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

From the screen grab from Pyramids, it's clear the roof lamp has lost its simple black cap. It's also clear that the Police Box prop is a somewhat darker and shinier blue than the 'Pertwee livery' seen in previous seasons. These changes took place in the recording break between the completion of "The Terror of the Zygons" and "Pyramids of Mars". (Though transmitted after it, Pyramids of Mars was recorded before Planet of Evil.)

The missing lamp cap is shown here:
planet of evil tardis left and front.jpg
Whilst the darker, shinier blue paintwork is, perhaps, more clear in this grab -
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One last significant change to Brachaki's original Police Box prop was also carried out during the recording break between seasons 12 and 13. The damage to the rear doors window frame not only appears to have been repaired (the Perspex appears to be one colour indicating the dropped pane seen in Spiders had been refitted), but, it is at this point that the prop's rear doors were at long last rehung to open inwards!


tony farrell

The Police Box prop's lamp didn't get a new circular cap until "The Android Invasion" - it may, for this story only, have been fitted with a fresnel lense, the photographs aren't clear. In the same story, it was also fitted with a new 'lock' for the Ankh key.

But in comparison to the repair work carried out in the recording break between seasons 12 and 13, these were minor changes.

Comparing these photos of the prop, from before and after the inter-season refit, shows just how extensive the repair work was (N.B., the rear doors were also rehung to open inwards at this time):

seed doom.pngseeds doom 3.pngseeds of doom tardis right and rear with notes.jpg

It has been argued that, by season 13, the Brachaki Police Box was in such a poor state of repair that its retirement was now inevitable - there are even rumours that the roof collapsed on Elisabeth Sladen during filming of Seeds of Doom. But, is this really the truth?
If the prop was destined to be retired, why go to all the trouble (and expense) of replacing structural parts of the box like the right-hand side's lowest panel and the section above the front sign-box? Why go to the trouble, too, of refitting two of the sign-boxes as well as replacing the right-hand side's fixing brackets/roof hinges? It's clear in the screen-grab from "Spiders" these were broken but were repaired or replaced in the refit between seasons 12 and 13.

The use here of the term 'hinges' needs to be qualified. Our observer first noticed these after the roof's top tier had been replaced in the autumn of 1970. Clearly (as this grab from "Colony in Space" shows), the addition of the hinges/brackets was an after-thought:
colony tardis side.png
and, not for the first time, the top tier was simply balanced on the rest of the prop. Our observer has previously noted that (since the loss of the left-hand side's quadrants) the Police Box prop was no longer rectangular. The use of hinges as securing brackets would compensate for the difference in shapes between the rectangular roof's top tier and the irregular shape of the box beneath; i.e., the 'hinges' providing the 'give' or 'slack' that rigid brackets wouldn't provide.

As an aside, how precisely was a roof (which is now clearly attached at three points to the lower part of the prop) supposed to have collapsed on top of Elisabeth Sladen when previously the almost un-secured roof (clearly visible in the earlier photos) managed quite happily to stay in place?

tony farrell

In short, the decision to retire Peter Brachaki's original Police Box prop at the end of the recording of "The Seeds of Doom" in 1975 doesn't seem to be anything to do with the prop's supposed deterioration - it was (to borrow a phrase) precisely what it had always been, Terrance Dick's "battered blue box".

The decision to retire Brachaki's Police Box appears to have been purely artistic; a continuing 'darker' emphasis to the programme, a wooden (Edwardian-style) control room and a new Tardis exterior were all part of the Hinchcliffe/Holmes vision for 1976 and beyond.

no clovers war machines.pngsmugglers1.png
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The end?


Perhaps......perhaps not.

tony farrell

The final television appearance of Peter Brachaki's original Police Box prop was in Seeds of Doom. However this doesn't mark the end of the Brachaki prop. Placed in storage after filming duties, the prop's last confirmed appearance was in this rather sad 1977 picture:
Viewed from the rear, it is clear just what a battered state she was in after nearly two years in storage - the left-hand side's windows have been lost, the roof is missing as are the small strips above the sign-boxes. And, to add insult to injury, the rear left-side corner post (behind the Dalek's eye-stalk) looks like it has been attacked with a large hammer!
The history of the Police Box prop is difficult to trace from this time onwards. However, the following posts may shed some light on matters. These posts are reproduced here with the kind permission of Purpleblancmange:
Thus, it can be seen that Brachaki's original Police Box prop was in existence until at least 1983 - some six years after the last-known photograph.
This doesn't seem to be the end of the story: Again, according to Purpleblancmange, it was intended that the prop should be restored for the 1983 Longleat Convention/Celebration.  According to Purple, this restoration work was started but, for some reason, not completed. In the event, the Newbery box was used for the Longleat event instead.
After this date and into the 1990s, four or five Police Box props appear to have been held by the BBC at Television Centre - the two TYJ props, the 30 Years in the Tardis prop, the Newbery prop and one other. In 1993 - or thereabouts -  several props were auctioned-off by the BBC: The TYJ (mark 1) box is currently owned by a Mr Beech, the 30 Years prop is also in private hands as is the Newbery box whilst the TYJ (mark 2) box has been refurbished and is currently at the Dr Who Exhibition in Cardiff. This leaves only one Police Box prop unaccounted for - the Brachaki original!
According to Markofrani, the last confirmed sighting of the Brachaki prop was at about the same time as the other props were being auctioned-off (so, 1993). The prop appears to have been broken down into its component parts and marked for disposal.

Does 1993 mark the prop's final and total demise?

The honest answer is, I don't know: But, we do know, for example, that the giant fly (from The Green Death) was rescued from a skip and is in private hands. Had I been present in 1993 and seen the Brachaki prop marked-up for disposal, I'd have asked if I could save the BBC the cost of a skip and taken her home with me.

Battered, bruised and broken, perhaps someone did take pity on her....... Only time will tell; it always does in the end!