THE CHAIRS OF DOCTOR WHO – Season 21

Last time around, I explored the 1986 – 87 period of Doctor Who, which was not only a handover between two Doctors, but also a tonal shift within the series.

With the 1980’s firmly in mind, I thought I’d take a look at what was happening a few years earlier.

Season 21 is one of my favourite seasons. It is certainly the first season that I remember watching in full, and it cemented a lifelong love of Doctor Who. It’s a run of stories that depicts a rather cynical, paranoid universe, with self preservation at its heart. So let’s take a look and see what chairs these moody, jaded characters were sitting on, when they were contemplating their miserable lives.

Warriors of the Deep

This drafting stool has popped up a few times in Peter Davison’s era, as a bit part player. But in Warriors of the Deep, it gets its moment in the sun. It is an Italian ‘Polo stool’ by Paolo Parigi, for Parigi Heron. This self explanatory 1975 design consisted of a black metal base on castors, perforated seat, black rubber back rest, and was bloomin’ difficult to find, I can tell you. After weeks of searching, I actually squealed when I found it. Not an attractive image I know, but a realistic one, I’m afraid.

In the living quarters there is a chair from around 30 years before this story went into production. Inspired by a badminton rack, this is a ND150 ‘badminton’ chair by Nanna Ditzel for Poul Kolds Savværk. Dating from the 1950s. It’s a combination of rosewoood and white artificial leather, with a chrome fame and plastic endings. 

I think grey and orange is an underrated colour combination, don’t you? 😉

The Awakening

From the far future, to contemporary Earth. We have a Ladderback dining chair, likely built in the 1940s. Ladderback is named after the horizontal slats across the back of the chair, resembling the rungs of a ladder. With the central theme of ‘The Awakening’ referening the English Civil War and the mid 17th century, it is interesting to note that, around this period, this type of chair was among the most common style in England.

Also commonplace in the mid 17th century is the Wainscott Chair. Familiar characteristics of this type of chair include a detailed carved design on the back, and the front legs shaped on a lathe.

Meanwhile, a range of other ornate 17th century chairs are on show. Take a bow Barry Newbury.

Frontios

Initially, Frontios, was one of those stories, where I couldn’t firmly identify the two black office/desk swivel chairs on show. The one by the main entrance, looked similar to a FK-86 Leather Lounge Chair by Preben Fabricius & Jørgen Kastholm. But I was still unsure.

Luckily with a bit of extra investigation I was able to confirm that the judge sat on a 1960’s Eames Office Chair EA 219 in the Soft Pad Group by Charles and Ray Eames.

I also recognised an ergonomic chair that Turlough sits on, of which I will talk about in later in this post.

Resurrection of the Daleks

When you get past all his hysterical shouting, Davros clearly has a keen sense of style, as he retains this inherited S70-3 stool by Borge Lindau and Bo Lindekrantz, for Lammhults. This tubular chrome design dates from 1968, although I feel sure that wasn’t at the forefront of Davros’ mind.

Before their demise, the crew sat on some interesting grungy industrial command seats, that look like they have been put together with whatever was available in the prop room. I’m interested in what seating they used as the base – it could be the trusty Eames office chair.

Planet of Fire

I basked in the joy of trying to find a chair purchased by a Lanzarote cafe in the 1980’s. They looked similar to these Rio indoor / outdoor armchairs by Emu. But not quite.

The Caves of Androzani

Serving in an army must be tough, so it’s important to ensure good posture where possible. This must be why Chellak adorns his base with the 1976 ‘Vertebra’ chair system. It “is the first automatically adjustable office chair, designed to respond and adapt to the movements of the user’s body and provide comfort and support. Designer Emilio Ambasz, who was born in Argentina and educated in the United States, sought to create the ideal chair in “Vertebra,” one that was so integrated with the form of the occupant as to become virtually invisible and undetectable, functioning as an extension of the human body“. (1)

Feast your eyes on this delicacy. It’s a Domani chair, made by the German company Odo Close in 1972. It’s a rare beast, and it appears that not many other people have seen it up close.

But there are sightings, including another Doctor Who.

The 1979 episode of LWT comedy ‘Two’s Company’ features a fabulously moustachioed Bernard Kay looking rather cool in it.

It also pops up in The New Avengers episode ‘Obsession’.

But its first sighing is in Space 1999, with an important reminder that you can find more fabulous interior design info here.

Shockingly recognisable is the Elda chair by Joe Colombo for Comfort, Italy, 1963. I’ll talk more about this chair in the season 10 post, of course. For now, let’s admire this classic design…

…and we shall all feel a lot better.

The Twin Dilemma

Visually this story is all over the place, and the same is true for the chairs used.

First up we have these 1970 Italian ‘Flynn’ dining chairs by Gastone Rinaldi for Thema Italy.

Meanwhile, in the Helen Blatch control centre, there is an array of black office chairs, including what looks like swivel chairs based on a 1960 ‘Canasta’ armchair. These have a tulip base, so I can’t firmly identify them. Blatch herself sits on what looks like a generic 1970’s upholstered executive chair. For my eyes, it looks a bit meh, therefore it’s probably a design classic.

There’s also a repeat appearance of the ‘Vertebra’ chair.

It’s time to pause for a moment, and enjoy the end of season budget biting. Doctor Who makes use of a couple of chairs more famous from its recently expired (on television at least) BBC stablemate – Blake’s 7.

Firstly we have a shockingly recognisable racing car seat first seen on the Scorpio flight deck.

And we have some rather interesting, almost gothic looking leather seats, that I recognised from the ‘Trial’ of Travis in season B.

But for such a far future season, we end with something a bit more homely, namely a 1980’s cane chair. The designer/manufacturer is unknown, but it’s still out there to buy…

…whether you like it or not.

(1) https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1989.48/

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