Strong Female Characters: the TARDIS

In keeping with the current “Doctor Who” Theme, and in honor of our new series of Doctor Who Videos, this special edition of “Strong Female Characters” will examine the one woman who’s always been there for the Doctor. His TARDIS.

Companions come and go. They are only human, after all, but the TARDIS is there always.

Now, a lot of this article is informed by the Season Six episode, “The Doctor’s Wife,” but don’t make the mistake that I am only looking at one episode of the Doctor. I actually began crafting this in my head before watching the Doctor meet the TARDIS embodied in Idris.

Who is the character?

The TARDIS. Tim and Relative Dimension in Space. (though, in The Doctor’s Wife, the TARDIS possesses the body of a woman named Idris).

What is her role/Career in the world she belongs to?

The TARDIS is the Doctor’s time machine, though she’s much more than that. She’s the one woman who stays by the Doctor’s side, throughout all his troubles. The TARDIS is a type-40, a museum piece. When she first rode the TARDIS, Romana describes her as a relic, something that belonged in a museum.

It is interesting to note that many of the “coolest” Sci-Fi ships are relics in their own universe. The Millennium Falcon is a “hunk of junk.” Serenity was bought from a scrap yard, and consistently breaking down. Battlestar Galactica, in the pilot of the newer series, was a ship being decommissioned, noted for not being hooked up to the Caprican version of the internet, and was destined to become a museum. Even the DeLorean from Back to the Future was already no longer in production by the time the film aired.

What is the source of her power? Does she have [magic] power because she was born with it? If she was not “born to the power” how did she get the power? Did she have to put up a fight to obtain her power? [I.e. “Chosen by a mysterious Council, win via election, did she take power or have it forced upon her). Did she have to put up a fight to obtain her power?

You could say she was “born to power.” The TARDIS has power because she is a TARDIS. She was grown to transport a Time Lord throughout Space and Time. It was her purpose, her goal in life.

As far as the TARDIS’s skill set, she could do some really cool things, other than space/time travel.  She has some interesting powers, too. The TARDIS seems to grant ultimate linguistic power to all her inhabitants, useful if you’re flying through space and time. She grants the newly conceived Baby Pond Time Lord powers. She has a knack for knowing where the Doctor is needed (as opposed to where he wants to go). She hides in plain sight, despite her broken chameleon circuit. The TARDIS is amazingly powerful.

Who are the important men in her life? Can we, in any way, attribute her position, power, or authority in thanks to the men in her life? (father, brother, boyfriend/husband/lover)? (Did Daddy giver her the power, is she only cool because she’s the Chosen One’s girlfriend?)

The TARDIS has only one man, with many faces, in her life… The Doctor. She “stole” him, he “stole” her. Without the Doctor, the TARDIS would have been stuck in the Time Bubble of the Time War, unable to travel and escape. Without the TARDIS, who knows what could/would happen to the Doctor.
She is not powerful because she belongs to the Doctor; nor is he powerful for belonging to her. They have a perfect partnership.

For his part, the Doctor loves his TARDIS.  Sarah Jane and Rose pick fun at his “stroking” of the TARDIS console. He calls her “sexy” and talks to her.



There is this “idea” that women often change to suit their men, adopting the hobbies, music tastes, or favorite television programs to suit the needs of the men in their lives. While this probably does happen on occasion, that stereotype generally weaken’s a woman’s own interests. People think a woman only likes SciFi because her man does. What does this have to do with the TARDIS?
She changes, she evolves, she takes on different looks. With every Doctor, every new face to her Time Lord, she has some different aspect of herself. A new Control center “theme,” slightly different looks to her exterior. New rooms appear and disappear. She changes as the Doctor does. Sometimes, even within the same Doctor, she’ll have a different look completely.
This is not a “change of personality to fit her man.” This is the TARDIS putting on a new pair of shoes or a cool new hairstyle, and shows a genuine need t


  • Is she ever used as a “damsel in Distress”? If so, how did she handle her capture/stress? Does she rescue herself, or did she put herself into stress to begin with?

The TARDIS breaks down frequently, in some fashion or another. She doesn’t take the Doctor where he wants to go, she’ll break down when he tries to leave where he brought her. This is her way of saying, “No no, you silly Time Lord. Take care of business here first, then I’ll work properly.”
There are times when she is in stress for reasons not her fault. She explodes, causing time to crack, and is rescued, by Amy, who rescues the Doctor and thus the TARDIS by default. Because the TARDIS is so integral to the Doctor’s personality and being.

 Sex: Is sex and sexuality important to the character? Does she spend much of her time trying to impress the men around her? Is she the maiden/mother/crone?

There’s this:
bitingkissingWhat does she do when she has legs and can move, and talk? She kisses the Doctor, and she bites the Doctor. Hard.

Sexual Reproduction is not a function of the TARDIS. She is not a fembot like Maria from Metropolis (1927) or from the Austin Powers films. She’s a time machine.
There are two situations where she has any sort of reproductive influence. The first is in the conception of Melody Pond. She sees a couple snuggling about, making a baby, and felt the need to contribute. Perhaps Melody was an experiment for the TARDIS.

The Second is in the Doctor’s regenerations. Now, this is not exactly reproduction, per say, but this is the influence of a new body/personality, and uses the genetic code of her man. The Doctor claims that he’s ‘never been any good’ at regenerating. The Second Doctor implied she had a hand in helping the process. Maybe (and this is pure speculation) she influences the look of each new doctor. 

Perhaps he’s never been a ginger because gingers are too Orange. While the psychology of the Doctor may influence his regenerations, those regenerations that take place in the TARDIS are probably partially influenced by her as well.

How “manly” is the character? Is she a tomboy or androgynous? Is she really just a male character in a female body?

As a ship, she might be considered androgynous.  I do not feel the least bit silly about saying it, either. Long years of nautical history refer to any vessel for travelling the seas as female, and space ships are often called “her” in Sci Fi as well.

What is space, but an ocean of nothing between stars and planets?

What are her weaknesses?

She can be broken. She can be destroyed. She needs a Time Lord to go anywhere. Without one, she was stuck in a museum (or a repair shop) waiting bored for the next adventure.
Another weakness is that she cannot inhabit a human body for long. The Idris body dies, and Rose almost does, because of holding the power of the TARDIS.

How interesting would she be if she were a male character?
I think a male TARDIS would be boring.  Idris implies all the TARDISes were her ‘sisters’ and female.


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1 Comment

  1. moonsedai

    Just an addendum, now that the Doctor has Regenerated.. (Spoiler for Time of the Doctor)
    Did anyone else notice that the Doctor didn’t actually CHANGE his face until after he got to the TARDIS?

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