Name that Panel
This is my first and only Doctor Who post on my site currently. Thanks for dropping by. In time for the 50th anniversary, we have been given the rare distinction of having photographs of the six control panels of the TARDIS, thanks to IO9.com.
As an exercise, both because IO9.com is doing it and because I considered the challenge and choose to accept it, I am planning to see if I could define what each panel does and why, based solely on its appearance the immense lore of Doctor Who. The exercise is all in fun but if I had a time machine as amazing as the TARDIS, I would like to think I took the time to know what can be done to control my ship and why.
The Doctor’s TARDIS is a “TT Type 40, Mark 3” and normally requires six pilots for smooth operation. The Doctor is considered a less than stellar pilot running about the control panels of the TARDIS flinging everyone around as it moved through the Time Vortex. Dr. River Song seemed a more capable pilot even when she was piloting singularly.
My approach will be to ask what have we seen the TARDIS do and where would I put that level of functionality on a control panel.
- The TARDIS is a spaceship capable of moving at superluminary speeds over vast distances. We have watched the TARDIS chase down other vessels in space.
- The TARDIS is a timeship capable of entering the Time Vortex to travel in time both forward and backward with equal facility.
- The TARDIS is Dimensionally transcendental, meaning she is capable of supporting a number of permanent internal spaces which are much larger on the inside than what appears in normal space time. She can also alter the aperture at the front of the TARDIS to appear anywhere inside her she wants. We have seen River falling from a building still manage to land in the swimming pool. This means the portal aperture can be relocated.
- The TARDIS is capable of replicating any kind of matter or energy needed to repair or replace components. This probably means she is capable of creating food as well.
- She is capable of seeing into the Time Vortex and knowing in relationship to herself, where she is at any moment in space and time; we can call this temporal awareness.
- She must have technology which allows her to see and be aware of things in normal space like any good spacecraft would. Such sensors would require a means of calibrating and analyzing feedback. We know she can do this both internally and externally.
Previously established lore for the Eleventh Doctor’s control panels included:
- The mechanical panel contained the engine release lever, door release lever, gyroscopic stabiliser, locking down mechanism (described as a physical handbrake) and the TARDIS display dials.
- The helm panel contained the eyepiece (an alternative to visual scanners), the time rotor handbrake and the space/time throttle.
- The navigation panel contained a time and space forward/back control, directional pointer, atom accelerator (the spinning, spiky ball) and the spatial location input (a computer keyboard).
- The diagnostic panel contained the inertial dampers, the cooling systems (gauges), a bunsen burner and a microphone/water dispenser.
- The communications panel contained an analogue telephone, digital com, voice recorder, analogue radio waves detector/monitor/changer and a scanner/typewriter.
- The fabrication panel contained the materialise/dematerialise function, harmonic generator, time altimeter, a fabrication dispenser (which was described as being able to produce sonic screwdrivers and other technology – which eventually housed the laser screwdriver) and a Heisenberg focusing device which was used to break Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. This device was called a zigzag plotter.
So, if we take the lore of the previous panels and my requirements for a TARDIS to operate, we should be able to map these to the new panels below. Unfortunately, the mapping, one to one didn’t happen.
Panel 1: This panel has no feedback mechanisms, no screens or dials. This strikes me as a service panel which controls inner functions of the TARDIS. Doors, defense systems, specific defenses, operational controls, turning main systems on and off. Note it has six primary switches, which could relate to the six panels of the control interface. Note the single red button on the left. Since the two monitors swivel over all the panels, it is assumed if there is feedback, it is sent to the screens, as needed.
Panel 2: This looks like a space monitoring and information system similar to a terrestrial radar station used onboard Earth naval vessels. This would be where scanning either the interior or the exterior of the TARDIS would be done. Distance/range from the scanner could be controlled with the two main knobs with the smaller ones allowing for macro creation and target switching. They might also allow for a variety of scanning types, EM, temporal energy signatures, technology or radiation detectors. This screen could also function as a display screen, providing information on the central display or on the two overhead screens.
Panel 3: Again, no particular feedback screens but a joystick on the left and a throttle on the right indicates a flight control system, possibly for spaceship mode. A simple variety of buttons and controls for easy access, each must manage or toggle very specific flight-based controls. Since the Type 40 isn’t supposed to have weapons, we have to assume the red buttons on the left are some sort of defensive mechanisms.
Panel 4: The only former panel I could think this might be related to would be the diagnostic panel. These windows might show energy flows and relationships between the Heart of the TARDIS and the Time Vortex. Since neither of those things require actual interaction, it may simply be a monitoring station since there are no visible controls. Since the Doctor is shown to be a less than stellar pilot, it may come from his not having a perfect understanding of the relationship between the Heart of the TARDIS and the Time Vortex. Since a monitor sits over this panel, it is possible these are some sort of touch or mental interface with feedback going to the screen.
Panel 5: This panel looks like it should be the communications panel. I can see the analogue telephone, digital com, voice recorder, analogue radio waves detector/monitor/changer and a scanner/typewriter. The profusion of knobs, keypads and connectors gives me the impression, this is capable of connecting to a variety of electromagnetic spectrum-based technologies.
Panel 6: This makes me think of the Timelord calendars I have seen on the Internet so I am going to assume these are the temporal controls where the management of Time and to some degree space placement is done. I think it is silly to have all of these old school switches with hand-cranking calibration. Perhaps the TARDIS helps calibrate placement and precision or the controls are capable of being precise despite their primitive appearance.
Some of the features of the other TARDIS control panels appear to be missing. I don’t see a fabrication station though it could be the station with nothing on it. The device could be teleported there after being created in the fabrication center. Now a hard core fan would go back and watch the most recent episodes and see how well what has been theorized has been displayed on the show so far. So I will be setting my DVR to see if I can compare scenes in the TARDIS with what I have mapped so far. I’ll keep you posted.