The London Metropolitan Police Once Sued ‘Doctor Who’

“I found you; I found you in words just like you knew I would; that’s why you told me the story, the brand new, ancient blue box.” —Amy Pond, Doctor Who

In A Nutshell

Doctor Who is a beloved children’s character who travels through time in a spaceship called the TARDIS. The London Metropolitan Police is, well, a police force. In 1996, the latter launched a legal battle against the show, claiming the BBC had stolen the design for the TARDIS. The case dragged on for six years, cost taxpayers an absurd amount of money, and wound up with the Police being fined £850 ($1,350).

The Whole Bushel

If you’re on the Internet in 2013, you’ve probably at least heard of Doctor Who. The world’s longest-running sci-fi show has spent 50 years following the adventures of The Doctor, a maverick alien who travels through time and space in something called the TARDIS. From the get-go, producers had wanted this magical ship to look as mundane as possible; so the production team “borrowed” the appearance of the blue police boxes the London Metropolitan Police then had on every corner. For over 30 years, the TARDIS remained a fixture on TV. Then suddenly, in 1996, the London Met decided enough was enough. They were going to sue Doctor Who.

The case came about when the BBC tried to trademark the image of the police box, specifically when used as a spaceship. What should have been a routine application instead turned into a circus when the Met unexpectedly deployed all their lawyers. And we mean all: At one point, the Ministry of Defence was strong-armed into helping the UK’s biggest police force sue a children’s show. Their case, when it reached court, rested on the fact that members of the public might be “deceived” into thinking the TARDIS was a real police box—presumably because the Met secretly has access to both time travel technology and whimsical adventures.

In the end, the lawsuit dragged on for six years before a judge ruled in favor of The Doctor, fining the police £850 and leaving them with stratospheric lawyers’ bills . . . all of which had to be covered by the taxpayer. As a kind of sequel to this story, another claim has now popped up from a man named Stef Coburn, who claims to have held the rights to the spaceship since 1977. No word on how the Met will feel if a lanky chancer succeeds where their government-funded police force once failed.

Show Me The Proof

BBC: BBC wins police Tardis case
The Independent: Who owns the Tardis? Son of man who invented Doctor Who’s time machine is challenging BBC over breach of copyright

  • WhiteExodus

    Suing the doctor…..blasphemy!!!

  • Ray

    It’s about the same as the argument that people would have been fooled into thinking wrestling had anything to do with wildlife conservation.

    • Chester

      I miss the old WWF WWE just isnt the same,

  • RxPhan

    You don’t sue someone who has a time machine. Especially a Time Lord. The Doctor probably went back, gave the judge a ride in the Tardis, the judge was gobsmacked by the experience, and Bob’s your uncle.

  • Maybe Diddy?

    British people are a huge joke.

    • fdsfsd

      American people are a fat mess.

      • Chester

        you can loose weight but you cant loose ugly and british lol

        • Bateman

          I’d rather wake up ugly each morning than thick as pigsh*t.

        • faithless

          Chester you make Americans look ignorant. It’s lose not loose. Hell you may be able to lose weight but you can’t lose stupid.

      • Maybe Diddy?

        I’m more an alcoholic, druggy mess, hard to be fat at the same time.

  • Hadeskabir

    The stupidity, in suing a children show, is too much.

  • oouchan

    I’m a fan and I didn’t know this. Too funny! They just got their knickers in a twist when they realized their “blue box” was smaller on the inside. 🙂

  • Rufus T. Firefly

    I never thought I would see an article by Morris M that was not offensive, socialist, America bashing propaganda. I stand corrected.

  • fdsfsd

    Morris M. like Doctor Who… Of course he does, he has all over sensibilities of the tumblr crowd

  • Mikey Godsey

    What the fuck? Children’s show? It sounds ridiculous enough without the author using misleading language to make it sound more frivolous than it is.

    • flicka

      I was surprised he called it a children’s show. I mean it’s definitely kid friendly but it’s not geared towards kids.

    • BeeJ

      The show was originally meant to be an educational show for children. To teach things like physics, math, history etc. It was either after the first or second season that they started changing the format until they got to the show we have now.

      • Mikey Godsey

        Originally, sure. But he made it sound like it still is.

        • BeeJ

          Maybesomewhere it’s still classified as a kids show. Or he thinks of it as one.

  • inconspicuous detective

    my girlfriend loves this show, i wasn’t aware it was a children’s show though.

    • Ian Moone

      It’s not it’s just kid friendly. Mostly teenagers and people in their early 20’s watch it.

      • inconspicuous detective

        exactly how i initially thought it was. thanks for clarifying ^_^

    • Nomsheep

      It started out as as educational show to teach children about science and history.