The Best of the TARDIS
David Selby counts down the best control rooms, the best one-off rooms what he wants to see in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.
I wouldn’t call myself a fan of 1978 Tom Baker ‘classic’ The Invasion of Time. Admittedly, I found it disappointing. I’d always been fascinated by the idea of more in the TARDIS – unfortunately, industrial action at the BBC meant that the serial couldn’t look as authentic as planned. They’d have been better to leave it until they had a bigger budget. The sets were awful.
Saying that, though, it made use of the idea that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside. Infinitely bigger. And it’s an idea I’ve always found mesmerising. Every time we see a new bit of the TARDIS, I get this uncontrollable fan-boy excitement. So, as perhaps one of the greatest lovers of the TARDIS ever, in this article I’ll delve into what I consider to be the greatest the TARDIS has ever produced: the best control rooms, the best one-off rooms – and ultimately, formulate a list for what I’d like to see in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. The episode doesn’t have to impress me with the plot for me to enjoy it – but I’m going to be very highly-demanding in terms of what we see.
Top 5 Control Rooms
5. The Rani’s TARDIS
I love the Rani’s TARDIS almost as much as I love the Rani. It’s visual proof of the fact that she’s a scientist. It’s got the feel of a laboratory and keeps to the theme of the Doctor’s TARDIS, but it’s a tad darker; maybe even more Gothic. Seeing another Time Lord’s TARDIS is always enriching for me, because it’s the moment when you realise they may just be the Doctor’s physical and intellectual equal. Another example of this is The Time Meddler – the cliff-hanger to Part 3 is a personal favourite because it’s the first TARDIS other than the Doctor’s that we ever see on the show.
4. The RTD era TARDIS
‘Organic’ is the word I’d use to describe this one. The TARDIS is alive, and to me, this one is more than any other. Maybe it’s the use of modern set-building techniques and a higher budget that does it, but it’s a lot less ‘bulkier’ than its predecessors. It’s a simple design but an effective one, and strays away from the classic series. It’s the same concept, but different, and bigger. I like that, because it’s demonstrative of the new series’ aim: to take inspiration from the classic series, but not to imitate it.
3. The Movie TARDIS
I considered putting this one in first place, actually, and perhaps in different circumstances I would. It’s spacious and more quintessentially homely (though not with home simplicities…) than any other. Placing the library/living area in the control room makes for a commodious setup, and it’s the one which suits the Doctor the most, I think. There’s something very slightly steampunk about it, too, and it’s quite dark; a refreshing change to the colour scheme. It’s also utilized well in the short duration that it’s used for.
2. The Pond era TARDIS
Built over the remnants of the Torchwood hub, this one is a lovely expansive design. I have to admire it from many angles, actually. It’s taken inspiration from the ‘living’ feel of the Russell T. Davies era model, but conversely has made use of the ‘completely huge’ concept by adding staircases and doorways to other places. It’s a shame that we never got to see any further (what was the point in that extension added for Series 7?).
Among all of these positive aspects (including the under-section, the unique console, the glass floor, etc.), the thing I admire most of all about this is how it’s introduced. I feel as if it ‘lost its charm’ a bit in latter stories because nothing compares to The Eleventh Hour’s direction, lighting and background music for the TARDIS scene. Leaving the TARDIS reveal to the end, effectively, engages the audience because it’s something which has been anticipated. Every time I watch that scene, I still feel that aura of childhood magic. To bring about that intense and nostalgic an emotion takes some damned good effort.
1. The Current TARDIS
I’m going to be really unoriginal here and award the top spot to the present model of the TARDIS. To me, at least, it’s exactly how the TARDIS should be. Vast, space-age, magical, but just a little bit dark and shadowy. I love all of the doorways and staircases leading off in different directions (hopefully Journey will make use of these), and to me it’s the perfect amalgamation of the classic and new set designs. It’s by far the best one to have for the 50th Anniversary.
Once again, the best use was in its debut episode: The Snowmen. The first scene with it shows it off in all its glory by using a range of different magnificent shots (well done to Saul Metzstein for his superlative directing choices) and techniques to convey the mystery and wonder of this ship. There’s clear ‘theme’, as well; one which I hope the other rooms will stick to.
Honourable mentions: The original for being – well, the original. And it’s a nice design. Also, the secondary control room: a refreshing variation on the usual design, with some inimitable ideas. Finally, the Season 13 one, because it’s the design which I associate most with the classic series, and lasted the crew for a long time without getting old and weary.
Top 5 One-off Rooms
5. Living area
Just a pleasant little space visited in The Edge of Destruction. It’s a well-designed set which keeps to theme and ambiance of its respective control room, plus there’s the food replicator, which is a respectable idea on its own. Specials mentions to the bedroom accommodation shown in this story, as well. Very stylish.
The corridors in The Doctor’s Wife were absolutely perfect for House’s sadistic illusions (and anyone who ever dared think that I was referring to the hospital corridors in The Invasion of Time should be subjected to having Chloe Webber design you a self-portrait). It’s proof that the TARDIS can be scary, and indeed dangerous. It didn’t take much making, but was effective and could be used over throughout the episode. The idea of the anti-grav corridors was also appealing to me and the use of archived rooms was testament to the TARDIS’ personality and innovativeness.
3. The Zero Room
Not the most visually impressive here, but a fine idea nonetheless. It’s one of the infinite possibilities in the TARDIS. A room cut off from the outside universe was an admirable prospect – and actually, despite that comment, was very visually appealing.
2. The Wardrobe
From what I can remember, a few different TARDIS wardrobes made their appearance in the classic series. The one I’m referring to, though, is the spectacular emporium realised beautifully in The Christmas Invasion. I have no idea how much that cost to make but it should have been used again – though I’m not exactly sure when or how. Showing us that something as ‘little’ as a wardrobe is so enormous in the TARDIS is telling of how colossal the vessel is.
1. The Cloister Room
I like the Cloister Bell, because it’s an ominous sound which resonates through Doctor Who’s history of most scariest situations. Also, I like both rooms. The one shown in the Tom Baker era was good because it kept to the theme of the TARDIS but felt more organic and alive – adding a nuance of life to the TARDIS’ essential heart. The one in The TV Movie, on the other hand, was grandiose, impressive, and slightly cathedral-like and the perfect locale for the Doctor/Master face off. This is the room I’m most hoping will make its return, I think.
Ten rooms I definitely want to see in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
(In no particular order)
- The Swimming Pool (To do better than The Invasion of Time’s one)
- The Library (I’d love to see a big, majestic, multi-story library – I have a lot of ideas of how it could look)
- More corridors (Perhaps some more anti-grav ones, plus variations as they venture deeper into the TARDIS)
- The Cloister Room (To try and rival The TV Movie’s)
- More archived rooms (Maybe, as another 50th Anniversary homage, some classic control rooms? Or a return of the Pond era TARDIS? Yes please.)
- Garden (Why not? How about a greenhouse like facility wherein all the crops required for cooking are grown, amid an assortment of exotic alien fruits. I’d envisage it akin to The Waters of Mars’ bio-dome.)
- Kitchen (Just an idea, but it would be nice for the episode to start off with Clara in the kitchen, the same way that The Invasion of Time began with the swimming pool. It would also be a reminder that Clara is similar to her other incarnations (cooking a soufflé?))
- Engine Room (Don’t think we’ve ever seen this one, but I’d envisage a massive futuristic factory-like area full of enormous machines.)
- The Danger Room (Just an idea I’ve come up with on the spot. What does the Doctor do with all the things that shouldn’t be in the TARDIS or that he doesn’t want in the TARDIS?)
- The Museum (A collection of everything the Doctor’s accumulated on his journeys, with some treats for fans – i.e. the Species Matcher (Vincent and the Doctor), the Timey-Wimey Detector (Blink), The Time-Space Visualiser (The Chase), Bessie, Cameca’s brooch (The Aztecs), The Doctor’s cot (A Good Man Goes to War), the Doctor’s umbrella, the Food Machine (The Edge of Destruction), etc. These items could perhaps assist the Doctor or the companion and have a significant role in the narrative. Or not.)
That’s it for my long-winded article. I’m glad I wrote it, because I love the TARDIS. I just do, and I have every right to. It’s the biggest ship in the universe, it’s alive, it’s able to do anything, and has the power to erase time itself. But if The X Factor’s your kind of thing, then fair enough…