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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 506 > SQUARING THE CIRCLE


Our mission is to discover Peter Brachacki: the man who built the TARDIS...
Main picture: The set as it was recreated for 2015’s Hell Bent.

The above information is taken from a certificate of naturalisation, dated 26 November 1952. It’s a significant document from the life of someone about whom there have been too few words: Peter Brachacki – the name he adopted following his successful application to Her Majesty’s Principal Secretaries of State.

Of those words, too many have been spent on unkind delineations. We are told by those who worked with him that, as the original production designer on Doctor Who and the creator of the TARDIS’ incredible interior, Peter was obstructive and irascible. Waris Hussein, the show’s first director, told DWM in 1998 that Brachacki “didn’t care a jot for Doctor Who. He thought the show was a load of bollocks.” The series’ first producer,

Peter Brachacki.
Peter’s original design for the TARDIS’ interior.

Verity Lambert, also claimed that she clashed with Brachacki, and that he delivered his work late and with little enthusiasm, before eventually bailing out on the project. “He wasn’t available most of the time and was basically incredibly patronising,” Lambert revealed to DWM in 1995. “The fight to get him to take it in any way seriously was quite horrendous.”

But these contentious views should be tempered by a better understanding of the man. Sadly, Peter Brachacki died in 1980, before Doctor Who Magazine truly got into its stride, and so he never had the chance to give his own side of the story in these pages. Recently, work has been undertaken by Philip Newman for issue 4 of the exemplary fan publication Nothing at the End of the Lane, the magazine of Doctor Who research and restoration, published last autumn. Although that was an uncomfortable coincidence for this DWM writer, who had already embarked on this project, thanks, nonetheless, go to Philip – and editor Richard Bignell – for sharing information with me, and their best wishes for this parallel effort.

And so, last summer, DWM began conversations with Peter’s widow, Gaby Brachacka (Polish surnames have masculine and feminine variants) and his oldest son Alexis. Both have been amazingly kind, not just with their time, but their resources; taking it upon themselves to speak to Peter’s surviving sister Teresa in Poland for a better insight into his early years, and curating many of the wonderful images you’ll see across the following pages.

They’ve also been willing to share their own memories of a husband and father who was taken at a horribly young age. More than anyone – more than his former colleagues at the BBC, or ‘Doctor Who historians’ – Peter’s story belongs to them. Although we’ll hear other voices along the way, it’s apt to tell it chiefly in their words.

GABY: “Peter comes from Silesia. Western Poland, near Katowice. It’s the industrial area. During various periods, its borders moved backwards and forwards, and there are a lot of people of German origin living there today. In fact, I think the Brachacki family – and they would shoot me down in flames if they heard me, say it – may have some Austrian in origin. ‘Brach’ might be Austrian. My friend, who is very Polish, says, ‘What kind of Polish name is that?’ But the family won’t have it!”

ALEXIS: “The majority of people in Silesia were Polish, but the industry and land was pretty much German. As a consequence, almost everyone in that area had some form of German ancestry, some form of German blood, and most were bilingual. There was a thing called the Silesian Insurrections [a series of uprisings of Poles and Polish Silesians, over 1919 to 1921, against German rule] and my grandparents [Peter’s parents] were involved. I think, because of the family’s connection to that, it didn’t play into their hands when the Second World War began…”

“ I believe the initial inspiration for the circles on the TARDIS walls came from the TV Centre sign.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

DWM 506 celebrate 50 Years of the Second Doctor, as played by Patrick Troughton. Contents include: behind the scenes on the new animated version of The Power of the Daleks; the Second Doctor's era is explored in a feature by Jonathan Morris; 1968's Fury from the Deep is reviewed; showrunner Steven Moffat answers readers' questions; a biography of Peter Brachacki, the man who designed the TARDIS back in 1963; The Fact of Fiction looks back at 2005's The End of the World; directors Ed Bazalgette, Douglas Mackinnon, Daniel O'Hara and Daniel Nettheim reveal more secrets of their work on Doctor Who in the second part of DWM's exclusive interviews; Comic Strip - Bloodsport Part 2, written by Mark Wright and illustrated by Staz Johnson; The Time Team watch 2010's The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang; plus reviews, previews, prize-winning competitions, the latest official news, fun and nonsense with the Watcher and much, much more.