Yes, I Built A Cardboard TARDIS

Posted by on January 31st, 2012

The following is written by Andrew Mayne, it is republished with permission from his blog at

andrew mayne tardis.jpg

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest on the edge of a forest. After school meant going home, climbing the fence and trekking through pine trees to battle Stormtroopers, hunt yetis and looking for our own version of Blackbeard’s treasure; a legendary mother-load of Playboy magazines hidden away by some high school kids in a buried foot locker.

One day after defeating the Empire and avoiding being narrowly killed by an AT-AT walker that some would swear looked like an oak tree, I sat down in front of our small kitchen television and turned the dial accidentally to channel 2 instead of 3 (the channel for our cable box). The dreaded channel 2! Oh, no! Public television!

Afraid that I might be forced to learn something against my will, I ran across the linoleum to turn the TV dial. As I gripped the chrome plastic knob, a strange sound filled the air and I froze. It was an otherworldly noise. Machine-like, but not like any machine I’d ever heard. It had purpose like a siren. It told you something important was about to happen. And it did.

andrew mayne doctor who.jpgStill holding the knob, I watched a blue box materialize and a man with curly hair and a scarf emerge. Well that was curious… Some minutes later when I watched him step back into the box and found out IT’S BIGGER ON THE INSIDE!!!, my life was changed forever.

Sonic screwdrivers, electronic pets, non-threatening female companions and most of all, the idea to go ANYWHERE and to ANY TIME became my obsession. I turned robot kits into my own version of K-9. I stuck flashlights to socket wrenches and tried to make my own Time Lord tools. I also developed an interest in physics and devoured everything my school library had on relativity and black holes.

For Halloween I’d borrow my dad’s old camel hair coat, wrap a scarf around my neck and go door to door as a homeless person (their interpretation, not mine) in search of Jelly Babies (as elusive as the Playboy-filled foot locker). My parents thought it was a phase. My brother thought I wasn’t getting enough oxygen at night because I had the habit of sleeping under my covers. Which I did. Because I was a perpetually scared child.

I was afraid of the world (well, just the people) and preferred to spend my time in my own thoughts either out in the woods or immersed in some fantasy. A nervous tic that made my chin quiver, triggered by cold air, caffeine or the female of the species, didn’t help either.

Doctor Who was the ultimate escapist dream for a kid who constantly wanted to be somewhere else. My interest in science and physics was because I wanted to figure out how to build my own TARDIS. A task I spent several years dedicated to and ultimately only produced a sad 1/3 scale model made out of cardboard for a book report.

But the dream didn’t stop. What I learned about science and the paradoxes of time travel and energy requirements to teleport matter gave me a good idea of what was and wasn’t possible. Not wanting to take ‘no’ for an answer, this lead to my interest in how I could at least fake it.

Where some people turn to mind altering drugs to alter reality, I picked up magic books. A few short years after watching the Doctor appear out of thin air, I was doing that on my school stage through magic illusions of my own design. A year later the scared kid who risked brain damage to hide from the world, was performing a full-scale magic show in the middle of a circus ring, causing non-threatening female companions (I called them ‘assistants’ by then) to vanish and reappear, defy gravity and break those laws of physics that had tried to hold me back.

The public shyness retreated and my magic tricks lead to a career performing in resorts, showrooms and cruise ships around the world. Most of all, it let me share my imagination with a theatre full of people. I wasn’t the solitary kid anymore walking down the street defeating an army of Daleks that mysteriously always materialized on garbage day. I had a room full of companions to take with me.

One thing lead to another and I found myself looking for other ways to share the world inside my head. It’s been said in magic that the real illusion takes place in people’s minds. A trick is just a series of inferences that the spectator pieces together to create the deception. Girl steps into cabinet + Swords goes through cabinet = magic (or homicide). This idea that I didn’t need any props or even a stage to create magic stayed with me for quite some time until one day waiting in an airport, I found myself trying to create this kind of illusion in a word processor. And that’s how I became a writer.

If you read my stories, particularly my Chronological Man adventures, it’ll be obvious to you now how the boy who turned to the wrong channel has been influenced by Doctor Who, science, magic tricks and the fun of being able pull your friends along on amazing adventures.

Smith, the protagonist of my Chronological Man stories is my mash-up of everything I loved about Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Tony Stark, plus the idea of how to tell a time traveller story while following the strict rules of physics. They’re not for everyone. But there’s a simple test…

If I ask you step inside my cardboard TARDIS and the answer is ‘yes’, I’m pretty sure you and I are going to have a lot of fun on our adventures…

I now have an (infrequent) mailing list for those folks who want to step inside and follow what I’m up to with my books and don’t need an explanation about AT-AT’s that look like oak trees or why it’s perfectly acceptable to wear a wool scarf in 90º weather:

Step inside here…

The Chronological Man Adventures are available as ebooks for just 99¢ on Amazon and the Nook (iBooks coming soon.)

Amazon Kindle:
Smith’s first adventure begins here: The Monster in the Mist
His latest is here: The Martian Emperor

B&N Nook:
Smith’s first adventure begins here: The Monster in the Mist
His latest is here: The Martian Emperor

The first book is going to be a free podcast in a couple weeks. You can sign up for my mailing list for details on when it’s available. Sign up here

Can’t wait? The 4.5 hour audiobook of The Monster in the Mist is here for only 99¢

My website is here:

One Response to “Yes, I Built A Cardboard TARDIS”

  1. mxyzptlk Says:

    Half-way across the country I was in those same woods trying to follow Yoda’s advice and sometimes finding Gollum under a deadfall.

    Forests are the first theater for a lot of kids.

    Had the same experience stumbling over the Time Lord on PBS. Other scifi seemed to miss something after that. It’s hard to match the cocktail of crazy physics and quaint Britishness.