Although there have on occasion been references to the TARDIS having a kitchen, we have never seen it. When the Doctor first appeared on our screens, the easiest way to get food on board the time and space vessel is from the TARDIS’s Food Machine.
First seen in the second ever Doctor Who story – ‘The Daleks‘ (1963-4) – the TARDIS Food Machine can apparently provide any meal that a hungry space-time traveller might care to consume. A large, upright dispensing machine, the Food Machine has two dials where the code for any food can be entered, and an array of indicator lights. There are also specific buttons for water and milk.
But don’t expect the meal you choose from the Food Machine to look anything like it usually does when served. When Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright ask if they can have bacon and eggs – the Food Machine code for which is J62L6 – the First Doctor serves them each a foil-wrapped plain white bar on a paper plate. But once the bars are unwrapped, Ian and Barbara are astonished to find that they actually taste delicious – one bite and they taste the bacon, the next and they taste the egg. Having said before it’s served that he hopes his food won’t taste of engine grease, Ian then teases that his bacon is a bit salty. It’s a criticism which the Doctor dismisses by telling him it shouldn’t be as it’s English.
The way the Food Machine works, the Doctor explains to his new travelling companions, is that food has component parts. These parts behave rather like primary colours. That means the component parts can be blended together in order to create different flavours. The resulting food tastes exactly as you want it, even though as Ian and Barbara discover it may not look terribly appetising when delivered.
Featured briefly in the next story, ‘Inside the Spaceship‘ (1964) and again in ‘The Space Museum‘ (1965), the TARDIS Food Machine has not been seen for a long time. Perhaps the TARDIS kitchens have superseded it. Certainly in ‘The Five Doctors‘ (1983), a lavish fruit buffet is served in the TARDIS Console Room.
Or perhaps the Doctor and his companions have simply got into the habit of trying out the local cuisine wherever they land whenever they get peckish… Assuming they have time to eat between saving the universe and running for their lives.
Doctor Who: 365 Days of Memorable Moments and Impossible Things by Justin Richards is on sale now by BBC Books, price £12.99 in hardback.