New TARDIS pictures show the real meaning behind the Doctor’s design

The new TARDIS interior, from the Radio Times

The new TARDIS interior, from the Radio Times

THE first pictures of the new TARDIS were revealed in the Radio Times today and it was a visual treat, not just for Doctor Who fans.

My first impressions were of excitement over the possibilities this offers to the show, especially the different levels and the staircases going to … who knows where? (Come to think of it, he definitely does). But what else?

The verdigris orange and green hues provide a comforting visual link to Tennant’s ride while it also has a mix of architectural styles, from the whiplash, natural shapes of art nouveau to the strange 1960s-style concrete circles in the sub level.

That mix of styles extends to the eclectic gizmos and gadgets on the console, all of which reflects – as my work pal Gary Stewart said so sagely today – the timelessness of the TARDIS itself.

It exists out of time meaning there is no old and new, no history, giving it a blank canvas to pick its favourite items and eras from.

As I dug a little deeper into architectural theory – it was a slow night, ok – I found something else out about the TARDIS design too – the influence of geometry and especially the circle.

The Doctor and Amy, aka Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, inside the new TARDIS

The Doctor and Amy, aka Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, inside the new TARDIS

Circles are everywhere in Who (remember the back of the Doctor’s fob watch) but are especially prevalent in the new TARDIS – above the central console, in the sub level, and in the walls as roundels. Yes, that’s a word!!

Not only is it the symbol for eternity, without beginning or end, the circle also has clear links to the divine as a saint’s halo in christianity, the wheel or dharma in Buddhism (which represents a wheel of learning that keeps turning), or in the shape of a rainbow, touching heaven and earth at the same time. Lonely angel anyone?

Taking it a step further, eternity is often depicted by the image or a serpent eating its own tail, symbolising the destruction and recreation of all things in a constant circle – regeneration if you like.

There must be loads more, but here is where it gets really cool (or even more boring). The TARDIS combines circles with other geometric shapes (like the pentagon-shaped console) but most of all with the square, the shape of the TARDIS’s exterior.

Again in architecture, squaring the circle in this way combines the symbol of the eternal and divine (circle) with the symbol of the earthly and man made (square), which screams Doctor Who to me.

Finally this emphasis on geometry reached its peak in gothic architecture, especially in medieval cathedral design. Any ideas for what is considered to be the highest form of that geometric obsession? A circular window divided into segments also known as … the ROSE window!!!

And that is where I announce my resignation from architectural criticism with immediate effect, because it is never going to get any better than that.

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