Could the TARDIS Become a Permanent Companion?
Guest contributor Bob Dickens investigates the possibilities.
The TARDIS has been there from the start. Truly it is a staple of the show, and a character in its own right. But what if it could become more? What if ‘she’ could have a voice, a face, a body… permanently?
With all the excitement for the new era of the Twelfth Doctor, now is as good a time as ever to start exploring new ideas and themes within the show. The TARDIS has the potential and the capability to become a permanent companion, with all the characterisation that can be afforded to an AI (or sentience in this case). Truly, the story possibilities are both complex and endless.
I recently finished re-watching the fantastic Neil Gaiman episode “The Doctor’s Wife”. Seeing the TARDIS as a physical character again reminded me how fantastic this concept could be. The TARDIS has seen so much of the Doctor’s adventures, you could be certain that she would have something to say in every situation. In the end, she is both the Doctor’s oldest and closest friend. “Do you remember that time…?” For fans of the classic era, there could be some gentle nods of nostalgia to times gone by. Or even cryptic messages of things to come, offering a new level of foreshadowing capability to the writers.
So how could this work? Well, the TARDIS is the box. I am not proposing that ever change. Certainly if she was ever introduced as a permanent character, her interactivity would be primarily in and around the box itself. I really only see three viable options on the table.
This has already been done. Viewers of the last season’s “Hide” episode will recall the holographic voice interface that took on the image of Clara. Clearly the show producers are leaning towards the TARDIS having more interaction and this feels like the most logical step.
As a hologram, she could appear anywhere in and around the box. This would allow us to see expressions through her face, and allow for complex scenes of dialogue to be artfully played out. The big advantage is that this would of course require an actress. As with all companions, this is a character that could easily change their actress – for example whenever the TARDIS has an interior makeover.
Another advantage is that with this technology, she could almost take on a shapeshifter characteristic if needed. Changing into the Doctor to confuse enemies inside the box, or even taking on the form of past companions. (Thus allowing us many, many cameo appearances by our former favorite actors)
This would be a bit more of a stretch, but still feasible. I am not proposing a fully robotic look. (ala EDI from the Mass Effect games) Well they could do that, but she could never leave the box for fear of terrifying the masses in past time eras!
No, no, I am talking perhaps something more akin to what was presented in the Steven Spielberg movie A.I. Heavily spray painted to give a slightly off-human look, and occasionally strange awkward robotic movements.
With the box as the main broadcaster of her conciousness, the android body would be a shell. But it would enable her to fully work alongside the Doctor on his adventures. To interact with her environment. Watching an AI experience a whole new world of stimuli would be a fascinating sub plot to the show, and something that has only occasionally been delved into within the Sci-fi genre.
3) A Voice
Perhaps the more boring of the three, but would still open up many possibilities. As well as speaking aloud within conversations, she could also speak to the Doctor directly via his Sonic Screwdriver. “Careful Doctor, five Daleks approaching from the south.”
Whether she has a body, hologram, or neither… the voice will be that of the character we now know has a free will. As explained in “The Doctor’s Wife”, she was the one that chose the Doctor. She is the one that guides him where he needs to be. It would be good to hear that voice of reason, and to enjoy the banter when the Doctor argues with her.
Compared to the last two options, the obvious downside to this approach would be much less characterisation options, and would be a little too similar to talking computers from other shows. (looking at you KITT)
In the last two seasons, the writers have deliberately gone out of their way to personalise the big blue box. I say it is time to embrace this, and take it to it’s next logical step. Give the TARDIS its own character. They could even give her a nickname to separate out from the trademark that is the police box. DISA? TARDY? (OK, not that one!)
- + Lots of story potential, and a fresh approach.
- + More of a sci-fi element to the show
- + A new permanent companion character
- - Breaks tradition
- - Too sci-fi for some
- - AI are scary and Skynet will kill us all