REVIEW: TARDIS Type 40 Instruction Manual

Now that we’ve seen the new TARDIS inside and out, the ‘TARDIS Type 40 Instruction Manual’ shows us the ghost of consoles past.

The TARDIS Type 40 Instruction Manual by Mike Tucker, Richard Atkinson and Gavin Rymill hit shelves on 18th October 2018. Shortly after the new interior design was revealed in ‘The Ghost Monument‘. Penguin Random House didn’t even unveil the cover – which features the new console – until after the episode had aired. With so much done to protect the secrets of the TARDIS, what other insights can this book give us?

Whoniversally Speaking…

The idea of the TARDIS’s instruction manual has been a running joke both on and off the series. Both the Fourth and Sixth Doctors disagreed with it. Until, by the Doctor’s Eleventh incarnation, he’d lobbed it into a supernova. But a new TARDIS means new controls and what better way for the Doctor to get acquainted than a refreshed and updated edition?

Image by Fio Trethewey –


Mike Tucker should need no introduction. He worked as a visual effects assistant in the twilight years of the classic series only to return as model unit supervisor for the dawning years of New Who. Not only that, he’s a prolific writer who’s penned innumerable Doctor Who books and audios. Meaning it’s quite likely we’ll run into him again in a future review. Richard Atkinson is an illustrator, designer and writer. Gavin Rymill is a 3D sculptor whose work includes, among other things, the Doctor Who Figurine Collection.

Though very different in style and design, the book shares some similarities with the range of novelty Haynes Manuals for TV and movie vehicles. The Haynes Owner’s Workshop Manual series started in 1960, publishing detailed guides on the maintenance and repair of over 300 models of car. In recent years, spin-offs have dealt with a more tongue-in-cheek breakdown of everything from the Millennium Falcon to Thomas the Tank Engine. The TARDIS Manual is not part of the Haynes range, but it’d be hard not to notice the inspiration. In fact, the language of the book is so reminiscent of this sort of manual that I worry some younger readers will find it a bit too dry to follow. But the visuals more than make up for this.


So you have a book in the style of a workshop manual created by writers and artists with history in the show’s look. Of course the book is brimming with images! Some of them are your expected stills from the series and publicity photos, but there’s plenty more behind-the-scenes treats. Immediately you meet the Contents page set against a model shot of the TARDIS in the snow from ‘The Tenth Planet‘. The book contains more Easter eggs than a supermarket in January, including some seemingly lost gems of behind-the-scenes shots. But there are plenty of obscure shoutouts in the text as well. Dozens of seldom-mentioned TARDIS systems, components and protocols get worked in. Not to mention some attempts to reconcile apparent contradictions in the ship’s operations. Since it focuses on the Doctor’s TARDIS as a case study, it’d be easy to just say “it’s broken”. Instead, Tucker and friends have been much more inventive in their explanations. Plus it appeals to this Seventh Doctor fanboy by putting the hypothetical ‘Season 27’ console, designed by Tucker himself, into canon. This warms my Zeiton crystals.


Since this book is more of a reference guide, it doesn’t have a story as such. But it’s written from an in-Universe perspective, treating the Doctor, the TARDIS and all their adventures together as real. The ‘Case Studies’ section looks at past stories, as told from the perspective of a warranty-conscious manufacturer. Despite this, the writers have integrated dozens of subtle references to the real-world production and the effect it had on the TARDIS. The reason the police box size changes? That’s there. Why Susan claimed to have invented the acronym in ‘An Unearthly Child’? Dealt with. The shifting interior designs? I could go on…

Rymill’s Renderings

Gavin Rymill has put his 3D design skills to excellent use with detailed CG models of each console room. Each design is rendered in glorious detail, even the dreaded Washing-Up Bowl chic from ‘The Time Monster‘. Plus the secondary console room – so often overlooked – is given some much needed attention with a lovingly-crafted model. The level of detail in these graphics is exquisite and could only have been the result of an incredible amount of hard work that has paid off incredibly well.
But the absolute stand-out to me has to be the realisation of Missy’s TARDIS. Never seen on screen, his take on the Master’s ship neatly fuses various bits of the Doctor’s console room from down the years while keeping the aesthetic consistent. With the whole thing draped in purple, it’s immediately recognisable as the way the ‘Mary Poppins’ style Master would deck out her control room. Fittingly, this sits alongside a rendering of the Rani’s TARDIS which nicely contrasts the two evil Time Ladies. That said, I was a bit disappointed that the 3D renderings don’t go further than the War Doctor’s TARDIS and the rest are delivered with stills from the show. The renderings are so clean and detailed that the photos seem a bit blurred and grubby by comparison.

Continuity Cross-Sections

For continuity completists, this book will appeal to anyone who wants detailed examinations of every tiny component. I absolutely loved the 3D cross-sections of the various consoles. Especially showing what’s going on under the hood of the original console design and how it extends down into the bowels of the ship. The gents behind the book have clearly enjoyed the opportunity to break down the design, invent new names for components and dig obscure references out of continuity. But this isn’t just done for the 3D models… There’s also a plethora of wireframe cross-sections that have been used for one-off gadgets and machines linked to the ship. Such as the tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator, the radiation detector or force field generator. Since the series itself has mentioned the tiny changes to the police box exterior, you won’t be surprised that the book addresses too. As if to appeal directly to Clayton Hickman, the authors have included schematics and comparisons of each exterior. Including samples of each varying shades of blue the box has been. Not sure if anyone except the incredibly eagle-eyed fans are going to get anything out of this addition. But since it’s a manual about the TARDIS it fits the book pretty well.

Eccleston & Tennant

The book does a tremendous job exploring every facet of the TARDIS over the classic series. As well as the Thirteenth Doctor’s redesign and the one that preceded it. However, I couldn’t help notice the book skims over the Eccleston/Tennant design and Matt Smith’s original console. For fans who joined in 2005, these are fondly remembered consoles and their absence feels like a gap. They’re heavily featured in the Case Studies section, which emphasises how under-explored they are in the rest of the book. Admittedly, the haphazard way these controls were depicted may have made it too complex for the team to write about and render. But it still seems strange.


While similar in tone to the Haynes Manuals, this is far from being simply a novelty. Though, as mentioned earlier, the pseudo-technical tone may not really click with younger readers, the visuals will still keep them entertained. This is an essential read for anyone who wants to learn more about the best ship in the Universe both on and offscreen! Doctor Who: TARDIS Type 40 Instruction Manual is available to buy now.


  1. […] In Dawson’s attempts to cram an action-packed story and exploration of some delicate themes, The Good Doctor borders on busy. There’s not a lot of time for our heroes to stop and breathe. But it’s effective in maintaining a consistent tension. In the right mood, you’re hooked throughout but it’s not a story to relax with. Most people, but kids especially, will adore the action and the comedy from Graham and the Temple Brothers. It may also deliver an important lesson on thinking critically on tradition and beliefs, which is always a good thing. Overall, a satisfying if a little overwhelming adventure for Team TARDIS. […]

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