The New TARDIS

Steven Moffat and Piers Wenger on rebuilding the Doctor’s time machine

Steven Moffat: “The idea behind this console is that the TARDIS rebuilds itself for the Doctor. It models itself around him, because they’ve been together for so long. The other thing about the TARDIS is that it doesn’t exist anywhere in time. We were thinking we could have a modern TARDIS, an up-to-date TARDIS, but that’s completely meaningless when you’re talking about a machine for which every moment in history is brand new, and every moment in history is long gone. So it just uses whatever it feels like – whatever interface it thinks is fun, it uses. If it thinks a typewriter’s a cool idea, it’ll have a typewriter. And the Doctor likes that.

“I think it’s something like three times the size of the one we had before. One of the problems we had with the old TARDIS set was where people would go if they weren’t actually in the scene. It happened once in “The Girl In The Fireplace” – the Doctor had to have an intimate moment with a letter from Madam Du Pompadour, and the other two characters had to disappear. God knows what they did. They must have stood behind a pillar, because there were no exits! So we’ve been very specific that we wanted to suggest that there’s a whole world of the TARDIS out there. If you look beneath your feet you’ll actually see the heart of the TARDIS, and some scenes actually take place there. You actually see the underworkings of the TARDIS, and it looks really cool down there.”

SFX: Did you specifically want a new TARDIS for a new Doctor?

Steven Moffat: “It’s not for the new Doctor, in a way. The story happens to happen that way, but it’s not always the case that there’s a new control room for a new Doctor by any means. But so much was new that it would kind of be cowardly not to have a new TARDIS as well, just to do the thing that only Doctor Who can do, which is to throw everything out, absolutely everything, in a way for the Hell of it. As you know, if you know Doctor Who from the beginning, there have been quite a number of control rooms since it began. So it’s not set, and indeed a decision has been taken every year in Doctor Who – is it time for a new one? Who’s to say it wasn’t time for a new one now? We’re in bigger studios, we’ve got a bigger space to build the TARDIS in.”

Piers Wenger: “I think when they brought back the show in 2005 with Chris Eccleston it was very important that the TARDIS felt like a good fit for that Doctor, a Doctor who had been travelling on his own for a long time. And it was made very clear by Russell that he was the last of his kind, so that space felt kind of ancient and slightly broken, and had a sort of industrial feel to it. Matt is the youngest Doctor and yet he has the qualities of an old Doctor as well, and our brief to the designer was to create a space that would be a good fit for him. So there are elements of old and new in there, in the console itself.”

Steven Moffat: “And when you see Matt’s Doctor, this is the TARDIS he’d have. This is a mad, mad space. You don’t want it to be a spaceship or anything like that. It’s the TARDIS. It’s magical and it’s mad. Generally we wanted the sense of a brilliant shambles, which is kind of what Matt’s like when you see him, and more so as the series progresses. He’s brilliant and sort of elegant, but at the same time tripping over himself – somehow in an elegant way!”

Piers Wenger: “And it’s an impossible and unknowable space. I remember watching it as a kid and thinking, ‘Well, where does he go to the toilet? Where does he sleep? Where does he keep his clothes?’ And here at least you acknowledge that this is a place that’s like a ship. It’s a place that he travels in and does have to do all of those things in like everyone else. In the first episode he talks about a swimming pool and a library, and we just wanted to have some fun with that idea and not be too conservative about it.”

Steven Moffat: “It’s not been explored much in the new version, the idea that the TARDIS goes on for ages. It’s not just that one room. When I was a kid it was the most exciting thing in the world – not so much seeing the other rooms, but seeing the rooms that led off, and wondering what was down there. I almost didn’t want him to go out the front doors, I wanted him to go up the back door and see what was there, every single week. And so that’s why we have exits all over the set. It’s a dynamic enough space, so you can use it in different ways. The traditional TARDIS control room can be a problem because you’ve got one central object that gets in the way of every single close-up, and walls that look identical. So we’ve tried to break it up a bit, to make it different.”

Above: Hmmm… anybody else notice the image of the crack on the monitor? Interesting…

SFX: How long did it take to build?

Piers Wenger: “It took quite a long time to get the design right. We went through many different versions of it. We’d all been to see Star Trek when we started and we all went, ’Oh my God, the bridge on the Enterprise looks so cool!’ But actually we realised quite quickly that was entirely wrong, for all the reasons Steven said – you can’t have a futuristic space because futuristic doesn’t mean anything to the Doctor, it’s all the same.

“I think it took four months to actually finish it, to get it prepped for shooting. It was not a cheap set to build, so we use it more. In this series the TARDIS does play a special role in the story of all 13 episodes, the series story. We’ve really got the value out of it.”

SFX: Are there any reminders of David Tennant’s Doctor?

Steven Moffat: “I don’t think there’s a single thing. Simply, brutally, because the Doctor’s still there. He’s just changed his face. It’s not that big a deal for him. You don’t get nostalgic about the way you used to look. Actually, maybe you do – I certainly do! – but the Doctor doesn’t!”