DOCTOR WHO: Companion Pieces - The TARDIS

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Christopher Morley pays tribute to the Doctor's constant traveling companion, the TARDIS.


Its interior design has changed over the years but from that very first episode in November 1963 right up to Death In Heaven where might the Doctor be minus dear old 'Sexy', eh? We've learnt almost as much about the machine as the Doctor himself- Time & Relative Dimension In Space being the rather grandiose meaning of a simple abbreviation, as designated by Susan in An Unearthly Child, though Ian doesn't initially believe the good old Type 40 has taken the First Doctor & crew through time...



If we covered every single moment then, like the TARDIS herself, we'd be here for almost 51 years so let's look at some of the 'Old Girl's' highlights.

Why does it look like a 1950s police box? That, friends, is a matter for the chameleon circuit ( the component which allows TARDISes to blend in with their surroundings). Put simply, the Doctor's is knackered- which is why his own transport of choice is stuck on that form. He does of course attempt to fix it five regenerations later in Attack Of The Cybermen, but the resulting deviations from the standard ' police box' template- a dressing table & a pipe organ among them- prove unstable. Mercifully order is restored before the circuit breaks once again! One of its unique selling points has always been that its ' bigger on the inside', made possible by the transdimensional engineering of the Time Lords. Here's a handy guide...


Got all that? Excellent. We've even seen the TARDIS Matrix, the heart of the ship, implanted into a human host body ( The Doctor's Wife).



But what would happen should a Time Lord seek to merge with his choice craft during the regenerative process? That was the question posed by The Rogue TARDIS ( a planned Fifth Doctor story, written by Barbara Clegg & scheduled for Season 21, Peter Davison's last in the role). Precious little information actually survives regarding that story, though similar ideas are explored in the Seventh Doctor audio adventure Unregenerate. Set in the aftermath of Time & The Rani relatively soon after his most recent regeneration, the Doctor discovers that the Celestial Intervention Agency is secretly experimenting with the idea of forcing TARDIS consciousnesses into living physical bodies.

Bit like The Doctor's Wife, then! The power source for the greatest display of structural ingenuity in the universe is drawn from the Eye of Harmony, with each TARDIS possessing a ' heart'...



The first extended look around the battered old box comes in The Edge Of Destruction. Up to this point viewers have known the ship only as a means of getting the Doctor & his companions from A to B.


Here, though, we get a first glimpse of its implied sentient nature. It's trying to warn them that something bad is coming, & the suspicion that the First isn't quite as accomplished a pilot as he perhaps should be is confirmed when the Fast Return Switch is revealed to have been stuck all along. Once its fixed, though, everything's back to normal- & so begins Marco Polo.

Following his first ' renewal' we see another handy feature in The Krotons. The HADS, or Hostile Action Displacement System, allows the TARDIS to move itself independently should it come under attack! 


...Though only a short distance away, usually.....it needs to be set manually, & the Second Doctor quite often forgot to do so. In fact, he won't even use the thing again until a return encounter with the Ice Warriors during his Eleventh incarnation ( Cold War). It has even survived an explosion in the Land of Fiction ( The Mind Robber). The dads in the audience were no doubt thrilled to see Zoe Heriot spinning around that void in a lovely catsuit........


Its not just the Doctor who has a TARDIS, either. They're standard-issue for Time Lords, which means we'll later see the Master ( whose chameleon circuit still works, allowing his to take forms ranging from a horsebox to a grandfather clock & beyond - more on his/her TARDIS here) & the Rani ( who tended to stick to a pyramid form) use models of their own. 

Indeed its become something of a running theme that the Doctor has been faithful to his Type 40 even though its thought to be an obsolete model back on Gallifrey...



Later on, during his Tenth incarnation, the Doctor is able to open & close the doors by simply snapping his fingers ( Forest Of The Dead). He retains the ability post-regeneration, too- once what he used to call ' old girl' & would later call ' sexy' has repaired itself after a refit following a rather big explosion...


Of course such grand configurations are second nature if you look at the interiors of each different incarnation's TARDIS...



Put simply it is indeed the Doctor's ' home' ( The Tomb Of The Cybermen).



On Trenzalore ( The Name Of The Doctor) it served as his grave.


There it had grown to an enormous size, whereas in Flatline, it went the other way...


It even has a handy Zero Room, for those times when you just need a little extra post-regenerative time to recover ( Castrovalva).



Now to move on to a question which has no doubt excited those of us who like a little Who with our tea on a Saturday evening. Could TARDISes, or at least a similar form of technology, one day become reality? Several enterprising souls have spent staggering amounts of time & money on attempting to build replicas ( see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23363622). But a paper by physicists Ben Tippett & Dave Tsang appears to suggest that with the right knowledge you could actually build a full-size working Type 40! If such science floats your boat, take a gander at http://arxiv-web3.library.cornell.edu/pdf/1310.7985v2.pdf & prepare to have your mind blown.

There is also, of course, Professor Brian Cox's The Science Of Doctor Who. He weighs on on the subject too.

Much to ponder, we're sure you'll agree. Should you want to have a go using the altogether simpler medium of Lego, here's how....



Who says you can't learn & have fun at the same time? A lot less expensive, too! The rush to your school/college/local library for books on the science of time travel begins after you finish your models.............

And if you do have a bash feel free to send us your pictures and/or postcards from the past/future!

Previous Companion Pieces 

Rory Williams - Handles
Clara Oswald
Evelyn Smythe
Warped Factor
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