Last time on ‘The Chairs of Doctor Who’.
Season 15 was perhaps the pinnacle of Doctor Who and stylish chairs. It might be the ultimate expression of ‘space age’. It was an absolute joy to uncover the fibreglass, chrome and leather designs on show.
I knew that the following blog post would have a tough act to follow, so I decided to explore an era of the show where there was a noticeable difference in the approach to design.
Something happened following the ‘great hiatus of 1985’. The number of chairs seemed to decline. Well the identifiable anyway. In fact, there were still plenty of contemporary seating to be observed, but in many instances, the production team moved away from relying on retro ‘design classics’ towards a postmodern approach, where the designs stick out because of their apparent unsuitability to the settings and timeframe in which they are placed.
It’s is during the Sylvester McCoy era where this approach takes hold, although the seeds are sown in the much anticipated season 23 – ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’.
The Mysterious Planet
For a story that could have heralded a new direction for Doctor Who, this story actually feels like a throwback to designs of old, with brightly lit corridors, and a television studio feel – made more obvious by the inclusion of our old friend the 1960’s Pieff Eleganza range, by Tim Bates. This time around we see the high backed versions for the main protagonists.
Meanwhile, on outside broadcast, a ‘Carry On’ star sits on a mock up of a curule seat, used from Roman emperors to Napoleon. A chair that could stand up to a pudding eating competition to the death.
Even though there are few chairs on display here, visually speaking this is a step forward for the show. The lighting and geography of the set design hints at a more grungy 1980’s vibe, but it is the ingenious use of a genuine aircraft pilot seat that suggests a new approach to design is on its way, with sleek mid-century space age designs slowly on the way out.
Terror of the Vervoids
My 8 year old self was saying ‘Why are we in a garden centre?‘, but looking at it with wiser, more forgiving eyes, I can’t think of a better approach. The passenger lounge of the Hyperion is made up of a mix of artefacts from Russell Woodard, whose ‘spun’ furniture has been a signature style for the Woodard company that has been in existence for over 150 years. There are many variations of this design. The Doctor Who production team opted for a version with added arms.
The executive office chair that the captain sits on is made from leather and burlwood. It’s an Italian bureaux chair, called Hergo, from R.A.Mobili, and dates from the 1970’s.
Either side of it is a Viggen chair, deigned by Börje Johanson for Johanson Design in the 1970’s.
The Ultimate Foe
Alas I couldn’t detect any of the artefacts from the ‘Fantasy Factory’, with a wooden chair mostly obscured by the ample posterior of Geoffrey Hughes.
And with that, Colin Baker’s run as the Doctor is halted in its tracks.
With bold new graphics and another variant of the theme tune, we move into the McCoy era, one which will establish a very new direction towards chair selection, away from the classics of the 1960’s and 70’s and towards a contemporary (and sometimes postmodern) approach.
Time and the Rani
Interesting to note that their is next to no seating in this story. You’d think, a new Doctor, who is a bit wobbly on his feet, might want to have a sit down somewhere stylish.
Let’s start with the unidentifiable.
In the apartment there is what looks like a very contemporary sofa/armchair suite. It’s like Bobby Warrens nipped down to MFI to see what was in the clearance section. Actually that very unkind to Warrens, who I’m sure looked for only the best.
Subsequently, the kind Twitter folk were able to track this down. It’s a Lauriana Chair by Tobia & Afra Scarpa for B&B Italia 1978. Excellent sleuthing Si Hart and Crossroads Motel Fan! It’s proof that Warrens did buy the best.
In the kitchen, we can see a steel ‘DKR’ Wire Chair by the designers Charles & Ray Eames for the manufacturer Vitra. This model was developed in connection with the Low Cost Furniture competition held by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and for the Herman Miller company, who produced various versions of the chair between 1951 and 1967.
These chairs are interesting. Currently I can’t be certain of the exact match, but there are very similar to the pictured Fritz Hansen ‘Pelikan’ garden chairs.
The control centre of Paradise Towers contains a rather fine 1980’s Italian black and chrome office chair for Tacho.
These white chairs are a classic of outdoor furniture (apparently, he says, pretending he knows everything). They are 1960’S Triconfort ‘Rivera’ pool chairs. Triconfort were established in the 1950’s, and still produce today.
Also pool side, we have this 1960’s Norwegian Recliner with foot stool, designed and manufactured by Skohaug Industries.
Annoyingly there is a beige squared leather couch which is undetectable. It’s similar to a 1970s HK Diplomat Sofa, by Howard Keith. But I’m not convinced that it is.
1985 Tokyo bar Stools designed by Rodney Kinsman for the Italian manufacturer Bieffeplast, are featured in the office. Made from a black powder coated steel tubular steel frame with a black vinyl seat, they were originally designed for London’s Groucho club.
Delta and the Bannerman
Impossible to even begin to detect everyday furniture from the 1950’s. But fun to spot.
Finally we reach Iceworld, and another example of a more postmodern approach to placing furniture in far flung alien settings.
There are plenty of French wire garden chairs in the cafe, although the exact manufacturer cannot be identified. I mean why should it? I’m only attempting to find some antique garden furniture that appeared in an episode of a science fiction series of the 1980’s, on a blog about chairs!
But as you can see from the picture above, I came very close. And I will now revel in my new found love of the 1980s, and reward myself with a Malibu on ice.
Until the next time…