Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (TV story)

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Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS was the tenth episode of series 7 of Doctor Who.

It was the first time a TARDIS room other than a console room or corridor had been seen on television since The Christmas Invasion re-introduced the TARDIS wardrobe. It afforded by far the most expansive view of the TARDIS interior since the 1996 tele-film.

As a child, Steven Moffat was disappointed with the way the inside of a TARDIS was depicted in part 6 of The Invasion of Time. As a result, Moffat "challenged" Steve Thompson, who also found The Invasion of Time "wanting" as a kid, to explore the TARDIS interior "more effectively" than The Invasion of Time. (TEDW 2)

The story reveals more about the TARDIS, such as what happens when it is badly "wounded"; as everyone in the TARDIS finds out, time leaks of the past and possible future can cause illusions of people and potential versions of them to appear. However, the potential versions are actually tangible, as they have the chance to exist, while the past can't interact with the present. Voices of the past can also be heard, such as when Bram explores the control room; various Doctors and companions can be heard speaking.

As important to the series' narrative arc, it also contained the first instance of the Doctor confronting Clara about her multiple lives and deaths.


The Doctor's TARDIS is captured by brothers running a salvage company in space. In the process, Clara gets lost inside the time machine. To save her, the Eleventh Doctor promises the brothers they can have the TARDIS if they'll help search for his missing companion. They agree, only to find that what lies at the centre of the TARDIS can kill them all.


The android Tricky is polishing a part inside the Van Baalen Bros. salvage ship when the system alerts him and Bram that there is salvage to be verified. Tricky says there is something "tasty" in range of the magno grab; on their scanner screen is the TARDIS in flight. Bram believes that it's just space junk, but his brother Gregor wants to go for it anyway, believing it may hold some equipment worth value. They suit up.

Meanwhile, the Eleventh Doctor insists Clara should bond with the TARDIS to help the two get over this adversity that it feels towards her. Though Clara flatly refuses to talk to a piece of machinery, she does agree to try flying it. To make it easier, the Doctor puts the TARDIS into Basic Mode, momentarily insulting Clara, who believes this is because she's a woman. She flips some levers and suddenly, the ship shudders, losing then regaining power, and the music that the Van Baalen ship had been playing starts to play.

The scanner screen cracks and shudders, and the Doctor starts to work the controls more frantically. He can't get the shields up, and the salvage ship's magno-grab nearly has them. The Doctor forces a lever up, and something in the TARDIS console explodes, throwing them both back. Clara asks him to tell her that there's a button he can press to fix it. He says, "Oh, yes, big, friendly button." Clara asks if he's lying to make her feel better, and he is. A hand-sized metal object rolls towards Clara, who picks it up. It burns her right hand, and she drops it.

The machinery of the salvage ship pulls the TARDIS into a bay, and, believing it to be a derelict escape pod, the brothers attempt to cut into it, but are unsuccessful. Tricky's bionic eyes pick up signs of a living being — a pair of shoes sticking out from under the wreckage, which belong to the Doctor. They withdraw, ashamed that they have just killed someone; Gregor tells the other two keep quiet about this, and that the story will be that the occupant was already dead when they found the ship. The Doctor pops in, saying it's not polite to whisper. Bram contends that they found his ship adrift, but the Doctor immediately corrects him: an illegal Magno-grab broke his ship. He shows them that he found the remote to the Magno-grab in Gregor's pocket.

The Doctor goes on to explain that the TARDIS would have been able to deflect the magnet normally, but since it was in Basic Mode, the shields were not up. The Doctor suddenly realises that Clara is still inside, so he bolts for the TARDIS. Tricky stops him, telling him that the fuel is leaking and poisonous fumes would have likely done Clara in. The Doctor spots respirators then talks the salvage crew into going with him, promising the salvage of a lifetime within the ship. Gregor agrees to open the doors for a split second to pull Clara out, but the Doctor tells him that it won't be that simple.

Inside the TARDIS, the Cloister Bell sounds. Clara awakens in a corridor, having been knocked unconscious, and checks the hand that was burned. Trying get back to the console room, she comes to a door with a red light, but when she opens it, flames gush out and she is forced to run down the corridor to escape. Moving around the TARDIS, Clara hears a growling noise. She takes refuge in a storage room containing a cot and a small model of a police box, along with an umbrella with a bamboo handle used by one of the Doctor's past lives.

In the console room, the Doctor is amused by the reaction of the others to the size of the TARDIS; he explains to them that the TARDIS is infinite and thus bigger than any ship the trio can imagine. He uses fans to vent the gas and smoke from the room. As they all take off their respirators, he tells the others that he needs them to help find Clara. They initially refuse, but he tells them he has activated the TARDIS self-destruct. Locking the doors so they can't leave, he informs them that the "salvage of a lifetime" he referred to was not the ship, but Clara.

To avoid the source of the growling noise, Clara runs through the TARDIS, passing by the swimming pool and observatory. Finding herself in the library, she discovers a large book entitled The History of the Time War. Flipping through a few pages, she pauses and reads something, muttering to herself "So that's who..." She then hears the growling noise again and hides behind a bookshelf. She knocks over some glass containers labelled Encyclopedia Gallifreya, which spills liquid that release recorded words. The source of the growling - a dark, "zombie-like" creature - runs past her. Her hand continues to ache from the burn, but she sees the burn marks slowly resolving into letters.

In the corridors, Gregor manages to get the Doctor to agree to having them split up to find Clara; however, he goes back on his word by telling Bram to go start taking the console apart, while the Doctor and Tricky search for Clara. During the search, Gregor's scanner finds something of such value that it cannot have a price put on it, and is described as everything he could possibly want; he enters the room containing this prize, finding glowing orbs attached to cables forming a makeshift tree. He goes to detach one of the orbs but is caught by the Doctor, who tells him not to do so. When asked what the room does, the Doctor explains it's Arch recon; it reorganises matter according to his wishes. Gregor ignores him and takes an orb, causing flashing lights and a loud screech; the Doctor warns that he can feel a full-on temper tantrum coming from the TARDIS. Gregor laughs him off, but finds the door is gone; the Doctor explains that the TARDIS will not relinquish her genetic material. Amused, Gregor prepares to blow up the wall, only to find the wall is gone and the door is back; "what's the matter TARDIS, afraid to fight me?"

In the meantime, Clara is being followed by another bizarre creature that is miming her movements. She eventually flees into the control room, which locks the creature out; grateful, Clara kisses the console. However, she then finds that the exit to the outside is non-existent, effectively trapping her.

In the corridors, Gregor finds that they have been walking in circles. The Doctor explains that the TARDIS is smarter than Gregor is giving it credit for; it knows Gregor can break down any walls it puts up, so it looped his path instead to keep him from escaping with the orb. Seeing that he's in over his head, Gregor calls Bram, telling him to abort the salvage as the TARDIS is alive; however, Bram ignores him, proceeding down a rope ladder from the console room. His back touches the time rotor along the way, burning him and making him lose his grip. He falls into a corridor, where another creature attacks and burns him to death by touching him. The trio race to find him, but are too late. Upon finding Bram's charred corpse, Gregor flees in fright, leaving Tricky with the Doctor.

The Doctor and Tricky reach the console room, which he explains is an echo created by the TARDIS to save its passengers; Tricky was allowed in because of his empathy for it. The Doctor realises Clara is in another echo of the console room. Gregor enters demanding to be led out of the TARDIS, but the Doctor confiscates his scanner, using it to detect Clara and pull her through a portal into their echo room before another zombie creature can burn her. Gregor demands the Doctor end the self-destruct countdown, but the Doctor reveals that that was a ruse to get their cooperation. However, he now finds that the TARDIS engines have become unstable, thanks to a deadly time rift caused by the Magno-grab. They must go to the engine room by way of the Eye of Harmony to prevent it from exploding.

En route, Tricky's shoulder is impaled by a pole busting out of the engine, but, to his surprise, Gregor refuses to cut off his arm to save him. The Doctor scans Tricky with the sonic screwdriver, telling him that while his eyes and voice box are artificial, he is actually human, not an android. Gregor shows Tricky the logo on their suits, making him realise they are brothers, and goes on to explain how an accident killed their father and severely injured Tricky, leaving him with amnesia and needing implants to regain his sight and voice. Gregor made Tricky believe he was an android as both entertainment and to take the captaincy from him. Though Tricky is angry, the Doctor tells him that this moment helped Gregor find a shred of decency; he tells Gregor that this must always be remembered, telling him to cut the pole to free Tricky's arm.

While travelling through the room housing the Eye of Harmony, the four are trapped by ossified creatures. When Gregor scans them and finds one similar to Clara's biology, the Doctor confesses these creatures are themselves from the future due to the time rift. The Doctor decides to try averting the future by letting the creatures in and knocking them into the chasm below the Eye. He succeeds with his and Clara's versions, but Tricky falls when knocking his and Gregor's version over, causing him to grab the rail to save himself. Gregor helps him up, accidentally causing themselves to fuse into the creature. The Doctor and Clara flee into the other door, locking them out.

Instead of the engine room, they find themselves in a canyon. Deciding that this is the end, the Doctor asks Clara to tell him who she is. Clara is confused. The Doctor tells her that he's met her before in the Dalek asylum and in Victorian England, and both times she died in front of him only to appear again in a new time. He angrily asks her if she is a trick or a trap. Clara nearly falls over the edge of the canyon in fear, and the Doctor realises that she genuinely doesn't know she exists in multiple different lives. Relieved, he hugs her, but suddenly realises that the TARDIS is "snarling" at them because it is injured; the canyon is an illusion to ward off intruders. They both leap off the cliff with the hope that he is right.

The Doctor is right, and they arrive in the white void that houses the engine. The Doctor finds that the engine has already exploded but the TARDIS has placed the room in time stasis as a safety measure. He senses that the TARDIS is trying to tell him something, but cannot figure out what — until he notices Clara's hand. The burn marks have now fully formed into the words "big friendly button". The Doctor realises that they need to go back to the point of the disaster and activate the magno-grab remote — the device Clara picked up. They race to the console room, where the Doctor takes the discarded beacon and prepares to travel through a time rift to prevent their timeline. Clara asks what she will remember in the new timeline and reveals that she knows the Doctor's name from reading the Time War book. The Doctor tells her that she will remember nothing.

The Doctor crosses the rift and warns his younger self. Understanding the implications of his elder self, the younger Doctor grabs the beacon from Clara when she picks it up - the letters "big friendly button" inscribed on its side - and hits the button.

Time resets to before the TARDIS was caught by the Magno-grab. The Van Baalens ignore the TARDIS, which vanishes from their scanner, but something has mysteriously changed. In this new timeline, Gregor has become more appreciative of Tricky; the proof is that Tricky is now in the family picture, which was previously torn to exclude him.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor is concerned and asks Clara if she feels safe with him, and she readily agrees. She urges the Doctor to "hit the button" so they can go to their next port of call.



General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.



The TARDIS[[edit]]

  • Gregor's scanner detects Dynamorphic generators, a Conceptual geometer, a Beam synthesiser and Orthogonal engine filters aboard the TARDIS.
  • Tricky mistakenly describes the TARDIS as "some kind of escape pod".
  • The TARDIS' sentience is alluded to when the salvage team tries to open it and Tricky senses that she seems to "suffer".
  • The Doctor tells Clara that the TARDIS is not like a cheese grater.
  • The TARDIS display that declares "Engine Status: Overload" also mentions the console room, Eye of Harmony, library, observatory, and Arch-Recon. Arch-Recon is later named fully as architectural reconfiguration system.
  • Clara sees the swimming pool while wandering through the TARDIS.
  • The Doctor states that the TARDIS is "infinite".
  • The clock key which controls the shield oscillators is made by Smiths.
  • The Doctor stores his cot in a small cupboard room lined with many other knick-knacks and gadgetry he has acquired over the years, including a small model of a police box.
  • The fuel rods of the TARDIS are meant to be kept immersed in fuel at all times. When they become exposed, the rods can cool down and warp, causing them to bust and break apart at extreme velocities, becoming deadly projectiles capable of piercing through the corridors of the TARDIS- and unfortunate bystanders.


  • Tricky thinks he's an android, as this is what his brothers told him as a means of relieving boredom. There is also a bar code tattooed on the right of his neck that may or may not be part of the joke.

Songs from the real world[[edit]]


  • Steven Moffat suggested the title, in reference to Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
  • Moffat contributed the element of the TARDIS engines being frozen in mid-explosion. The image was suggested by his viewing of Concert For Anarchy (1990), a mechanised sculpture by German artist Rebecca Horn, in which the components of an overturned piano, suspended from the ceiling, periodically exploded outwards.


The Doctor and Clara in the Heart of the TARDIS.
  • This is the first televised story to include the word "TARDIS" in its title.
  • Sarah Louise Madison, Ruari Mears and Paul Kasey (Time zombies) are credited on-screen, but not in Radio Times.
  • Although the action was normal in the classic series, this is the first time since the series restarted that the Doctor has closed the TARDIS doors from the console, rather than manually shutting them or occasionally closing them by snapping his fingers.
  • This is the second episode whose name includes a word that would be spelt differently in American English, the other being the final episode in The Web Planet, "The Centre".
  • The TARDIS in the opening credits shakes to match the captured TARDIS in the Magno-grab.
  • Coincidentally, this was shown on Jenna-Louise Coleman's birthday.
  • Its never stated if the Time Zombies were driven insane from the pain of their transformation and are mindlessly lashing out, or if they are trying to stop their past selves from becomimg them. Clara's version killing Bram makes some sense, as she can be quite vindictive when seriously wronged; seeing as it's the Van Baleeen's fault this ever happened.
  • Steve Thompson originally planned to propose an adventure which would examine the formative years of Taren Capel.
  • Steve Thompson held a degree in pure mathematics, and remarked, "anything involving multi-dimensional geometry gets me excited". Steven Moffat thought that this background might help fuel his ideas.
  • Steve Thompson initially considered setting his narrative in a twisted environment which resulted from a collision between the TARDIS and another time machine, the pilot of which was scheming to steal the Doctor's vessel. Thompson then sought inspiration in his days as a teacher, with the TARDIS instead crashing into a school trip. A gaggle of teenagers would be unleashed into the time machine, and they would cause it to malfunction. Moffat disliked this idea, but he was more interested in Thompson's suggestion that the students could be replaced with a salvage team.
  • Tricky was originally named Sander and wasn't an android.
  • Clara originally found the Doctor's bedroom, which contained the Eleventh Doctor's tweed jacket and photos of Rose Tyler and Amy Pond. It was later a storage chamber which contained all of his former companions' leftover belongings.
  • The engine room environment only latterly became a ravine, having earlier appeared as a garden.
  • The Van Baalens' salvage career was originally motivated by a severe metal famine.
  • This was was originally intended to be the sixth episode of season 7b. As such, it ended with a coda in which Angie and Artie Maitland, confronted the time travellers about their adventures; this material would lead into Nightmare in Silver. Subsequently, it was moved to the fifth spot, and the epilogue was rewritten and shifted to the eventual The Crimson Horror.
  • The script read-through took place the day after filming The Snowmen.
  • The episode comprised Block Seven of season seven.
  • Grego was originally disfigured and had numerous metal attachments.
  • Filming was interrupted when Jenna Coleman fell ill. As a result, Mat King abandoned his plan to record more console room scenes, in favour of effects and pick-up shots.
  • Ashley Walters came into conflict with the producers on his first day of filming when he tweeted a picture of himself in his costume in his trailer with the word "space". The picture was immediately removed.
  • The final shot was the scene where the Doctor and Clara enter the defensive front of the TARDIS's engine room.


The episode first aired in the United Kingdom on BBC One on 27 April 2013. Overnight ratings showed that 4.9 million viewers watched the episode live. When final ratings were calculated, the figure rose to 6.5 million, the seventh most-watched programme of the week on BBC One.[1] In addition, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS received 1.19 million requests on the online BBC iPlayer for the four days it was available in the month of April, making it the tenth most-watched programme on tThe service for the month. It received an Appreciation Index of 85.

Filming locations[[edit]]

to be added

Production errors[[edit]]

BigFriendlyButton.jpg BigFriendlyButton2.jpg
How could this lettering... ...have come from this prop?
If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • In a way totally unexplained by the narrative, the magno-grab remote prop has a different font to the scar it left behind on Clara's hand. Though it's not noticeable while watching the episode at normal speed, screen grabs make it immediately apparent that the letters just don't match up in any way. Most obviously, the prop's lettering is centre-justified, while the writing on her hand is left-justified. The error reveals a lack of continuity between the make-up department (or possibly VFX, if the scar was inserted digitally) and the art department.
Although the scar writing on Clara's hand is from the Magno-Grab Remote of the previous timeline where the Doctor simply threw the remote through the rift instead of climbing through. As a result, he had to re-burn the writing into the remote from his current timeline (the main one seen through most of the story). This could explain the difference in writing style as the narrative does establish that not everything happens the same as previously; we never actually see what Clara's burn looks like in the restored timeline, if she even receives one.
  • When the Magno-grab pulls the TARDIS in, the TARDIS is handled by several large mechanical arms before being dumped onto the pile of junk that Tricky sees a pair of legs in, legs that presumably belong to the Doctor. In order for the Doctor to have been thrown free in the way implied in the story, he would have had to have been hanging on to the outside of the TARDIS unseen as it was being passed from one large mechanical arm to another and then somehow gotten underneath a pile of junk that the TARDIS was deposited on top of. This is most likely a result of a lack of continuity between different art departments.
  • Tricky doesn't pick up on the fact he is brothers Gregor and Bram. Despite the fact that their unifoms all say Van Baalen Brothers.
  • When the Magno-Grab Remote rolls along the floor at the beginning of the episode, it is apparent that there is no writing on it as you can see all the way around it.
  • There is a noticeable jump cut after Clara's line "Because I'm a girl". Suddenly, the Doctor has his hands rested on the console again and Clara is standing up straight and looking straight at the Doctor.
  • There is another such cut later the lights go red in the TARDIS and after the Doctor's line "Ahh, Okay". In the first shot, Clara's hands are together near her chin, but in the next shot, they are by her sides being raised to a similar position as before.


Home video releases[[edit]]

Series 7, Part 2 DVD cover.

DVD & Blu-ray releases[[edit]]

  • Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS was released on DVD and Blu-ray as part of Doctor Who Series 7 Part Two in region 1/A on 28 May 2013, region 2/B on 27 May 2013, and region 4/B on 22 May 2013.
  • Also, this episode was released as part of the Complete Seventh Series boxset on DVD and Blu-ray in region 1/A on 24 September 2013, in region 2/B on 28 October 2013 and in region 4/B on 30 October 2013.

Digital releases[[edit]]

  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer.

External links[[edit]]