Bigger on the Inside

27 Years Later, The Quirkiest Starship In Sci-Fi History Just Got a Major Upgrade

The TARDIS has always been bigger on the inside, but never quite THIS big.

Doctor Who Week

In terms of interior beauty, the only starship in all of science fiction to have a more iconic look than the bridges of the various starships Enterprise is the TARDIS from Doctor Who. Although the Doctor’s TARDIS is technically an obsolete Type 40 TARDIS, which, way back in the 1976 4th Doctor adventure, “The Deadly Assassin,” the Time Lords made it clear that the Doctor’s time-space capsule was outdated to the point of being a joke. And yet, this bigger-on-the-inside flying blue box has now been kicking around sci-fi TV for exactly six decades. And as Doctor Who celebrates its big 60th birthday, the TARDIS has been expanded in a way that hasn’t really happened since 1996.

Here’s why the new TARDIS interior may be the best one yet, but also why it's such a significant reboot for Who canon. Spoilers ahead for Doctor Who, “The Star Beast.”

At the end of “The Star Beast,” the 14th Doctor (David Tennant) re-enters the TARDIS for the first time since the episode began. Interestingly, in a kind of negative-space Easter egg foreshadowing thing, we couldn’t see the interior of the TARDIS at all when the Doctor landed at the start of the episode. Further, in the direct prequel to this episode, the Children in Need minisode, “The Fourteenth Doctor is Here!” we see a kinda phoned-in blue-screened version of Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor TARDIS interior, albeit, briefly. So, it’s not until the very end of “The Star Beast,” where the new TARDIS is fully revealed in all of its gorgeous splendor.

Donna (Catherine Tate) and the Doctor (David Tennant) in the new 2023 TARDIS.


Returning to the inside of the TARDIS is a huge moment for this new run of Who episodes, but, the idea that the TARDIS changes its insides — or can be specifically altered by the Doctor — has several precedents. In another minisode, 2007’s “Time Crash,” the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) referred to the appearance of the TARDIS control room as the “desktop theme.” In “The Doctor’s Wife” (2011), we learned that the TARDIS actually saved some of the old control rooms. And, of course in both “The Eleventh Hour” (2010), and “The Ghost Monument” (2018), we see the TARDIS change the appearance of the control room while the Doctor is away, and, after the Doctor has recently regenerated.

To be clear, the TARDIS doesn’t always change by itself when the Doctor has just regenerated. But because a new version of the Doctor often coincides with a new season or new era, it makes a ton of sense we’d get a new TARDIS control room around the same time. And, what makes this TARDIS so interesting is easily its massive size. If you look closely at all the TARDISes over the decades, we haven’t had one this big in 27 years. And that’s because we have to wind the clock back seven Doctors ago, all the way to Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor to find a TARDIS interior this capacious!

Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor in Doctor Who: The Movie in 1996.


A return to a giant TARDIS

Although Matt Smith’s two TARDIS interiors had their share of nooks and crannies, the new “Star Beast” TARDIS, at first blush, seems to be the absolute biggest interior set since Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor TARDIS in the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie. Back then, the TARDIS was so big, you could even see candles burning in the distance, which is certainly not the vibe of the new TARDIS. Whereas the 8th Doctor TARDIS had a gothic, Victorian vibe inspired by H.G. Wells, the new 2023 TARDIS feels like a modern art museum; like the Guggenheim in space. And yes, we’re making the Guggenheim comparison because of the awesome ramps.

So, the most accessible TARDIS is also now the biggest TARDIS, which seems to indicate that this set will likely be sticking around for the incoming 15th Doctor tenure of Ncuti Gatwa. Basically, this new beautiful TARDIS — complete with the requisite “round things,” and a coffee machine — can’t just be only for David Tennant in these three episodes. Surely, the 15th Doctor is going to inherit this huge set, too, right?

When the 9th Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) regenerated into the 10th (David Tennant) back in 2005, the 10th Doctor kept that TARDIS. And, although he redecorated by adding bookcases and chalkboards, the 12th Doctor essentially kept the same TARDIS interior the 11th Doctor had had starting with “The Snowmen” in 2012. (To date, Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor is the only of the post-2005 Doctors to get TWO radically different TARDIS interiors.) So, will the 15th Doctor inherit this expansive new design? And if he doesn’t, does that mean this TARDIS will only exist in roughly two full episodes?

No matter the answer, like the fluid identity of the Doctor, change has come to the biggest littlest spaceship in the universe, and not a moment too soon.

Doctor Who airs specials on Disney+ for the rest of 2023. “The Star Beast” is streaming now. “Wild Blue Yonder” on December 2, and “The Giggle” on December 9. After that, the first Ncuti Gatwa episode, “The Church on Ruby Road,” will air on Christmas Day, 2023.

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