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Comparison between this prop and a Met Box

Started by lorisarvendu, Jun 17, 2011, 02:05 pm

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Jun 17, 2011, 02:05 pm Last Edit: Jul 03, 2019, 03:16 am by warmcanofcoke
I've always thought I'd like to make a model of this prop, and although it's often said that it is a faithful copy of an original Metropolitan box of the time, it's always looked quite wide to me.  

I made my first model Police Box from a copy of the original McKenzie-Trench Metropolitan police box plans, about 3 years ago. I've still got it, and although it's a bit battered and bowed in places (and yes, the lamp cap is wrong), since it was constructed from the plans it's faithful to those plans.

So today I thought I'd take some comparison shots.  I haven't got it exactly right, but enough I think to see that there is a difference between my model and the movie prop:

1. The prop definitely looks wider, and I don't think it's the perspective.  To my eyes the panels and windows on the Prop look more elongated, and the spaces above and below the panels looks narrower.  The corner posts look about the same, but the sign box looks narrower on the Prop.

2. It was very difficult to get this one close, because my model displays a lot more perspective, but although you can't tell from the sides, all the stacks look wider to me (although the corner posts and the first stack look pretty good matches).

3.  Although the screenshot is a bit fuzzy, it again looks to me like the windows and panels are longer on the prop, the sign-box is narrower, and the box as a whole is wider.  Certainly my model looks taller and thinner.

I know I'm comparing it to a model that I made, but I'm confident my model is accurate to the original plans of a police box.  In fact if you compare it to the Mile End Box in London, I think it shows my model is a pretty good match, which in turn must mean that the plans are accurate.

I think this shows that the Cushing prop is different to an original police box, mostly by being wider.  What I can't tell from these screenshots is where the wideness comes from. The corner posts look about the same to me, but maybe it's the gap between the posts and the panels (or between the panels and the centre divider)?

The height of the box seems about the same, and therefore the stacks look the same heights as well.


Jun 17, 2011, 05:23 pm #1 Last Edit: Jun 17, 2011, 08:37 pm by galacticprobe
Using rough measurements, holding a small ruler to the screen on your photos where the perspective looks the same, the width of your model is about the same as that of the Cushing box. However that is a difficult way of judging this; the positioning of your model can make it look narrower, wider, or just as wide as the Cushing box.

So you're right; it is difficult to tell. But in your first set of comparison photos, it looks like on the windows your model have the extra bar detail at the bottom that is on the Hartnell box, but missing from the Cushing box. (This is very visible in that set of photos.) It does look like the Cushing box has stiles that are a bit narrower than the stiles on your model, as do the bars between the Cushing box window panes, especially at the top and bottom. The Cushing box PTO sign is also much narrower. The sign boxes, at least to my eye, look just a little "taller" on your model than on the Cushing box. So that could take into account why the Cushing box "looks" wider even though the overall proportions may be the same.

Your model is a very close match to the reddish box. The only things we can't judge on that one are the windows; the red box has none. And remember, we're trying to compare a physical, scaled model to screen grabs of a full-size prop: not going to be easy to get a definitive answer on this one, other than the differences I've mentioned.

Others are more than welcome to try.

"What's wrong with being childish?! I like being childish." -3rd Doctor, "Terror of the Autons"


Jun 17, 2011, 06:31 pm #2 Last Edit: Jun 17, 2011, 06:32 pm by lorisarvendu
Well it just goes to show that we can't really go by photo comparisons, because my model doesn't have a "Hartnell bar" on the bottom of the windows!  What you're seeing is the white paint on the bottom of the window frame due to my bad paint job!

However I think I've found a plausible reason why (and where) the Cushing Box is wider.  Compare this close-up of the front door to the same area of the Met plans:

Cush Panels.jpg

Met Panels.jpg

On the Met box the space between the panels and the centre divider is the same as the space between the panels and the corner posts.  On the Cushing box the distance to the corner posts is possibly 1.5x greater.  Now that I look at shots from the movie I think I can see it there as well.  It's quite difficult to make out, because of the shadow cast by the corner posts, but if you look at the pic where Cribbins first exits the box, or the full-length shot before the box is covered in rubble, I think it's noticeable there.

So by the simple expedient of stretching the Met plans a bit, while keeping the central doors and panels the same size, might give a reasonable set of plans for a Cushing Movie Box.

EDIT: Which I am going to try later on this evening!


Jun 17, 2011, 08:58 pm #3 Last Edit: Jun 17, 2011, 09:00 pm by galacticprobe
One item you can use as a reference to keep things in sort of a perspective is that nice flat-on image of the St. John Ambulance logo. On the Cushing box, as on a real Met box, 'Plate "B"' as it's labelled in the drawing, is 6 inches in diameter.

And with all of this talk about what's wider on the Cushing box (forget your "bad paint job") I forgot to mention that you've got a great model build there. Put it against some small bricks and it might look like a full-size box. (It's the super-sized bricks that sort of give the model thing away.)

The paint job might have something to do with the window bars on your model looking thicker than those on the Cushing box, but depending on how thin you were able to cut those slats you might not be able to get the same look without going larger scale. Going by the average brick size, your model is, I'm guessing, around 24 inches tall, base to top of lamp? And about 8 or so inches wide? (Or am I way off on that?)

"What's wrong with being childish?! I like being childish." -3rd Doctor, "Terror of the Autons"


I've always thought the Cushing prop looked a little off I think it's mainly due to the roof stacks they don't appear to have much depth between the stacks maybe that's what gives it the "wide" look. I know it's supposed to be a match to a real met box but the roof is certainly different


Jun 17, 2011, 10:18 pm #5 Last Edit: Jun 17, 2011, 10:24 pm by lorisarvendu
Quote from: galacticprobe on Jun 17, 2011, 08:58 pm
Going by the average brick size, your model is, I'm guessing, around 24 inches tall, base to top of lamp? And about 8 or so inches wide? (Or am I way off on that?)


Half that size!  10" high by 4" wide.

Now I look at it, there's a lot different about the Cushing box.  The sign box is far wider and reaches over halfway across the corner posts. Also the roof looks shallower.  The height of the second stack looks about the same as the height from the sign-box to the top of the first stack, and the third stack looks slightly less higher.  So I've been playing with PaintShopPro. What do you think of this so far?

[Cushing BoxCOLsmall2.jpg

EDIT: jpg resized wrong


Jun 18, 2011, 05:25 am #6 Last Edit: Jun 18, 2011, 05:26 am by galacticprobe
Can you size a photo of your model the same way? It would be great to compare them side by side (and it would be a great addition to the Cushing reference section).

"What's wrong with being childish?! I like being childish." -3rd Doctor, "Terror of the Autons"


I've made some slight tweaks, and I think I'm satisfied that I've gone as far as I can with this now.  I've basically amended a GIF of the Met Plans, and the lamp was a bit fat so I've thinned it out a bit.  Secondly I've lowered the pitch of the roof a bit more, because I think that adds to the "boxiness" of what we see on screen.  Meanwhile I'll have a go as you suggest.  (I also have an uncoloured copy of this if anyone's interested).

Cushing BoxCOLsmall2.jpg


Quick "proof of concept" card model, made to the above plans.  Even without sign-boxes etc I still think that roof looks very "Cushing" to me.



After quite a bit of study over the last week, I've come to the conclusion that this prop is based firmly on an original Met box, with no input from the BBC prop of the time.  In the context of the time these movies were made, it is plain they were not "Doctor Who" movies but "Dalek" movies.  In fact arguably the Daleks were far more popular than their parent show at the time.  The influences of Doctor Who were therefore minimal, and in the case of the TARDIS (or "Tardis" as Susan refers to it in the first film, no definite article) merely a Narnia Wardrobe to get the cast to the Daleks as quick as possible.

With this in mind the various departures from the Met design seem quite understandable.

Specifically the doors.  The BBC prop was designed smaller, to fit the claustrophobic confines of the TV studio, and the intimacy of the TV screen.  For the Dalek movies the cast have to be seen to get out of the Police Box as quickly as possible and with the minimum fuss.  The same thing can be seen in the new TV series, where we don't want actors having to struggle to get through the doors each time they land on a new planet.

However, a close look at the windows and door panels indicates that they still appear to be the same size.  How can we tell this?  Well, we know that this was not a BBC production, so the movie design team may not have had access to the BBC's blueprints for "Tardis".  They would most likely have used the original Metropolitan Police plans and modified them in the easiest and quickest way possible.  And this appears to be what we see.  The proportions of the windows and panels appear the same between screen and plans.  Also the ratio between the width of the panels and the diameter of the St John Ambulance sign appears the same, indicating the panels are the same size.  So how can the doors be larger?

Well, there are a few brief shots where the prop (or the doors) are face-on to the camera, and it can be seen that although the panels and windows are the same width as an original Met box, they are further away from the corner posts. This is where the doors have been widened.  Rather than the windows and panels being in a line down the centre of the doors, they appear off-set closer towards the centre divider.  The corner posts themselves appear to be the same width as a real Police Box, indicating that what we're seeing here is a modification of the original Met plans.

Next, the roof stacks. Something about these makes Tardis look "blockier" than an ordinary Police Box.  The roof doesn't seem to taper towards the lamp as much.  Close inspection shows that although the roof stacks are quite high, each stack is not much more narrower than the one below.  The roof also appears to have a much shallower pitch (although this is difficult to see, as the majority of shots of Tardis in the second movie are from approximately head-height).  This, together with the wideness of the box, adds to that general "squareness" that is so noticeable.

The base is wider and much less deep than a Met Box, obviously avoiding the cast having to step up and down so far, and also probably reducing the overall weight of the prop.

Sign Box
This is quite a major departure, and yet it isn't immediately obvious why. The Sign box is approximately at the same height and distance above the windows (with the same three "steps" below it as the Met Box), but it appears probably ¾ of the vertical depth of the Met Sign Box.  Not only that, but it extends further over the corner posts.  This reduction in depth of the Sign Box serves to shorten the overall height of the box (adding further to its "squareness") but also draws further attention to the roof stacks, and it's the roof stacks that seem to stand out in this prop.  

Comics of the time
In fact it is interesting that depictions of the TARDIS in comics of the mid to late 60s show a rich dark blue TARDIS, with a large stacked roof, white windows and a St John Ambulance sign.  This is even though the Doctor depicted in these comics is Patrick Troughton, whose on-screen TARDIS is by now quite flat-roofed, with dark windows, and no St John sign.  I would hazard a guess that comic artists were using the movie TARDIS as their source material rather than what little they could see of the current BBC prop.  Of course they could be using pictures of real police boxes, but somehow I think promotional shots from the Dalek movies would be more readily available - especially to artists who didn't live within the London area.

Anyway, with that in mind I shall carry on with the Cushing Model Build that I started 3 days ago!


Very interesting stuff, nicely researched. Last year I had a go at a front view of the Cushing Box and it's very similar to your pic in terms of proportions. I'll try and dig it out and post it up at some point.

In terms of signage I think the door panel was an exact copy of the Police Posts at the time. Not sure about the sign boxes though. In the images the font always seems to look a bit thinner
than the met boxes. It might be just me though!

At some point I'm going to have a crack of building one in 3D along with the TVM box...