Driving the T.A.R.D.I.S.

An interesting question came up in the HIDE discussion which I think needs an wider discussion. The question came up regarding how Clara could drive the T.A.R.D.I.S. in the episode which led me to the question: does the T.A.R.D.I.S. need a driver?

We know the T.A.R.D.I.S. is self aware. We know the T.A.R.D.I.S. “takes you not where you want to go necessarily, but where you need to be” which tells me for all the buzzing, whizzing and switch flipping the Doctor (or whoeever) is doing they might not really be affecting anything. The T.A.R.D.I.S. may simply be letting the Doctor think he is driving to not hurt his ego.

Of course this may have been explored once or twice in fifty years so I am hoping some of our big guns show up for the discussion.

I’ll expound later, but one grain of rice to drop in the cup – the TARDIS is as much a living being (sentient, opinionated, and at times, temperamental) as she is a vessel, but in nearly all instances where the craft appears to be self-navigating or reacting, it was explained that some setting/programming/adjustment was done beforehand. She does have an impact on the destination, and often the path, but that is often described as the influence of her free will on the actions already set in motion.

Specific systems were put in place to provide for self-navigation, remember. Aside from the recent revival of the HADS system (Cold War), we also had the emergency system that would reunite the TARDIS and Doctor if separated (Wedding of Sarah Jane, Blink). Of course, this seemed to require a little more manual involvement recently from Clara (Hide) to get to the Doctor, but that may have been the complexity of traveling into a pocket universe to retrieve him. Not your usual skip up the lane to the pub, there.

Lastly, and before I get fired for ignoring my PAID job, recall that the TARDIS could run into situations where it was adrift and unmanned (Voyage of the Damned), and needed a specific response system in those cases to lock on to the nearest major gravitational source. A few similar failsafes were described in EU novels, and a few 6th Doctor radio plays (the titles of which escape my memory at the moment, even though I’m looking at them in iTunes as we speak…er…type). Were she able to self-adjust and propel, these safeguards wouldn’t be necessary.

There was also a bit in the Tennant era when it was shown that the TARDIS gave a smoother ride when there were six people at the helm. If she was just driving herself I’m not sure how it would make a difference.

This discussion puts me slightly in mind of horse riding.

A horse is an independent creature fully able to go from place to place on its own. But a skilled rider in the saddle will be able to steer the horse where they want to go. You can force a horse to do your will or the horse can decide that it knows best. I always got the impression that working with, rather than against, a horse would give teh smoothest experience. Anyone who actually rides horses will be able to tell me if I’m close or not.

Piloting a TARDIS seems to me to be slightly similar. And the Doctor’s TARDIS comes across as being a wilful but ultimately faithful partner. She has her own ideas, and will go where she wants to when necessary. But experience/skill (the Doctor) affection (River) or a persuasive argument (Clara) can be used to get her where the pilot wishes to go.

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