Beginnings The Plinth Control Panels Instrumentation Time Rotor Wiring Software

There have been six panels on the console in all of its incarnations. Just about every other detail has changed at one time or another.


Console schematic

The Doctor and Romana confer...
For me the season that I have the best memory of is the Key To Time season, with the first Romana. So I decided to build the console the Doctor had then. Other console builders have viewed this one with disdain, though looking at it I decided that I had the most chance of being able to match parts for that console, so I could get a reasonably close match. Although it changed a little during its lifetime (notably falling apart a piece at a time), it was there for a long time, with only minor changes and rearrangements of the panels.

The schematic here is from a slightly later console during Peter Davison’s time before the Five Doctors.

For my console I chose the following configuration:

  1. The drive panel (with the two levers and the two big cowlings. One of these was lost fairly early in the life of the console; the other was lost or removed quite late. On my console I have them both in place.
  2. The coordinate panel with the black circular segment with six white dials on it.
  3. The Environmental panel with the big red door lever on it.
  4. The Navigation panel with the large display and the joystick. I did the earlier version of this – not the new one with the TARDIS Information System in it.
  5. The sensor panel with the red trackball, silver grid and the (sometimes) green chunky control.
  6. The central computer station, with the triangular control panel, the large circular readout and assorted other controls.

All of the six panels have raised shapes on which the instruments are mounted. These are actually quite handy for screwing the fitments into. I made them using silver-painted bathroom board, after cutting to shape with a jigsaw. I actually made paper formers for these so I could experiment with the dimensions before committing with a saw.

The back panels were spray-painted a darker grey colour.

All six panels have a raised rectangle at the top, which I constructed with wood, molding and topped with bathroom board painted silver. The tops are open and each is back-mounted with a loudspeaker to allow for sound effects.

The actual instruments are many and varied, and finding matches for the controls used on screen has proved to be an interesting creative challenge.

The Drive Panel


What d'you think K.9?

panels

The drive panel is the one that controls the TARDIS’s flight. It has two major displays with hoods to shade them from the lights, two large levers between them to control the dematerialization. We see the Doctor and Romana using these levers in this way, and this matches the schematics drawn for the Doctor Who Manual and DWM.

There are rows of switches either side, two black five inch recessed circles, which at least in Jon Pertwee’s era were the telepathic circuits (as seen at the end of "Frontier in Space"). I take it that they still have this purpose.

The Levers


Lever box assembly

I scratch-built the two lever boxes from MDF sheets bonded together with glue. These were first cut to shape with a jigsaw and bonded with an 8th inch MDF sheet between them. They were then sanded smooth with a belt sander and orbital sander. They were then spray-painted.

The levers themselves are strips of aluminium flashing pushed into slots cut into a wooden drawer knob using a hacksaw. More flashing formed “L” pieces screwed to the back of the panel and bolts pushed through the three pieces. I mounted a pair of magnetic reed contact switches behind each so that the levers could actually be made to do something.

The telepathic circuits

I made the telepathic circuits from recessed light fittings, which have a nice flat metal ring of the right size (5”). These I separated from their inner ribbed cups and backed instead with bathroom board disks spray-painted black. Presently they’re just decorative (i.e. not telepathic at all...)

The hooded displays

For each display, I cut away a circle of plywood and mounted a 15" LCD monitor behind. The displays sit in wooden cradles I made for them and sit flush with the plywood substructure. The hoods are curved plastic sheeting that I took from plastic "for sale" signs. This was cut with scissors into a sine-wave shape (formed by plotting a graph), and spray-painted matt black. Although one hood was missing for most of the console's life (I assume it was knocked off while the console was in transit/storage), I’ve chosen to leave both of mine installed - the console just looks better like that.

The switches

So far I’ve just used automotive toggle switches from Radio Shack. They are not a very good match, but they’re black – and I’ll change them out when I find something better.

The Coordinate Entry Panel

This panel has the six-dimensional input coordinate knobs, two large adjusters, a row of toggle switches, an emergency stop button and a few other items.

Coordinate panel

panels
The six coordinate knobs are mounted on a black disk with about 1/3rd cut out in a pie segment (though not from the centre). The knobs themselves are wooden wagon-wheels from an arts ‘n’ crafts store. The inner side is flat, so I have them that way up. I painted them white by dipping them in heavy gloss paint, and used decorative brass screw covers from light fittings as the gold bumps in the middle. I made the large black knobs on either side using wheel hubs from model cars (available from Hobby Town in the US). I mounted these on bolts pushed through soda pop bottle caps that have a plain knob glued underneath. The centre of each is covered with a ˝ inch screw cap (“nipple”). These are actually not held in. I added four Radio Shack push buttons at the bottom.

The Environment Control Panel


Environment Panel
This panel has the large door control (constructed very like the drive control knobs, but using ˝ brass tube and a 2 ˝” wooden ball painted red with several layers of varnish. It also has reed switches underneath so that it can be functional.

There are several radio shack toggle switches, a radio shack voltmeter and nine radio shack lamp enclosures on this panel. The speaker grill on the top panel is wire mesh from a craft store backed with black fabric.

The Navigation Panel


Navigation Panel

Navigation Panel
This panel has a large inset display and a joystick. The display is an 18" LCD, mounted in a wooden cradle, much as for the Drive panel. The joystick is a Microsoft Sidewinder, which I dismantled. I removed the actual stick and discovered that it separates from a ˝ rod with a ball on the bottom. I found ˝" brass tube produced a beautiful tight fit over this while still being removable for servicing. Another 2-˝" wooden ball painted silver did the job for this stick. The base is a biscuit tin lid upside down with black construction paper cut with slots sitting in it. The black paper covered the bolts that bolt the tin lid to the console.

There are three silver knobs down the left side (from Radio shack) a larger black knob at the bottom (also Radio shack) and a row of push buttons along the bottom (also radio shack).

The Sensor Panel


Sensor Panel

Sensor Panel
This panel changed around quite a lot during the series. The version I built has the 6” black squares near the time rotor. I placed the red track ball on the right. I wanted an old Microsoft Easyball for this but couldn’t find one locally. I think they stopped making them a while ago, so I used a 4” ball from a Bocce set (a ball game a bit like croquet). The grille in the middle is a section of lighting diffuser.

The Computer Panel


Sensor Panel
The centre-piece for this panel is the 11” round display. For this I used the back trim from a domed light fitment. I cut the back out of this using tin snips.

The triangular panel to the left is composed of switches and lights from Radio Shack, as is the smaller panel along the top. The panel to the right has a large yellow meter at the top: I cut the frame for this from bathroom board (rather carefully), and then printed a black backdrop with white dots on this onto paper with a laser printer. The Red panel below it is spray-painted bathroom board. The Large grey knob is another wheel hub from the model car shop. There is a small grid of very small lights (LEDs) cut from bathroom board and carefully scored to produce the grid.

The black knob far right is an oil filler cap from an automotive store. I had to get the guy behind the counter to open five or six boxes I picked from his catalogue before I found a good match. When I smile and tell people I’m doing an “art project” they are often very helpful.