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A friend asked me last night, if the TARDIS is meant to disguise itself but it broke, how do people not notice a big blue phone box appearing out of nowhere? In the episode with Van Gogh the TARDIS lands outside the art museum, in a busy area and people walk past it without getting freaked out.

How and why don't people notice that a big blue box - that is really out of place in their timezone - is suddenly somewhere it wasnt just seconds agao?

RELATED: What about the noise it makes? Do other people not hear that - in New Who the companions hear it and go running torwards it, why don't others seem to hear?

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It's not (just) a phone box, it's a police box. –  leftaroundabout Aug 28 at 12:40
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@calccrypto why a tvtropes link?? whyyyyy –  Samiko Aug 28 at 13:48
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because never enough tvtropes –  calccrypto Aug 28 at 13:49
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@calccrypto Will upvote your comment if i make it out alive –  Samiko Aug 28 at 13:52

1 Answer 1

up vote 19 down vote accepted

The TARDIS is placing a perception filter around itself. So the people can see it, but they won't notice it. They're just not paying any attention. This explains why people explicitly looking for it can also find it. The perception filter is working very subtle. It was mentioned couple of times in the newer seasons, but I can't find a quote right now.

This is also mentioned in the first episode of Torchwood, where they leave their base with an elevator in the middle of a big open place.

(The slab slots into place in the pavement. People are walking in the open air.)
GWEN: But, but they can see the lift. Why aren't they? I mean, we are right out in the open. They can see everything.
JACK: Do they look like they can see us?
GWEN: No, but look at us. We couldn't be any more public.
JACK: Hello! Hey, you there, hello!
(The man doesn't take his eyes off his mobile phone.)
JACK: It's called a perception filter. He can sort of see us, but we don't quite register. Just like something in the corner of your eye. It only works on this exact spot. Step off.
(Jack steps off and speaks to a lady.)
JACK: Hi! Nice night.
(She looks at him and walks on.)
JACK: Oh. And lo, we are perceived.
GWEN: How does it work?
JACK: No idea. We know how to use it, not how it happens. But if I were to guess, I'd say that there was once a dimensionally transcendental chameleon circuit placed right on this spot which welded its perception properties to a spatio-temporal rift. But that sounds kind of ridiculous. Invisible lift has got more of a ring to it, don't you think?
GWEN: But hold on. If no one can see it when the lift's coming up, there's a bloody big hole in the floor. Don't people fall in?
JACK: That is so Welsh.
GWEN: What is?
JACK: I show you something fantastic. You find fault.

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It's mentioned in "The sound of drums". –  Einer Aug 28 at 8:49
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Thank you. I was just extending my answer by a quote from the first Torchwood episode, where something similar is in place. But I don't have time now to look up the quote from the Sound of Drums, but I will add it later! –  NoNameNeeded432 Aug 28 at 8:54
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I love the Douglas Adams influences, Someone else's problem field anyone? –  CyanAngel Aug 28 at 9:29
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I can't remember the episode off-hand, but at one point Mickey asks the Doctor (9) if people will notice the TARDIS, and he replies something along the lines of: "What do people do when they see something out of the ordinary? Just ignore and walk past. Stop worrying." Assuming I didn't hear or see it arrive and was walking along a street and found a blue box I would probably think "I wonder who left that there" and just keep walking. –  Nigel Ellis Aug 28 at 10:21
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@Yamikuronue It's definitely the TARDIS. That's right where the TARDIS materialized to recharge using the rift energy in "Boom Town". Jack was with the Doctor then, so he knows this for a fact; he's just being cheeky. –  Roger Aug 28 at 14:21

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