Pelham’s own TARDIS

Susan Buckingham and Ron Lynch return to their front yard after a jaunt to the 1980s. VOICE PHOTO

Replica attracts “Dr. Who” fans from far and wide


If a centuries-old alien—better known as a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, even better known as “the Doctor,” and best known to non-viewers as, “Doctor Who”—is found stumbling around Fonthill, he will have come from the front lawn of Ron Lynch and Susan Buckingham.

Behind their vegetable patch at their Welland Road home, there appears to be a blue police box, the sort found throughout Britain for much of the 20th century. But those familiar with Doctor Who, the long-running BBC science-fiction television show, will know that it is actually the TARDIS.

The TARDIS, or “Time And Relative Dimension In Space,” is the Doctor’s means of transportation, and has, since 1963, been whisking him from planet to planet and backwards and forwards in time.

Lynch and Buckingham have been fans of the show for 30-plus years. Lynch, now in his 50s, was planning to build a toolshed three years ago when Buckingham suggested that he make the exterior look like the Doctor’s TARDIS. In Cottage Life, she saw that someone had built one, though she wasn’t “particularly impressed” by their effort, and thought that Lynch could do a better job.

The two found plans online of the actual prop used in the show, and Lynch set to work, buying and preparing all the materials. In total, he spent 50 hours on the project, including several spent making his own stencils for the signs.

To their surprise, passers-by immediately took notice, honking from cars, or stopping and pulling out their phones. Most people don’t knock and ask permission before taking photos, which is the way Lynch and Buckingham now prefer it.

“Pretty much every day there’s someone looking to take a picture, hundreds and hundreds of people [so far]. It’s actually easier on us if everybody doesn’t knock on the door,” Buckingham said.

Earlier this year, the two found a letter in their mailbox from a young couple looking to have their engagement photos taken in front of the TARDIS. Buckingham and Lynch ended up being away on vacation when the shoot took place, but they were happy to assent and offer suggestions on how the shed could best be used.

Buckingham has even started an Instagram feed for their TARDIS, @tardis.pelham, hoping that those who stop to take pictures can have them collected in one spot.

One woman, who wanted a TARDIS beside her pool, asked if she could place an order with Lynch. He isn’t doing professional work just yet, but plans to retire within two years, and suspects he will then begin independent contracting. He once spent 300 hours building a tandem kayak, much of the time spent splitting cedar planks into thin strips that he then affixed together.

The couple’s backyard could easily be in an advertisement for Lynch’s prospective business. He built a beautiful rustic gazebo, a stone patio with a fish pond, and, for Buckingham’s 60th birthday, a wooden swing with a sloped, Chinese-style roof.

The garage was a DIY project, too, and its exterior paint turned out to be useful later on. Once the TARDIS was finished, the two were looking around for the right shade of blue, when they realized that the garage was already coated in something close to the perfect hue. In any case, with each new actor who depicts the Doctor comes a slight variation to the TARDIS, and Buckingham and Lynch’s version is, in their estimation, a mix of the 10th and 11th machine.

Doctor Who was in the news earlier this summer when it was announced that actress Jodie Whittaker would be the 13th Doctor, the first woman to assume the role. While some fans were upset with the change, one of the Doctor’s alien abilities is to shift shape—a narrative element that has explained how 13 different people have played the same character, and one that Whittaker has said is sufficient to justify the change in gender.

As with most science fiction, Doctor Who can be incredibly intricate, and even Lynch and Buckingham’s extensive knowledge has been paled by some of the fanatics who have stopped by to take pictures. Above all, the two credit the show’s writers for maintaining such quality in the series, and have been pleased that the public display of their interest has allowed them to meet so many interesting people.

Two different Fonthill residents have stopped by, while walking, to say that they had close family members who worked on Doctor Who sets in the past.

“We’ve had all ages come and see it,” Buckingham said. “We’ve had grandparents take pictures to send off to their grandkids. I’ve seen people come up and kiss in front of it.” She has a suitably simple explanation for the series’ enduring popularity, and for the breadth of its fan base, saying that, “it’s a fun and quirky show—and it tells us to be playful no matter what age we are.”

On the show, the TARDIS’ innards are vast, and it is a running joke that “it’s bigger on the inside,” while Lynch and Buckingham’s is precisely the same size on the inside as it is on the out. Smaller, even, when you peer in to see that it is full of hedge shears and trowels and rakes and all other sorts of tools for which a “Time Lord” would have little use but which come in quite handy in a vegetable garden a few feet away.

One small boy, a Who fan who came to see the box, was disappointed when he saw that the inside was small and housed only tools.

Buckingham isn’t so sure that this is bad thing, and doesn’t even think that she’d use a real TARDIS if she had one. As the couple posed inside for a photo, with their heads peeking out as if they’d just landed, she thought about where she would take the TARDIS if she could and came up empty.

“[Going back in time…] is so complicated. You could mix up everything!”

Lynch wasn’t sure what he’d go back to experience, either. “I know there’s a lot of stuff I wouldn’t want to see,” he said.

After some cajoling, the two eventually settled on another shared love of theirs: ‘80s music. “We could go to see [Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark] from the ‘80s…when they were young. We love OMD.”

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