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In the 2005 version of the series, the 9th, 10th & 11th Doctor have been seen to fly the TARDIS in a rather haphazard manner. They're always bumping around inside the console room, heavily shaking all the way through.

However, Ever since The Doctor regenerated after the battle of Trenzalore, he has suddenly started flying the TARDIS very stably. In series 8, you never see the TARDIS crew fumble around, or bumping and falling all over the place. He flies it perfectly stable and steady, just like River flew her in Time of the Angels.

My question: Has The Doctor always been a bumpy driver, or were the 9th, 10th, 11th incarnations an exception?

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    Huh, that's indeed a very good question. – Alfredo Hernández Oct 15 '14 at 18:19
  • didnt the tardis get a control room remake then too? or was that earlier, because maybe the different versions of the control room have different levels of difficulty using them. – Himarm Oct 15 '14 at 18:25
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    @Himarm It did get a slight redesign following Deep Breath, but it's mostly cosmetic: adding a bookshelf, dimming the lights a bit. The general aesthetic in Series 8 is the same as it has been since the second half of series 7 – Jason Baker Oct 15 '14 at 18:27
  • @Himarm : The Control room also got a redesign after the Tenth Doctor's regeneration. Yet it didn't suddenly become stable. – Stark07 Oct 15 '14 at 18:31
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    I find it particularly ironic because when he regenerated he asked how does he fly this thing -- now he's the smoothest that we've seen. - Good Question! – sipp Oct 16 '14 at 13:03
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I'm assuming you're talking about the Doctor's actions at the control panel, versus his general ability to land where he expects to land.

The visual of the Doctor bounding around the TARDIS console, flailing at controls began with Patrick Troughton, and was probably inspired by his energetic portrayal (Relative to the reserved and dignified Hartnell, at least). We didn't see it as much with Jon Pertwee, probably because he played the role more similar to Hartnell, and because Pertwee spent more time fiddling with the TARDIS than actually flying it, but it came back with a vengeance with Tom Baker, and has been a mainstay ever since.

The out-of-universe explanation is the one I've already hinted at: Hartnell, Pertwee, and Capaldi play the Doctor as much more reserved than the other actors, with much less physical comedy. So this visual of chaos at the TARDIS console doesn't make sense for them.

In-universe, the Doctor has certainly learned how to fly more efficiently over time, there are a few occasions where this is stated explicitly:

  • In "Logopolis", the Fourth Doctor notes his increased proficiency at making short, precise transportations:

    Fourth Doctor: The TARDIS and I are getting rather better at these short hops.

    Doctor Who Season 18 Episode 7: "Logopolis"

  • In "Twice Upon a Time", the First Doctor is astounded by the ability of the Twelfth to pilot the TARDIS accurately, despite the damage to the navigational systems:

    First Doctor: The navigation systems don't function properly. I'm unable to program our flight with any degree of accuracy.

    [a brief pause in which we get some "the First Doctor is a relic from another age" comedy, and the Twelfth Doctor successfully lands where he intends to land]

    First Doctor: But you steered the ship; you piloted her perfectly!

    Doctor Who "Twice Upon a Time"

This doesn't quite explain why later incarnations of the Doctor (particularly the Tenth and Eleventh) continue to behave as though they're barely in control; the most reasonable explanation I can come up with is that he pretends things are more complicated than they are to impress his companions, or else he chooses to fly inefficiently because it's more fun. Neither of those things are out-of-character for the Doctor we know.

However, Capaldi's Doctor is much less frivolous than other incarnations (Contrast him to Smith, for example), so it is likely he doesn't feel the need to "show off" in the same exuberant way.

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    +1 for the last line. Capaldi's Doctor does feel more mature. – Stark07 Oct 15 '14 at 18:45
  • i think he does like to fly it inefficiently because he almost seems to randomly show up places, and then hes "surprised" at where and when they are. – Himarm Oct 15 '14 at 18:52
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    @Himarm I think the Doctor is often legitimately surprised, especially in the early seasons where the faulty TARDIS navigation was a major plot point. I'm specifically remembering dialogue from series 6's "The Doctor's Wife": "'Doctor: You haven't always taken me where I wanted to go.' Idris/TARDIS: 'No, but I've always taken you where you needed to go.'" I don't discount the possibility of the Doctor faking surprise to trick a companion, but it's more complicated than that – Jason Baker Oct 15 '14 at 18:55
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    @Jason, for a period in old Who, the TARDIS even had a randomizer installed in the navigation system, so the Black Guardian couldn't track him down. – Brian S Oct 16 '14 at 14:03
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    @TrevörAnneDenise That was something Tennant said in Journey's End, just before having his human companions fly the TARDIS. Although the hexagonal console would support that (One console terminal for each pilot), the fact remains that we've seen Romana and River Song piloting the Doctor's TARDIS quite easily, and the Master never seemed to have these stabilization problems on his own TARDIS – Jason Baker Oct 20 '14 at 14:34

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