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The Pandorica Opens: Why is the Exploding TARDIS so Popular?

An exploding TARDIS… Who’d have thought it’d prove so popular with fans?! It’s odd, in a way, particularly given that the famous space-time ship is the cornerstone of all Doctor Who, without which we would have no series. (Not that it did the Third Doctor any harm…)

Anyway, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me explain: in the Series 5 episode, The Pandorica Opens, the painter Vincent van Gogh receives a terrifying vision of the future. It’s a police telephone box, being ripped apart by fire. Van Gogh commits this stark premonition to canvas, where it’s later unearthed by River Song in the Royal Collection in the 52nd Century (previously kept in safe storage by Winston Churchill). And after purloining her own vortex manipulator, the Doctor’s wife/companion/favourite archaeologist journeys back to the 1st Century A.D. to catch up with the Doctor and Amy and to hand the painting over. This is because Van Gogh created it as a message – a warning for the Time Lord about events to come. He called the picture “The Pandorica Opens”, and left space-time co-ordinates within the image for the Doctor to follow, and thus avert certain doom.

With me so far? It’s a bit timey-wimey, but the good news is that the Doctor got the memo and prevented the TARDIS from being torn apart. Admittedly he had to reset the entire universe and pilot the Pandorica into the heart of the biggest explosion ever witnessed, but we’ve all had days like that. And van Gogh’s painting, meanwhile, presumably never existed…

However, never let a paradox get in the way of a Doctor Who fan. The picture has become so iconic that it has found its way onto just about every piece of merchandise imaginable. And for good reason; those fiery swirls capture the magic and magnificence of van Gogh’s distinctive art style, with this particular painting harking back to his (perhaps) most iconic work – The Starry Night.

One of the best examples can be seen on the cover of the Series 5 Blu-ray steelbook – arguably one of the prettiest of the Blu-ray reissues. In fact, this rendition of the exploding TARDIS comes complete with a sonic-wielding Doctor and Amy, who look strangely unperturbed as the fabric of space and time is ripped apart by van Gogh’s swirls. Anyway – who cares when a boxset looks this good? It’s worth picking up just for the gorgeous depiction of River and the Pandorica on the reverse, which is movie poster-worthy.

And if you’re really keen to get your exploding TARDIS fix, a quick search on Amazon throws up a surprisingly wide range of choices. Obviously, the usually merch staples are in evidence: there’s an exploding TARDIS mug and an exploding TARDIS poster. But for the really hardcore among you, how about an exploding TARDIS phone cover? Or an exploding TARDIS beach towel? Heck, there’s even an exploding TARDIS toilet seat cover if you like to be reminded of the end of the universe during your comfort break.

Moreover, I couldn’t talk about the exploding TARDIS without mentioning Lovarzi’s Pandorica gloves or Pandorica scarf. (I work for them – I’d be upgraded if I didn’t.) These will keep your face and hands warm during the winter months, if the heat from the dying TARDIS is insufficient. And as I look at all the other inventive options on Amazon, I wonder if it would be possible to create a complete exploding TARDIS costume? There’s already a bathrobe, and a pair of leggings… Plus, if you’re after some quirky headgear, there’s always the aforementioned toilet seat cover, or even a bespoke steering wheel cover which – let’s face it – would make a wheely good beret. I thank you. Thank you very much.

So that’s my challenge to all you cosplayers out there, or even those of you who just enjoy a bit of exploding TARDIS in your life. How creative an outfit can you put together with the options available? And who will be first to don a Pandorica Opens facemask? The contest starts here.

As for why the exploding TARDIS has become so popular in the years since Series 5 was transmitted… I’m not sure. It’s certainly an awesome piece of artwork. Indeed, The Pandorica Opens looks like a bona fide van Gogh painting to my uneducated eyes; I wouldn’t be dismayed if I stumbled across this at the National. And I also think the picture kindles fond memories of the Eleventh Doctor’s first series at the helm of the TARDIS. It was a crazily popular season with so many memorable moments, and, in fact, for many people (such as viewers in the United States) it marked their first encounter with Gallifrey’s most famous Time Lord. So never underestimate the power of nostalgia.

What do you think, though? Why do you think the exploding TARDIS has stood the test of time? And are you tempted to pick up your very own Pandoria Opens toilet seat cover?! Let me know in the comments below!

(Also, a big thank you to The Doctor Who Companion for letting me contribute this guest post! I’m visiting from the Lovarzi Blog, so be sure to pop over and say hello.)

Alex Skerratt

I'm a freelance writer and actor. I vlog occasionally on YouTube and I'm also training to be a counsellor. (Were it not for my TARDIS, I'd never have enough hours in the day!) I work on the children's TV show Sooty, and for the Doctor Who scarf people, Lovarzi. Oh and I think the The Gunfighters is a stellar piece of storytelling!

The Pandorica Opens: Why is the Exploding TARDIS so Popular?

by Alex Skerratt time to read: 4 min
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