Unbeknownst to most, Jamie’s Kilt is not, in fact, the only kilt to appear in Doctor Who. Less well known (but no less fabulous) is the kilt worn by the one and only Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. For all of about 3 minutes in the beginning of “Terror of the Zygons.” But it is sufficient.
(gif courtesy of dimensionsintime )
We first know that something is potentially amiss by the fact that, when we first see the Brigadier, he is out of uniform. Wha!? But it’s okay because his suit jacket is gorgeous on him. It’s never explained why he’s out of uniform in that scene, except perhaps to give him an excuse to wear a kilt. But the first time we see it is when the Doctor walks in (in plaid scarf and tam o’shanter, mind) and says:
Doctor: I want to know one thing Brigaider. What’s that?
Brigadier: That, Doctor, is a kilt.
Doctor: Yes… suits you very well.
Brigadier: Oh, do you think so?
This is the Doctor and the Brigadier down to the ground. Treating insults like compliments and compliments like insults. The Doctor is fascinated, but serious. The Brigadier is proud and defiant - expecting a ribbing over it but thoroughly unapologetic. And of course revving up to give the Doctor some friendly abuse in return. But sadly they get interrupted by the Duke, and we are robbed of an episode entirely about the Brig’s unexpectedly visible knees. Perhaps surprising, the Doctor never actually makes fun of the Brigadier’s kilt, although the Brig clearly expects him to. He seems more just impressed that the Brigadier has managed to surprise him.
Sarah is not nearly so politic, and spends the entire scene unable to stop cracking up. Harry, for his part, has gotten himself saddled with The Scarf, and so probably can’t see or breathe sufficiently to take notice. Incidentally, Harry wearing The Scarf is almost as adorable as Six wearing The Scarf in the Ten Doctors, and significantly more canonical. D’aaaawwwww Harry.) But, being an Intrepid Reporter, Sarah also manages to actually ask about it.
Sarah: “Though I didn’t expect to see you in a kilt!”
Brigadier: “My dear Miss Smith - as you remember my name is Lethbridge-Stewart! The clan Stewart.”
Sarah: “Oh sorry! I thought you were doing a Doctor.”
Brigadier: “What an absurd idea.”
Leaving aside the fact that Sarah has apparently gotten so used to the Doctor and his shenanigans that it doesn’t occur to her that someone might have a legitimate reason for wearing a kilt, there is a ton of stuff going on here. First off, “Terror of the Zygons” is set in Scotland, and there’s sort of a three-way conflict going between the landed gentry, the locals, and the (English) Oil Company. The Brigadier is officially here on behalf of the Oil company, but even in those few brief moments at the beginning he puts a lot of effort into allying himself with the locals, not being an outsider. The bit with the bagpipes is another example - he’s pushing accommodation of his hosts at the expense of personal convenience. He also seems to genuinely enjoy the discomfort it is causing Mr. Huckle, which puts him at a distinct conversational advantage. (I’d suspect he also enjoys the music). The kilt is another such gesture. I am one of you - I am not coming in from the outside and throwing my weight around as someone who knows nothing about such things. It helps him achieve an image of neutrality. Perhaps this is also why he is “holding court” as it were out of uniform.
But also, as the dialog with Sarah indicates, he is a Scottish person in Scotland. He is proud of his heritage and seems to be enjoying the opportunity to show it off. The Brigadier is as straight-edge as it gets. But just as he covers his stiff upper lip with the quirk of a fabulous mustache, he is not so straight-laced nor so stern that he will not induldge in a bit of kiltedness in the even that it is ever completely appropriate. It is these little flashes of personality that really make the Brigadier who he is: more than just your pompous military idiot. But this is why Sarah bursts out laughing. Not at kilts generally (even Sarah is a bit too politic for that) but at the idea that it’s the Brigadier wearing one. Something so fanciful seems completely out of character for him. Which is because he’s not being fanciful or absurd - that’s what the Doctor would do (heaven forbid!). He’s being who he is, which is every inch a Lethbridge-Stewart, on both sides of the hyphen. (And, need I point out, not only is Stewart a Scottish name, is is also a royal name. Thoroughly appropriate for the Brig, of course).
My Scottish sources inform me that, although clan tartans were more or less invented by Sir Walter Scott, what the Brigadier is wearing is not the familiar Royal Stewart tartan, but likely instead the very handsome Hunting Stewart tartan, as befitting a military man. So well done team for attention to detail!
So, it probably took you longer to read this than it takes to watch the one scene with the kilt, but that’s okay! Because it is, indeed, a magnificent kilt. And comes with the extra bonus of containing the Brigadier! Huzzah!