Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Design Choice: The Tardis

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1996-07-11 Marketing.jpg


Managing director Kit Peters Extraordinary Events

The Tardis, with its distinctive police box exterior, is famous for its TV adventures. It was created by the Time Lords and 'stolen' by the most famous of them all: Doctor Who. Although it could be argued that the Tardis is aesthetically challenged, it is nevertheless a truly great design.

It can travel through time and space — obviously very handy for Time Lords—and would be helpful in getting through London traffic. However, it is the 'dimensionally transcendental' aspect that provides the most striking design feature: it's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of all its rooms, the main control area is the best known for its strategically important six-sided control console and wobbly, squeaky up-and-down column in the centre. Recent Time Lord user-research groups are probably behind the restyling evident in the recent Dr Who movie, in which the 'plastic moderne' look was replaced with a crypt-like gothic arrangement.

The Tardis engine makes a very distinctive grating sound, which is unique to this vehicle. No doubt rumours that the noise is made by scraping a key against a bass piano string and then playing the recording backwards are totally unfounded, and that Rassillon-era dematerialisation technology is the real cause.

The instantly recognisable exterior of the 'type 40' Tardis is a reproduction of another classic design: the 1950s police telephone box. Originally, the craft had a 'chameleon' circuit which enabled it to change its exterior to blend in with its surroundings. However, this circuit failed in 1963 and has not been repaired. One cannot help feeling a gravel pit- or quarry-style exterior would have been more appropriate.

The current disguise was adopted at a time when police boxes were a common sight in the UK. I suspect this was a very clever answer to a low development and production budget, but the Tardis is far more famous and a much more pleasing design than costly space juggernauts such as the USS Enterprise or Millennium Falcon.

This just goes to show great design does not necessarily need a big budget. Both the 'old' and the young kids of today, and also most visitors to this country, are likely to recognise instantly the blue box as a British cultural icon — not as a public service point, but as a spaceship from Gallifrey.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Starling, Jerry (1996-07-11). Design Choice: The Tardis. Marketing p. 12.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Starling, Jerry. "Design Choice: The Tardis." Marketing [add city] 1996-07-11, 12. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Starling, Jerry. "Design Choice: The Tardis." Marketing, edition, sec., 1996-07-11
  • Turabian: Starling, Jerry. "Design Choice: The Tardis." Marketing, 1996-07-11, section, 12 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Design Choice: The Tardis | url= | work=Marketing | pages=12 | date=1996-07-11 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=26 May 2020 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Design Choice: The Tardis | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=26 May 2020}}</ref>