TARDIS Index File


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Time And Relative Dimension In Space
Row of TARDISes
Type: Space-time vessels
Place of origin: Gallifrey
You may wish to consult TARDIS (disambiguation) for other, similarly-named pages.

A TARDISsometimes styled Tardis but also called a TT Capsule — was the main kind of space-time vehicle used by the Time Lords.


"TARDIS" was an acronym. Susan told Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright that she had "made up the name 'TARDIS' from the initials" of the full name, "Time And Relative Dimension In Space". (TV: An Unearthly Child)

Although some Time Lords, like Castellan Spandrell and Romana I, utilised the more generic name "TT capsule" (TV: The Deadly Assassin, The Pirate Planet), others were perfectly familiar with Susan's supposed acronym. (TV: The Three Doctors, PROSE: Lungbarrow, AUDIO: Human Resources) Some beings on the fringes of Time Lord society, like the Sisterhood of Karn, also knew the acronym without being prompted by the Doctor or his companions. (TV: The Brain of Morbius)

There was a slight discrepancy as to the precise meaning of the acronym. Vicki pluralized the "dimension" when she explained the term to Steven, making it "Dimensions". (TV: The Time Meddler) This interpretation seemed to hold for a time, being used by several subsequent companions and Doctors. (TV: The Daleks' Master Plan, The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve, The War Machines, The Wheel in Space, The War Games, The Creature from the Pit, Four to Doomsday, Delta and the Bannermen)

Nevertheless, the singular Dimension, may have been "more correct", as the Doctor's fifth, eighth, ninth and tenth incarnations — as well as their respective companions — consistently preferred the original, singular form, as did the Doctor's TARDIS itself when its matrix was transplanted into Idris. (TV: Frontios, Doctor Who, Rose, Smith and Jones, Turn Left, The Doctor's Wife) The "dedication plaque" in the Doctor's TARDIS also referred to the ship as "Time and Relative Dimension in Space", favouring the singular form. (TV: Amy's Choice)


DW 5x01 The Eleventh Hour 619

The Doctor's TARDIS dematerialising. (TV: The Eleventh Hour)

TARDISes usually moved through time and space by "disappearing there and reappearing here" (TV: Rose), a process known as "de- and re-materialisation". This was controlled by a component called the dematerialisation circuit. (TV: Terror of the Autons) They also could fly through space like conventional spacecraft, but doing so for prolonged periods could damage the ship, at least in the case of the Doctor's TARDIS. (TV: The Runaway Bride) A TARDIS was meant to have six pilots. (TV: Journey's End)

During operation, a distinctive grinding and whirring sound was usually heard. (TV: An Unearthly Child et al) River Song once demonstrated a TARDIS was capable of materialising silently, teasing the Doctor that the noise was actually caused by him leaving the brakes on. (TV: The Time of Angels) However, River could have been fibbing as other newer TARDISes, flown by other pilots (such as the Master and the Rani), made the same sound in the course of their normal operation, (TV: Colony in Space, The King's Demons, Time and the Rani) as did the Doctor's when piloted by other Time Lords (TV: The Claws of Axos, The Pirate Planet). The Minyans' computer recognised the sound as associated with Time Lord ships. (TV: Underworld) The Doctor himself also materialised his TARDIS more than once without making the distinctive noise. (TV: The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Impossible Astronaut)

This sound was also made by other devices: SIDRATs, a craft similar to TARDISes used by the War Lords (TV: The War Games); a Time Lord who appeared to the Third Doctor (without using any visible means of transport) to warn him of the appearance of the Master (TV: Terror of the Autons); when the Time Lords provided the Third Doctor with a new dematerialisation circuit, it appeared on a table making this sound. (TV: The Three Doctors); and when the Fourth Doctor modified Skagra's invisible spaceship to travel like a TARDIS, again, this sound was heard. (TV: Shada)

When a TARDIS materialised, it would sometimes result in a strong wind and small tremors, enough to shake wine glasses, in the area where it appeared. (TV: Love & Monsters, Smith and Jones, The Eleventh Hour, The Lodger, The Big Bang, TV: End of Days) If a TARDIS materialised in a space occupied by another object, that object might appear inside the TARDIS. (TV: Bad Wolf) Once, the Eleventh Doctor landed an incomplete TARDIS in his own TARDIS and on top of an Ood; the Ood was atomised. (TV: The Doctor's Wife) Conversely, a TARDIS could dematerialise while leaving its occupants behind. (TV: Blink)

If a TARDIS landed in the same space and time as another TARDIS, a time ram could occur, destroying both TARDISes, their occupants and even cause a black hole that would tear a hole in the universe - one the exact size of Belgium. (TV: The Time Monster, Time Crash). However, time rams could be avoided by materialising inside the other TARDIS. This act itself also had inherent dangers, including space loops. (TV: Logopolis, Space / Time).

TARDISes had trouble materialising during Time Loops. (TV: The Lodger, TV: The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith, TV: The Pirate Planet)


TARDISes were of two broad categories — exploratory and military. Of the two, TARDISes without armaments were apparently more common.


Most TARDISes were used for the observation of various places and times. This kind of TARDIS underwent much modification over the years. Each new model received a distinct number to differentiate it from other models. The numerical scheme was seemingly simple; the higher the number, the later the design had been produced. However, two types of numbering schemes may have been employed. The Monk called his version a "Mark 4", and the First Doctor's reaction seemed to suggest that he had a lower-numbered model. (TV: The Time Meddler) Subsequent incarnations and other Time Lords called the Doctor's TARDIS a "Type 40". (TV: The Ribos Operation)

Whatever the case, TARDISes were generally referred to using the nomenclature Type X. The earliest known model of TARDIS was the Type I, which was poorly designed, dangerous to operate, and difficult to start. Some of them had minds of their own, with a history of escaping and roaming the Universe. (PROSE: Heart of TARDIS) The Second Doctor, while working for the Celestial Intervention Agency, was briefly assigned a Type 97 TARDIS. (PROSE: World Game) The fifth incarnation of the Doctor once remarked that he should have upgraded to a Type 57 TARDIS. (TV: Warriors of the Deep) On another occasion, he noted that a Type 70 would allow him to break through a temporal distortion grid, but that his Type 40 was not cut out for such a "brute force approach". (AUDIO: Singularity) In his eighth incarnation, he encountered the Type 103, which appeared to be a near-human. (PROSE: Alien Bodies)

By the time of the Doctor's fourth life, the entire Type 40 line had been retired from use. (TV: The Deadly Assassin) This policy ostensibly helped the Time Lords police time travel by reducing the total number of TT capsules in use at a given moment in time. Policing was further assisted by ensuring that individual units of the same model had the same key. Thus the Castellan's guards were able to easily effect entry into the Doctor's TARDIS. (TV: The Invasion of Time)


On more than one occasion, the Doctor encountered heavily armed battle TARDISes carrying time torpedoes, developed during his fifth incarnation or earlier. (COMIC: The Stockbridge Horror, AUDIO: Neverland)

Features and functions

For basic information on TARDISes similar to the Doctor's, see Type 40.

Dimensionally transcendental


The TARDIS seen from the outside in. (TV: School Reunion)

One of the key features of a TARDIS was that the interior existed in a dimension different from the exterior. The main application of this concept was that they were bigger on the inside than the outside. (TV: An Unearthly Child, et al)

The Fourth Doctor once tried to explain the phenomenon to Leela by using two boxes, one smaller than the other. He placed the larger one further away, so it appeared as if it could fit within the small box. He then explained that if the big box could be accessed where it was from the small box, the small box would be "bigger on the inside". However, Leela dismissed this as "silly". (TV: The Robots of Death)

Chameleon circuit

Main article: Chameleon circuit

One feature of all TARDISes was their ability to blend into their surroundings once they landed. If working properly, a chameleon circuit would assess the surroundings just before arrival and change the exterior to resemble something common to that landscape. (TV: An Unearthly Child, Rose, Boom Town) On the one occasion he got it working after leaving London in 1963, the chameleon circuit of the Doctor's TARDIS appeared to give him no control over the change. (TV: Attack of the Cybermen) However, were the mechanism functioning correctly, it would have been programmable from a keyboard on the TARDIS' main console. (TV: Logopolis) Later models may have allowed greater flexibility. The Master's ability to produce an architectural column in sometimes incongruous environments like the Pharos Project or Heathrow (TV: Logopolis, Castrovalva, Time-Flight), as well as the Monk's statement that he chose to make his TARDIS look like a Saxon altar (TV: The Time Meddler) perhaps indicated the circuits of later models could indeed be operated manually. This idea was further substantiated when the Doctor entered the Monk's TARDIS and changed its appearance from a pillar of stone to a police box identical to his own TARDIS. (TV: The Daleks' Master Plan)

In Logopolis, it is implied that the Doctor could select what the TARDIS would look like. He even demonstrates to Adric how he would change the TARDIS into a pyramid, if the chameleon circuit were functioning properly.

When the chameleon circuit was not operative, a TARDIS in its natural form resembled a plain cabinet with a sliding door on the front — similar to a SIDRAT. (TV: The War Games)

Organic machines

TARDISes were incredibly complex machines. The nature of their construction was such that they were said to be grown rather than constructed (TV: The Impossible Planet), thus simulating a biological process, though it is not clear whether this is indicative of the machine being biological in nature or simply so intricate and complex as to appear to mimic the processes of a biological entity.

Due to the level of complexity in their construction, TARDISes had a degree of sentience, and could take independent action, as when the Doctor's TARDIS resurrected Grace Holloway and Chang Lee (TV: Doctor Who), or when someone looked into the heart of the TARDIS. (TV: Boom Town, The Parting of the Ways)

Conflicting evidence from many sources, such as other Time Lords and the Doctor himself, leave unclear how the average TARDIS was alive and whether that life extended beyond artificial sentience and into a biological existence. Some advanced TARDISes, such as Compassion, were fully sentient beings in their own right. [source needed]

TARDISes often "mourned" the death of their Time Lord pilots, even committing suicide by flying into a sun or hurling themselves into the Time Vortex. The Fifth Doctor claimed there was "an elephants' graveyard" of TARDISes somewhere at the end of time. (AUDIO: Omega, The Axis of Insanity)

Because the TARDIS displayed these organic traits, the Doctor considered his TARDIS to be alive. He talked to and stroked parts of the TARDIS when he operated it. (TV: School Reunion) He spoke of mechanical difficulties as medical conditions like "indigestion." (TV: Doctor Who, The Runaway Bride) He once commented that a TARDIS was "more like a person." (TV: The Five Doctors) On one occasion, the Doctor's TARDIS manifested an avatar to help him fight a mental battle, taking on the forms and personas of the various companions who had ridden in it – however, this was when the Doctor was unconscious and battling within his own mind. (COMIC: The Forgotten)

When Amy told him she thought him mad for talking to a time machine, the Eleventh Doctor told her the TARDIS could, in fact, hear him. (PROSE: Night of the Humans)

When the matrix of the Doctor's TARDIS was placed inside the body of Idris, it was shown they were in fact sentient beings with some degree of free will. The TARDIS said in her human body, "All of my sisters are dead." This implies that all TARDISes were female. (TV: The Doctor's Wife)

Rassilon Imprimatur

Before a TARDIS was fully functional, it needed to be primed with the biological imprint from the symbiotic nuclei of a Time Lord's cells. Known as the Rassilon Imprimatur, this gave them a symbiotic link to their TARDISes and allowed them to survive the physical stresses of time travel. Without the Imprimatur, molecular disintegration would result — a safeguard against misuse of time travel — even if the TARDIS technology were copied. Once a Time Machine was properly primed, however, and the imprint stored on a component (a briode nebuliser), it could be used safely by any species. (TV: The Two Doctors)

Computer Interfaces

The TARDIS computer has been seen to be accessible in various ways. TARDIS computer interfaces known to exist include:

  • An Index File provided text-based research into all manner of subjects relevant to TARDIS pilots and crew. This was accessible to Nyssa and Tegan. (TV: Castrovalva)
  • A voice interface could be requested for a variety of purposes. The TARDIS was able to communicate with its occupants using a holographic avatar, based on the Brigadier, and also created re-enactments of events from history, with characters based on the previous Doctors and their companions. (AUDIO: Zagreus) The Eleventh Doctor once got medical analysis and limited psychological counselling from this interface. (TV: Let's Kill Hitler)
  • A device compatible with 21st century Earth DVDs was capable of reading and executing automated piloting instructions for a TARDIS. (TV: Blink) It also could burn software to CD/DVD media for use on Earth computers. (TV: World War Three)
  • Psychic circuits kept a TARDIS linked to its crew when they left its interior, providing translation from alien languages and perhaps other features, so long as its attending Time Lord was in good health. (TV: The End of the World, The Christmas Invasion, et al)

Specific TARDISes

The Doctor's TARDIS

Main article: The Doctor's TARDIS

The First Doctor stole his TARDIS. (TV: The War Games) However, the TARDIS herself, in the human body of Idris, said she had planned for him to steal her; she left her doors unlocked so he could walk in. She considered herself to have stolen the Doctor as much as the Doctor thought he stole his TARDIS. (TV: The Doctor's Wife) By the time of his fourth incarnation, all Type 40s had been decommisioned, save his. (TV: The Deadly Assassin) Following the events of the Last Great Time War, the Tenth Doctor believed his was the last TARDIS in existence. (TV: Rise of the Cybermen)

Possessed by other renegades

The Master had at least two TARDISes. According to the Doctor, the Master's had a Mark II dematerialisation circuit. (TV: Terror of the Autons) The Rani, the Monk and Iris Wildthyme also had TARDISes. Iris' may have been even older than the Doctor's. (TV: The Mark of the Rani, The Time Meddler, PROSE: The Scarlet Empress)

See The Master's TARDIS, the Monk's TARDIS and Iris Wildthyme's TARDIS for more information.

Unique TARDISes

Compassion (a former member of the Remote) evolved into a TARDIS, the prototype of the sentient Type 102, the only one of that type. The first generation of mass produced sentient TARDISes was the Type 103. (PROSE: The Shadows of Avalon)

Idris and the Eleventh Doctor also built a junk TARDIS out of dead TARDIS parts from the Bubble universe's junkyard. (TV: The Doctor's Wife)

Copies of TARDIS technology

During the Doctor's second incarnation, the renegade Time Lord known as the War Chief provided similar time ships called SIDRATs to the War Lords to further their plans of conquest. When they learned of this, the Time Lords placed the War Lords' planet in a time loop. (TV: The War Games)

The Fourth Doctor instructed Skagra's ship on how to de- and re-materialise like a TARDIS. (TV: Shada)

When the Skith probed the Doctor's mind, they gained knowledge of the TARDIS and made their own version, the SKARDIS. (COMIC: The Age of Ice)

When the Daleks achieved time travel, they made a version of the TARDIS, the Dalek time machine. (TV: The Chase)

When Banto Zame and Sally-Anne Stubbins were running their conning operation, they used a device called a "STARDIS" which was a teleport device housed inside a portaloo. (AUDIO: The One Doctor)

An alternate reality UNIT, under the command of Rose Tyler, used technology taken from the Doctor's dying TARDIS to create a time machine to send the alternate Donna Noble back in time to correct history. (TV: Turn Left)

79B Aickman Road was a copy of TARDIS technology. (TV: The Lodger)

Behind the scenes

Is it Tardis or TARDIS?

Is "TARDIS" somehow "more correct" than "Tardis"? It's an open question, really. Here's what can be safely said.

The acronym was introduced into written English as "Tardis". The earliest Doctor Who publications — like 1960s Doctor Who annuals — consistently styled it as the ordinary word "Tardis", capitalising the T and often italicising the word in deference to the fact that it was a ship name. As David J. Howe and friends once noted in a behind-the-scenes exploration of An Unearthly Child:

Tardis was originally intended to be the name of the Doctor's ship (in the same way that one might name a sailing boat) rather than purely a descriptive acronym.The Television Companion

This explains why World Distributors' Doctor Who annuals often styled the name Tardis, not TARDIS, TARDIS or even "the Tardis". Common sentences in early 1960s annuals ran along the lines of, "The Doctor made his way back to Tardis, where Ben and Polly were waiting for him."

World eventually stopped italicising Tardis, but they used "Tardis" throughout their stewardship of the Doctor Who annuals, with the form being used as late as their final edition in 1986.

Similarly, Radio Times listings have always treated the acronym like a regular word. Even in the 21st century, "Tardis" is the form found in dictionaries, such as the Oxford American Dictionary. Like laser and sonar, then, "Tardis" is what some linguists call an anachronym. Since most of the general public doesn't know that it is an acronym, its heritage as an acronym is viewed as anachronistic, and therefore forgotten.

Different styles for different times

That said, a few generalisations can be noted. Throughout most of the classic run — at least prior to John Nathan-Turner, the preferred form was Tardis. Thus, in Target novelisations, annuals, and other printed material that was actually contemporaneous with the original version of Doctor Who, Tardis is the form of choice.

This began to change somewhat in the 1980s. Once Doctor Who became a print-only franchise in the 1990s, however, "TARDIS" became standardised by Virgin Books. BBC Wales continued with the Virgin/BBC Books style. Publications like the Doctor Who Storybook, New Series Adventures, Quick Reads, The Darksmith Legacy and the like are all fairly unanimous in their use of "TARDIS".

Nevertheless, despite the increased use of "TARDIS" in prose fiction, there still is no firm preference expressed by narratives in visual media like television episodes and comic stories. Where the word has appeared, it has done so along other words exclusively set in the uppercase. For instance, in the plaque installed on the Eleventh Doctor's TARDIS set, all the words are in uppercase, so nothing can be inferred about the "proper" way to capitalise the acronym. Equally, in Let's Kill Hitler, the word appears on a screen where all other text is in uppercase. Comic depictions have also been lettered in all uppercase, as is standard for the medium.

In popular culture

In terms of general cultural references, "Tardis" is still in heavy use, as is evidenced by article titles like "XDm .45 ACP 3.8″ Compact is the Tardis of Handguns" and BBC America's Where's the Tardis? competition. It also seems to be BBC News' house style to go for the sentence case version: "'Tardis' to tackle anti-social behaviour in Brighton" and "Tardis Tennis", a game made by BBC Sport. Moreover, most articles supplied by BBC News about Doctor Who — as opposed to those written for the Doctor Who official website — tend to use "Tardis" throughout the body of the text, as with this coverage of the 2012 official Doctor Who convention. Equally, it has always been the house style of the Radio Times to use this form, as can be evidenced by exploring the RT website, as well as past RT clippings included on classic-era DVDs.

Use on this wiki

On this wiki, "TARDIS" refers to the time-travel device used by Time Lords, whereas "Tardis" means the wiki itself.

External links

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