Doctor Who

[The Doctor] [Time Lords] [The TARDIS] [Companions] Program Guide] [Pertwee Tribute] [The Master] [Dimensions in Time] [Toys]

The TARDIS is the Doctor's time machine. The letters T A R D I S stand for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. Although the Time Lords have created many models of TARDIS, the Doctor's is an obsolete type 40. The Doctor obtained his TARDIS only by stealing, or 'borrowing' as he would say, it from Gallifrey many centuries ago: the model is now obsolete and considered a museum piece. TARDISes used by the Master and the Rani are largely similar, although slightly more advanced; a slight incompatibility between circuits means it is unlikely that parts from one type of TARDIS can be safely replaced by those from another model.

In appearance, the TARDIS looks like an English police telephone box from Earth during the 1960s. Close up, however, it is apparent that the wooden lock-up is more than it seems: it hums discernibly, giving away the fact that there is a powerful source of energy beneath its battered blue exterior.

According to the Doctor, the TARDIS is virtually indestructible, although he can be sometimes be panicked into believing otherwise. For added safety, however, the hostile action displacement system (HADS) or the TARDIS force field can be activated.

Inside, the TARDIS is far larger than its external appearance suggests: it transcends the three primary dimensions of the universe. Most of the TARDIS, therefore, exists in another dimension: only part of the time machine materializes when it lands. The TARDIS's doors open into the console room, the location of the time ship's main controls. Beyond the console room, through two ordinary-looking doors, lies the rest of the Doctor's time machine: a confusing maze of corridors and chambers that even the Doctor has been known to get lost in.

TARDIS Features

Chameleon circuit

The Doctor's TARDIS resembles a police box only because of a fault in the chameleon circuit. TARDISes ordinarily look like silver-grey metallic boxes but because this makes them conspicuous, the Time Lords devised a means of disguising them. The chameleon circuit analyses the surroundings of the TARDIS just before the ship materializes and picks an outward form that blends in. A TARDIS materializing on a public beach in Edwardian times might appear as a bathing machine; in a Saxon church it might appear as a crudely carved altar or column. Although the Doctor has made an attempt at repairing the chameleon circuit of his TARDIS, his ship remains in the form appropriate to England in the 1960s; his meddling only resulted in even more bizarrely out of place forms.


Finished in carefully worked and carved grey stone over which climbing plants grow, the cloisters is a tranquil area that resembles its monastic equivalent on Earth. The Doctor sometimes retreats to the cloisters, sitting himself on one of the stone benches or pacing up and down, in order to think clearly about a problem. The Eye of Harmony is located in the cloisters.

Cloister bell

The deep, resounding knell of the cloister bell is a warning that the TARDIS is in great danger, perhaps on the verge of breaking up or entering an area where conditions are so hostile that the ship would be destroyed. Originating from the cloisters, the sound of the bell reverberates through the ship, penetrating every room.

Control console

Most of the TARDIS's functions are controlled from the hexagonal, sloping-topped console that surrounds the time rotor in the main control room. Each incarnation of the Doctor has modified the console in some way, even changing its appearance, to take advantage of new components or to repair damage caused by circuit fires or even blaster damage.

The six trapezoidal panels each house controls for different aspects of the TARDIS's operation. Panel one, nearest the TARDIS doors, houses the basic navigation and steering controls. It is from here that the Doctor sets a course for the TARDIS and initializes dematerialization and materialization.

Moving clockwise, viewed from above, panel two houses the switch that opens and closes the TARDIS's doors and the controls for the scanner. It contains advanced navigational controls that are required in exceptional circumstances only and the TARDIS's defensive controls.

Panel three houses the communications, life support and lighting controls, as well as the room controls. Panel four houses the terminal that gives access to the TARDIS's computer and databanks.

Panel five provides readouts of external and internal environmental conditions, including radiation, humidity and oxygen levels. Panel six indicates the power status of the TARDIS and is used to bring in auxiliary power from generators and batteries. It provides a power outlet for equipment to be used in the control room or a short distance outside the TARDIS.

Access to circuits to carry out repairs is obtained by prising off the control panels or by removing the panels on the pedestal that supports the console.

Control room

The control room is the first room that anyone enters when stepping into the TARDIS. Its main feature is the control console which is set in the centre of the room. Cream-coloured plastics panels cover the walls, with circular mouldings, about 30 centimetres across, concealing electronic circuits and lights. Each Doctor tends to decorate with control room with different objects: the first Doctor favoured ornaments, such as clocks, on pedestals and even a comfortable armchair. Near the TARDIS's doors, a hatstand is practically positioned to keep hats and cloaks for expeditions outside.

Dematerialization circuit

Without a working dematerialization circuit, the TARDIS cannot travel anywhere. The Time Lords disabled this circuit when they exiled the Doctor to Earth; he spent much time tinkering with it in order to escape from the planet.

Dimensional stabilizer

The dimensional stabilizer maintains the spatial relationship of the inside and the outside of the TARDIS. Without it, the inside of the TARDIS would shrink so that its rooms resembled those of a doll's house.

Once protected by a number of anti-tampering devices, the lock on the outside of the TARDIS door can be opened only by a specially coded key. The Doctor has removed other forms of security owing to the risk of sealing the TARDIS for ever.

Eye of Harmony

Time travel requires an almost infinite amount of power and expends nearly limitless amounts of energy. In order for this to be possible the TARDIS has a unique energy source, a black hole known as the Eye of Harmony! The Eye of Harmony, a black hole, was captured and contained in a monolith stored under the Panopticon on Gallifrey by Rassilon himself, is the source of the energy which powers all Time Lord technology including TARDISes.

The only way possible for the Eye of Harmony to power a TARDIS is for the Eye itself to be located in the actual structure of the TARDIS it is powering. Located in the center of the cloister room is the portal of the Eye of Harmony. The only way possible for one structure to coexist simultaneously in more than one place is by the use of temporal physics, the science of Time Lord technology.

Failsafe switch

Located away from the main control room, the failsafe switch stabilizes the TARDIS in space and time so that it may neither materialize nor dematerialize. Until the switch is reactivated, the TARDIS is suspended in space and time; the switch can be disabled to prevent its unauthorized use.

Food dispenser

Nutritious, concentrated food can be contained from the TARDIS's food dispenser, located in a room near to the control room, by entering the type of food required into the dispenser's computer. The food resembles the concentrated rations used by astronauts from twentieth century Earth during the planet's first space age. The dispenser also issues water in small plastic bags. Although the food is tasty and filling, many companions not surprisingly long for proper Earth meals complete with all the trimmings.

Force field

The TARDIS has a variable strength force field that can be used to keep enemies at bay, provided it is activated. The force field surrounds the TARDIS at a distance of about one metre, preventing both entry and egress. At its lowest level it is equivalent to Strength 10; its maximum depends on the energy available from the TARDIS's generators. The force field generator is located in the pedestal section of the control console and can be detached for use outside the TARDIS.

Hostile action displacement system (HADS)

HADS protects the TARDIS against attack by dematerializing it and rematerializing the ship a safe distance away. The HADS circuit detects the build up and imminent release of energy, and triggers the dematerialization circuit so that the TARDIS makes a short spatial journey. The Doctor, however, tends not to activate this safeguard, mainly because it can make the TARDIS difficult to find and reach.


Each companion is assigned his own room in the TARDIS, which he is allowed to personalize. Companions' rooms are typically full of souvenirs from their travels or equipment for their hobbies: Nyssa's room, for example, was partly a bioelectronics lab!

Other rooms in the TARDIS include a power station disguised as an art gallery, a large boot cupboard, and a wardrobe room. The layout, type and number of rooms in the TARDIS can be controlled from the main control console. Particular emergencies may make it necessary to shed part of the TARDIS's internal structure, and he controls allow rooms to be jettisoned. New chambers usually show the basic structure of the TARDIS, which resembles Victorian ironwork, unless the Doctor remembers to program their features.


A large television screen suspended in the wall of the control room provides an image of the location corresponding to the temporal and spatial coordinates of the TARDIS. It is connected to externally mounted detection equipment.


Among the many chambers of the TARDIS are vast storerooms that contain essential supplies and materials necessary to the upkeep of both the TARDIS and its inhabitants. The list of their contents was once kept in the TARDIS's databanks, but the Doctor's poor bookkeeping means that this information is far from up to date -- perhaps as much as five centuries old! -- and may well be inaccurate about the location of equipment.

Swimming pool

The swimming pool is the main feature of a villa-style courtyard that is decorated with white pillars and urns. There is an abundance of plant life in this area: climbing plants creep up the pillars and over stone balconies; the urns contain more formal arrangements. Artificial sunlight makes the courtyard bright and pleasant -- an ideal place to relax.


Although the key to the TARDIS looks no more complicated than a front-door key, its complex crystalline coding is unique and attuned to the body prints of the Doctor and whichever companions he decides are trustworthy enough to be allowed free access to the TARDIS. The key and lock can be reprogrammed from the main control console. If necessary, the Doctor can issue a spare key to his companions, but he dislikes the risk this entails: his enemies might one day prove clever enough to use a companion and the key to steal his ship.

Time rotor

The time rotor at the centre of the control console rises and falls as the TARDIS travels through time and space. While the ship is stationary, however, the time rotor is motionless.


Deep in the TARDIS is a scientific workshop where the Doctor has the facilities to build and repair electronic and mechanical equipment. It has no pretences of advanced technology: ancient scientific apparatus mingles with new and futuristic equipment.

Zero room

The zero room isolates its inhabitants from the forces of the universe, allowing them more easily to attain a peaceful state. The Doctor needed to use the zero room to settle into his fifth incarnation, making use of its therapeutic properties.