Wednesday, 8 January 2014

To fix a TARDIS - Part One

I get asked a lot about my full sized TARDIS prop, which has recently come under some serious damage, and so I thought it would be nice to detail the prop's history, the changes we made and the changes I hope to make to it later this year.

Roughly ten years ago, my brother decided to buy a full sized replica TARDIS. He was at university, I was at secondary school. We had a replica before that, one that our late uncle had built from our old garden shed, it wasn't 100% accurate but it was a lot of fun. However, my brother decided that it would be nice to get something a bit more true to the screen, and so he purchased a Peter Cushing movie TARDIS from thisplanetearth ltd. Now you maybe wondering "Why on earth didn't you go for a TV prop?", sadly at the time they didn't manufacture them and so we settled with this. After all, it's still a TARDIS at the end of the day!

Original Metropolitan Police Box
The original Cushing movie prop was more accurate than any of the boxes used in the TV series as it was much closer to the dimensions, colour, etc of a real Metropolitan Police Box, and actually it still is to this day (say what you will about those films, they looked awesome... well maybe not the transvestite looking Thals). Our replica was brilliant! We loved it! It was made entirely of fibreglass with a few wooden supports to hold the walls and pillars to the base. The colour wasn't as dark as in the films and the light on top... didn't match the film, but it still looked brilliant. Even the St. John's Ambulance sticker didn't bother us. It looked the part! Now we opted to have the doors open inwards like the TV TARDIS, as opposed to outwards like a real Police Box/Cushing TARDIS. It's also worth noting at this point that the normally glass sections, such as the 'Police Public Call Box' signs, were not glass. Just solid fibreglass, so no chance of shining lights through it, and the little door to access the telephone did not open. It was all one solid mould.

How our TARDIS originally looked
For a while all was good. It leaked, which was irritating because you got wet feet walking inside it. Then one windy day the roof nearly came off and blew away... not a good start. Thankfully our uncle did a bit of DIY cleverness on it and managed to get the roof to stay on firmly. As the years went on the windows and window frames would get blown out, they'd smash and have to be re-stuck, and remounted. The white window frames and St. John's Ambulance sign were removed or repainted in order to look more like the traditional TARDIS prop. The sun began to discolour the white door sign, which in turn began to crack from the distress caused by sunlight. It's easy to say "You should have put it indoors", but this thing is 9ft tall and our house is not that big.

By 2013 the yale lock had fallen off, so the doors were being held shut with string. The wood connecting the door to the pillar had rotted away and so the door was hanging off. The door sign was peeling off, the wooden frame surrounding that was rotting away, and the wooden supports that kept the whole thing together were disintegrating. It became clear that in 2014 some renovations would be required to get the TARDIS back up to scratch. By this point the original Hartnell/Cushing look of the TARDIS had returned to TV when it was revealed that Matt Smith's TARDIS had adopted the original colour scheme during filming in 2009. With this in mind I decided it would be nice to return to said colour scheme with our prop. (It should be noted that the real owner of this box had left home by this point, started a family and couldn't care less what became of a prop he spent £2000 on. Yeah, go figure).

Sadly in December 2013 massive storms hit the UK, and the South West got badly hit... and it took the TARDIS with it.

Yes, the grey walls and roundels were our addition
Not a pretty sight. The wind was so strong that it tore the fibreglass away from the rotting wooden supports, nearly all of the windows were blown out, the frames shattered, and in some cases the perspex glass smashed. The door handle on the left side had torn off with the wind, taking some of the wooden frame work with it. Screws had ripped through the fibreglass frame causing holes and tears... it looked as if this would be the end.

However, my father and I were able to get the TARDIS back upright and now it is back to looking like a TARDIS, albeit sans windows and with doors hanging off, but its not as bad as the above picture. We were able to get in touch with a friend of my brother's who believes he can get the TARDIS stable again. That's the first battle done, but huge aesthetic renovations are required to get it looking like a proper Type 40-TT Capsule. Now first and foremost is getting the thing stable again. Hopefully the guys working on it will get that done, possibly strengthen in better than before, and that will be it. We put it back together, tidy it up and leave it as was. However, if these guys are capable, I would like to add a few new elements to the box.

I want to return to the original look of the Cushing movie TARDIS. White window frames, St. John's Ambulance sign, etc. I want a darker colour scheme, as seen on the original Hartnell TARDIS below, and also that lovely concrete texture effect. Now our prop does have this, but only a little bit, nothing like the original Brachacki box used between 1963-1976. I've seen a guy do this online by using polyfilla to create such an effect, and it seems incredibly easy. If possible, it would be nice to secure the windows and try and match the clear and pebbled patches of the widows as seen on the Brachacki box as ours is simply pebbled. The reason for this design change was simply because Matt Smith's TARDIS went back to it, and it looks lovely! Now I mentioned earlier how our prop is more akin to a real Police Box, well in doing some digging it appeared the designers on Matt Smith's first series had the same intention.

How cool would that have been?! An accurate police box in the show at last. Alas, it didn't happen and we got that big blocky TARDIS (I prefer the slimmer look).

Moving on to the more complicated aspects... the door sign. Cut that out, fit a real little door on hinges so it's like the real thing. Sounds easy in theory, but probably not, but it's certainly something that I'll propose to the chaps working on it. Ideally (getting into lunatic territory here) I'd like to replace the 'Police Public Call Box' signs for real glass. I don't think this is feasible, but it would be great. If they were able to properly waterproof the damn thing, I'd try and get lights fitted so it looked like a proper police box. Not holding out any hope of that, but its certainly being discussed by me and my dad.

So that's the plan! Once work begins on the TARDIS I'll be posting regular/semi-regular updates on the process and detailing how well progress is going!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post Matthew!

    I've been considering buying a TARDIS from TPE and was going to go for an all wooden design as I've heard bad things about the fibreglass ones not being very good when exposed to the elements.

    I would also have to keep mine in the garden so if you can get some good weatherproofing advice from your Timelord Engineers....erm, I mean 'repairmen' - then that would be great to read about on your blog :-)