A Brief History of the Doctor’s TARDIS

By Paul Lang

Legend says that the Ghost Monument is the ultimate destination for those battling to survive the Rally of the Twelve Galaxies. Legend doesn’t know the half of it!

The Ghost Monument is actually the Doctor’s missing TARDIS – a magnificent ship, bigger inside than out, that can travel anywhere in time and space. The Time Lord nicked it as an old man, living a boring life on Gallifrey, then set out on the most incredible adventure of all time. And the rest is history! Well, some of it is history, and some of it will be history one day, and some of it hasn’t happened yet, and some of it might never happen. Travelling in the TARDIS can be confusing!

But what’s not confusing, we hope, is this brief canter through the Doctor’s TARDIS throughout history!


Blending in

Every TARDIS is equipped with a Chameleon Circuit – a clever bit of tech that lets an ordinary grey capsule disguise itself to fit with its surroundings, so it doesn’t stick out like an ordinary grey capsule. The system isn’t perfect, though – when the First Doctor rocked up in 1960s London, it took the form of a Police Box, got firmly stuck and has rarely changed shape since.

These crime-busting kiosks were a common sight in a time when there were no mobile phones or two-way radios. The built-in telephone in the door allowed both ordinary people and police to get in touch with the nearest station, and the inside provided a refuge for officers.


“You’ve redecorated! I really like it!"

It’s not just the outside that changes – the TARDIS also likes to switch up its interior to suit the personality of the Doctor who’ll be at the controls.

When we first met the Doctor, the inside of his TARDIS was a brilliant white marvel. It had a magnificent, hexagonal control console, originally designed to be flown by six pilots. At the centre of this is the dazzling time rotor, which moves up and down when the ship is in flight. Everything was bright and gleaming, and the controls were a mix of knobs, levers and dials. As he got older, the Doctor became quite nostalgic for this version, and often mentioned missing the “round things” on the walls.



The TARDIS didn't change much until the Doctor’s people sent him to live on Earth to keep him out of mischief, removing a vital bit of the TARDIS so he couldn’t actually use it!

He tried everything to fix it – even dragging the central console out into his laboratory to tinker with. Of course he ended up getting into just as much mischief as ever, so eventually they restored it for him and sent him back out into the universe.


Second choice

When the Fourth Doctor got fed up of the same old control room, he remembered he had another one hidden way, and started using that instead! It was an elegant affair with wooden walls and a simplified console, but he soon got tired of that one and went back to the original.



After hundreds of years of faithful service, the Fifth Doctor decided it was time to give his old Type 40 time capsule a makeover. He spent a lot of time hanging around in the 1980s, and that’s reflected in this refurb – flashing computer screens and chunky keyboards were the order of the day.


Grand designs

The Seventh Doctor must have got bored of all that white, because he carried out the most major refurb yet, filling the space with wood panels and bric-a-brac. It was grander than ever, but the controls seemed more old-fashioned. He also turned all the lights down, because he was just that kind of guy.


Halfway house

The War Doctor’s TARDIS was a bridge between the cool, clinical versions that most earlier Doctors preferred and the more natural style the Doctor likes now.



The TARDIS which was home to the Ninth and Tenth Doctors was the first to have a more organic feel – the whole thing felt like it had been grown from coral. It was also the first one where the Police Box doors could be seen from inside.


Shabby chic

The first TARDIS belonging to the Eleventh Doctor had a junk-shop vibe, with a console make up of bits of old typewriters, gramophones and other assorted bits. It was also laid out on different levels for the first time, and had telepathic controls that worked by sticking your hand in a load of goo.


Libraries are cool

This is how we last saw the TARDIS before it was blown up during the Doctor’s regeneration. The steely grey space still had a hexagonal console, but everything else was very different, and the control room was more stripped back and functional.

The Eleventh Doctor was the first occupant of this version, but it was the Twelfth who really made it his home, adding plenty of bookshelves, a workshop and chalk boards to scribble all his ideas and calculations down on.


The new one

The latest TARDIS glow-up has a similar look to the Doctor’s new sonic screwdriver, full of honeycombed crystal pillars that buzz with golden energy. Round, glowing shapes and bashed-up metal rings decorate the impossibly high walls, like a vast techno-cave that’s old-school and totally modern all at once. In the middle is the usual hexagonal bank of controls and gadgets arranged around a beautiful, golden central column. There’s also a tiny, spinning Police Box, to show the Doctor what the ship looks like on the outside.


Even though everything’s new, the Doctor immediately knows her way around, and is soon fiddling with the controls – especially the custard cream dispenser!

What else is in there?

Historically, the control room has only been a tiny part of the TARDIS – with lots of corridors to more incredible rooms leading off from it. The TARDIS has had everything – bedrooms, a giant wardrobe room, workshops, cloisters – even a swimming pool! Who knows what else the Doctor, Graham, Yaz and Ryan will discover!

Fancy reading more about the various incarnations of the Doctor’s TARDIS? The TARDIS Type 40 Instruction Manual is available in hardback from 18th October, priced £14.99. You can pre-order it here.

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