The Doctor’s remarkable Space and Time travelling capsule the TARDIS has been variously described as “an antiquated piece of junk” and “the most powerful ship in the universe”. The fictional truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. In the fifty five years since the TARDIS first loomed out of the gloom of early 1960s telly, the Doctor’s vessel has undergone some enormous transformations (both inside and out). This quirky, occasionally po-faced little book takes us through the history of the ship as it’s appeared and changed across the decades, telling the reader everything they could possibly want to know about the mechanics of the Doctor’s TARDIS - and probably quite a bit more than they need to know.
Leafing through the book's glossy pages, full of colourful images from the series and painstaking cross-section technical illustrations of the inner workings of the machine, you might well pause to wonder “what exactly is the point of all this?” from time to time. Co-writers Atkinson and Tucker appear to have studiously trawled through the show’s history and collated every reference, however small, to the operation and control of the TARDIS from gravitic anomalysers, helmic regulators, time-path indicators and all technobabble points in between. The book dutifully explores the history and construction of the TARDIS, the format of its outer plasmic shell (its Police Box exterior, in case you were wondering), the various designs of the TARDIS key (seriously), its “desktop themes” (the various control rooms and control consoles), and its infinite interior; the TARDIS has swimming pools, squash courts, a cricket pavilion and… er… a karaoke bar, apparently. We can imagine who dreamed up that one.
It’s an impressive piece of information-gathering, of course, lavishly illustrated and studded with ‘case studies’, ie story breakdowns on particular episodes which have featured some particular function or important narrative involvement of the TARDIS. But apart from the odd slightly twinkly comment here and there, the text is quite earnest stuff, determinedly written as if the TARDIS and its various whizz-bangs and gizmos are real and that we should all be making a careful note of all this gobbledygook in case we should one day find ourselves in possession of a Type 40 TARDIS from the planet Gallifrey. Mind you, perhaps all bets are off post-Brexit?
The Instruction Manual is a fun stocking-filler, nicely put together, immaculately researched and slickly-designed. But with the TV series now clearly aiming itself at an audience who wouldn’t recognise a Type 40 from a typewriter this is absolutely aimed at older fans who might actually give a damn about the position of the TARDIS’s hexagonal floor plates or the very existence of the induction loop couplet and the dynamic fluctuation crystal. An odd book then, but not without its charms.
DOCTOR WHO: TARDIS TYPE 40 INSTRUCTION MANUAL / AUTHOR: RICHARD ATKINSON, MIKE TUCKER / ILLUSTRATOR: GAVIN RYMILL / PUBLISHER: BBC BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW