Monday, February 11, 2013

How Michael Pickwoad Designed DOCTOR WHO'S New TARDIS

Monday, February 11, 2013 - by Maurice Mitchell 2

Doctor Who’s new Production Designer is Michael Pickwoad. He takes over from Edward Thomas, who's been head of the art department, since Rose (2005). On BBC, he explained the design behind the new TARDIS for the 2013 season of Doctor Who.

Check out the interview after the jump and click on the images to enlarge.



Question: What inspired the look of the new TARDIS?

Michael Pickwoad: There was a desire that a new TARDIS should be much more technical and be darker and moodier than before, along with a sense that this machine can fly.

Working in the previous TARDIS it became apparent that the gallery was not only difficult to get to, but awkward to use and so the idea of a gallery that could go right around the interior and give a lot of scope for shooting would be a positive design feature

The feeling of technical precision in the Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and highest- energy atomic particle accelerator, Hi-Tec Architecture and what might Barnes Wallis, the great inventor engineer who I once had the privilege of meeting, have come up with, were some the of the inspirations.

Question: What was uppermost in your mind when you designed the new TARDIS?

Michael Pickwoad: The design of the main ribs was the most crucial feature as they needed to support the gallery without obstructing floor space and be a shape that suggested high technology, but of an organic nature that would sweep from the floor to the central rotor like a magnetic field diagram. Their shape is a blend of straight lines and sweeping curves connected by sharper curves that give it a definite and particular profile, and although they are large, the structure still has a sense of delicacy and precision.  The use of steel allowed this delicacy and the surface was finished in a cosmic blue, suggesting a unique Gallifreyan alloy.

Various numbers of ribs were experimented with in the drawing stage, and with twenty ribs being too intense and sixteen being too far apart and out of balance with the intended scale, eighteen appeared to be just right.  The overall size of the new TARDIS is the same as the last, but appears to be larger as all of the space is accessible.

The entrance was designed to make the arrival within the space, rather than on the edge, and give a sense of weightlessness by not being aware of how the bridge to the console platform is supported.

The staircases connecting the different levels, all in different directions, take on the essence of an Escher drawing and were designed to give a confusing yet magical look.

The new design incorporates enough lights as part of the design to basically light the set for wide shots. They can be made to chase round the set to give a sense of motion or acceleration, and turn red for danger. The pairs of blue and amber circular lights on the gallery were based on Dalek head rings, a not inapposite reference for TARDIS evolution.


The console itself returned to more of the look of earlier designs, allowing for more positive technology, veering away from the whimsical, yet retaining a sense of entertainment. This may be considered retro, but allows for a greater range of controls and levers that can be combined with touch screens and computer panels, which in themselves have less shape. The Doctor, of course, always needs a lever.

Question: What’s your favourite element of the new TARDIS interior?

Michael Pickwoad: This has to be the contra-rotating time rotor. It came to me when realising that all TARDIS have had a large circular feature above the console, which never actually did anything. By making it revolve it would suggest that it was computing the time co-ordinates and setting the course through time.  Looking at the revolving tray in a microwave suggested the idea that if each ring supported the next on wheels fixed to the centre, then by turning one ring, the next would revolve in the reverse direction and give more of a sense of computing and conjuring up the idea of a circular slide rule.

Each ring of the rotor is divided into eighteen parts, complimenting the eighteen ribs of the TARDIS structure, and being finished in silver and furnished with Gallifreyan symbols, adds to the sense of precision.

Here's the scene from Doctor Who series 7 special "The Snowmen"




Images from http://whopix.wordpress.com

What do you think of the Doctor's new TARDIS?

About the Author

Maurice Mitchell
Lover of science fiction and art.

2 comments:

  1. love this show... so far behind.

    ReplyDelete
  2. No worries Jeremy. I have a lot of TV to catch up on too. That's why I'm an unwilling user of DVR. :)
    Subject: [filmsketchr] Re: Film Sketchr: How Michael Pickwoad Designed DOCTOR WHO'S New TARDIS

    ReplyDelete

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