-TARDIS PROP HISTORY-
Researched by Anthony Sibley
TOM YARDLEY-JONES BOX - Mk I & II
(Season Eighteen to Twenty Six )
When John Nathan Turner took over the helm as Producer of Doctor Who, he made several changes in an effort to update and modernise the show to bring it firmly into the 1980's. As a result, he installed a new opening and closing title sequence, a new costume for the Doctor, stylised the programme's approaching to story telling and finally brought in a new TARDIS prop.
This new prop had one very significant difference to all the others; it was cast in Fibre Glass with steel tubing laminated into the very fabric to give it extra strength, which meant that structurally it would never change in any major way.
The Leisure Hive
This new TARDIS prop returned to the traditional look of the Police Box and was, in some ways, the most "authentic" looking of them all. For the first time ever, the roof was given the correct three stacks, though the first wasn't very predominant as it did not protrude above the corner post pillars. The three strutted lamp housing and navigation beacon was lifted directly from the old Newbery prop and added here, but painted blue to match the rest of the box.
The sign boxes departed from the traditional design somewhat, with the graphics now spanning the full width of the sign box itself, there was also a small stepped surround detail here as well. The graphics themselves were made differently now, a full width piece of frosted perspex was employed and overlaid onto this was a blue "fill" with the words "Police Public Call Box" cut out. This meant that if they wanted to, the signs could have been back lit, so that the lettering would illuminate.
Below the sign boxes, the three steps were brought back, however, on one of the sets of doors (for the sake of argument let's call it the "Back" set, bearing in mind that the front and back door fascias were identical) there was a fourth step, split in two that sat either side of the centre divide. The centre divide also had a new element, rather than stopping at the steps below the sign boxes, it carried on up to the top of the first of the three roof stacks above the sign.
The walls (windows and recessed panels) returned to the correct proportions as seen on the original seasons one to thirteen prop, and the bevels were also retained, this time on a 21 degree angle that helped significantly with the moulding process. The windows were given pebbled plastic on the two lower, outer panes and frosted plastic for the remaining panes - though for some reason, one of the door facias' window panes were all pebbled plastic. However, due to the fact that the window "glass" was a free floating unit, meaning that they could be removed when the prop was taken apart, these "glass" units were often switched around with each time the TARDIS was reassembled... as a result, the full pebbled unit would migrate around the prop depending on who assembled the prop at any given time.
This new TARDIS prop also had two sets of inward opening doors, front and rear and the decision was taken to hang them so that on one side, the right door would open first and the opposing side, the left door would open first - giving them the option to choose which fascia to favour. As it happened, the "left door" side was favoured throughout this and the next season. Because of this, the phone panel (white lettering on a blue background with the correct "Urgent Calls" wording) was not a permanent fixture, it was held in place with double sided tape which meant that they could affix it to whichever side they were recording with.
In terms of handles and locks, on the "left opening" side, the lock was positioned on the right vertical stile of the door, half way up the phone panel, a handle was also attached to the phone panel's framework to allow the actors to close this door, and at the same level, another handle was affixed to the centre divide. On the opposing "right opening" fascia, the lock position was reversed; on the stile to the right of the centre divide (now without a handle) and placed half way up the panel below the window. A door handle was attached below the lock here.
As for other details, the corner post pillars were now very slightly broader, with more predominant quadrants and the base was also beveled. The whole structure disassembled in the same way as the Newbery Box did. This prop too had castors on the base.
For the scenes in which the TARDIS shrinks, a specially made fibre glass, quarter scale model is used.
The sign graphics were attached to the front of the detail step of the sign box, making them appear slightly pushed forward.
State of Decay
The sign graphics were returned to their correct position.
The front sign graphic was placed in the "outer" position.
The sign graphics from this story onwards were now retained in the "outer" position on all sides and the lamp housing was given a new, raised base. In many shots, it is possible to see right through the windows of this prop, thus slightly destroying the " Bigger on the Inside" notion - though later on, a set of black drapes are fitted inside to help ease this problem. During some of the scenes set on the planet Logopolis, it is plain to see that the back doors are wide open and the sign box on this side has no graphics either. A 1:3 scale GRP model was used for the scenes in which the TARDIS is seen to shrink.
This story also brought back the Newbery prop, though redressed to match the new fibre glass version.*
* See "The Newbery Box" for more details
During this season, the Newbery Box was brought back twice, all other stories used the fibre glass version. However, the phone panel that was given to the Newbery Box for Castrovalva was often given to the fibre glass version at random points, presumably depending on who put the prop together on any given day.
Just as in Logopolis, both the new and the redressed Newbery prop were used.*
The redressed Newbery Box was used only.*
* See "The Newbery Box" section for more details.
The sign box housings were re-clad with a thicker surround and the edging step detail was sawn off. Signs of the corner post pillars starting to crack is in evidence here.
The prop appears with one of the Newbery Box's sign housings on its front side for this story only .
Arc of Infinity
Since the last season, the prop had undergone a few minor modifications; it was now repainted a slightly greyer blue, the raised base for the lamp housing was removed and the pebbled glass in the front doors were changed to the correct positioning. The right side opening door fascia was favoured from now on and the " Officer and Cars Respond to all calls " phone panel was used instead of the original - this one now no-longer had a handle on the surrounding framework. Finally, the fourth step on both the front and back door fascias were removed.
Planet of Fire
The original "URGENT CALLS" phone panel returns for the first time since Season Nineteen and stays as a permanent fixture until the end of the season.
The Twin Dilemma
The prop is now starting to look very shabby in deed, the cracking on the pillars is getting worse and the general state of the paint work is in a poor condition.
Attack of the Cybermen
The TARDIS has been given a fresh coat of paint.
The Two Doctors
The "ALL CALLS" phone panel returns and whilst bringing the prop back from the location filming in Spain , to carry out the studio recording in the UK , the right door is damaged with a large crack running right across the stile and into the window frame.
Revelation of the Daleks
On arriving in Southampton for the location filming, it was discovered that the navigation beacon and lamp housing had been left back in London and so a rough replacement was made on the spot.
The TARDIS prop had started to shows signs of wear and tear and so a second prop was cast up from the original moulds, so from now on until the show's end, both Mk I and Mk II versions of the prop were used.
Episodes 1 - 4 (The Mysterious Planet)
Only one TARDIS prop was used during this installment and that was in the scenes set aboard the Trial Ship. This was the Mk II box. Structurally it was identical to Mk I, however the sign housing was back in its original narrower surround edging form, but with the step detailing removed. Its base was also slightly deeper - not having been trimmed as much as the original. Like the Mk I, this one was given three steps below the sign boxes on all fascias, but the one easy way to tell this box apart from the other is in the positioning of the door handles.
Mk II's handles were above the locks, both on the right side opening door fascia and the left side door opening fascia. In this story, the right side door fascia was favoured. This box was also given the "URGENT CALLS" phone panel.
Episodes 5 - 8 (Mindwarp)
Both Mk I and Mk II were used in this story; Mk I (with no phone panel) was used for the beach landing sequence, while the Mk II was used in the studio scenes.
Episodes 9 - 12 (Terror of the Vervoids)
Only Mk II was used, unchanged from before.
Episodes 13 - 14 (The Ultimate Foe)
The Mk II was used, though this time the box had been turned around so that its left side opening door fascia was used. This was also the last time that the "URGENT CALLS" phone panel is ever seen.
Note: When the Mk II prop was built, the Mk I was given a new set of doors so that both front and rear doors opened in the same way (right door) and were completely identical in all respects.
Throughout this season, the right hand door side fascia is used only.
Time and the Rani
The Mk II box was used, this time it was fitted with the "ALL CALLS" phone panel, and from now on, it is only this panel that is used on both props.
Mk II is used, the base has received some damage on its left side. As part of the narrative, graffiti is scrawled across the walls.
Delta and the Bannermen
Mk I is used and is given a cubby hole with phone behind the "ALL CALLS" phone panel - which now also has a handle attached for ease of access.
Mk II is used.
Both props and both door sides on each one are used during this season.
Remembrance of the Daleks
Mk I is used, favouring the right side door fascia. The paint work is looking patchy and the cracks in the fibre glass are becoming more noticeable.
The Happiness Patrol
Mk II is used, favouring the left side door fascia. The prop is also painted pink as part of the narrative, then re-painted blue again.
Mk I is used, favouring the right side door fascia. This story was recorded after Remembrance and Greatest Show (where the paint work needed doing) and was now painted a lighter shade of blue.
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
Mk I, favouring the left side door fascia is used. The paint work is now very shabby with chips and scratches all over. After the recording of this story, and before recording Nemesis, the prop is repainted a lighter blue. Due to this, the prop appears to change colour every story during the transmission order.
Mk I is employed for this story, using the right side door fascia - however, the door handle is no-longer present.
Mk I is used again, even though this box has, since season twenty three, two right side door fascias - in this season you can tell them apart - on one side the door has lost its handle, the other hasn't. The TARDIS lands with its "front" doors facing the wall inside the house, Gabriel Chase, though its "back" doors (with lock and handle) can also be seen quite plainly here.
The Curse of Fenric
Mk II is employed for the first and only time during this season - favouring the right hand side door fascia.
Mk I appears only.
THE WILDERNESS YEARS :
By 1993, Mk I had been sold to a private collector and Mk II remained at the BBC's scene dock where it was now a shadow of its former self. The pillars and base were extensively cracked and large chunks had come adrift, one of the recessed panels on the side walls had a large hole in it where a fork lift truck had accidentally run into it and the both the lamp and all the graphics (sign box and phone panel) had been lost. Due to its fragility, the box was (by now) completely sealed, preventing it from ever being dismantled again.
Dimensions in Time (1993)
As part of Children in Need charity event, a short, two part "Special" Doctor Who adventure, set within the Easter Enders lot was recorded. Mk II was hurriedly patched up and repainted in readiness for the recording of this event. A new lamp was constructed and it was given a set of new graphics; the phone panel was based on the "ALL CALLS" version and the Police Box signage was recreated, though in an greatly oversized font.
Two months after the recording of Dimensions in Time, this writer went to BBC Television Centre to inspect the prop with a view to purchasing it. However, it was in such a poor state of being that I thought it wiser to not buy it as the costs of repair far outnumbered the buying price.
The Curse of Fatal Death (1999)
Mk II was brought out of retirement once again for another charity adventure, this time for Comic Relief. By now, it was in a worse state than ever with the base so badly damaged, that a large section of the "step" had been sawn off. Once again, it was patched up - this time it was given a secondary steel box-section framework to brace the fact that it was now very rickety. The inside was painted black to hide this addition and the sign boxes were plumbed for the first time ever with lighting, so that the new sign graphics (left over from 1993) could be illuminated.
In the summer of 2003, a small group of fans managed to obtain Mk II with the intention of restoring her. However, insufficient time was allocated for this and so the group tried to install a temporary measure to slow down the degrading of the prop. The cracks were patched and then the prop was painted in Oxford Blue and given white window frames as instructed by the BBC. Unfortunately, when the prop was picked up, further damaged occurred whilst maneuvering it towards the pick up lorry.
Shortly after this event, Mk II was hauled out into service again for a publicity shoot to promote the new BBCi animated adventure, Scream of the Shalka and also Doctor Who's Fortieth Anniversary. A few weeks later, she was repainted again - this time entirely blue for an appearance on the children's week day afternoon magazine programme, Blue Peter.
As 2004 rolled in, a brand new series of Doctor Who started filming with four brand new TARDIS props, Mk II was retired for good and remains at BBC Television Centre.