Evolution of... Cat's Costumes
Rounding off our design retrospective series.
3 August, 2012
In the lead-up to Red Dwarf X, we're taking a nostalgic trip through the design elements of the show from Series I through to Back to Earth. For this final entry, we're looking at the varied and often outrageous wardrobe worn by the Cat - but with over eighty different outfits appearing over the course of eight-and-a-bit series, we're doing this one a bit differently. Mere words can't do justice to such a king of style, so enjoy our visual journey through every one of his dazzling suits...
The majority of Cat's outfits for the first series were modelled by the costume department on the very zoot suit - actually his father's - that he'd famously turned up to his audition in. There were five differently-coloured suits of this kind - the pink version seen in The End(and with different ties in Balance of Power and Confidence & Paranoia) perhaps the most immediately striking and famed. Of a different style but still in keeping with the overall feel of Cat's look were the white padded coat of Me2 and an extremely natty red-and-black dinner jacket combo in Confidence & Paranoia.
A number of the outfits from the first series made reappearances this time out, too - although usually with different shirts from before. Additions included a startling multi-coloured shirt (worn solo in Kryten and Queeg, and with a cream jacket in Parallel Universe) and a spangly white-and-gold jacket seen in Stasis Leak. Then, of course, there was the "dream sequence" dance outfit from Parallel Universe - actually then to reappear later in the episode proper.
Incoming costume designer Howard Burden was a match made in heaven for the Cat - and he went to town, greatly expanding the variety of styles beyond the original suit-and-shirt look. Of particular note in Series III was the Cat's habit for turning up in multiple outfits in the same episode - there's no single episode in which only one ensemble is worn, and all in all over the full series we see no fewer than fifteen distinct outfits...
There was a sense in Series IV that having experimented wildly the previous year, the Cat was settling into a smaller number of favoured outfits. No suit appears in the same two episodes in this series - but by the same token, only one episode (Camille) saw more than one (including one of his most iconic garbs, the white tiger-print coat). While the variety was still strong, it feels here like a more particular style was being zeroed in on once again.
A similar pattern to the previous year was maintained for Series V - for the most part, each episode saw a single individual outfit in the established style. The exception this time was The Inquisitor, for the plot-based reason of the alternate-timeline version of the Cat being marked out by a stylish red tartan number. Oh, and of course, we have to mention the unforgettable Duane Dibbley threads...
With the overall cosmetic changes of Series VI, it was time for yet another fresh approach to the Cat's togs. Under the duress of the limited supplies available on Starbug, Howard Burden came up with the concept of the character having a consistent "base" for the outfit while changing jackets, shirts and so on. In fact, when excluding alternate or imaginary versions, this series would see the fewest outfits yet - by virtue of the deliberate joke in Rimmerworld of his being caught wearing the same suit twice. The elaborate Mexican-themed "Riviera Kid" outfit in Gunmen of the Apocalypse, meanwhile, was an inspired creation.
The same basic aesthetic was carried forward to Series VII, despite the gap between series. This time, though, there was a greater array of top levels once more - with an average of two suits per episode, even Series III was surpassed; and a quite startling five distinct outfits were seen in Nanarchy alone! A strong recurring theme was a distinctly feline look, with two different white tiger print coats as well as a leopard print and two sets of hefty furs.
Even the Cat, in all his sartorial elegance, couldn't escape prison garb during life in the Tank. As such, like the others, he was forced to spend most of the series in lilac boiler suit or yellow Canaries uniform. There were still chances for flashes of individuality, however: in a necessary nod to continuity, the tiger print coat seen at the end of Nanarchy was carried through the earlier scenes of Back in the Red(and later popped up again in Only the Good...), while a brown leopard print made a brief appearance in Pete. The real show-stopper, though, was the dazzling spangly blue number created for the Blue Midget dance routine. Well, either that or the, ahem, anatomically-accurate nurse's uniform...
Back to Earth
After a decade away, we were hoping the Cat would make a splash with some outstanding new outfits - and Burden's newest creations didn't disappoint. The main outfit worn throughout the three-part special was a deeply classy burgundy suit - with a hint of influence from the Riviera Kid outfit - with a lavish fur-trimmed coat. But that wasn't all: the beginning of the first episode saw a large white fur coat employed, while the bright purple, figure-hugging "diving bell" outfit might just be the most memorable of them all...
With a full six episode series on the horizon, naturally the opportunity has been taken to give Cat a number of new outfits. You'll already have seen three of them - one in the first promo image, and two in the trailer - but how many more will there be, and how will they look? You'll just have to wait until Autumn to find out...
Better Than Life (Audiobook)
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