For years and years it’s been something of a mystery as to the actual size of the ship. We don’t know all that much about it either, only little facts. It’s a Type 40 which was viewed as obsolete in terms of Time Lord technology, and is a living, sentient being with its power harnessed from a black hole, its chameleon circuit is broken and like the Doctor it’s the last of its kind.
But what really lies within the infinite space of the TARDIS, does it have a measured size or is it simply a separate dimension housed within a handy capsule?
We know that the Doctor has had many different “desktop themes” when it comes to his home. The first seven Doctor’s favoured the standard sized white control room, all on one level. It wasn’t until the Fourth Doctor came along that we found the secondary control room with its Victorian theme and ornate look. The seventh and eighth Doctors had a gargantuan Jules Verne design for theirs, certainly the biggest that viewers have ever seen the Doctor use. All of these rooms vary in size (even the first Doctor’s control room shrinks by his second series-we’ll presume that he started to customise the desktop from then on) and still give no indication of the ships true volume.
Over the past forty seven years we’ve seen the Doctor unveil different parts of the TARDIS that move about of their own free will. The Invasion of Time sees him running through the seeming infinite levels of the TARDIS (and its swimming pool for the very first time) to escape the Sontarans, the newly regenerated Fifth Doctor and his friends visit the Zero Room so he can recover from the trauma of another death at ease. The Sixth and Seventh Doctors visit their personal wardrobes for a change of clothes straight after their regenerations and the Eighth Doctor battles the Master for his life in the room that contains the Eye of Harmony.
But through all this infinity that is the TARDIS, it still seems to be finite in the Doctor’s mind. He’s always deleting 30% here and 30% there so that he can acquire the additional power boosts that he needs to do something difficult. But how do you delete a percentage of something that is infinite? It’s not possible unless the Doctor uses that as a turn of phrase.
Through books and audio CD’s we have also found out about even more parts of the TARDIS and even fateful glimpses of the Doctor first discovering her on Gallifrey all those years ago that Idris was talking about but throughout all these decades we still can’t tell you a great deal about her true size.
And that’s probably one of the best things ever. This marvellous ship creates a wonderful sense of awe with its impossible size and brilliant power, to reveal all its secrets would be to dilute its very own character.
Let’s hope that over the next few years we see more fleeting glimpses of other TARDIS rooms but never discover how big it really is.
Or if you want you can answer the question of “How big is the TARDIS?” with the same answer for “how long is a piece of string?”…