Sometimes you learn unexpected things from people. I’m lucky enough to have a job where I get to talk to a lot of great folks. My love of Doctor Who usually starts the conversation and I have discovered many neat things from people over the past few months.
One day a conversation about Horror Of Fang Rock took an unexpectedly awesome turn when I found out that Dave had built a tardis console in his garage! As soon as I heard about his hobby, I knew that I had to find out more about him and his do it yourself tardis console.
TIMD: What prompted you to make a full scale replica tardis console?
Dave: When I first discovered Doctor Who as a kid I dreamt of building a console and Police Box. Now I have kids of my own. A few years ago our oldest was very interested in Doctor who, but also somewhat scared by it. I showed her some Classic Series and talked about how the effects where done, thinking that understanding the way it was created would make it more disarming. We talked about how many parts of the classic series we could recreate at home. In the end we wrote some scripts and talked about filming some new stories of our own. The idea sort of snowballed and before I knew it I was building. It has been a great thing to play at with the kids.
TIMD: How did you get all the details for your design? Did you look for blueprints online or just go by what you could see in the tv show?
Dave: I started with a long look at the ‘tardis builders’ website. When I was starting the BBC was not publishing any blueprints for anything DW 2005 or newer, and they made it clear that there would be legal action against anyone who did. So that meant a lot of re-watching episode clips, looking at screen captures. Having said that I do not know that my console is 100% to scale. I took my scale by going from known objects like the trim phone and extrapolating from that for the panels. The over all scale was taken by looking at many images of David Tennant beside the console and working out its size from his proportions.
TIMD: I know a lot of people will be looking at this and saying ‘I’d love to do that, but I don’t have the time or the money.” So, how much time and money did it take?
Dave: You are trying to get me in trouble with my wife! Ha ha. Actually it cost much less than I think most people would think. Most of the console is scratch build. The plywood and Masonite that make up much of the frame are scrap from my old work and pieces I had around the house. Many of the purchased pieces came from charity or second hand shops. Most of the money spent was on paint and surface treatment. It is a prop and some elements are more approximations than others.
TIMD: Where did you start? What part of the console was the first to be bought/made?
Dave: I found an amber coloured bubbled glass ball paperweight at ‘Home Sense’ just like one of the ones used on the console and bought it. After that I jumped in with both feet and started making the ‘ribs’- the large framework that hold the panels in place.
TIMD: Was there something that you had to do over and over again to get it right? Or has everything fallen into place easily?
Dave: Some bits where much easier than others. A lot of the console has fallen into place. The outside ceramic looking rim of the console was the single trickiest bit. That was mostly because I had some ‘clever’ ideas about how to make it easily. These included using an old kiddy pool, carving it out of Styrofoam, and moulding plastic- none of which really worked for me. In the end I used plywood to block out the form and clad the surface with Masonite much as I had done with the ribs.
There are a number of smaller components that are what one might call good enough (for now) that I do hope to replace or upgrade when it becomes realistic to do so. I would still like to upgrade the plastic on the central time column too.
TIMD: What was the one single most expensive piece?
Dave: Most of the pieces are built or adapted re-purposed objects. I did identify two ‘trim wheel throttle assemblies’ from World War II era planes. If I had purchased those they would have cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. As it was I did purchase a real vintage trim phone and a large sextant. The sextant cost about $70 when all was said and done.
TIMD: How long has it taken you to make your console?
Dave: It has been about two years on and off. With most of the work happening on weekends and some evenings.
TIMD: What sort of reception has your console gotten from online fandom?
Dave: For the most part very positive. There is a real community of builders out there that have been immensely helpful and encouraging and have helped to keep me going and motivated
TIMD: Do you run around mashing the buttons and playing with everything?
Dave: When our kids were very young they had something called an ‘exer-sauser’. It is a rotating seat made with a ring around it with bits that rotate, rattle, click and make various noises. Yes it is very much like that with the addition of flashing lights
TIMD: So, I’m guess that’s a yes! Have you ever set up a tv on your console and watched Doctor Who in there?
Dave: No oddly I haven’t, yet. There is a monitor built into the console. It is hooked up to a very old computer system to run the scanner graphics. This old computer that is the ‘heart of the tardis’ is old enough it doesn’t have a DVD drive. But some day I will upgrade, And then- you know what I’ll be watching!
TIMD: Has anyone ever paid you to have their picture taken at the console? If not can I be the first?
Dave: The console is sadly temporarily in storage while we are doing some remodelling to our house, but when it is reinstalled you can certainly have photos of it and with it my friend!
TIMD: Have you ever thought of trying to make it portable so you could take it to conventions?
Dave: I did take the console apart and take it to the ‘Reversed Polarity’ DW convention last November in Toronto. It is not easy to take apart and reassemble, but doable. The reaction was great from fans. Though I didn’t hear it from him I was told that Graeme Harper also really liked it
TIMD: Graeme Harper? Amazing!
Dave: Many fans and cosplayers took the opportunity to have photos taken with it.
TIMD: When did you first get into Doctor Who?
Dave: I think I was about 8 years old when I first started watching it on a PBS from buffalo, then later on TVO. It was so different and exciting I was hooked. My grandmother knit me a scarf and I made a really bad plastic K9 body cover for my remote controlled car. Yup I was hooked!
TIMD: Looks like even back then you were interested in do it yourself Who stuff! Who is your favourite Doctor?
Dave: I have to say Tom Baker. Though I love Hartnell, and Davidson and others. Baker was my first and his first few years seem to me to be a real golden era of the classic series.
TIMD: What’s your favourite episode from the Classic Series?
Dave: There are so many to choose from. If I am to pick one though I will have to say Genesis of the Daleks. I still remember watching as Doctor number four paused questioning if he had the moral authority to commit genocide, even though the Daleks were evil. The idea has stayed with me and when I think of the Doctor I think of him like that; moral, non-combative and questioning.
TIMD: And of course that infamous scene where Davros contemplates having ultimate power. Still chilling to watch! Do you have a favourite from the New Series?
Dave: Again, there are so many to choose from, Blink, The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances… if I were to choose one I would say the Family of Blood/Human Nature. It seems to me to one of the few New series historic set stories that isn’t just a romp. It tackled some very really themes around the anniversary of WWI about the loss of innocence and the nature of war. It was a story unlike any other where we get to see different sides to the regular characters plus some great guest characters and cast.
TIMD: What do you think about Capaldi?
Dave: I haven’t seen him enough to know, but I am really looking forward to seeing what he brings to the role. I am very excited for the new season to get under way.
TIMD: Thanks for the interview Dave and I will definitely take you up on your offer of a photo at the console once it’s back up!
If you want to follow Dave’s progress with his tardis console, you can check out the builders forum, and just for fun, here’s a YouTube video showing Dave having a little fun with the console.