What’s in a Name: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

It does Doctor Who Series 7 something of a disservice to say each episode had a “gimmick”. But it’s true. This was especially true of the run that began with Asylum of the Daleks and concluded with The Angels Take Manhattan, known more widely as Series 7A. One week: dinosaurs on a spaceship (though I can’t remember what that episode was called), and the next? Alien cyborg in a Western!

These were “movie” ideas, at least according to showrunner, Steven Moffat, and the show hadn’t ditched the idea for Series 7B, aka from The Snowmen to The Name of the Doctor. The Bells of Saint John was a modern slick thriller. Hide was a haunted house story. And Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS was, of course, riffing off a very famous book by Jules Verne.

That novel, released in 1864 but only translated into English in 1871, was originally named Voyage au centre de la Terre; while you might argue that “Voyage to the Centre of the Earth” is more accurate, and some translations replace “centre” with “interior”, it’s most famous as Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

Interestingly, our Middle English word “journey” does find its origins in Old French: the meaning of Jornee, though, is a little less grand – it simply means “a day’s work” or “a day’s travel”. The word, “journey” has connotations of a long trip, but otherwise, taking a day out to get to the centre of the Earth or the TARDIS doesn’t sound quite so adventurous.

As the episode parodies Verne’s story, it’s unlikely Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS ever had another working title.

As the console is opened up, we hear the voices of previous Doctors and companions, but there’s actually another link to the First Doctor’s era: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS is the first episode since The Web Planet to use the word “centre”. The last episode of the 1965 serial was individually titled, The Centre, which refers to the hypnotic and overpowering Animus, a spider-like creature sitting in the middle of a web.

“Centre” is a term referring to something being equidistant, and indeed we get the word from the Latin centrum, which in turn comes from the Greek kéntron – this comes from kenteîn (the verb, “to sting”). Kéntron, then, is a needle sting, or equally, the middle of a compass.

These are the only two instances of the word “centre” (or even, in American, “center”) in the title of a Doctor Who TV serial.

More surprisingly, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS is the first and only time the word “TARDIS” has appeared in a TV serial’s name, at least to this date.

And that feels rather appropriate for Doctor Who 50th anniversary year, don’t you think…?