Type 40 TARDIS: A Brief Overview

Posted: June 18, 2007 in Doctor Who, Reviews, Technology, Television

A TARDIS is the pinnacle of Time Travel technology of the Time Lords of the Planet Gallifrey and is quite possibly the most advanced ship in all of science fiction. Please note, this overview covers the Type 40 TARDIS seen in the classic Doctor Who series and does not include the apparent changes seen in the new series. For an overview of the new series TARDIS see The Last TARDIS.


exam004b.jpg TARDIS is the abbreviation for Time And Relative Dimension In Space which in itself is a rough description of a TARDISes physical nature. On Gallifrey itself, they seem to be referred to both as TT (Time Travel) Capsules and TARDISes. The Type 40 TARDIS Information System refers to the craft as TARDISes and not ‘TT Capsule’.


exam004c.jpg A TARDIS is a time machine; a vehicle which allows the users to go anywhere in all of Space/Time at will. The exact method on how a TARDIS travels is unknown but it is clear that the exterior shell enters the Time Vortex and travels along the Web of Time until the appropriate relative location in Space/Time is reached. Whenever the TARDIS enters or exists the Time Vortex, it creates a breach which it then automatically seals behind it – if this breach is not sealed, it can have negative effects upon the fabric of reality*. The forces outside a TARDIS while it travels would seem to be considerable powerful and somewhat dangerous. However, certain parts of the Time Vortex would seem to be relatively safe since castaway/adrift individuals stranded there without protection* can be retrieved by a TARDIS without any apparent negative effects.
A TARDIS is also able to travel outside the barriers of space/time if necessary * but can not breach the barriers between different universes under its own power * without taking advantage of existing gateways* or knowing the proper, generally unavailable, procedures.
A TARDIS can materialise around objects, both living and non-organic, in Space/Time resulting in the object appearing within the interior dimensions of the ship without using the dimensional bridge of the Main Doors*. Objects usually appear within the primary Control Room though this can be changed at pilot discretion.


Banshee Circuit

Designed to be the last resort for a TARDIS to save itself under extreme circumstances. When all other systems fail, the Banshee Circuit will seek out any available resources it can use to survive*.

Chameleon Circuit
Governs the exterior form/shape/size of a TARDIS, designed to allow a materialising TARDIS blend in flawlessly with the local surrounds. The exterior of a TARDIS is the only part of the craft that exists as a real space/time event*, with the interior residing in another, connected dimension. The exterior is formed from a plasmic shell, which is what the Chameleon Circuit controls. The shape chosen by the Chameleon Circuits is automatically chosen by the TARDIS but can be over-ridden manually from the Control Console. There appear to be very few limits regarding the form the outer plasmic shell can assume; with observed sizes ranging from a sedan chair to planetary bodies. If a TARDIS assumes the shape of a usable machine (for example, a car) then the shell will be usable as that machine. Fully functional energy weapons can be created on the outer shell via this system*.
A shell template is created any time a TARDIS assumes an exterior shape for the first time. Templates are stored in a ‘Shell Room’ within the TARDIS interior dimensions for easy future retrieval.
The outer shell is regarded as merely being a shadow of the TARDIS itself that is cast into Space/Time. As such, the outer shell is next to impervious to all physical attacks. The chameleon circuit can be set to make the exterior impervious to any marking, including attempts to paint the outer shell which results in paint simply falling off*.

Climate Control
The climate conditions around the outer shell generally do not effect the interior dimensions. Gravity always remains normal* and temperature usually remains unaffected. In extreme circumstances (eg, Event One), interior dimension heat can rise considerably to a level that the automatic systems can not handle. To vent this extra heat, a manual system must be engaged wherein ship systems will return interior temperature to normal levels*. The interior dimensions can automatically remove the effects of temporal attacks*, reversing such effects via a temporal field which surrounds the outer shell.
A Type 40 comes with environment shields to ensure that the atmosphere of the interior dimensions is not compromised upon opening the main doors in a hostile environment such as a vacuum. These shields can be extended beyond the interior for short range excursions in such environments*.

Cloister Bell
A general warning system designed to alert TARDIS occupants whenever the craft is in imminent danger that threatens to destroy the TARDIS. It consists of low, resonating bell strokes that sound throughout the interior dimensions.
Other known alarms include a life-support failure alarm, and a high-pitched structural integrity alarm*.

Defence Indefinite Timeloop Option
When active, the DITO system will place a TARDIS indefinitely one millisecond in the future to avoid being located. A TARDIS may activate this system automatically if it regards it as necessary*.

exam004h.jpg Type 40 TARDISes have two sets of Main Doors, an exterior set governed by the Chameleon Circuit that exist in Space/Time and then interior doors which exist only in the interior dimensions of the TARDIS, there is a space between the outer and inner layers. The outer doors are as impervious to damage as the rest of the outer plasmic shell. The interior doors are operated from a completely mechanical control on the Control Console or, in the case of power failure, can be opened manually with a crank device hidden in the Control Room wall. The Main Doors act as a dimensional bridge between the two TARDIS dimensions, joining Space/Time with the Control Room selected by the pilot. Closing the exterior doors from the outside of the craft will result in the closure of the interior doors automatically; similarly closing the interior doors from the Control Console will automatically close the outer doors.
If the doors open during Vortex travel, it can cause dimensional instabilities. Observed effects of this have included the occupants of a TT Capsule being reduced to doll size* and, in another incident, the Control Room becoming depressurised resulting in one occupant being sucked out through the Main Doors*.

exam004e.jpg The exterior doors are lockable and various locking systems are available to pilots; A mechanically inclined lock that has 21 different holes within it – if the key is inserted into the wrong one then the entire locking mechanism melts down. Other observed systems include a metabolism/biodata detector which allow only those with pre-programmed biodata entrance regardless if they have a key or not*. If a person’s biodata is available, the entrance can be keyed to it so that entry is permanently barred to anyone with that biodata*.

There is an emergency exit in the form of an airlock that leads to rear of the outer shell*.

Food Machine
Type 40 TARDISes contain a food machine that can produce nutrient rich bars which, with the right codes, can be made to taste like near anything*. Later models create foodstuffs in their proper form, not in bar shape. The capacity of the food machine is immense, able to last hundreds of years without need for restocking (A food machine has been observed running out eventually, though in special circumstances*).


exam004d.gif A Type 40 TARDIS employs at least two separate defence shield systems (while the outer shell is invulnerable it’s best to have a multi-layered defence for obvious reasons). The first envelopes the entire outer dimensions and has been referred to* in a manner which suggests that it is used to block such things as collisions and mundane attacks. The forcefield was again seen*when used to cross from one TARDIS to another while both were travelling through the Time Vortex. The second system is the forcefield for the doors which have been quoted as running on a separate system. This shield can be extended* to be used as a sort of corridor to walk from the TARDIS doors to whatever lies at the other end of the corridor. While the main forcefield is active, a TARDIS can not be transported elsewhere by outside forces*.

The forcefield generator resides in the base of the Control Console*.
The forcefield acts to filter the air whenever the Main Doors are opened, though it has been observed as being unable to filter nanobots from such things as clothing and lungs*.

Gravity Beam
A Type 40 TARDIS is capable of generating a Gravity Beam of considerable strength. This beam is strong enough, though it places massive strain on the ship, to stop the involuntary flight of a neutron star and to draw it off course*. The use of this beam on the neutron star resulted in temporary distortion of both the internal and external dimensions of the TARDIS.

Hazard Displacement System
HADS is an automatic function which moves a materialised TARDIS out of immediate danger without pilot input. If any attack upon the ship meets pilot inputted criteria, the TARDIS will dematerialise and relocate in the same time zone to any distance up to approximately mile away*.

Interior Configuration System
exam004f1.jpgThe interior dimensions of a Type 40 TT Capsule are practically infinite in size and exist outside of Space/Time completely. The interior dimensions have at least a dozen levels. By using the Interior Configuration System, rooms can be created, moved or jettisoned from a TARDIS (jettisoned sections are sent into the Time Vortex). Walls can also be moved, created or deleted; this function has been used to trap hostile entities within the corridors until such time they can be properly handled. Night and day are created inside the TARDIS according to the brainwaves of the authorised occupants. Interior style is also dictated by this system and often reflects the nature of the Pilot. Jettisoning interior space into the Vortex can provide extra power to the TARDIS in case of emergency; deletion of 25% of a Type 40 TARDIS will result in an extra 17,000 tonnes of thrust*.
The interior of a TARDIS is considerably resistant to damage, being able to withstand a fusion reactor explosion with no notable structural damage* (though room contents can often be destroyed). In case of such explosions, internal shutters are automatically lowered and the energy is directed towards the Eye of Harmony which then absorbs the blast harmlessly.
Rooms observed to exist include: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Control Rooms, numerous bedrooms, cricket pavilion, large wardrobes, gardens, a room of tissue-thin circuitry screens like webs of white lace, swimming pool, overgrown courtyard, food machine, zero room, cloister room, tennis court, conservatory, main drive, beach, a huge room filled with sand for cats, a meadow containing a large number of butterflies (previously sheep), shell room, laboratories, dark and dusty English tavern, TV Room, Cage lift, Hospital ward, wine cellar, indoor sports centre, ground car garage, water purification plant, quarantine bay, cricket nets, holographic representation of the galaxy (planetarium), a room so long it has its own horizon and a river, an empty room which records audio based diaries, Tin Mine, Ultrasonic showers, and near infinite corridors. The system can be used to select which Control Room is the ‘primary’ control room that the Main doors connect to.
A TARDIS may make automatic changes to internal configuration to ensure the safety of the craft and occupants, even if the occupants are unaware of the source of the danger. Observed changes have included the deletion of the main doors, removal of controls from the control console, electrification of control console, over riding the lock on the main door and thus refusing access to the pilot. Occupants can be protected from dangers present in the interior dimensions by the ship automatically created a ‘Minus Room’, a space which reflects time away*.

Power Systems
exam004g.jpgThe main power source of a TARDIS is the Eye of Harmony, a specially tailored black hole located on Gallifrey, which continuously transmits power through the Time Vortex to a Block Transfer Computation created copy of the Eye within the TARDIS, which is then sent throughout the ship to various systems. If the local Eye of Harmony is opened, the TARDIS experiences loss of Main Power*.
A TARDISes dynamorphic generators are its power source, processing the energy gained from the Eye of Harmony (and other sources), they are vast chambers containing huge emerald columns called Trachoid time crystals, and these chambers are big enough to have clouds and thunderstorms. The Power Room’s architecture reflects the personality of the TARDISes owner*.
Zeiton-7 Ore is a vital component of this power transmission system, being a transitional element that lines the trans-power system*. If supplies of this ore are depleted within a TARDIS then main power can not be transferred throughout the ship even if it is present within the local Eye of Harmony – this results in the loss of all travelling abilities to the TARDIS though scanning and life support systems will remain indefinitely active.
If Eye of Harmony power is unavailable, a TARDIS is capable of drawing energy from other available sources including bottled pocket universes. The energy storage capacity of a Type 40 is considerable, with a disabled and partly dismantled TT Capsule being able to store the total power output of late 1970’s era Great Britain with apparent ease*.

State of Temporal Grace
To protect the occupants of a TARDIS, this system automatically nullifies any and all physical or psionic hostile actions that are attempted* against the pilot or recognised authorised personnel. This system has been observed to be effective against gunfire, energy weapons and mental blasts. Those under hypnotic control or other mental influence are freed of such effects once they enter the neutral time of a TARDIS.

exam004i.jpgA Type 40 is equipped with an impressive sensor package, able to accurately measure all manner of variables ranging from radioactivity, gravity, heat, humidity, temporal anomalies, power sources and radar. The sensors would appear to tie in with TARDIS landing routines, locating an inconspicuous spot for the TARDIS to materialise in Space/Time. The sensors scan Space/Time even when travelling through the Time Vortex.
Internal sensors are present which monitor any faults which may appear in internal systems. There is an external visual scanner which can pan around the outer shell and relay the images to the view screen in the Control Room. The form of this visual display can range, depending on interior TARDIS configuration, from a screen in a wall to an overhead holographic style display that appears above the control console. Also seen is an Image Translator system which scans nearby Space/Time and translates otherwise non-viewable scenes to the TARDIS interior display system.

Telepathic Circuits
To assist in inter-species communication, TARDIS telepathic circuits automatically translate almost any known spoken language into the native tongue of any recognised personnel and vice-versa. Written text can also be translated in this manner. This ability is not hampered by spatial or temporal distance from the ship.
The Telepathic Circuits automatically nullify the effects of the condition known as ‘jet lag’ in capsule occupants.
A TARDIS shares something of a mental link with its pilot. A Time Lord can usually only be linked with one TARDIS at any one time. This link is established when a pilotless/ownerless TARDIS is introduced to a potential new pilot and requires the TARDISes approval to succeed. This link allows the TARDIS to take on some of the pilots characteristics (such as elements of interior configuration) and to better communicate with the pilot on an empathic level.
The telepathic circuits also allow two TARDISes to communicate while in the Time Vortex. This system can also be used by a TARDIS to send non-direct messages to the inhabitants of the ship in times of danger*.
The telepathic circuits are also utilised as a low level security measure; unless a given person is looking hard at the outer shell, their senses are inclined to skip over it without paying it much attention*.

Time Vector Generator
A vital system, if shut down or removed the result is a complete ship wide deactivation – resulting in the interior dimensions being completely separated from the outer shell, shunted to an alternate dimension, though the outer shell remains intact in Space/Time* and acts as if it were a genuine example of the imitated object (to the extent it will decay over time like the object would naturally)*. Upon reactivation, the interior dimensions can undergo considerable reconfiguration*. Indications are that any living beings inside a TARDIS upon such shutdown will suffer an unfortunate fate. Leaving the Time Vector Generator deactivated for too long will result in irreparable damage to a TARDIS.

Zero Room
The Zero Room* was promoted as being a zone in which there were no outside forces at work; even gravity which is quoted as being ‘only local’. A Zero Room would appear to be used mainly for relaxation and healing purposes; meditation and recuperating from Regenerations. The doors from the Zero Room can be cannibalised to make a ‘zero cabinet’ (coffin like object) which boasted the same properties as the Zero Room.

Other known systems include; The absence detectors, aesthetics gauges, the ahistorical contextualiser, the ambigious resolver, the animal-language translation circuits, the aprioritron, the art device, the assimilation contrastor and the axiomator.


Event One
One of the few natural forces that can destroy a TARDIS, it is a described as a massive hydrogen in-rush. It is another name for the ‘Big Bang’ which created the Universe as we know it. As a TARDIS approaches Event One warnings appear on both the main Control Console (specifically listing ‘Event One’ as being beyond engineering tolerances. Type 40 TARDISes are rated for tolerance of any environment up to and including the inside of a quasar*) as well as the Cloister Bell being activated. The interior dimensions grow considerably hotter; both the control console and walls were uncomfortable to touch and seemed to cause burns while smoke could clearly be seen. This heat, even with the automatic systems trying to compensate, causes system shut downs until the heat is vented manually. Once the TARDIS crosses the Event One field it is unable to escape without finding extra power due to the pull of the ‘Time Force’ which is stated as being ‘many orders of magnitude greater than gravity’*.

Self Destruct
By detonating the local Eye of Harmony, a pilot may cause a TARDIS to self destruct; usually to avoid the craft falling into the possession of hostile forces.

Time Ram
A Time Ram is when two TARDISes materialise/collide into each other at the same point in Space/Time, often resulting in mutual destruction of both craft. This does not always result in the destruction of either TARDIS but is still regarded as being extremely dangerous*. If an attempted Time Ram misses temporally but hits spatially, it can result in the outer shells of both craft appearing in the interior dimensions of the other in an endless loop*.

Advanced War TARDIS models, including the unique Type 102, have been observed as possessing weapons which are capable of disabling or destroying another TARDIS*.


A TARDIS is semi sentient, being able to communicate with its pilot on a subconscious level through the telepathic circuits as well as possessing a strong self preservation instinct. They have been observed to refuse entry to authorised pilots, remove switches/levers from the Control Console completely when not wishing the pilot to perform certain acts. They have gone so far as electrifying the Control Console to achieve similar results. A TARDIS may sense it’s own demise in the future and take steps to either attempt to avoid such a fate or prepare for the event.

The following is the text from a screen of the TARDIS Information System* which describes a portion of the TARDIS landing procedure:

Standard Flight Procedures, Stage 387. If the logical to physical mapping techniques described in stages 11-275 have been understood and implemented i-o ambiguities should not normally create difficulties at this stage. On zeroing the co-ordinate differential automatic systems reactivate the real world interface, see: Main Door, The Opening of. Main door closure techniques, though not a direct reversal of the above procedure, are centered around similar differential layer-slippage to create the minimum of user involvement in the mathematical sub-structure.

Bladamite tubing, a positive cretathole converter, and a psio-linguistic translator are fundamental aspects of TARDIS technology*. The Control Console contains fluid links which contain mercury; if these fluid links lose their contents then the TARDIS is unable to dematerialise though life support and all other abilities remain unaffected. The TARDIS uses morphologically unstable living organic matter to handle its block transfer computations*. The core systems of the TARDIS intelligence are protected by teleplasmic minefields and contain several sub-intelligences*.

A Time Lord Type 40 TARDIS owner has described a TT Capsule as the following;

TARDISes are semi-sentient dimensionally transcendental time-space machines created using block transfer computations and powered via the Eye of Harmony. They dematerialise from one point expressed as a set of relative space-time coordinates and travel via the time vortex until they rematerialise at another point*.

305 Type 40 TARDIS machines were commissioned. Only one is known to be left in operation, the model is considered as being an obsolete antique*.

TARDIS systems can read Gallifreyan punch cards but are too advanced to read Earth Compact Disks.

A TARDIS can be programmed so that it will dematerialise as soon as the pilot steps aboard. The controls can be set to be isomorphic (responsive only to the biological signs of the pilot)*. A TARDIS can be set to take voice instructions from the pilot*. There are passive defence systems so that select creatures that reside in the Time Vortex are prevented from noticing travelling TARDISes*.

A TT Capsule has the ability to manufacture any kind of known currency including gold*.

On landing, a TARDIS automatically scans local (planet wide) broadcasts, its computer and satellite systems, and analyses city layout. This information is stored in a database*.

A TARDIS has a massive self regenerating/repair capability. If a small remnant (smallest atom) of the outer shell survives detonation, for example, a TARDIS can fully regenerate both exterior and interior dimensions within a century when main power is not available. Ruptures in the outer shell are repaired in a quite short time*.

A section of a TARDIS may be separated from the main craft and used for independent travel. This off-shoot has limited range and functionality, appearing as a pre-built shell template, but is of great use if a TARDIS has been somehow incapacitated*.

Source Material: This text includes information from the classic (1963-1989) Dr Who TV Series, the 1996 Movie The Enemy Within and the various Dr Who novels. It does not include information presented in the 2005+ Dr Who series as it is quite clear that the TARDIS in that series has undergone massive modifications to remain functioning. Dr Who comic strips are also not included as being acceptable information sources for the purpose of this text.
  1. MAXWELL says:


  2. ROBERT FELD says:

    hi, i love this and the last tardis page. I find them informative and realistic, especially the problems the last tardis has – now that gallifrey is gone, it sure is logical that the tardis has suffered.

    I want to know, can you do a page about the movie tardis from Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks invasion earth 2150 ad with peter cushing ?

    thank you for such a fantastic site.

  3. Andrew Hurley says:

    Where in the world are you getting all of this “detailed” information?? I haven’t seen the original series, but do they REALLY go into that much detail or are there novels or something that came first? Specifically, where do you get the idea that the Doctor’s TARDIS was stolen?

    • Grunt says:

      Andrew, the fact of the TARDIS being stolen ties directly into the mythology of the Doctor’s status as a ‘renegade’ Time Lord, The original series liked to drop the occasional hint that he entirely disapproved of his race’s laws concerning non-interference in the affairs of others leading to him stealing a type-40 TARDIS in order to remedy the situation.

      Episodes where ‘proper’ Time Lords appear are your best bet, such as the 6th Doctor’s Trial of a Time Lord or even some episodes featuring the 3rd or 4th Doctor – all of which featured some heavy involvement from Gallifrey either attempting to proscribe his activities or (quietly) soliciting his assistance.

      The detail outlined above is collated from the entire series run – quite a feat considering the series originally aired on TV for nearly 30 years!

    • victoria says:

      Also, they tell us he stole it in Series 5 (Season 31) ep. 13

  4. Dr Why says:

    They drop comments throughout the series form the very first eposide back in the sixites, whenthey identified the TARDIS as stolen or “borrowed” depending on your point of view, and the Dr. has made several confessions that it took it without permission.
    The old and the new TARDIS are the same machine, and it seems that the configuration / capability issues related back to configuration settings, either conscious or unconscious as the relationship developed bewteen the Dr and the TARDIS and we see in on epidose where River Song states that “her” Dr could open the doors with a click of his fingers and we later see this demonstrated. It maybe that even after 900 years the Dr is still discovering capabilities himself. It may also be the case that some of the comments made are purely misleading, as we see the “eye of harmony” when Paul McGann playe dthe Dr so we know it is the source of TARDIS power and comments on a rift refueling the TARDIS are in essense and excuse to stop.
    I haven’t seen every episode of the original series, specialically the Patrick Troughton years, but I’ve seen most others and the above is a great compliation of data.
    We also know to ad to above that the dematerialization circuit is a separate system to be included above, as this was removed when the Dr was exiled to Earth in the John Pertwee years and he was unable to replace it with Earth technology and was stranded until the Time Lords needed him to pull their “fat out of the fire”.

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