A TARDIS control room, also referred to as a console room, was any place on a TARDIS that contained a functioning control console. This flight deck also functioned as a point of exit. If the Doctor, the Master, the Monk and the Rani's TARDISes were any indication, control rooms were typically circular and featured relatively open floor plans, in which the control console was vaguely, but rarely precisely, in the middle of the room. Control rooms also usually contained walls with roundels, scanners for viewing the TARDIS exterior, and fairly sparse furnishings; no known TARDIS control room allowed for the operation of the console itself from a seated position.
Other than those generalisations, the shape, size and ambience of a control room, even within just the Doctor's TARDIS, was highly variable.
A control room's look could be changed over time. The process by which an operator could transform a control room was fairly simple, once compared by the Fifth Doctor to changing a "desktop theme". (TV: Time Crash) On some occasions, a TARDIS was shown to manage the change itself. In one instance, the Doctor regenerated with extreme violence, destroying much of his control room; the TARDIS was able to completely redesign its interior and console room without the Doctor's assistance. (TV: The Eleventh Hour)
By the time of his eleventh incarnation, the Doctor's console room had gone through at least twelve redesigns, though the TARDIS revealed that she had archived thirty versions. Once the control room was reconfigured, the Doctor's TARDIS archived the old design "for neatness", effectively "curating" a museum of control rooms — both those in the Doctor's personal past and future. (TV: The Doctor's Wife)
The Doctor's main console room
When the interior of the TARDIS used by the First Doctor was first seen by Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, it was a bright white room, with roundels on the walls and a large computer bank taking up a major part of the "back" wall. These computer banks contained the fault locator and various systems relating to navigational control. (TV: An Unearthly Child, "The Dead Planet")
The Third Doctor briefly changed the walls of the console room, adding concave "bowl" shaped structures over the regular roundels, with edges that jutted out from the wall, and featuring shallower, non-backlit roundels for the half-roundels at the tops and bottoms of the walls. One of the roundels served as a replacement for the scanner, a picture appearing in its centre. (TV: The Time Monster) He later reverted to the more traditional design, though with a more visible separation between the roundels and the wall behind them. (TV: The Three Doctors)
The Fourth Doctor continued to use this console room, adding a wall featuring the shallow, non-backlit roundels first seen during his encounter with Kronos at some point during his travels with Sarah Jane Smith. (TV: Planet of Evil, Pyramids of Mars)
After the Fourth Doctor and Leela returned to the main console room following some "refurbishment", they began to use a markedly different console room. The walls of this room were a light shade of grey, and the roundels were significantly shallower, with a yellowish-beige design mimicking the ones found within the secondary console room. Corrugated grey columns were placed in various corners of the room, and the monitor was changed to a large, flat screen beneath an aperture that opened similarly to an eye, resting between the exit and the door leading further in. (TV: The Invisible Enemy)
The Fifth Doctor continued to use this design. On orders from the Black Guardian, Vislor Turlough later damaged the Heart of the TARDIS enough to the point of the TARDIS nearly falling apart, (TV: Terminus) leaving the room darker for some time until repairs were done. (TV: Enlightenment)
After the TARDIS's interior dimensions were damaged when it was stolen and piloted through a temporally unstable region, (PROSE: The Crystal Bucephalus) the interior was completely refurbished, giving the control room a sleeker, more high-tech appearance. The columns were now rectangular rather than cylindrical, and the roundelled walls now deeper inset. (TV: The Five Doctors) Following his regeneration, (TV: The Caves of Androzani) it would be used by his next two incarnations, the Sixth and Seventh Doctors. (TV: The Twin Dilemma, Time and the Rani)
After the Doctor, Ace and Hex did some "redecorating" to create the "Victorian" console room, (AUDIO: The Settling) this console room would be retired, briefly being reused as the console room of the original TARDIS after it materialised inside the "Black TARDIS", which used the "Victorian". The Black TARDIS was eventually destroyed, restoring the console room to its Victorian style. (AUDIO: Black and White)
The console in this room was duplicated by a matter-manipulating entity that the Rani had enslaved to do her bidding, seeking to replace the console room of her own TARDIS after the Master had separated it from the rest of her ship to save himself from a tyrannosaurus rex. (TV: The Mark of the Rani) For a time, this console was used as an Oracle by the population of Alexandria in a duplicated version of Ancient Egypt that the entity had created by accident. The people accessed its databanks to learn about future technology. The duplicate console was eventually connected to the Rani's TARDIS, allowing her to control her ship once again. (PROSE: State of Change)
Following an erratic alteration to the TARDIS's interior dimensions caused by the Doctor's ring interfacing with the chameleon circuit icon system, the console room was once again reconfigured. Now featuring angular walls with non-angular roundels, the roof now resembled the canopy seen in the First Doctor's console room. (COMIC: The Chameleon Factor)
After the Doctor, Ace and Hex did some "redecorating" of the TARDIS, the Seventh Doctor began to use a new control room, (AUDIO: The Settling) one that resembled a comfortable Victorian parlour, a design later inherited by the Eighth Doctor. (TV: Doctor Who) River Song was known to have loved this version of the room, (GAME: The Eternity Clock) while the Fourth Doctor and Charley Pollard found it in poor taste. (AUDIO: The Light at the End, The Stones of Venice) After later consoles, the Eighth Doctor would later restore or copy this console. (AUDIO: Storm Warning, The Great War)
Its comparatively vast interior was significantly larger than any that had come before or after. In this version, the console itself was not the sole focus of the room, but merely one of its many features. A vast bureau almost entirely covered one wall, its huge drawers filled with various objects the Doctor wished to retain. Surrounding the console itself were several metal half-arches, covered in circular holes resembling roundels. Clocks of all description — but mostly mechanical ones — littered various nooks and crannies. Far from the evenly lit, mostly white interior of the past, this control room had multiple light sources and an abundance of wooden surfaces, which allowed the Doctor to create a sense of warmth and even opulent comfort. At least a portion of the Doctor's books were in another alcove, forming a sort of en suite library. (TV: Doctor Who)
Furniture, usually anathema to the Doctor's control rooms, was found in abundance here. Indeed, there was a large area immediately adjacent larger than the console area itself, which had several comfortable chairs, lamps, an ottoman — all of which conspired to give this control room the appearance of a cosy living room.
According to companion Will Arrowsmith, this console room was not "proper Victorian" but "pseudovictorian" and apparently heavily inspired by H. G. Wells' story The Time Machine, though based more upon the movie adaptation rather than the novel itself. (AUDIO: Persuasion)
The Doctor's original TARDIS' console room would briefly revert back to its previous design after it dematerialised from the pocket dimension he had used to imprison the Elder Gods Albert and Peggy, leaving Ace and Hex behind, while his newly grown "Black TARDIS" used its "mother"'s Victorian configuration up until its eventual destruction. (AUDIO: Black and White) Following this, the TARDIS console room was restored to its Victorian layout, (AUDIO: Gods and Monsters) being briefly changed to a white configuration after To'Koth used it to return to the home dimension of the Elder Gods (AUDIO: Signs and Wonders) and ultimately reconfigured to its beige layout. (COMIC: The Chameleon Factor) However, accounts differed over how and why this version of the control room had been restored by the latter part of the Seventh Doctor's life. Amongst the competing theories were:
- The TARDIS herself changed the room after being trapped inside the Doctor's family estate, the House of Lungbarrow. It rebuilt itself to resemble the house after the Doctor temporarily severed the link between the interior and exterior to prevent his family stealing the ship. After he had restored the TARDIS, the console room retained this homier design (PROSE: Lungbarrow)
- The Doctor — and not the TARDIS – had simply "built" it. (AUDIO: Excelis Decays)
- It was standard equipment, merely another secondary console room. It had been there for some time, and was in fact meant to be the main console room all along. (PROSE: The Dying Days)
Following the TARDIS' destruction after it was caught in a dimensional tear, (PROSE: The Shadows of Avalon) it reconstructed itself into a massive, bone-like structure that came to be known as the Edifice. Its console room at this stage was apparently based on the console room at the time of destruction, but appeared, like the rest of the ship, to be made of bone. This was due to the TARDIS containing the Faction Paradox biodata virus that had infected the Third Doctor after his early regeneration. (PROSE: Interference - Book Two, The Ancestor Cell) The console also manifested an 'avatar' of the Third Doctor composed of the dust in the ship, apparently the manifestation of the Third Doctor who should have existed before the Faction changed his history. This console room was 'destroyed' when the Doctor drained the Edifice of all its power in order to fire the ship's ancient weapon systems, erasing the Dust regeneration from history and forcing the TARDIS to spend the next century repairing itself. (PROSE: The Ancestor Cell)
Later Eighth Doctor
The TARDIS completed its regeneration on Earth, after the Doctor exhausted its power in the destruction of Gallifrey. Its interior now resembled a mixture of the original console room and the library-like room often associated with the Eighth Doctor. (PROSE: Escape Velocity) The console was initially octagonal, (PROSE: The Slow Empire) but was later reconfigured to be pentagonal. (PROSE: Trading Futures) The Control Room eventually became hexagonal and contained four alcoves, two on either side of the main doors and the interior door. One contained filing cabinets and chests, another led to the TARDIS library, the third contained a laboratory, and the fourth contained a kitchen (which looked out onto an English countryside vista and was an exact replica of the kitchen in the Doctor's house in Kent). This interior was destroyed when the Doctor used the TARDIS to contain the explosion of a cold fusion generator created by the TARDIS' original owner. (PROSE: The Gallifrey Chronicles)
The Eighth Doctor was still using his original console room later in his life, (AUDIO: Storm Warning, Blood of the Daleks, COMIC: Music of the Spherions) including during the Last Great Time War. (PROSE: Natural Regression)
The War Doctor used a control room during the Last Great Time War, this time reminiscent of his first incarnation's control room with similar white walls and roundels, albeit with new coral support beams and a matching console, which incorporated many odds and ends, ranging from a device like a bicycle pump to a mallet used for percussive maintenance. This console was inherited by the Ninth Doctor. The entire room looked as though it had been built from spare parts. Examples included the wiring and circuitry laid out around the outside of the platform the console was set on, the platform itself was clean and tidy where as everything else was dirty. (TV: The Day of the Doctor) It had Police Box doors and the roof was a white dome rising from the walls. The control room was also linked to the other rooms in the TARDIS via an ascending staircase. (PROSE: Engines of War)
Early during the Ninth Doctor's life, the control room had been changed to its "coral" theme. This organic design was similar to its previous iteration used by the War and Ninth Doctors during and after the Last Great Time War respectively. However, the walls were now golden, with smaller, hexagonal impressions replacing the white roundels of the previous console room. This iteration of the console had apparently been available as early as the era of the Fifth Doctor, who disliked it, considering it worse than the "leopard skin" version. (TV: Time Crash). This control room was inherited by the Tenth Doctor. (TV: The Parting of the Ways) The Eleventh Doctor reflected on this console as his "grunge phase", (TV: The Day of the Doctor) which he grew out of. (TV: The Eleventh Hour)
The console room consisted of a circular area, with a red-tiled ramp leading from the doors to a hexagonal platform. On the platform was a second, circular platform. The entire room was supported by six coral pillars arranged in a hexagonal pattern that met with the top of the time rotor at the room's ceiling. There were also several black wires connecting to the time rotor. Under the main platform were storage areas large enough for the Doctor to enter himself to retrieve items (TV: Army of Ghosts), though some were packed to just below the top. (TV: The Unicorn and the Wasp) It was also dim, illuminated by the glow of green light from the time rotor column in the centre of the room and the lights in the hexagons on the walls. (TV: Rose - Doomsday) However, the glow was later made less noticeable as the Doctor used the other lights. (TV: The Runaway Bride - The End of Time)
The console room was set on fire and at least one column destroyed by the Tenth Doctor's violent regeneration into his eleventh incarnation. Much of the wiring in the ceiling fell apart and parts of the console exploded. The damage to the console was extensive enough to cause the Door Release Lever to malfunction. The Doctor nearly fell out of the TARDIS. (TV: The End of Time, The Eleventh Hour)
It was rebuilt by the TARDIS, but it decided to replace it with another version of the console room and archive the coral desktop. The Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond, Rory Williams and the separated matrix of the TARDIS entered it when House had control of the TARDIS. House deleted the room for the power needed to leave the bubble universe he was in and enter N-Space. (TV: The Doctor's Wife)
Due to the violent nature of the Tenth Doctor's regeneration and the resultant damage to the TARDIS, it required time to repair itself. After the ordeal involving the Atraxi attempting to recapture Prisoner Zero had been resolved, the Eleventh Doctor returned to the TARDIS and, upon seeing the replacement control room, immediately took the TARDIS to the Moon and back to Earth to "run her in", though accidentally travelled forward two years in doing so. Soon after taking Amy Pond on board for the first time, the new TARDIS console also provided the Doctor with a new sonic screwdriver, as the previous one had been destroyed. (TV: The Eleventh Hour)
Changes to the control room included a new hexagonal console with instruments resembling a typewriter, a telegraph, a gramophone, a set of hot and cold taps, and a view-screen made by Magpie Electricals. A larger, circular, secondary view screen was set into one of the walls. (TV: The Beast Below, Victory of the Daleks, The Hungry Earth, Cold Blood, The Girl Who Waited) There were fewer roundels on the walls than in the past, and an area located underneath the main console which housed the Heart of the TARDIS. This version also possessed an actual phone, on which people could call the Doctor. (TV: Victory of the Daleks, The Big Bang, Bad Night) There was also a swing located under the glass floor the Doctor or anyone else could sit on to help with maintenance. (TV: The Vampires of Venice, Amy's Choice, The Pandorica Opens, Space) The railings originally were rectangular barred and black in colour, (TV: The Eleventh Hour) but later became round barred and gold. (TV: A Christmas Carol, et al)
It had at least three floors: a lower section, the console room level, and the second level. (TV: The Eleventh Hour) Unlike its immediate predecessor, this console room had three visible exits to the rest of the TARDIS; two on the lower levels and one via a set of stairs. (TV: The Eleventh Hour - The Angels Take Manhattan)
At some point after his separation from the Ponds, the Eleventh Doctor dispensed with the whimsical control room when his personality turned less jovial. Seemingly smaller, his new control room contained a console with more literal input devices and instrumentation, as well as a pair of secondary consoles on the railing of the main platform. The room was stark and mechanical, covered in tones of teal and aqua, and an overall cold mood to reflect a more depressed Doctor. (TV: The Snowmen onwards)
This control room was inherited by the Twelfth Doctor, (TV: The Time of the Doctor) who proceeded to upgrade the console room by adding several items to it, including a reclining chair, bookshelves, candles, chalkboards, an additional staircase to the upper level and circular lights around the lower balcony. He also changed the lighting of the time rotor and room from its original aqua to orange, creating an ambient glow that added warmth to the room. Overall, he gave the once empty and stark control room a homelike sense of decor, provision, and sophistication. (TV: Deep Breath) Bill Potts described it as "like a really posh kitchen". (TV: The Pilot) By contrast, the First Doctor disapproved of its aesthetic, calling it "a restaurant for the French". (TV: Twice Upon a Time)
The Twelfth Doctor later expanded his renovation of the control room further, adding glowing circles over the hexagonal roundels on the lower floor, echoing the circular roundels of his earlier control rooms. (COMIC: Day of the Tune, TV: The Magician's Apprentice)
The control room that Clara Oswald knew featured aqua/orange lighting and time rotor, blue Gallifreyan markings on the ceiling and above the time rotor, hexagonal roundels on the lower console level, and Gallifreyan markings on the top level. Several tiny lights went around the walls of the room in a straight line, flashing sections at a time. The console featured two screens, and what seemed to be a radar on one face. There were two additional consoles around the edge of the main level. It was also much darker than the previous iteration. Except for the time rotor, all lights could be turned off when the Doctor was not inside.
There were three levels: an upper balcony, which looked down over the console and had doorways off of it, the landing, which housed the console, seating, and main doors (TV: The Snowmen) and the lower level, which had several compartments, one of which contained clothing. The Eleventh Doctor assembled his new attire from the clothes held in this compartment. (TV: The Bells of Saint John) Another compartment allowed access to the Heart of the TARDIS and could expose objects placed in there to time winds. (TV: The Time of the Doctor) There were four doorways to other sections of the TARDIS, two on the upper level either side of the main doors, and two on the lower level. One of the compartments under the console contained a ladder leading to a lower part of the TARDIS whilst one of the roundels on the lower section of the wall opened to reveal a passageway that led to the engine room at the centre of the TARDIS. (TV: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS)
This console room initially lacked a hat stand, a factor which even the Doctor hadn't noticed until asked about it by Clara. (TV: Hide) The Twelfth Doctor's redecorated console room once more included the hat stand, located on the lower level. (TV: Mummy on the Orient Express)
The console eventually sustained heavy damage following the Twelfth Doctor's explosive regeneration, scattering sparks from various control surfaces, and even allowing a portion of the central console to separate from the time rotor. Such extensive damage to the control room made the TARDIS tip onto its side, causing the newly regenerated Thirteenth Doctor, and most of her books, to fall from the ship, over Earth. Fire completely engulfed the control room right before the TARDIS vanished. (TV: Twice Upon a Time)
Other control rooms
Second control room
There existed a small second control room which the Doctor claimed may have been the original console room; a recorder and smoking jacket were found in here, implying both the Second and Third Doctors visited this room but chose not to use it. It was simpler and more compact than the main control room, with the console resembling a desk, no visible time rotor and all the controls hidden behind what appeared to be wooden panelling. It had more subtle roundels, some of them framing stained glass windows. For a brief period, the Fourth Doctor used this as the main control room. (TV: The Masque of Mandragora, The Hand of Fear, The Deadly Assassin, The Robots of Death, The Invisible Enemy)
At least one second control room was lost when the Seventh Doctor ejected the primary one from the TARDIS in an attempt to defeat Qataka, a megalomaniac who had downloaded her mind into the TARDIS, the Doctor having tricked her into thinking that the TARDIS life support systems were controlled from that console. However, Qataka was able to use the console to turn herself into the godlike Timewyrm. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Genesys, Timewyrm: Revelation)
The Eighth Doctor was forced to retreat to this control room with Cardinal Ollistra, Doctor Eva Morrison and Commander Roxita when a group of Vashta Nerada infiltrated the ship, using a set of three spacesuits in this room as part of a plan to purge the Vashta Nerada from the TARDIS (AUDIO: Day of the Vashta Nerada).
Soon after the TARDIS became infected by an organic material from Tír na n-Óg, (PROSE: Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark) the Doctor began adapting the Zero Room into another console room, disconnected from the Universe, so he could escape the effects. This control room/zero room was lost when the Seventh Doctor ejected it from the TARDIS in an attempt to destroy the sentient computer, Pool. (PROSE: Deceit)
The Eighth Doctor used the quinary control room, which he thought that he hadn't used in a while, if ever, after Charlotte Pollard opened C'rizz's absolver and a psychic being partially destroyed the main control room. Charley said it smelt like an old woman's parlour. (AUDIO: Absolution)
As Idris, the TARDIS told the Eleventh Doctor it had so far archived thirty control rooms. The Doctor argued he had only changed the desktop theme a dozen times and it couldn't archive things that hadn't happened yet. The TARDIS merely replied that he couldn't. (TV: The Doctor's Wife)
Behind the scenes
- When introduced in the script for TV: An Unearthly Child, the control room used in the First Doctor's TARDIS was described as having "panels of instruments and the paradox of comfortable chairs."
- The Victorian parlour console was the first to have the time rotor connected to the roof. (TV: Doctor Who onward)
- The coral console room was the first in which the exterior doors resembled those of a police box on the inside as well as the outside.
- TEDW 2 names the two Eleventh Doctor's design as the "Copper" and the "Toyota" ones.
- The copper console room was the first to have several levels, and more than 2 exit doors. (TV: The Eleventh Hour onward)
- Every TARDIS console room has contained a coat rack or umbrella stand, except for the Eleventh Doctor's neon console. (TV: The Snowmen - The Time of the Doctor) This was rectified after the Twelfth Doctor's redecoration. (TV: Mummy on the Orient Express)
- Every console room that the TARDIS has had bore circles and/or hexagonal panels on the wall.
- A select few television stories have featured more than one version of the TARDIS console room. Technically, the first would have been TV: The Two Doctors, had the same set not been simply reused for both the Second and Sixth Doctor's TARDIS interior. The first true case of more than one different TARDIS set being used in a single story was TV: The Eleventh Hour, in which the Ninth and Tenth Doctors' console room appears in the opening scene, and the first of the Eleventh Doctor's console rooms is introduced in the final scene. The two sets also make a joint appearance in TV: The Doctor's Wife. The Ninth/Tenth Doctor's returned for a third time in TV: The Day of the Doctor, this time featuring alongside the Eleventh Doctor's second console room as well as a third TARDIS console room set, for the War Doctor. The console rooms used by the First to Eighth Doctors can also be seen on the screens connecting them to the War Council.
- The neon console has since been made a LEGO set, featuring minifigures of the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors (sonic screwdriver included), Clara Oswald, two Daleks and a Weeping Angel.
- The rotating wheels above the neon console are referred to as "time coordination wheels" in the audio description track of TV: Twice Upon a Time.
- After the original series cancellation Doctor Who Magazine comissioned Mike Tucker to draw a what-if design for a would have been season 27 (DWM 255) For the 35th anniversary event The Take: 35 Years of Doctor Who, he constructed a 4 feet sized model (DWM 272)