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

Our observer cannot be sure but, these brackets might even have been hinged - thereby allowing the roof to be 'closed' into place rather like the hinged lid of a storage box.
Because of the positioning of the prop in the corner next to the laboratory's wall (a position it was to consistently occupy in all scenes set inside the fictional UNIT HQ from now on), our observer cannot see the rear of the prop and so, is unable to check whether the rear doors' window sills are still present at this stage in the Police Box's history. (He makes a mental note to check this when he next can.)
Nevertheless, an increased distortion in the basic shape of the prop is evident - the newly fitted roof is clearly rectangular and its front (wider face) has been aligned above the front elevation of the Police Box prop so that the two faces are parallel (the characteristic recess above the front sign box is still very much in evidence) and the replacement roof meets the front elevation immediately above the rear of the front's inner corner-post quadrants.    
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At the front, the roof and box below are clearly parallel but as our observer looks towards the rear of the prop, it is evident that the new roof section increasingly overhangs the rest of the box below. Though not terribly obvious - we're only talking about a half-inch difference - the deeper shadow under the roof's top tier towards the rear of the prop shows this uneven overhang:

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In this later picture, the uneven overhang is more obvious...
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Tony Farrell

The reason for the uneven overhang becomes clearer by the time "Colony in Space" was recorded. In the final part of this story, the Tardis is brought into the colonists' dome and the left-hand side of the Police Box can now be seen:
colony tardis side 2a.png
The rear corner post (on the left in this grab) appears to be wider than the front corner post (on the right). At first sight, this might appear to be because the rear corner-post quadrant is still present (as it was after the "Seeds of Death" refit and as it was for "Spearhead from Space") spearhead rear door knob.png
However, this grab from "The Mutants" shows this rear corner of the prop and the quadrant had definitely been removed by this stage):

mutants tardis side with bolts.png
Though obscured by the colonist, the quadrant doesn't seem to be present in Colony in Space -
myphoto (19).png and, though in semi-darkness, the quadrant also doesn't seem to be present when Peladon was recorded. Here is a brightened screen grab:
peladon lightened.png
The quadrant appears therefore to have been removed during the September 1970 refit - at the same time that the Police Box acquired its new top and base!

Tony Farrell

"The Curse of Peladon" brings us to the next change the Brachaki prop was to undergo: for the remainder of Pertwee's tenure as the Doctor, the Tardis was to sport a somewhat vivid blue 'livery'.
The last time our observer had seen the Police box prop was for the recording of "Claws of Axos" by which time the 1970 refit of the prop had been completed - the original lamp housing now being fitted. Curiously, even though the rest of the prop had been given a grey wash (partly, perhaps, to tone in the replacement roof and base in with the remainder of the prop; partly, perhaps, to avoid a clash between the colour of the prop and the then new 'Colour Separation Overlay' (CSO) or 'Chromakey' technology of which producer Barry Letts was an advocate), the front sign box (over the doors) retained the blue paintwork last seen in Spearhead:
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By the time the prop was required for Peladon, the whole box was this vivid blue - it is interesting to note that whenever it was required against a CSO screen from this time on, the colour of the CSO screen was yellow, perhaps providing a greater contrast in colour was thought to have achieved better results when applying the CSO effect. (CSO works by 'blinding' one camera to a colour - typically blue, green or yellow. The resulting 'blank' can then be electronically filled with the image from another.)

In addition to a vivid blue box, the phone panel was also repainted at (or about) this time. Though not clear in Peladon, this transformed the phone panel from a grey-ish blue to a dark slate grey. The loss of the bottom part of the letter 'S' (as in "respond to urgent calls") shows that the phone panel sign wasn't replaced or even repainted in full, but, rather that the existing lettering had simply been painted around in this darker colour. This is from "The Three Doctors":

3drs pat by sign3.png

Tony Farrell

Even allowing for picture distortion from the screen grab, it is evident that the sign retains part of its original 1969 blue/grey background especially around the lettering in the central area. It also appears that when the box was re-painted in the more vivid blue, the phone panel wasn't removed but simply painted around - as evidenced by the lighter blue at its bottom right!
The opening scenes of "Curse of Peladon" - where the Tardis lands on and promptly falls off Mount Megeshra - were filmed at Ealing on 16/17th Decemeber 1971; our observer is, for once, afforded a glimpse of the inside of the Police Box prop:
peladon3.png

Tony Farrell

When Peter Brachaki designed the Police Box prop, even though he didn't slavishly copy the design of the Metropolitan Police Boxes, he clearly wished to invoke their spirit - even to the extent of choosing different textures for the 'glass' panes in the front doors' windows (to mimic the different colours/textures of glass in the real Police Boxes):
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The 1966 refit saw the simplification of the front doors' window frames and the replacement of the different types of 'glass' in these windows with one uniformly textured piece.
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At the same time, the decision seems to have been made to blank off the front and rear doors' windows with black boards fitted to the inside of each doors' windows.
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Oddly - perhaps to enable the actors to see whilst inside the prop - the side elevations' windows were not blanked-off and light is clearly visible through these side windows:
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Whilst uniformly textured 'glass' was fitted to the rest of the prop, one of the front doors' original (differently textured 'glass') window panes was retained after the 1966 refit and was fitted to the right-hand side's window nearest the front of the box.
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It is this window that is visible through the open door seen in Peladon and the contrast in the different textures of glass used is clearly visible in this grab from "Carnival of Monsters":
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Tony Farrell

Whilst not clear from the grabs, the scene where the Tardis rocks backwards before falling from Mount Megeshra, when viewed 'in motion', clearly shows the inside of this retained window 'glass' and also shows it flapping as the box is tilted backwards and forwards - it is clear therefore that the pane is separate from the frame and apparently was fixed to the rear of the frame along its top edge.

Interestingly, the construction of this remaining original window pane is also revealed - the upper row of panes and the central lower one being made from one piece of clear glass/Perspex whilst the two contrasting panes (bottom right and left) were separate from the rest of the window and were made from textured glass/Perspex. The whole assembly appears to be mounted in a thin frame - and it is this frame which is seen 'flapping' in the Peladon materialisation scene.
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Tony Farrell

Between the recording of "The Curse of Peladon" and "Frontier in Space", no further changes to the Police Box prop seem to have been made. Though, by the time Frontier went before the cameras, it is clear that the rear doors' window frames had lost their drip sills as these grabs indicate:
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Whilst it cannot be proved - it appears that the rear doors windows' drip sills, which had survived all the way from 1963, were finally removed either during the September 1970 refit or when the Police Box prop was repainted for Peladon, simplified window frames being fitted to match those of the front doors!
These grabs from "The Time Monster" (thanks to Jonathan/Markofrani) are interesting in that they show the unpainted underneath of the new base fitted in 1970. They also show that in righting the Police Box prop, the left-hand sign box was broken - the Perspex lettered panel being pushed inside the box.

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In part three of this topic the final alterations to the prop will be discussed - a sheet of hardboard, a crude repair and it's curtains for two of "The Three Doctors"!

Tony Farrell

Apr 10, 2013, 03:33 pm #22 Last Edit: May 04, 2013, 01:54 pm by Scarfwearer
PART THREE - 1972 The Three Doctors refit:
Doctor Who's tenth season was dominated - in more ways than one - by the production of the anniversary story "The Three Doctors"; Patrick Troughton's work commitments meant that the season wasn't recorded in the order it was transmitted and that The Three Doctors (though transmitted first) was recorded after Carnival of Monsters and Frontier in Space. Matters are further confused by the fact that the closing scenes of Frontier (where Jo helps the Doctor into the Tardis) were recorded as part of episode one of "Planet of the Daleks"; this small change, in itself, caused a continuity error in that two different sides of the Police Box prop are seen - clearly the Tardis is capable of not only of revolving in space but also on the spot as well!

So, the recording order for season ten was as follows:
Carnival of Monsters (recorded immediately after The Time Monster as part of the previous recording block)
Frontier in Space
The Three Doctors
Planet of the Daleks
The Green Death
(and The Time Warrior - which was recorded in the same production block but transmitted as the opening story of season eleven).

The 'out of sequence' recording leads to a case of "now you see it, now you don't" when it comes to the changes that were made to the Police Box prop for the recording of "The Three Doctors".

Tony Farrell

These screen grabs are from Carnival, Frontier and The Three Doctors respectively
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and show the crude strengthening work which was carried out to the Police Box prop's lower right-hand side; a much taller bottom cross-rail which spanned the entire width of the side-panel having been fitted.
Our observer had previously noted the appearance of rot on the bottom edge of this panel - see Terror of the Autons refit - and wonders if the latest repair was forced on the production team due to the rot having spread further up this panel.
The other changes to the prop made for The Three Doctors are not so obvious. As well as repairs to the right-hand side, the left-hand panel received a similar but much better executed repair with the addition of a small square strip which spanned the width of this panel.
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The addition of the left-hand side's strip can be seen behind Sgt. Benton's gun strap and is much clearer in this grab from "Planet of the Spiders":
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Tony Farrell

In addition to the strengthening work carried out, two further changes to the prop were made during "The Three Doctors" refit. These are not easy to see in this actual story:
In 1970, a new base had been fitted to the prop; this was made up from two parts - a base 'plate' and a 'skirting' section which hides the castors

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The join where the skirting meets the base-plate is clearly visible in this scene from Carnival:
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but in this grab has been hidden by what appears to be a simple section of blue-painted hardboard
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(Bearing in mind that this scene from Frontier was recorded as part of Planet of the Daleks - i.e., immediately after The Three Doctors - it clearly shows that this hardboard section was added at the same time as the other changes were made.) This photo from "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" shows this new section clearly and also shows that it had been added to the base's front only:
 invasion of dinosaurs 4.png

Tony Farrell

The final change to the prop carried out during "The Three Doctors" is even harder to see than the addition to the prop's base. The Tardis again occupies its usual corner in the UNIT laboratory and, as such, it isn't possible to see its left-hand side. However, as our observer noted in Peladon, the last remaining original two-tone window pane (located on the left-hand side nearest the front) was visibly loose. This window pane was still present in Carnival
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but had definitely been replaced with a single uniformly textured pane by the recording of "The Time Warrior" as seen in this screen-grab:
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In addition, these grabs from Carnival and Warrior make the loss of the last remaining 1963 window pane clear:carnival9.pngtime warrior1.png
In addition to the strengthening work to the prop's sides and the addition of the new section to the base's front, the final change to the Police Box prop, carried out in November 1972, was the removal of the last remaining original 1963 window pane. Note, the sides of the Police Box retained their original (1963) window frames (complete with drip sills), it was only the glass/perspex panes which were replaced.

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I've summarised these changes in diagram form here as -apart from subsequent alterations to the lamp and the later re-fitting of the rear doors so that they opened inwards - Brachaki's original Police Box prop had now achieved her final form.3drs rearand left.png3rs front and right.png

Tony Farrell

Discussions of "The Three Doctors" refit wouldn't be complete without mention of the rear doors:
In various scenes throughout "The Three Doctors", large numbers of people are seen exiting the Tardis (this is particularly true of episode four where both Doctors, Jo, the Brig, Sgt Benton, Dr Tyler and Mr Ollis all leave the Police Box and enter Omega's Singularity Chamber). Clearly either the Police box was actually bigger on the inside, was particularly crowded or the prop's rear doors were used!
This photo shows the UNIT laboratory and shows how the wall behind the Police Box prop had been 'opened' to act as a door for the actors to enter the rear of the prop

 3drs tardis right.png
The yellow CSO screen should also be noted. The fact that we cannot see the rear doors of the Tardis, has been interpreted that the rear doors were altered to open inwards for this story. Certainly, as this screen-grab shows, the rear doors were present in episode two of this story - the yellow screen can also be seen through the lab's windows:

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But, this grab shows that the rear doors were opened slightly outwards. For the next story recorded - Planet of the Daleks - it is clear that the rear doors still opened outwards:


3drs tardis rear sill.pngplanet3 rear door out.pngplanet3 rear door.png

Why hang the rear doors so that they open inwards for episode four of "The Three Doctors" only to rehang them a few weeks later so that they open outwards (as they always had)? The answer lies in the yellow screen visible behind the laboratory set.
Here we see both Doctors exit the Police Box prop:
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The yellow CSO screen is visible through the prop's rear opening. Here is the scene as the Tardis crew enter the Singularity Chamber:
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It is clear that the Police Box has been fitted with a curtain and, far from the doors being rehung to open inwards, they weren't present at all! (Eepisodes 1 and 2 of "The Three Doctors" were recorded on 27th/28th November 1972 in Television Centre Studio 1 (TC1) whilst episodes 3 and 4 were taped on 11th and 12th December in TC6). So, the rear doors were removed for the second studio session only and were rehung immediately after this.

Tony Farrell

As we've seen, during the recording of Planet of the Daleks, the Police Box prop was sprayed with Jabolite - a forerunner of today's expanding polyurethane foam - the removal of which seems to have resulted in considerable damage to the phone panel. This damage/staining can be seen in the next story, "The Green Death":
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The final story to be made for the tenth recording block was "The Time Warrior" which was recorded between 7th May and 23rd June 1973. Again, the staining and damage to the phone panel is evident - there is a large chip along its bottom edge which, presumably, was caused when chiselling off the filler after the recording of Planet of the Daleks.

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This was to be a short-lived change as, by the time the next story - "The Invasion of the Dinosaurs" - the panel was to have been repainted.
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Whilst the first episode of this story has been re-coloured and, therefore too much reliance on the accuracy of the colours should be avoided, it is clear that the phone panel has been repainted since the previous story.
In this picture the newly repainted phone panel sign can clearly be distinguished from its predecessor by the white lettering on a much 'cleaner' slate grey/black background; a comparison between the pictures of Sarah leaving the Police Box in The Time Warrior and that of General Finch from Invasion of the Dinosaurs shows that it is still the same panel - the same piece of wood (below the words "pull to open") is missing in both:
 invasion of dinosaurs3.png

These later pictures are from "The Android Invasion" and "Planet of Evil" and show a blistering or bubbling on the phone panel's surface; this 'bubbling' - evident on the bottom of the phone panel - may indicate that the renewed lettering, used from Invasion of the Dinosaurs onwards, was in fact a printed 'transfer':
 android3.pngplanet of evil2.png

Tony Farrell

As we've seen, for "Invasion of the Dinosaurs", following damage incurred in "Planet of the Daleks", the phone panel sign was renewed. This photo is interesting in that it not only shows that the Police Box prop retained its (Three Doctors) edging strip on the base's front but a small cable had been fitted through a hole in the rear right-hand side's lowest panel (our observer makes a note to follow this up later). In addition, the lamp housing had now lost one of its supporting struts:

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The DVD shows the Invasion of the Dinosaurs photos as being taken on 15th and 16th October 1973. By the time "Death to the Daleks" was recorded (less than a month later on 13.11.1973), the damage to the lamp housing had worsened with the domed cap now being broken off completely!

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The last appearance of the lamp's housing - first fitted for "The Web Planet" - came during the filmed sequences for "Monster of Peladon" made between 14th and 18th January 1974 at Ealing.
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Tony Farrell

The next story (Planet of the Spiders), marked not only Jon Pertwee's final appearance as the Doctor but also the appearance of a new much simpler roof lamp. The lamp housing had now been removed to be replaced by a simple circular black cap atop the plastic cylinder. This simplified arrangement was to remain in place throughout the programme's twelfth season but, by the time of the start of the thirteenth, the lamp's new black cap was lost.

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In addition, by the time of planet of the Spiders, further deterioration of Brachaki's Police Box prop was evident - chief of which was the broken rear door's window frame and damaged front sign-box:
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Whilst not clear from this grab, further damage was also evident in that the left-hand side's rear window pane was also cracked and its frame was badly buckled. Our observer not only notes that the prop's rear doors still opened outwards but also thinks that the Perspex window pane in the rear door furthest away from us has dropped down in its frame exposing the backing board behind it:

Spidersprop1.jpg

With the introduction of Tom Baker, the recording of "Robot" (completed in June 1974) brought Dr Who's eleventh production block to a close. The twelfth production block - like the tenth season - was recorded in a different order to that transmitted. Though transmitted second and last respectively, "Ark in Space" and "Revenge of the Cybermen" were, in fact recorded 'back-to-back' after "The Sontaran Experiment". As such, apart from a brief appearance at the end of "Terror of the Zygons" (recorded last in this block),
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the Police Box prop only appeared at the start and end of the Ark/Revenge stories. On both these occasions, the prop's right-hand side can be seen; our observer notes the presence of the cable's little hole - as seen in Invasion of the Dinosaurs - though the cable has been removed. Our observer also notes that this side's sign-box had also been painted black which helped obscure the damage to this sign-box which was evident in the picture with John Bennett from "Invasion of the Dinosaurs".
(Our observer also notes that - unusually - the right-hand windows have been blanked-out for the materialisation scene in "Ark in Space".)
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Because only the right-hand side of the prop is visible, our observer cannot see whether the damaged left-hand window frame (seen in Spiders) has been repaired but, when he is next able to check (in Pyramids of Mars), the cracked window pane seen in Spiders is still present though the buckled frame has been straightened.
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