most notable addition (or, rather, substitution) was his purple frock coat.
Early in the first (proper) episode of season 7b, there was even a brief scene inside the TARDIS when the Doctor held up his former tweed jacket next to the new purple frock coat and apparently decided it was time for a change.
However, this costume analysis isn’t about the stylish purple frock coat, but the accompanying “scales” waistcoat, which would be arriving soon after. 🙂
It’s not clear when exactly the “Rain Gods” short took place, as it seems to exist solely as a season 7 Blu-Ray special feature, and I haven’t been able to find any record of a televised or online air date.
However, it’s possibly the earliest in-universe appearance of Howard Burden’s new “7b” costume for the Eleven, as evidenced by the lack of a waistcoat.
On the one hand, this could easily take place in the interim between “7a” and “7b,” after the departure of Amy and Rory but before Clara came along (or rather, came along again).
On the other hand, we watched the Doctor seemingly make a conscious decision to change his wardrobe in the first episode of 7b, “The Bells of Saint John,” so that may imply that this short took place after that episode. We also know that Clara wasn’t a traditional “constant companion,” so this could’ve been one of the Doctor’s activities between adventures with Clara.
Back on the first hand, though, the Doctor did seem to already have this new costume lying around, so maybe he was just giving it a “road test” and trying something different for his date with River. Then looking back, he remembered liking the frock coat and chose it instead of the tweed jacket. Who knows?
Regardless, he clearly wasn’t wearing a waistcoat – yet? – in this short.
The Doctor also didn’t wear a waistcoat during the first proper episode of 7b, “The Bells of Saint John.”
Curiously, the Doctor was clearly seen wearing the “scales” waistcoat in these publicity photos for the episode.
The latter two photos may have been part of a single photo session, considering the similar-looking publicity photos for the following two episodes. But that first photo seems obviously intended for “The Bells of Saint John.”
In other publicity photos for the episode, he was appropriately lacking the waistcoat.
He was also not wearing the waistcoat in the behind-the-scenes footage, which isn’t surprising since it would have presumably been filmed on location during breaks between the filming of the actual episode.
“The Bells of Saint John” promotional material notwithstanding, the first proper appearance of the “scales” waistcoat, in-universe, was in the following episode, “The Rings of Akhaten.”
This (or a close variation of the) “scales” waistcoat would continue to be the Doctor’s waistcoat of choice for the following three episodes.
In fact, its construction details were most easily observable during its final (proper) appearance in “Journey to the Center of the TARIS,”, as he wore it for the entire episode without the accompanying purple frock coat.
The “scales” waistcoat was also on the 11th Doctor costume display at the Doctor Who Experience.