Doctor Who fans are familiar with the shocked cry “it’s bigger on the inside!”
That’s because the TARDIS, Doctor Who’s time-travelling space ship, is ‘dimensionally transcendental’ – meaning its exterior and interior exist in separate dimensions. This extraordinary juxtaposition means countless rooms and corridors (even a swimming pool!) are to be found within its compact external form.
An acronym for ‘Time And Relative Dimension In Space’, the TARDIS was originally envisaged as an invisible machine covered in light-resistant paint. As we know, it eventually took shape as a police telephone box – a familiar sight in London in 1963 when the first episode of the landmark sci-fi adventure took place.
The fact that the TARDIS has remained as a blue telephone box ever since is down to its jammed ‘chameleon circuit’. Under normal circumstances, this would allow the TARDIS to blend with any environment in the universe by changing its appearance to a more appropriate guise.
The ‘fault’, however, soon saw it became one of the show’s most consistent visual elements. Its enduring appeal is conjured by the mix of its old-fashioned facade, futuristic capabilities and life-saving role as a sanctuary from danger for the Doctor and his young companions as they fight evil aliens.
Still fascinating 50 years after its conception, the TARDIS can fly conventionally, but can also travel by dematerialising at one point in space or time and rematerialising at another. It does so to an accompanying sound effect – a cyclic wheezing, groaning noise – representing another signature moment in the much-loved show.
The unmistakable noise was originally created in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop by Brian Hodgson, who ran the back door key to his mother’s house along a bass string of a gutted piano, then electronically treating the recording! (Hodgson was also responsible for the chilling voices associated with the Doctor’s nemesis – the Daleks).
Currently, the TARDIS can be seen hurtling through space in a spectacular title sequence featuring the show’s electronic theme tune, a piece considered to be years ahead of it time when it was originally recorded 50 years ago. One of the most distinctive and easily recognised of all TV themes, it boasts an Australian connection having been written by Ron Grainer, the Queensland-born composer of film and television music.
The TARDIS is now celebrated on this stunning 1oz silver coin made by The Perth Mint to mark Doctor Who’s half century. Subject to a limited mintage of just 10,000, it comes in a special presentation case in the shape of the Doctor’s iconic space-time machine. The thrill of opening the doors to reveal the coin is heightened further by the playing of the unique sound-effect of the TARDIS from within.