How does the TARDIS reflect The Doctor? (Part 3)

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Guest contributor Richard Elliot takes a look at some of the other TARDISes.

Well here I am again, frankly I’m astounded you haven’t all decided I’m nuts yet! I was once again blown away by the warm reaction to my last article, thank you all from the bottom of my heart! I deliberated over doing a third instalment, it seemed to me that I’d already covered all the topics I had originally planned to and there wasn’t much left to discuss but I had some really nice messages and comments suggesting other TARDISes I could look at before calling it quits, two of them pretty significant really, so I decided to do another three-part piece discussing those two and ending with something a little different that I touched on in my first article, something that I dearly wanted to discuss at length but didn’t have the word count to do. I hope you can bear with me in this one last time!

NOTE: There are a number of production reasons that lead to much of what I have and will talk about to have come into play. For the most part, I ignore these. I discuss the changes they entail but for the most part I try to focus on the changes that occur irrespective of these production reasons and what they signify as this leads to more significant discussion.

The Rani’s TARDIS

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To be clear, I am talking here about the “canon” TARDIS The Rani uses in “The Mark of the Rani” and “Time and the Rani”; the prop used in “Dimensions in Time” is an altogether different (shoe-string budget) piece that although nice in many isn’t the focus here.

Right, where to begin? A stunning original design that I cannot help but love but that I left out originally because, well, it doesn’t reflect the Doctor! Nevertheless, a cunning mistress the Rani is, and so is her TARDIS. A monolith of stone, with its dark colour palette and gothic lighting it’s perhaps the most imposing of any TARDIS. Plinths supporting scientific specimens (or conquests?) surround a black console on a wider plinth: the console is smaller than the Doctor’s, simpler, with black and silver controls and an intriguing rotor that looks just as sharp and deadly as it is hypnotic.

It’s not hard to see where this is going. The Rani’s TARDIS is a prime example of functionality over comfort: there is not a chair, or a coloured light, or a living space in sight. This suits her highly goal-orientated mind-set; she’s a scientist, first and foremost, but she also has ambition, and whereas for the Doctor we can see how his TARDIS has to be a home too, The Rani’s is a mere spring-board for her designs. Research material within easy reach, minimalistic console allowing for quick and easy getaway but perhaps less overall control over flight, open plan floor space and stark white lights all contribute to this functionality. As a work space, a tool? Yeah, great! As a home? Not so much.

Coupled with this is the pretty simple message delivered by the gothic feel and dark stone walls. The Rani is immovable, she is motivated, she is resolute. She is not necessarily evil per se, but she’s not good or friendly, she serves herself, and finding yourself in her TARDIS is just as dismal a prospect as finding yourself in the clutches of her current scheme.

The Master’s TARDIS

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The Master has had a few TARDISes over his lifetime, and whereas the dark interior of the Melkur from “Keeper of Traken” is clearly unsettling, for purposes of discussion I will reference two incarnations of his primary TARDIS – the one from “The Time Monster” and the one from “Planet of Fire”.

Little description is needed of either: the former looks exactly like the Doctor’s (rather odd) contemporary interior but with a rotor that looked more like some sort of radio transmitter than glowing TARDIS engine, and a door that pushed outwards to open rather than swung inwards. The latter is again, basically the same, it’s the same console and room but painted black! The walls have gone black, whereas the console remains a stark white with black detailing. As an aside I’ve always thought this room looks incredible, eerie and futuristic.

When analysing both it would be easy to say “Oh, the differences look sharper, sinister and darker and therefore show the Master’s evilness”. That may to an extent be true, but what I find more interesting by far is how close these are to the Doctor’s.

During the Pertwee years very little separates The Master from the Doctor: they are well spoken, polite, astronomically clever, have an affinity for Earth and enjoy witty banter. If not for their contrasting purposes, they’d be best friends, and watching the show sometimes it feels like they still are! As such, they’re TARDISes show how close they really are but the tiny differences set them apart.

During Davison’s run things have changed somewhat. They are still similar, but now at opposites. They are still clever, witty and enjoy space travel but things are now very clear. The Doctor is ALWAYS good and The Master is ALWAYS bad. It’s sad to me actually that they lose that closeness and that The Master becomes a full villain rather than a mirror image of The Doctor, they’re now opposite sides of the same coin; black and white – ring a bell?

The Tennant Effect

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After my first article it was pointed out that it seemed almost unfair that the 10th (11th? 12th? Tennant? Whatever people prefer) Doctor had to share his TARDIS completely with the 9th. Whilst not a unique position, considering the following Doctor got 3 TARDISes of his own (including the Silence ship) to stake dibs on you really notice Tennant’s lack! Allow me to dispel that belief. DAVID TENNANT HAD HIS OWN TARDIS, UNIQUE AND PERSONAL. Puzzled? Allow me to explain.

Compare the TARDIS from “Rose” and many other instances in Series 1. Now, skip to “The End of Time”. See the differences? Those things you’ve never noticed before? The whole room looks changed!

Bad WolfIn Series 1 the TARDIS was pale, it was cold, the console shone an aquamarine blue into a room that had little in the way of warm lights, even had cool purple glows emanating from the coral pillars. By well into Tennant’s run the room had been suffused with warm orange glows that seeped through the walls. The console alternated between warm green or turquoise illumination and it’s controls filled up with a now familiar assortment of oddments that now seem like they were there forever, it’s strange to imagine it without. The pale cracked porcelain on the console in Series 3 was replaced with a burnished yellow and brown “tear” crackle that remains to this day, and the pillars and maybe walls were overpainted in warmer colours so light from within the former was no longer visible.

And there is the difference: as the Doctor warmed up in so many different ways, through the passing of time, Rose and regeneration, so did the console room. It no longer displayed the original brief of looking like it was under the sea, it looked like home, a warm organic place to relax and travel. Just as Eccleston’s Doctor was alien and removed Tennant’s was flippant and friendly and just how much the room came to reflect that is staggering. The two console rooms may indeed be (mostly) the same structure and design but at heart they could not be more different. In “The Eleventh Hour” the coral console room remains as the TARDIS redecorates but now the transformation is complete, none of that initial coldness remains and we are left with colour and wonder.

Similar transformations are evident in “The Doctor’s Wife” and “The Day of the Doctor”. In the former, the room is once again cooler and dusty – you can tell this is no longer home and House’s eerie green lights seal the deal. In the latter the room returns, it is warm and homely again! But harbours a deep fault that sets it apart – this is no longer our home. We look back at Tennant’s Doctor with 5 years added to our own journey, therefore whilst he remains happy in his own TARDIS, to us it now appears dark and removed, the console pure ice blue. What is different we cannot at first put our finger on, but we are left in no doubt that where this Doctor will go now, we cannot follow.

So I hope you enjoyed my ramblings once again! I think I’ve covered all major TARDISes now and I was glad of the chance to revisit Tennant’s. As was suggested, hopefully with time we’ll see the effects of this new TARDIS on the new Doctor, and here’s to more exciting and unique TARDIS design for many a year to come!

Step back in time...