Canberra Whovians might be disappointed to discover the Doctor has not touched down in the capital.
The mystery Tardis – the time machine of popular science-fiction hero Doctor Who – that appeared on Red Hill on Tuesday turns out to be the work of local street artist Geoff Filmer, and is one of three utility boxes he has revamped so far on behalf of ACTEW Water.
"In a way I think it was a shame that it wasn't a piece of sneaky guerilla graffiti," Filmer said after reading the initial theories of the Tardis.
While it's the second Tardis to appear in Canberra, theories on the latest one ranged from the Doctor touching down to fight evil aliens inside suits of the human skins of politicians, to being part of a campaign by Doctor Who fans to get the TV show filmed in Australia.
The reality was ACTEW Water had grown tired of ugly graffiti on the box and had a Whovian in their ranks.
"One of the people there, a mad Doctor Who fan, said can we do the Tardis down here – he'd always envisaged it being a Tardis," Filmer said.
"It was just a plain concrete box with some bad tagging [before] ... it looked pretty ugly and as you came down the stairs – they're a long set of stairs – you're staring at that box the whole time, so it was pretty ordinary."
The finishing touches still need to be put on Filmer's latest piece of art; he's also painted an astronaut on a sewage storage facility in Turner, and a surfer on a pump station on Yamba Drive.
"I actually haven't finished the Tardis ... I painted it on Monday, came back to finish it off on Tuesday and got beaten by the rain, so there's a few things missing – I'm quite amazed that it got picked up already," he said.
"There's [going to be] a sign on the front of it that has 'push the door' 'all cars respond' – and then around the bottom … when the Tardis touches down it has all the lightning, so I'm going to do lightning around the bottom of it."
The project – a pilot with just three public assets initially – is designed to save ACTEW Water from costs associated with cleaning up graffiti, with the added benefit of enhancing aesthetics for the local community.
"The prerequisite to an asset being selected for this art project – as well as being easy to see – is that they have been hit pretty hard by regular and ongoing graffiti," an ACTEW Water spokeswoman said.
"We are very keen to evaluate the benefit of the artwork, which will of course include feedback from the community."
Filmer, who owns street art company Graffik Paint, has another project with ACTEW Water, but he can't reveal anything yet.
"They're looking at doing some other really interesting stuff with their boxes, based around the idea of creating interesting art in Canberra on their infrastructure."
He said Canberra has great talent when it comes to large wall artwork, thanks to the ACT government legalising certain big walls for street art 10 years ago.
"We've had a decade of kids learning to paint big walls so in Canberra we actually export more people who have a resume of painting on big walls than anywhere in Australia. I'm trying to basically keep them here because they keep leaving and going to Melbourne and Sydney.
"I think that it's really wonderful that big organisations like ACTEW Water are supporting the arts in Canberra in a way that isn't just giving money to some galleries.
"So often Canberra gets slung as a boring government town and it actually isn't."
- with Ben Westcott