I have no idea when or where, but I seem to recall the Doctor saying at some point that the TARDIS’s chameleon circuit is not broken—on landing, it scans the surroundings, determines a suitable form to blend in and go undetected, and promptly disguises itself as a police box.

Was a line like this ever uttered in Doctor Who, whether classic or revived? If I didn’t imagine it, when and where was it said?

  • There is also the Sixth Doctor episode Attack of the Cybermen where he manages to repair the chameleon circuit, at least temporarily. But you didn't mean that one.
    – Mr Lister
    Dec 26, 2015 at 10:34
  • The 9th Doctor does mention the TARDIS resembles a police box from the 1950s as a disguise, but doesn't explicitly mention the chameleon circuit.
    – Huey
    Dec 26, 2015 at 15:22
  • @MrLister: Right, not that one, but I really should watch it sometime.
    – Frungi
    Dec 27, 2015 at 22:56
  • @Huey: Neither did 11 in that minisode. But did 9 give a similar explanation, that it does everything it’s supposed to… and then goes with the police box anyway?
    – Frungi
    Dec 27, 2015 at 22:58

1 Answer 1


This is "Meanwhile in the TARDIS 1", a minisode from series five set moments after the end of The Eleventh Hour. It was included as a special feature on the DVD release, but is also on Youtube:

Relevant transcript:

Amy: Why is it a police box?

[Amy babbles a bit; I'll spare you]

Doctor: Well it's not really a police box. Which, by the way, is a special kind of telephone box that policemen used to use.

[More babbling]

Doctor: It's camouflage. It's disguised as a police telephone box from 1963. Every time the TARDIS materializes in a new location, within the first nanosecond of landing, it analyzes its surroundings, calculates a twelve-dimensional data map of everything within a thousand mile radius, and determines which outer shell would blend in best with the environment. And then it disguises itself as a police telephone box from 1963.

Doctor Who Minisode "Meanwhile in the TARDIS 1"

  • 3
    Please watch the video. It's a pretty good gag, but Matt Smith absolutely nails the delivery Dec 26, 2015 at 5:27
  • Thank you! This is exactly what I was failing to remember.
    – Frungi
    Dec 26, 2015 at 5:39
  • 2
    Douglas Adams used this gag long before, with The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy's Nutri-Matic machine: “When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject’s taste buds, a spectroscopic analysis of the subject’s metabolism, and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centres of the subject’s brain to see what was likely to go down well.  However, no-one knew quite why it did this because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.”
    – gidds
    Dec 9, 2023 at 1:12
  • Bonus, Adams also has a history with Who!
    – Frungi
    Mar 31 at 4:45

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