The Scanner consists of a collection of thousands of instruments designed to gather information about the environment outside a TARDIS. Chief among these is the visual signal, which is displayed on the Scanner Screen found in any of the Control Rooms. The Scanner's Image Translator, located in the Master Control Console, interprets the absolute positive value of the coordinates to create the visual image. Using an infrared or a traditional searchlight it can provide color images of the exterior even in total darkness and has a maximum magnification of 200 power.
Other sensors built into the Scanner (but on a separate circuit from the visual signal) include audio circuits (to relay sound), gravity detectors, magnetic field sensors, magnetic compass, metal detectors, radiation detectors, transmat beam detectors, absence detectors, a hyperspatial-mass sensor, infrared sensors, low-light sensors, and terrain mappers. The Atmosphere Analyzers can help identify a G-Type environment (aka Gallifrey-like) and are hooked to a dial that will indicate if the air quality will be fatal to humanoids after a few hours of exposure. There is a display light on the console that warns the crew if the outside environment is dangerous. Some of the sensors trigger alarms that alert the crew, such as if a TARDIS is shifted into Warp Drive, or when the doors are opened and the exterior environment is extremely hostile. The TARDIS has a Seismic Scanner that predicts local volcanic stability over short periods of time. The Scanner can also be reconfigured to focus on psionic resonances. The passive Time-Line Flux Adjuster detects some types of temporal anomalies and has a range of about 60 million light-years (though it must be told what to look for and where to search). Active Sensors use detector beams and have a range of about 100 miles.
When Scanning Mode is enabled the Time Column inside the Time Rotor spins. The scanner has an interstitial beam synthesizer that is essential to its operation. It can even be pre-set to visually locate specific items. The TARDIS Scanner is keyed to its operator's brain pattern and can track his biodata movements over at least a mile or two. If the Scanner is used while traveling in the Space-Time Vortex, a 3D representation of the Vortex Wormhole will appear on the screen. A red tint is often used for traveling forwards in time and a blue tint usually indicates travel into the relative past. A 3 dimensional image of a five dimensional space is of little use to a navigator, so the scanner is usually deactivated during Vortex travel.
Data collected by the Scanner (especially the visual signal) is usually displayed on the full-color Scanner Screen which is usually located on the wall of the Control Room. This screen can also be used to display data from the Control Console. Images and data presented on the Scanner Screen can be manipulated with a light pen. It can also be refocused with some difficulty, to show the interior of various rooms within the TARDIS.
There are other, less popular, ways to view information from the Scanner. An entire wall of the Control Room can be converted into a massive screen. A holographic projection system allows the operator and the console to appear (from the operator's point of view) to be surrounded by the outside environment.
Strong exterior magnetic fields can interfere with the Scanner by disrupting the flow of Artron Energy. If a TARDIS is transported into Exo-Space (E-Space) it will require a local Image Translator to properly interpret the new negative coordinates. Without it the Scanner will only show positive coordinate images from Normal Space (N-Space). The Scanner is calibrated according to continuous constant time. If there is no flow of time outside a TARDIS then the Scanner Screen will show only gibberish.
The following color code is used:
- Black: For information from the TV Series, including Dimensions in Time, and 1996 TV Movie.
- Blue: For information from the Novels and Audios including Target, Virgin, BCC, and Big Finish.
- Green: For information from 'licensed' reference sources such as the Technical Manual, Doctor Who Magazine, and the Role Playing Games.
- Red: For information from unofficial sources -The Faction Paradox series, author's speculation, and popular fan belief.
Copyright Will B Swift
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