Body language is non-verbal communication which gives us clues about someone’s intentions from their own physical behaviour. Looking at the subject from a Whovian perspective, we can consider examples of the Doctor’s own body language, but also some other amusing mimes and gestures from the world of Doctor Who as a whole.
Last summer, as mentioned in a previous post, Peter Capaldi communicated with the fans by means of his famous Hartnell lapel grab. He made use of Whovian body language whose real significance was completely lost on the general public at large. Capaldi is no Doctor Noob. He was reminding us that he himself was a fan too. If the average viewer noticed the gesture at all, they will have thought that Capaldi was simply adopting a confident pose. It was merely an assertion of his authority.
Hartnell, who Capaldi took off, was not the only Doctor to exude self-confidence and authority. The Third would often assume dramatic poses placing his hands on his hips, whilst The Sixth would confidently stride about his business. The Second’s body language was somewhat meeker. His foes had no idea of the power and intelligence hidden beneath his humble body language. Even the usually self-confident Fourth, in moments of stress, would occasionally seek comfort from his scarf and snuggle his head into it. The Ninth Doctor’s body language would on occasion betray weakness. In “Boom Town” he is not able to look Margaret Slitheen in the eye. After effectively handing her a death sentence by threatening to take her back to her home planet, he lowers his gaze in shame. In “The Parting of the Ways”, poised to blow up the Daleks, the Doctor’s shoulders and arms go limp, as he declares himself a coward rather than a killer.
All the Doctors have used their wits to defeat their enemies. When deep in thought, the Third would cup his chin in his hand and stroke it. The Fourth would ruffle his hair or rub the top of his nose as he pondered the cosmic conundrum of the day. He would then slap his own forehead as if to say “Why didn’t I think of that sooner?” On the occasions when the Doctors meet themselves in “The Three Doctors” and “The Five Doctors”, they display some slightly aggressive body language towards each other, which contrasts with the Tenth and Eleventh approvingly mirroring each other’s poses in “The Day of the Doctor”.
Are there other examples of body language which can relay a message to Whovians and no one else? Gestures and mimes that we can recognise and imitate, as proof of our Whovian credentials? Affirmative master! Who can forget the modern-day regeneration pose with arms outstretched upwards? What about the rhythmic rapping of fingers four times? Or that oh so familiar publicity pose with your knees slightly bent, a worried or excited expression on your face and your hand held out towards the camera? The list of mimes and gestures in a Whovian’s repertoire is endless. You can mime leaning over the console and pull imaginary levers. You can hold your hands over your face like a Weeping Angel. You can pretend to be aiming a sonic screwdriver. You can wave your finger through the air and lick it, Tennant style. Why not wiggle all your fingers under your chin – or anybody else’s for that matter – and pretend to be an Ood? And last but certainly not least, let’s play Daleks! Just stick your arm out and exterminate to your heart’s (or hearts’) content! Surely the Daleks’ initial success must have been due, at least partially, to the ease with which they could be mimicked in the playground.
Can you think of any other examples of Whovian body language? What are the mimes, gestures and mannerisms you associate with the show? Do you use them in Cosplay? Just write them in the comments box below!