Although many things change in the world of Doctor Who – actors, companions, time periods and even universes – one thing that's remained the same since the very first episode is the iconic TARDIS with its police box disguise


However, in the 1990s, the TARDIS was almost changed forever as 1996 TV Movie producer Philip Segal had to fight executives or risk the police box’s erasure forever.

Speaking to ahead of the release of new documentary Doctor Who Am I about the legacy of the film, Segal elaborated on what Fox and Universal had in mind: "They said, 'We don’t want a police box for his spaceship.' What they wanted they simply described as 'something new, fresh, and different'. They never had an actual idea!"

The police box appearance of the Type 40 TARDIS has been a day-one staple of the series, from its first appearance in An Unearthly Child all the way into the modern day. While TARDISes can take whatever form needed to blend into a planet’s culture, the Doctor’s TARDIS has a faulty chameleon circuit which resulted in it being permanently stuck as a 1960s police box, common at the time of the show’s conception.

The disguise has become so synonymous with Doctor Who that the BBC actually owns the trademark of the police box design - but given Segal’s reinvention of Doctor Who was American-orientated, it’s not massively surprising executives sought to create their own icons.

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So what did Segal do? "I obviously had to fight for the TARDIS. I explained to them that the police box was actually invented by Americans in New York City before the concept went to London - which is actually true! So, once they realised it was an American invention, they left me alone."

Though the US executives might've backed off once they realised the Doctor was technically operating a piece of classic American history, it’s undeniable that the blue time-travelling police box will always be known as a British icon first and foremost.

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Doctor Who Am I is released in UK cinemas on 27th October, and on Blu-ray, DVD & digital download from 28th November.

Doctor Who is available to stream on BBC iPlayer with episodes of the classic series also available on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here. Check out more of our Sci-Fi coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.


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