The Brachaki Police Box Prop (The War Machines to Seeds of Doom)

Started by tony farrell, Apr 02, 2013, 12:23 am

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tony farrell

This board contains numerous and excellent plans of the various Police Box props as they first appeared throughout the TV show's history - the Brachaki original, the Hudolin box, the TYJ box, etc, etc. What it doesn't contain (as far as I can see), are any plans for the Brachaki Box after its 1966 (War machines) refit and plans of what was subsequently changed in the years to her final TV appearance in 1975's "Seeds of Doom".

There are other excellent web sites out there that contain histories of this prop (The Mind Robber and Anthony Sibley's marvelous essay on this subject spring to mind) but neither contain any plans and  - with the greatest of respect - both appear to contain several inaccuracies along the way.
So, just what was done to the Brachaki Police Box in the 1966 refit and how did the prop change after this date? The internet being what it is, I'll post my 'research' in digestible chunks.
Here goes - PART ONE 1966 to 1968:

In the summer of 1966, the decision appears to have been made that the Police Box prop should be radically altered. It has been argued that the decision was made that the Police Box prop should be capable of being split down into its component parts for transportation purposes - a kind of flat-pack space-time machine. Equally, it has been suggested that the prop was somehow badly damaged and that the alterations were as a result of this. Whatever the reason for the changes, the last appearance of the unaltered Brachaki Police Box prop was recorded during location filming for "The War Machines" between 22nd May 1966 and 26th May 1966 when the Tardis appeared without its roof lamp (though, the lamp housing was present). The studio recording for this story began on 10th June 1966 when the prop first appeared in its 'refitted glory'.

To the casual observer, all that appeared to have changed was the colour of the front doors' window frames (from a dirty white to blue). Closer inspection by the casual observer would however reveal further differences - the lock had changed doors from left to right, the roof had been lowered and the sides had been reduced in width with the introduction of narrower corner-post fronts on each of the side elevations. In addition, our observer might have noticed that the side panels corner-post inner quadrants had also been removed. These revelations might have lead our observer to notice that the Police Public Call Box signs had also been heavily modified (the side panel ones were narrowed  - but strangely slightly increased in depth when compared to the front and rear - to compensate for the reduced depth of the Police Box, whilst the front and rear ones gained new signs within their slightly thickened frames).

The consequence of reducing the overall depth of the box was two-fold: Firstly, the prop was no longer square but was now rectangular. Secondly, the loss of the side panels corner-post inner quadrants meant that the side panels were actually further apart than they had originally been. The recess for the front and rear doors remained largely unchanged at approx 2" whereas the corresponding recess on both sides was approx 1". These changes meant that the top tier of the prop's roof no longer fitted the main body of the prop with our observer now being able to see a recess above the front sign-box and the top tier of the roof.

tony farrell

These pictures show that Police Box prop after the refit (the first is from The War Machines, the second is from The Dominators):
no clovers war machines.png
In addition to the now rectangular shape of the prop, our observer might notice that the front doors' window frames were now a slightly simplified design when compared to those on the other sides of the prop - missing, as these now were, their drip sills. Even closer inspection might have revealed that the uprights and cross-bars on these simplified windows were slightly thicker than those of the un-modified (is there such a word?  :)) window frames.
Together, these changes to the prop's geometry, might have aroused our observer's curiosity to the extent that he might look more closely at the prop. If he did, then he would also have noticed that the front doors had been slightly reduced in height and that a small amount had been cut off their bottoms. Had our observer then studied the bottom of these doors, he would have seen that a small step had been fitted under them which had the effect of disguising the fact that the doors had been slightly cut down.
 myphoto (20).jpg
The extent to which the doors had been cut-down meant that they were no longer stopped from swinging forward by the three-tiered stepped section immediately above them. Though not present in "The War Machines", two door stops were fitted by the time "Power of the Daleks" to correct this problem:

powertardis001 showing offset in side height.jpg

tony farrell

In addition to the small step under the doors, our observer would have noticed that the side panels had been raised in position when compared to the front and rear elevations. This was achieved by the addition of a small strip where each side panel joined the base of the prop. Both of these side strips were hidden behind somewhat deeper 'locating' bars which were fitted to the box's base - these larger bars can be seen in these pictures:

abominable publicity.jpg
war games.jpg

The addition of the small strip to each side panel had the effect of raising their heights when compared to the front and rear sides - such that there was now a slight mis-match in the heights of the corresponding elements of each side when compared to the same element on the front and rear. This mis-match can clearly be seen when comparing the cross-bars and sign boxes of the sides to those of the front (these are later pictures, but the fact holds true);

myphoto (25).jpg
The additional strip (previously hidden behind the 'locating bar') is clear in this shot from "The Mutants"
mutants tardis right side inc bolts.png

tony farrell

To sum up then, the May/June 1966 refit meant that the Police Box was now rectangular, the sides weren't as wide as the front and rear and were slightly higher in comparison, the front doors had simplified window frames, the lock had changed doors and the prop had been repainted in whole or in part!
I mentioned the roof's top tier. It has been argued - by Anthony Sibley among others - that because the Police Box prop was now rectangular, that the top section of the roof was replaced at the same time (otherwise, there would be gaps present between the tops of the side panels and the left and right sides of the roof).
These later pictures would seem to support that view:
myphoto (25).pngtardis_roof_early70s.jpg

Overhead views of the prop are rare (especially in the show's early days with heavy floor-mounted cameras) and, when seen, are only seen from a distance. This makes matters difficult. However, this grab from "The Ice Warriors" nicely illustrates my point. The gaps a new roof was supposedly constructed to hide are in fact still present -
ice warriors top of tardis construction.png

Now look at these pictures from "Terror of the Autons". The first were taken during location filming on 18.09.1970, whilst the third was taken during studio recordings for this story on 09.10.70:
terror of autons 7.pngterror of autons.pngterror of autons 2.png
Pay particular attention to the width of the roof's top tier - between location shooting and studio recording, it has become wider. Because of this, and because we can clearly see gaps a new roof was supposed to have corrected, I do not think the roof's top tier was replaced in 1966 at all. Rather, this particular change wasn't made until four years later!

tony farrell

I promised you plans, and plans you shall have. The first will be familiar to all but I've added one important measurement which had previously been omitted (shown in red for ease); the second is my version showing not only the 1966 alterations but also the retention of the roof's top tier at this stage in the prop's history:
brachaki refit 1.png

tony farrell

tony farrell

From my drawing, you'll see that I've mentioned not only the small step/ledge/sill fitted under the (reduced height) doors, but also the fitting a small restraining strips to either side of the front door frame. This is extremely difficult to see because it measures only 1/4" by 1/2" and sits immediately in front of the doors. Mostly it is obscured by shadows and/or poor picture definition.
Our observer first spotted this restraining strip whilst watching Curse of Peladon where the Tardis is about to topple off the side of Mount Megeshra!
(Incidentally, the last photo from Curse shows what a poor state of repair the under-door strip is in by this time.)

This 'discovery' prompted our observer to go on "a hunt" for other photographic evidence. Here is the right-hand door frame from Carnival of Monsters - and, the strip is just visible.
Looking back further, this is from Claws of Axos:
axos 5 tardis hinge.pngaxos 6 tardis hinge.png
The presence of the strip can just be made out in that the rebate for the top hinge is just visible behind it (compare that to the just-visible hinge rebate from Carnival).

Earlier pictures are not sufficiently clear but from the full-sized version of this photo (from "The Chase") and this from The Web Planet, it can clearly be seen that these restraining strips were not fitted in 1965. The only time the front doors were altered was 1966. So, it seems that these strips first appeared then but were insufficient to stop the doors swinging forward hence the fitting of the clover-leaf door stops a few weeks later.
zarbi tardis rear.jpg
myphoto (1).jpg

You'll also note that I've stated that (in the 1966 refit) only the front doors' window frames were simplified. Photos from "The Abominable Snowmen" and "Spearhead from Space" clearly show that the rear doors' window frames retained their drip sills (albeit with what now appears to be quadrant-shaped drip sills rather than square ones).
spearhead.pngspearhead rear doors 2.pngmyphoto (1).png

tony farrell

Following the 1966 refit, the next changes to the police Box prop appear to have taken place for the recording of "Evil of the Daleks" in April 1967:
Firstly, let me say, unlike the 1966 refit, it is not clear exactly when these changes took place: At this stage in the show's history, the episodes were being recorded just over a week before transmission (the studio recordings for each episode were made on the Friday of the previous week before Saturday's transmission). With such a tight production schedule, there was a considerable overlap between the filmed inserts and the video-taped part of each episode i.e., location filming for one story could be carried out in the same week that studio recording was taking place for another. This is no more true than for "The Faceless Ones" and "Evil of the Daleks" when the location footage for both stories, model filming for Evil and the destruction of the Emperor Dalek were all filmed more-or-less at the same time (20th April to May 17th 1967).
So, whilst the chronology of the 1967 changes is difficult, we can be more certain as to what exactly was changed.
First and foremost among these changes was the swapping of the phone panel to the right-hand (incorrect door). This can be clearly seen when the Tardis' presence is revealed in the Emperor Dalek's 'throne room'. The sign was to remain in this position until 1968's adventure "The Dominators".

abominable colour.jpg67590-doctor-who-the-abominable-snowmen-1-episode-screencap-5x5.jpg

To briefly return to the subject of the 'locating bars', these pictures offer us clear views of both sides of the prop. and show that these strips remained in place all the way through to Spearhead from Space (and can clearly be seen in the laboratory scenes behind Nick Courtney's left foot) - thus, incidentally, giving the lie to the suggestion that the base was lost by the time the Unit lab scenes were recorded. It may be true that the Tardis prop was mounted on a rostrum surrounded by black card, but the prop's base is very definitely still attached to the rest of the box!

abominable tardis right hand.jpgyeti.png
war games.jpg

spearhead tardis base.png

tony farrell

Below is my drawing of the April/May 1967 changes:Brachaki_refitted_box_all_sides_1967 evil of daleks.png
1967 front.png1967 side.png1967roof.png

tony farrell

As we can see, whilst the phone panel swapped doors, the April/May 1967 changes left the actual geometry/measurements of the Police Box prop unchanged from its 1966 (War Machines) refit.
The prop remained in this condition until 1968's "The Dominators" when the phone panel was restored to the correct door. For the next story - "The Mind Robber", the phone panel was dirtied down - receiving a coat of paint to tie the colour of the actual panel (not the frame) into the rest of the box.
mindrobber no handles.pngmindrobber.png.
The same cannot be said of the changes which were to follow in only the next couple of months! These changes will be discussed in part two of this topic which will cover the period from August 1968 to October 1970.

tony farrell

Apr 02, 2013, 05:22 pm #10 Last Edit: May 04, 2013, 01:55 pm by Scarfwearer
PART TWO - 1968 to 1970:
The recording of "The Mind Robber" was completed at Television Centre (Studio 3) on 19th July 1968 with the bulk of this episode being on film rather than the usual video-tape. There then followed a break in recording for the summer holidays. In order to buy themselves more time (i.e., to avoid a repetition of 1967's tight recording schedule), the decision was taken to hold back the transmission of both "The Dominators" and "The Mind Robber" until the autumn of that year.
The Police Box prop was therefore not required until 03.09.1968 for the de-materialisation scene at the end of "The Invasion". It would appear that during this summer recording break, the Police Box prop  was loaned out to the producers of the BBC anthology series "Out of the Unknown" for an episode entitled "Get Off My Cloud" which was, apparently, recorded between 8th and 30th August 1968.
Certainly, when we next see the prop on location for "The Invasion", it was proudly sporting two shiny chrome 'D' shaped handles - one on the left-hand side of the phone panel's frame,; the other was fitted at the same height on the right-hand front door. At this point I must - regrettably - disagree with the contents of The Mind Robber's website. On his site, the author of the Mind Robber's Tardis history states that the lock was also swapped back (to its pre-1966 refit) on the left-hand front door.
My understanding is that this assertion is based on this screen grab:

the invasion.png

I can understand this confusion as there does indeed seem to be something present in the position occupied by the original lock. However, when we compare this grab from "The Krotons" which was recorded after "The Invasion", we can clearly see that this "something" is, in fact, a scuff mark and the lock remained in the right-hand front door:
the krotons 6.png
the krotons.png

This grab from "The Invasion" reveals another interesting change to the Police Box prop which occurred at the same time as the two handles were fitted. The Tardis has at long last acquired a box surround for a telephone located behind the phone panel!

invasion 3.png

In this grab from "The Seeds of Death" we can see the inside of this telephone box:

seeds no phone panel.png

The Police Box prop was to remain in this configuration (original phone panel, on the correct door and with handles) for a mere two-and-a half months. By the time episode one of "The Seeds of Death" went before the cameras on 03.01.1969, the Police Box prop had undergone a terrible accident and a botched repair!

Next, a new phone panel sign, a new Doctor and the arrival of colour television!

tony farrell

Sometime between the completion of "The Krotons" on 13.12.1968 and the start of studio recording for the "Seeds of Death" on 03.01.69, the Police Box prop was the subject of a somewhat disastrous accident: Possibly as the result of it being fitted with a handle and therefore of an over-zealous stagehand's attempt to move the prop by its handles, the original 1963 phone panel was broken beyond repair. This left the Police Box with no phone panel at all for the recording of the first episode of Seeds (though it did retain the backing box for a telephone).
A new (much simpler - some would argue - cruder) phone panel was fashioned in time for the completion of "Seeds". This consisted of a simple plain dark blue panel (with a tiny - almost invisible - 'D' shaped 'finger-pull' handle on its left side) on which the "Pull to Open" sign detailing was written in a pale blue/grey text.
finger pull.png
In addition, at the same time as the original phone panel was lost, presumably as a result of it being split down for transportation, the prop lost its front left-hand side's quadrant as seen (or rather, as not seen) in this photo:
1_SeedsOfDeath (2) - Copy.jpg

The result of the loss of this front quadrant was to distort the shape of the box - now that the left-hand elevation was narrower than the right (albeit by only a 1/2"), the Police Box prop was, in fact, no longer rectangular but had become a trapezium! Though not terribly obvious, were our observer to have been present, he would have noticed that the entire left-hand side of the prop had been brought forwards to meet the front elevation - these photos from Seeds and Spearhead from Space very clearly show the loss of the front left quadrant.
seeds of death simplified sign.png

The Police Box prop was to remain in this configuration until "Terror of the Autons" in the autumn of 1970.

tony farrell

After "The War Games", the Police Box was next required for filming duties on 15th and 16th September 1969 - in the grounds of the Royal Horticultural Society's spectacular grounds at Wisley. (On a personal note, anyone that can go there, really should - I've used the word 'spectacular' quite deliberately.) Wisley's grounds doubled for the woodland in which the Tardis was first seen to materialise in glorious colour.
The Prop's poor state of repair by this time is quite obvious. As Jon staggers from his 'ship', he catches his leg on the closed left-hand door; not only does this door flex outwards but the whole box visibly buckles as well.
As an aside, I do not know whether the box for the phone was still present at this stage. All that is used in this story is the right-hand front door, so, conceivably the phone box could still have been present up to the September 1970 refit.  


The prop was next required for the scenes set in UNIT's HQ (which fictionally was underneath Charing Cross Station) and it is here that we see the final appearance of the Police Box's original base. I can only assume that its castors had come off during the previous week's outdoor shoot, as the base was now mounted atop a rostrum (in actual fact - were the castors to be missing - it would have made more sense for the prop to be simply placed on a pallet which could then be trundled into place). In any event, the base (complete with at least the left-hand 'locating bar'), whatever it was stood on, was still present.
The Police Box prop wasn't then needed until the start of filming of "Terror of the Autons" in September 1970. In what can now only be described as a dreadful state of repair, the base was missing altogether, bare wood is visible on the bottom edge of the right-hand side as is the appearance of rot immediately above the small strip that had been fitted in 1966;


unpainted bottom of side.jpg

terror of autons 7.png

terror of autons8.png

The last picture shows the replacement phone panel (fitted for Seeds) in its original colours. In the weeks after this photo was taken it, like the rest of the box - though oddly, not the front top sign box - received a thin coat of grey paint which considerably toned down the blue colour of the prop.

The location photos for "Terror" appear to have been taken midway through a planned refit of the Tardis prop - hardly the best choice for what were intended to be publicity shots to promote the programme's new stars Roger Delgado and Katy Manning - as, by the time the prop was next seen in the studio, it was the proud owner not only of a new base but also a new top tier for the roof (studio session 09.10.1970):

terror of autons 6.png

terror of autons3.png

terror of autons4.png

Brachaki_refitted_box_all_sides_terror of the autons.pngtardis 1.pngtardis 2.png

tony farrell

An additional drawing of the roof's top tier showing the 1963 to 1970 version and the replacement one fitted in September 1970.
roof dims after terror for comparison.png
Also, for comparison, the last televised appearance of the original roof's top tier in Spearhead (note the thin section on the bottom of the top-tier) and a close-up of its 1970 replacement.
spearhead top tier.png
frontier1 lamp.png

tony farrell

As our observer has noted, the replacement roof's top-tier was wider than the one it replaced. Careful study of the prop also reveals that this new roof was secured to the lower part of the prop by means of initially two (possibly three - three are definitely visible in later pictures) small flat brackets - one located on each of the shorter sides of the new top-tier (the left-hand fixing bracket was located approximately half way along this side whilst the one the right was immediately behind the front corner-post (the third bracket - when fitted - was fitted on the right-hand side immediately in front of the rear corner-post).

myphoto (25).pngmyphoto (35).png