(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.)
A few years back I saw a TARDIS lamp on ThinkGeek.com. I fell in love instantly. Then my wallet saw how much they wanted for it and I decided my desk didn’t really need a lamp all that much after all. I was also a bit suspicious of it, because I couldn’t get a good look at it from the pictures. The angle ThinkGeek took their pictures from made it seem as though the lamp’s center pole came right up through the roof lamp of the TARDIS itself. I suspected, though, that the pole was actually not centered in the base of the lamp at all, but was off to one side and what I was really seeing was the pole behind the TARDIS, separate from it, yet aligned, intentionally I suspect, in a way that would suggest it came through the center of the TARDIS. And this was pretty much the only angle photographers of that particular lamp used, and continue to do so to this day. I also didn’t care for the lamp’s shade and would have preferred a simple Tardis-Blue shade. Were I ever to acquire one, I would have to remedy that, I thought. But the price tag on it, of around $45, was the major drawback to the purchase. I decided to bide my time or come up with another solution.
By this point I had enough TARDI in my collection that I figured I could probably make my own lamp, especially if the retail TARDIS lamp itself was only a display base lamp in the first place. If I could find one of those, I could just put one the TARDIS of my choice on it and call it a night. The trouble is, while I can call that style of lamp a “display base” lamp in writing, that’s probably not what it’s really called–or, at least, if you search for that term you’ll see any other kind of lamp than the style I was actually looking for. After haunting lamp sites and unsuccessfully searching on and off for a few days with various other terms, I gave up.
Three summers ago, while visiting my parents in Mississippi, I popped by a local remaindered store called Dirt Cheap, located in a repurposed former Kroger, across from my old high school. And there I found a literal pile of display base lamps, pre-painted in a blue color for my convenience, for $11 each. Granted, the shade of blue was not so much current TARDIS blue, but was more of a Sylvester McCoy TARDIS blue. However, I was the owner of a Sylvester McCoy TARDIS toy, so it was kind of perfect. And, I figured, if it was ever important for it to be any other hue of blue, they ain’t quit making Krylon. I took it home with me and plunked the Sylvester McCoy TARDIS onto it at my earliest convenience. It was a great fit. In fact, I found that if I substituted the David Tennant era Flight Control TARDIS, it actually hung off the edge of the base a little, while the smaller McCoy TARDIS did not.
Jump ahead some months. That sultry temptress ThinkGeek.com once again began whispering sweet nothings in my ear by adding a TARDIS bluetooth speaker to their stable of nerdy ‘ho’s. (She was paired with a bluetooth Dalek speaker `ho as well.) However, it was a bluetooth speaker TARDIS that cost well over $100. No dice. Not unless it was made by Bose would I spend that kind of cash on a single speaker. I saw it offered on other sites for a bit less, but it was still just dumb.
A year later, though, Amazon ran a special. You could get the TARDIS bluetooth speaker and a blue ray of all the Christmas specials to date for under $70. That seemed about right, especially considering the good ratings the speaker seemed to be getting. I snatched it up, plunked it down on the display base, and instantly had my very own, possibly one-of-a-kind, bluetooth TARDIS speaker lamp.
The speaker itself is indeed a good one. It’s not going to fill a room with sound for a party, but it’s fantastic for playing music or podcasts that don’t have to be floor to ceiling. It’s portable, rechargeable, and it lights up and makes TARDIS sounds. When you first turn it on, it does the TARDIS takeoff sound in time with the flashes from the roof lamp. You can skip this by hitting the volume button, cause it goes on kind of a while. It then makes strange whooshing sounds and flashes the Police Public Call Box lights as it searches for a bluetooth connection. When it finally gets one, it sounds the cloister bells (proving that bluetooth connections are a danger to the space-time continuum), turns the Police Public Call Box signs on solid and you’re good to go.
As far as its design goes, the speaker TARDIS is pretty darn good in almost all respects. It’s of a comparable size to the Tennant TARDIS, so it does hang off the edges a bit, but I can live with it. While it has woodgrain sculpting on most of the usual surfaces (roof, door edges, base, etc., all going in the proper direction) it is oddly lacking in woodgrain sculpting on the inset door panels. It’s a questionable design choice and feels like either a move to cheapen production or maybe was intentionally done by a designer who somehow didn’t think the TARDIS had woodgrain in those panels. The windows are also not “glassed” but are used as the speaker sound ports. (Sound’s gotta come out somewhere.) They’ve kept the T-shape to the window panes by using the blacked out sections with open slots as the speaker ports.
The lower section of the front has four buttons set two each into the lowest inset panels. (Ooh, maybe they didn’t put woodgrain in the panels cause it would somehow interfere with the aesthetic of having buttons poking out of those lower ones?) Two are volume buttons while the other two are a pause/play button and a phone button in case calls come in while it’s connected to your phone. So the speaker then becomes a speaker phone (which, while I’ve never actually used it for this purpose, makes the 14-year-old me from 1986, who was fascinated by speaker phones after seeing the character Cameron use one in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, very very happy).
If I had a complaint beyond the woodgrain thing, it’s that when the TARDIS speaker eventually runs low on its charge it emits a crazy-loud and very non-Doctor-Whoish alarm sound to warn you that it will soon need a charge. The first time this happened, though, I was at a complete loss for why it was happening. It was VERY startling and then, as it continues every few minutes until you finally plug it in, remained irritating because it’s a full stop interruption to whatever you’re trying to listen to. I understand the need for such an alert, but I don’t understand why it has to be so jarring. There are dozens of quieter little sounds the TARDIS makes on the show that would be more appropriate. Even the cloister bell sound would make more narrative sense, as the bells are intended to be a dire warning in the first place, and what would be the worst thing that could happen to a rechargeable speaker–beyond getting dropped in the toilet, or something.
These days, the TARDIS bluetooth speaker is far more affordable, being available for around $50 online. If you’re in the market for one, I recommend it. In fact, I give it four TARDI.