The Doctor Who Pilot episode TARDIS Police Box props.
Thanks to the Radio Times website publishing the floor plans for the 1963 Pilot Episode of Doctor Who today, finally after nearly a decade or so, I can talk about something that up until now I couldn’t really do without a those vital drawings to illustrate my point.
I started researching into the history of the various TARDIS props back in the late 1980′s, but it wasn’t until the mid 1990′s that I really got into it, pouring over every photograph and piece of footage that I could lay my hands on – not such an easy task because back then, there were no DVDs or the internet!
A nugget of information came to my attention all those years ago that during the recording of the Pilot Episode, for the famous scene where Ian and Barbara burst through the Police Box exterior doors and into the Console Room beyond (all in one take – thus cementing the size disparity of the inside and the outside) – I found a written reference to the floor plans that clearly showed that there were two TARDIS exterior props… the full Police Box prop, plus a secondary build that consisted of just the front fascia, doors, both corner posts and the sign box lintel.
For some reason at the time, I cannot fathom why, I dismissed the idea and thought that the reality was that there was only the one prop, so therefore, for the burst through scene, they simply used just the front section of the full prop as it wasn’t entirely completed by this point.
Now that I think about this, I remember why I came to this conclusion; because in the remounted recording (and the final broadcast version) the burst through scene is not present – I had assumed (wrongly) that the reason for it not being included was because the prop had now been permanently sealed together, thus rendering this shot in the remount impossible.
Come on now, it’s quite an easy conclusion to come to.
It was just a few years after publicly forwarding this idea that I realised that I was mistaken as I’d seen with my own eyes, proof that there was indeed the two props after all! The question therefore remains, why didn’t they remount this incredible sequence? I’m sure there was a good reason, probably lack of time or inclination.
Let’s look at some pictures.
Above. The full TARDIS exterior Police Box prop on the Totter’s Lane junkyard set. This is from the remounted, broadcast version of the episode.
Here is a segment of the floor plans that show very clearly, the full Police Box on the set, in between the wooden staircase on the left and the junkyard gates on the right.
The two joined shots above are of the Police Box frontage that adjoins the console room set.
Not that you need me to point out the bloody obvious, but in the top part we can see the doors closed, then below that, the doors are open to reveal the “impossibly larger” interior beyond the threshold.
And to illustrate this point, these are the floor plans for that section of the set, ie. the Console room. Just to get you orientated, the entrance via the Police Box doors are at the bottom of the drawing. Unfortunately the Radio Times website mis-identify these. Ho hum…
Please note that these are not set construction plans, they are simply illustrations of where the already built set sections are placed within the studio floor space.
A close up detail shot of those drawings that show the inner and outer doors.
This little composite shot was done by me many years ago while I was Admin of the TARDIS Builders board. It was done to show the changes of the door panel, but by sheer coincidence, it also illustrates that there are two props – the full prop is seen on the left, while the frontage is shown on the right side. This is why there are differences between the two panels, such as the font placement and the weathering. At the time, this puzzled some of us.
Effectively what I was talking about back then was how between the film insert recording of the full prop on the barren waste land and then the studio video recording for the Totter’s Lane scenes, the prop had undergone some subtle changes – handles being removed, hinges changing position and so on. If you look at the right hand image, you can even see how the frontage retained its hinges in the original position on the right side of the panel, while the full prop had them moved to the left side. Have a look and see for yourself – click the image to enlarge.
And now we get to my main point.
For years it was wondered why the TARDIS looked as it did in the above shot during Jackie Lane‘s introduction photo shoot.
I posited that the full prop had been partially disassembled for various reasons and yes, I knew at the time (very well in fact) that I was talking utter bullshit, but there was a very good reason for my doing that. It’s too petty to go into right now, maybe some other time though. That said, in some official BBC offerings, my made up bullshit is presented as a fact – at least it proved to me where they were getting their information from – the good stuff, not just the few small made up sections. In some quarters, you’d call something like this a “tell” to show the origin of where something was derived from.
Back to the odd looking Jackie Lane TARDIS prop then.
Look at it, it’s the second (and final) appearance of the Police Box frontage from the Pilot Episode… So that explains the weirdness of the non matching side wall and the decidedly dodgy looking roof in this one off incident with Jackie Lane. The “partial” prop had simply been fleshed out a little with extra parts to sell the illusion of a full prop and not just a frontage section. Unfortunately, these add-ons didn’t match the front section at all, so we get this peculiar looking hybrid instead.
Have a look at the enlarged phone panel detail shot and compare it to the two composite (doors closed, then open) shots of the frontage wall (above, scroll back up a little) – and you’ll see that they’re identical! They’re one and the same; hinges on the right side of the phone panel and even the hole left behind by the fixing screw (now removed) from the right side of the panel surround frame, just to the right of the word “Immediately” within the info text.
So finally I can prove (to myself at least) just what the hell was going on here after all. Another little mystery laid to rest. We can now confirm that yes there were two TARDIS props built for Doctor Who back in 1963 and that one of them was then redressed a few years later for the Jackie Lane photo shoot on Wimbledon Common. Okay, so I had spoken about this on the Gallifrey Base fansite a couple of years ago, but I didn’t go into any depth on the issue, it was more of a passing comment really.
Thanks Radio Times for publishing the drawings, finally I can get this off my chest.
I guess the next thing now is to talk about how the prop was “refitted” in 1966, there was a very good reason for why it changed in the way that it did and exactly what they used for this proceedure. Not now though, I’ve had enough for one day, I need to go and get some sleep!