Tuesday, March 6, 2012


    How many of you have a TARDIS in your basement?  Okay, how many of you know what a TARDIS is?  My UK readers are laughing right now.  Shocking but true, a surprising small percentage of Americans know what a TARDIS is.

    TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.  Time Lords use these things to zip in and out of time and space, meddling in the affairs of other planets and galaxies.  Only.. there’s just one Time Lord left, and we don’t know his real name.  We just know him as Dr. Who.  He’s Britain’s only superhero.  Dr. Who is as popular in Britain as Harry Potter is in the US.

    I’m not a hardcore “Whovian” because I haven’t seen ALL the old episodes from the 1960s, 70s and 80s.  PBS would run them late at night, and on the weekends, so I didn’t get to see very many of them.  The first time I got to watch the show with any consistency was when my two oldest children were very small.  It was a special treat to watch an “adult” show (funny how in America it was young adults who watched it, not kids) after the kids were in bed.  But I never made it to the end of a show.  I would inevitably doze off as the plot thickened.  My brain would then incorporate the sounds of the show into my dreams and I would be off chasing aliens half the night.

    I’ll never forget watching the first episode of the new-and-improved Dr. Who (written by Russel T. Davies) in 2005.  I was stunned.  The show had been completely regenerated into something that a body could never fall asleep in front of.  By this time I had kids old enough to watch along with me and we were all addicted by the end of the first episode.

    At first it was very hard to acquire the episodes.  The show had not caught on yet here in America and the only way we could get it was to rely on copied CDs that a friend very kindly burned for us.  When the next CD was dropped into our hands, we revered it as gold.  We’d make a big family night of it, with popcorn and soda and snacks.  Then somehow the parties started to grow with friends dropping in.  (And fortunately we found a way to torrent the episodes.) By the time we got to season 4, we’d have up to about 18 people at our gatherings.  And the menu grew, too.  Now, Dr. Who nights often involve full dinners.

    Then one day last summer, I decided we needed a TARDIS at our gatherings.  It had to be thin so it would fit against the wall as a decoration and could be stored easily in the garage.  But it also had to look 3D enough not to look like a large poster.  So I gathered some wood scraps, bought a few more, and started cutting and gluing.  The feature I am most proud of is the light fixture at the top.  I used a plastic peanut butter jar, a lid from a sports water bottle and a mayonnaise jar lid.  I cut them in half (lengthwise, so the fixture is flat on the back) and used epoxy to glue them together. I installed a nightlight bulb inside so the light really works.

    I think I painted this thing blue about 10 times.  I had purchased several shades of blue acrylic paint and did lots of experimental mixes.  Then I’d compare my results to photographs of the TARDIS.  I was somewhat relieved to discover, after a bit of Internet research, that the exact shade of the TARDIS had changed of the years.  So I couldn’t be all that wrong no matter what shade I used.  But I wanted my shade to be not-too-bright, not-too-dull, not-too-purple, not-too-gray.  After the final coat of paint I added a coat of matte finish so that the paint would be protected but without making the surface too shiny.  Shiny surfaces make photography difficult and I knew that one of the primary purpose of this prop was to provide a backdrop for some fun photos.  The final touch was the installation of some speakers in the back so it can make the famous TARDIS landing noise.

    I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to London a few years ago right when there was a big Dr. Who exhibition going on.  We got to see the original props used for the show (but not the TARDIS).  However, they didn’t need a TARDIS at the exhibition, as where was a permanent one on the street not too far from the convention center.  I wonder how many London natives have given directions to visitors using this TARDIS as a landmark?  It does stand out a bit!

No comments:

Post a Comment