It seems like the Doctor ends up in places that need him most. Does the Doctor choose where the TARDIS goes or does the TARDIS itself? He can "see" the timeline (not sure of the details on that) but at times he seems surprised where he ends up.

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    I'm pretty sure that the answer is 'I choose', depending on whether you ask the Doctor or the Tardis
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 22:46

4 Answers 4


There are definitely times when The Doctor has control of the Tardis and it goes exactly where he wants it to. For instance, in The End of the World he chooses to go to the day when the sun will expand and destroy Earth, and arrives there exactly as planned.

However, the Tardis does go to places that the Doctor did not intend, as you pointed out. In The Doctor's Wife, there's this great exchange:

The Doctor: You didn't always take me where I wanted to go.

Idris (inhabited by the Tardis): No, but I always took you where you needed to go.

The Doctor: You did!

So the Doctor chooses where the Tardis goes, unless the Tardis decides that he needs to be somewhere else.

  • 8
    Worth noting that in Old Who, the Doctor spent a great many seasons entirely unable to control the TARDIS's destinations either because its control circuits were broken, or because he'd deliberately randomized them in order to throw off pursuit.
    – BESW
    Commented May 12, 2013 at 8:02
  • Re: BESW's comment, some specifics - After the 'Key to Time' arc, the Doctor applied a Randomiser to the controls, figuring that if he didn't know where he was going, the Dark Guardian wouldn't know either, and, at the time, he was in concerned about possible vengeance.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 20:42

In Old Who, the First and Second Doctors had little to know control over where/when the TARDIS would show up. As stated in "The Day of the Doctor", the navigation system was a bit messed up. There were also some indicatations that The Doctor didn't know how to control it exactly.

After his capture and exile by the Time Lords, The Doctor couldn't fly the TARDIS at all, at first. During this time, the TARDIS had been purposely sabotaged by the Time Lords and The Third Doctor's memories were blocked so that he couldn’t fix it or work around the sabotage. He did try, however, which is why the console was outside the TARDIS in Inferno. At times, the Time Lords took control and sent him where they wanted a job done (e.g. Peladon). After The Three Doctors, he received a new dematerialization circuit and the memory block was freed. From that point, he could travel as he wished, but still used UNIT as a base. He had a lot more control over where/when the TARDIS went, but still had trouble getting to Metabelius 3. More than likely, the Time Lords repaired the damage that prevented the first two Doctors from controlling the TARDIS' travel.

The Fourth Doctor then fine tuned his piloting skills to where he could move the TARDIS short distances in space without travelling through time. For example, he could move it to another location in the same city. Hoever, the Time Lords still showed the ability to take control of it from time to time. After "The Key To Time", he installed a randomizer so that it would be harder for the Black Guardian to follow him and no longer could control his destination. He later disabled it.

As others have stated, the TARDIS will still go off course when it needs to so later Doctors still don't have 100% control of where/when they end up. Examples in the current series are returning Rose a 12 months after they left instead of 12 hours and returning to pick up Amelia (Amy) Pond 12 years later and then another 2 years.

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    The First Doctor's lack of control was critical to the early stories, as he had dragged Ian and Barbara along without really meaning to, and couldn't return them to their own time. They left the first time they wound up in the right time (as best I recall, off the top of my head).
    – RDFozz
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 22:11

Sometimes, but a lot of the time, the TARDIS just randomly goes to a location, which is how a lot of the episodes start off.

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    This could be a good answer, if you gave a few examples.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 21:06
  • Given what we see, the TARDIS either goes wher ethe Doctor wants, or goes somewhere he needs to go. We don't see any instances where the TARDIS randomly takes the Doctor somewhere where nothing interesting is happening, or someplace "fun" like Disneyland. Either there are gobs of adventures where they end up someplace boring that we don't see, or the TARDIS deliberately goes to trouble spots when it's aware of them.
    – RDFozz
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 22:14

The TARDIS is controlled by the doctor but other people can take control of it even when they don't have access to the TARDIS.This was demonstrated in the episode "The Doctors Daughter"

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    Not much of an answer, though essentially correct. Perhaps more details/examples? Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 12:19
  • @Donald.McLean I don't think it is correct. The TARDIS itself took him there, it wasn't controlled by anyone else.
    – Adeptus
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 1:22

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