During the 1960s, when science fiction was truly starting to make headway on television, there was a great deal of camp. Lost in Space had Robot B-9 who kept telling Will Robinson that there was danger around every corner. Star Trek had William Shatner’s brand of “acting,” as well as his ‘Shat-fu’ fighting style. Camp was just a part of the science fiction of the time.
Naturally, Doctor Who was not immune to that campiness. While the first few incarnations of the Doctor did not have that much in the way of blatant camp, that quickly changed. The seemingly insane Fourth Doctor, with his striped scarf and love of Jelly Babies, began to set the stage for the camp to come.
Then along came the Fifth Doctor, where we all came to learn that celery, or vegetables in general, can be fashion accessories. Perhaps that is where old Abe Simpson on The Simpsons got the idea of wearing an onion on his belt and why it was so fashionable – the Fifth Doctor made produce the hottest accessory of the time.
Then came the Sixth and Seventh Doctors. By that time, poor Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor looked like he was getting hand-me-downs from The Riddler as they tried to play up that “Doctor who?” joke. The Sixth Doctor chose to fend off his enemies with smocks instead of guns. The Rani was allegedly created to be a gay icon. There were Europop/disco style Daleks, much to the delight of bands like O-Zone. Numa numa exterminate!
Fortunately, the ridiculous and over the top campiness of Doctor Who has not truly come to the new incarnation of the show. Of course, there have been those moments, like the Eleventh Doctor and his love of the fez or any of the non-Dalek monsters that the Ninth Doctor encountered. It was, however, not the same, ever present camp that had been seen previously.
Perhaps that is a reflection on the actors playing the Doctor more than a conscious decision. The Twelfth Doctor certainly is not the type to appreciate campiness, aside from his ever present middle finger. Depending on who follows as the Thirteenth Doctor, that camp may return, in some degree, to the program.
For now, the campiness of Doctor Who has left. However, it may well return in the future. It is certainly not necessary, but could be quite fun.