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Doctor Who’s TARDIS explained

The TADIS might be the single most iconic symbol connected to the long-running sci-fi series Doctor Who, but what is the blue box, exactly?

Doctor Who: TARDIS explained Matt Smith as 11th Doctor in TARDIS

What is the Doctor Who TARDIS, and what do we really know about the mysterious blue police box? Doctor Who is filled with iconic moments, phrases, sounds, characters, and objects. Just take that gorgeous theme tune, or the sonic screwdriver, for example. Effortlessly cool.

But, there’s one standout image from Doctor Who that will forever symbolize its status, and that’s the TARDIS. The TARDIS is integral to the show’s premise, as it’s what allows The Doctor to traverse through the depths of time and space. It’s also the source of that deep, whirring hum that so often accompanies The Doctor when they’re phasing in and out of their next location. So ahead of the Doctor Who 60th anniversary release date and season 14, here’s everything you need to know.

What is the TARDIS?

The TARDIS is simultaneously a time machine and a spaceship. While the word TARDIS might sound nonsensical, it’s actually an acronym that stands for ‘Time And Relative Dimension In Space’. It is the vessel that The Doctor and their many companions use to adventure across the universe, both through space and time.

The Doctor’s TARDIS isn’t unique, however. In fact, on Gallifrey, there were plenty of TARDISes that were used by the Time Lords. The Doctor’s TARDIS isn’t a particularly special one, and it’s even suggested that it’s both faulty and out of date (though, as Clara says, that makes it more fun too).

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How did The Doctor get the TARDIS?

The Doctor came to acquire the TARDIS when they stole it from Gallifrey. The first Doctor, portrayed famously by William Hartnell, took the TARDIS in order to escape Gallifrey with Susan and travel through space to satisfy his thirst for adventure.

However, the TARDIS’s human form (as seen in the episode The Doctor’s Wife) actually argued that the theft was somehow mutual. She said that she wanted to be stolen by The Doctor, because she longed to explore the universe.

Doctor Who: TARDIS explained Jodie Whittaker as 13th Doctor in TARDIS

Why does the TARDIS look like a police box?

The TARDIS is equipped with a piece of technology called the chameleon circuit. This had allowed it to disguise itself in whatever form necessary to blend in with the time and location that it had been piloted to. Very clever.

When The Doctor took the TARDIS to 1960s era London, the TARDIS disguised itself as the now-iconic police box (with a perfect rectangular shape that makes Lego Doctor Who set designers very happy). However, the chameleon circuit malfunctioned, and the TARDIS remained stuck as the police box. Ever since, it’s remained in that form even when traveling to alien worlds in the far reaches of the past and future.

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Does the TARDIS regenerate?

Alongside The Doctor, the TARDIS regenerates too. Because the TARDIS has its own senses and personality and is connected to The Doctor, it changes its interior when The Doctor regenerates to match them. It ensures that its own interior matches The Doctor’s new requirements and personality. For example, the 12th Doctor’s TARDIS was stripped back, old-school, and a tad cold.

This also helps to keep things fresh for the audiences, who appreciate a change of scenery every now and then to help signify the start of a new era. In many ways, getting to see the new interior is just as exciting as getting a first look at the new Doctor themselves.

Doctor Who: TaARDIS explained Peter Capaldi as12th Doctor in TARDIS

Why is the TARDIS bigger on the inside?

The TARDIS is, famously, bigger in the inside. That’s down to something called ‘dimensional transcendentalism’ which allows the interior and exterior of the TARDIS to exist separately, but simultaneously. So, it’s handy to think that the doorway to the TARDIS is like the doorway to an unseen room.

The TARDIS being bigger on the inside adds to the sense of wonder and is often something that the Doctor Who companions initially struggle to wrap their heads around.

For more on Doctor Who, take a look at our rundown of the scariest Doctor Who episodes. Or, find out everything we know about the Doctor Who 60th anniversary release date and the Doctor Who season 14 release date, and learn more about the villainous Beep the Meep.