An interesting turn of events has taken place in the realignment of the popularity of “Doctor Who” in America. Suddenly, everywhere you turn, everything is coming up TARDIS.
Just in case you don’t have BBC America or Netflix or Amazon Prime or other access to “Doctor Who” let me give the short version of what the TARDIS actually is. It is a time traveling device in the form of a British police callbox on the outside that is infinitely larger on the inside. The TARDIS is the transport of the Doctor (not Doctor Who, just the Doctor) and in light of the reanimation of Doctor Who on British TV in the 21st century it is becoming as iconic a figure of space transport in America as the Starship Enterprise. Needless to say, it has been even more iconic than that in England since the 1960s.
The foundation of the TARDIS as icon is that it looks just like a police callbox (or telephone booth, if you are American) from the outside.
Head to any science fiction/fantasy/comic book convention and you will see the TARDIS come to life on the person of dozens of women in the shape of a dress of some sort. The TARDIS dress can be a tight, form-fitting affair or it can be a deluxe Victorian gown with a train. In extreme cases, a TARDIS dress may actually be capable of opening up to reveal that it is actually bigger on the inside.
The shape of the TARDIS extends well beyond the boundaries of fans attending conventions, however. Know a Doctor Who fan with a cell phone and you probably have seen that mobile device encased in a TARDIS cover. Know a Doctor Who that loves the British tradition of tea just as much as the British tradition of Doctor Who and you may well have been served a cup of Orange Pekoe from a blue ceramic teapot in the shape of a TARDIS.
Go beyond the usual and the TARDIS shows up in some quite unusual and even spectacular ways. For instance, do a search for Tardifs refrigerator and you will quickly be taken to a place where you can be a minifridge. Mass manufacturing of the TARDIS is one thing, but fandom does not truck with sticking only with little ideas. That same search for TARDIS refrigerator will eventually lead you a photograph of a double-wide refrigerator tucked against the wall between two counters. Don’t think that’s a one-of-a-kind dealio, you weeping angel, you. You can actually go here to get customized decals to transform you won refrigerator into a TARDIS.
Since so many of the most spectacular examples of the TARDIS come to life are here courtesy of fan-made conceptual art rather than mass marketing, one can only wonder just exactly what caused a time-traveling mode of transportation known to few who didn’t spend every weekday afternoon glued to their PBS station to become nearly as omnipresent in the American zeitgeist as the Millennium Falcon.