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Specifically used as a plot device in the TV Christmas Special "The Time of The Doctor", the Doctor's key to his TARDIS is shown to have the ability to summon the TARDIS to his location and materialise around him (and Clara in this instance).

This begs the question of why he doesn't use this ability a lot more often to handle tight spots like that faced in the previously mentioned episode. Does anyone know the limits of this ability?

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    It's a fine question, but one which I don't think (what passes for) the canon has an answer to. Out of universe: if he could do this any time, it would be more difficult to build suspense. In universe, this ability has been used too rarely to establish firm parameters. More importantly, it had never been seen to fail or been suggested in a circumstance where it wouldn't work. – Politank-Z Dec 25 '16 at 4:32
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    Probably because he's not a very good pilot or because TARDIS doesn't always respect his wishes – Gallifreyan Dec 25 '16 at 12:21
  • I suggest looking up the movie/TV trope of why the hell everyone parks so far away from their destination. – Tim Feb 8 '17 at 1:22
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Bluntly, it's a new ability.

It was never mentioned in the old series, and there were more than a few times in the new series where he said he COULDN'T do it, like in Father's Day - the key began to glow when the TARDIS became accessible in the time-pocket, but he couldn't summon it. He turned on the HADS in Cold War, and the ship re-materialized almost literally on the other side of the earth, at the opposite pole - he could pinpoint its location, but had no way of getting to it, or bringing it to him.

There's a remote chance that it's something he needs to set up ahead of time - pre-program the ship to come to him when a particular signal is set - and can't be done often. because as others have said, if he could whistle for it at any moment, it would rather reduce the dramatic tension.

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