Doctor Who: The Man Who Designed The TARDIS

Christopher Morley steps inside the very first TARDIS, and salutes the man who designed it!

Peter Brachacki was born Kazimierz Piotr Brachacki in Poland in 1926, & amazingly wasn't actually all that enthusiastic about working on Doctor Who! Which might explain why his handiwork graces only An Unearthly Child, though his ideas inform much of the eventual design of the inside of the ship.

Among the innovations he came up with were-
  • The sterile, white timeless look.
  • The scattering about of random furniture and objects from different periods- the chair, hat stand etc. There's also a computer bank which contains various subsystems of the ship- the fault locator being just one example.
  • The central hexagonal console, designed so that all controls should be equally accessible to a single pilot.
  • The moving time column, intended to give an at-a-glance indication of the ship's status and whereabouts.
  • The roundels set into the wall, intended to pulsate when the ship was in motion. ( though director Waris Hussein claims they came about as a result of a round pattern in the plastic Brachacki used to make the TARDIS walls.

Indeed, Hussein later claimed that he had never been fully satisfied with Peter's work, only keeping him on due to the expense of finding a replacement! But find one he did, in the form of Barry Newbery- who in essence followed Brachacki's designs to the letter..........the BBC went on to pay tribute to the man he replaced years later, saying:
"Many people have had a huge influence on Doctor Who across the years. Writers, directors, producers and casting agents; actors and musicians and many whose names are familiar to us all. But in terms of individuals who worked on a single broadcast episode of the show, yet have exerted an influence that can be seen in almost every one of the Doctor’s adventures, it’s difficult to look beyond Peter Brachacki…''
Right enough, from an artistic perspective. And perhaps what follows is even more pertinent...
''Looking back on that first design it’s easy to overlook what a masterpiece Brachaki designed. The weird and futuristic appearance of the set is often commented upon; but this TARDIS interior conjured up a physical sense of the Doctor’s mystery, magic, background and power. In the same way the submarine Nautilus – the vessel in Jules Verne’s Nemo novels – reflects the character of its solitary, incredible captain, so this TARDIS interior suggests the kind of character viewers met for the first time on 23 November, 1963.''
The exterior of the TARDIS was of course designed to resemble a police box according to the notes of An Unearthly Child's writer Anthony Coburn, as it would have been a familiar sight to Sixties viewers, though commentators have been quick to point out that its dimensions are ironically not quite faithful to the source material - though its ' relative dimensions in space' are obviously fine! Not that most New-Who viewers would even have any idea that the box was anything other than a Type 40...

Consider the following...
"At a glance it is a reasonably faithful reproduction of those Police Boxes which could be seen on the streets of England in the sixties, but there are differences. Its roof stacks were not tall enough, and nor was its top 'pyramid' which resulted in the whole prop being a lot shorter than a real box."
Of course, we get to see it in all its glory in The Edge Of Destruction, the first story in which the TARDIS becomes so much more than a handy ride for the Doctor & his companions! It becomes the star, serving as both setting & a key element of the narrative in that it seeks to warn its passengers that something's wrong- the Fast Return Switch is stuck, following a quick escape in The Daleks.

This appears to be the Doctor's first glimpse of the implied sentient nature of the TARDIS- which isn't strictly his, a plausible explanation for his difficulties in piloting it & giving some credence to Ian's ridiculing of him & the 'old girl'.

For more you can also watch the Inside The Spaceship documentary included on the DVD box set The Beginning.......

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