This one's permanently in my memory matrix:

Every time the TARDIS materializes in a new location, within the first nanosecond of landing, it analyzes its surroundings, calculates a 12-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.

What happened in 1963 which damaged the TARDIS' camouflage feature permanently?

I haven't watched Doctor Who original series of 60s which should answer the question.

  • 1
    I’m not sure it’s damaged permanently (I think the Doctor says at one point in the new series that he could repair it, he just doesn’t want to), and I think I remember reading that it was repaired at some point during Colin Baker’s tenure. Aug 17, 2014 at 8:25
  • scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/7972/… Has your answer
    – user112752
    Mar 10, 2019 at 1:13

2 Answers 2


The original opening story "An Unearthly Child" doesn't explain why it remains a police box when they leave 1963, it just has a line where they arrive in the prehistoric past and the Doctor says "It's still a police box. Why hasn't it changed? Dear, dear, how very disturbing", and explains to his new human companions that it's supposed to disguise itself in every era. The answer to why it got stuck is finally revealed in the 4th Doctor story "Logopolis", where the Doctor was planning to have the chameleon circuit repaired by the mathematicians on Logopolis. From the transcript here, there was this bit of dialogue about why it was broken in the first place:

ADRIC: So the chameleon circuit's stuck?

DOCTOR: Exactly.

ADRIC: In Totter's Yard.

DOCTOR: In a totter's yard. Anyway, it was ages ago. It doesn't matter. She was in on Gallifrey for repair when I borrowed her.

ADRIC: I thought she was yours?

(The Doctor gets underneath the console.)

DOCTOR: Well, on a sort of finders-keepers basis, yes. I should have waited till they'd done the chameleon conversion, but there were other pressing reasons at the time.

So, from this it seems that it was already in need of repair when the Doctor "borrowed" the TARDIS, but perhaps it was able to function for a while before becoming stuck permenantly, since the 1st Doctor and his granddaughter Susan referred to some adventures they'd had prior to Earth in 1963. Also, from the transcript to that first story "An Unearthly Child" here, I see that when they first noticed it had become "stuck" as a police box, Susan said "it's been an Ionic column and a sedan chair."

As Paul D. Waite mentioned, there was also a 6th Doctor story called "Attack of the Cybermen" where the Doctor attempted to fix it and did get the TARDIS to transform itself into other shapes, but it was changing into out-of-place shapes like a pipe organ rather than ones that would blend into the surroundings, so in the end he went back to the police box.

Depending if you want to incorporate comics continuity into your personal headcanon (Doctor Who has no official 'canon'), the Chameleon Circuit article on the Doctor Who wiki mentions an alternate explanation from the comic Hunters of the Burning Stone:

The Eleventh Doctor travelled back in time to 1963 and destroyed the TARDIS' chameleon circuit so that the TARDIS would always remain a police box, so that the mental image of the TARDIS would be etched into human culture and history. (COMIC: Hunters of the Burning Stone)


Its always for the most part been the British Police Call Box for the simple fact that the BBC couldn't and probably still can't afford to make a new exterior every single time the Doctor lands somewhere.I love the blue box keep it as is!

  • We've seen lots of TARDISes with different exterior design..
    – user931
    Feb 9, 2018 at 22:09
  • 1
    This is an out-of-universe answer. OP was looking for in-universe.
    – amflare
    Feb 9, 2018 at 22:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.