(c) 2008 Frank Collins. If you wish to quote from this article please ask the author's permission.
Brachacki’s TARDISIn both the Pilot and the transmitted version of episode one of An Unearthly Child we are introduced to the interior of the Doctor’s time and space machine, the TARDIS. Brachacki’s designs for the TARDIS include both the iconic hexagonal control console with its array of switches and dials and the central rotor mechanism and the honeycomb, roundeled interior wall design. Both of these design features would go on to form a continuous, ever evolving visual thread throughout the series long run and these motifs are still in evidence in the new series that commenced production in 2005. In the transmitted episode, as opposed to the Pilot, we are also made more aware of the hexagonal motif on the floor of the TARDIS, the banks of machinery at one end and the huge hexagonal light suspended above the console area. These elements, from both versions of the first episode, more or less constitute our lasting visual impression of the interior of the TARDIS. Later in the series, other spaces and rooms are added to compliment these designs but were not produced by Brachacki. Brachacki’s visual stamp on the series, although only brief, was highly influential and has been long lasting.
The roundeled walls, hive-like in nature, were clearly inspired by the ‘form follows function’ Bauhaus school of thought with their clean, crisp, geometric patterns that make simple but effective use of shape and mutual integrity. Another major influence on both the interior walls of the TARDIS and Ray Cusick’s Dalek designs should be noted. Buckminster Fuller’s use of the geodesic dome and his Dymaxion house concepts have some bearing here. Certainly the geometric patterning and structure of the geodesic dome is reflected in the honeycombed TARDIS walls and the mass-production kit method of house building he proposed suggest a construction brief that similarly places function at the centre of the TARDIS concept, especially for the console room, and later the super-forms of the Daleks. However, all of Brachacki’s work is based on the hard-edged shapes of the Bauhaus school whereas Cusick’s is firmly in the school of American designers who reacted against this.
Tesselating hexagonsA further link back to Moholy-Nagy and the Russian constructivists is Russian architect Konstantin Melnikov. One of the best, existing examples of his work is the residence completed in 1929 in Moscow that “consists of two intersecting cylindrical towers decorated with a pattern of hexagonal windows”.6 This modernist structure is very TARDIS like in appearance and this is reflected in the geometry of Brachacki’s honeycomb walls and hexagonal shapes for the TARDIS interior. The geometric is further defined in the suspended lighting, the console and the floor all of which are of complimentary hexagonal shape. The obsession with the hexagon is also pre-empted in the Pilot episode by Susan’s brief reverie whilst she blots some paper with ink in the schoolroom. Not only does the Rorschach like blot she produces emulate the series own avant-garde title sequence with its scudding electronic clouds but she then roughly sketches a hexagon like shape over the top of it, hinting at the design of the console room before we even get to see it. The hexagon’s tessellating properties, as in the cells of a beehive honeycomb, make efficient use of space and building materials and this again reflects the integrity of the interior walls.
Finally, the banks of machinery in the background that we see more clearly in the transmitted version of An Unearthly Child and the console’s array of switches and dials are most definitely inspired by the brutal, modernist designs of the Magnox reactor UKAEA station at Calder Hall, later Windscale, opened by the Queen in 1956. There is no doubt that newsreels of such an event would have provided some inspiration for the design as there was nothing more futuristic and powerful in the general public’s mind than Britain’s first atomic power station going on stream. Britain’s atomic future was here a symbol of strength, imagination and the nation moving forward into the 1960s.
6. http://www.melnikovhouse.com - pages accessed 16/2/08 and 17/2/08
7. Guardian Unlimited ‘ Laszlo Moholy-Nagy ‘The fiery stimulator’ Special Report – Modernism (March 18, 2006 Fiona MacCarthy)
Go to Part Three
Back to Part One
Cathode Ray Tube Doctor Who Ray Cusick Peter Brachacki TARDIS Dalek Design