THE CHAIRS OF DOCTOR WHO – Season 9

Last time on ‘The Chairs of Doctor Who’.

The series found a formula and stuck to it, with Phillip Hinchcliffe presiding over a period of quality and controversy.

So this time, I thought I’d explore another period of the shows history, where the producer/script editor found a stable mix – both on Earth, and out into space.

Day of the Daleks

To kick off we have a 1950’s tufted Chesterfield sofa. A touch sardonic, but not cynical.

Opposite the Chesterfield is a Queen Anne style leather wing armchair, similar to this one.

And probably, a Queen Anne, or George II Mahogany dining chair for Styles himself. It’s not always easy to see on screen.

At UNIT HQ we have a repeat appearance of one of the first ever chairs seen in Doctor Who. This is a cast aluminium and plywood school chair manufactured by Esavian, originally designed by James Leonard in 1948.

And then we have one of the most recognisable chairs in all of sci-fi – Joe Columbo’s ‘Elda’ chair from 1963. It is fair to say that it is a thing of beauty, and a famous early example of moulded fibreglass, alongside the Tulip chairs. I think the following quote says it all.

Colombo anticipated that technology’s profound impact on society would increasingly allow people to retreat to the private spaces of their own homes. More accurate for today than the 1960s, his vision of a modern networked lifestyle was supported by furniture like the Elda armchair, whose cocoonlike seat and swiveling base created an ideal throne for the new citizen, comfortably connected to the world through the television, telephone, and other communication media.” (1)

Columbo died way too young. But his visions were so progressive, and simple. Or with “no complications“, one might say.

The Curse of Peladon

To be honest, I thought Peladon’s throne would be easy. It was really tricky to identify the influences behind this chair. I started with medieval throne chairs, and took on gilt leather, campaign chair, and nordic influences. Alas, it was all in vain.

For the handful of regular readers of these articles, you’ll know that in my last post I attempted to identify these custom designs. I went for a cross between a Renaissance era Sgabello chair and an ‘arts and craft’ Welsh Spinning Chair, with a touch of ‘Jack Grimble’ about them. Perhaps, just perhaps, they make their first Doctor Who appearance here.

Interestingly, a kindly soul on the Gallifrey Base forum, noted an observation from the Howe/Walker/Stammers Fourth Doctor Handbook (Telos). According to Barry Newbury, the chairs were made for a 1959 BBC version of ‘The Canterbury Tales’, for the designer Norman James. It’s a close observation. In fact it was 1969.

The Sea Devils

Captain Trenchard sits on some kind of Edward Wormley inspired Dunbar tufted leather barrel chair. Alas, like a few others this season, the chair is only ever partially seen, so I can’t confirm this.

What is certain, is the inclusion of these steel and canvas chairs by PEL, designed by Bruno Pollak in the 1930’s.

Jane Blythe sits on a Tan Sad office chair from around the 1950s.

Initially a company that produced chairs ‘Made in Birmingham’, by the 1950’s and 1960’s Tan-Sad became a generic name for pushchairs and traditional perambulators before its demise in 1975. “Ask a certain older generation and they will still to this day refer to a pushchair as a ‘Tan-Sad’. The original meaning behind the name is believed to come from the French word Tansad, meaning  the extra or pillion seat behind a horse or motorcycle.” (2)

The Doctor is tied up 1920’s style. Some consider Marcel Breuer’s ‘Wassily’ to be the first chair ever created with steel tubing as a core component of its design. It’s a classic example of modernist thinking, but its genesis is more modest – Breuer got his idea from the steel tube on his bicycle, attracted by its light and highly resistant properties.

The Mutants

Jeremy Bear’s fine set design is embellished with a good choice of chairs and seating. First up, we have an Osvaldo Borsani P126 Swivel Chair for Tecno, Italy, 1960s

This is a nice thing. A Giano Vano side table designed by Emma Gismondi Schweinberger for Artemide Milano. It’ll feature again in Doctor Who, notably on the Bi-al foundation.

The Time Monster

This is another story that feels like we’ve walked into Acorn Antiques. By this I mean the chairs featured on screen, not the production values, you understand.

We open in the Doctor’s lab, with an antique Victorian Mahogany upholstered Chaise Lounge.

Leather wing armchair, probably Edwardian.

We also have an old friend – a PEL desk chair designed by Oliver Bernard, probably dating from the 1930’s. This leather and chrome stalwart can be glimpsed to the right of both images below.

A Curule chair is featured in Atlantis. This is a chair that has popped up frequently since Season 1, and is in itself, a chair that has spanned large swathes of history.

Which is a neat summing up of Doctor Who itself.

See you next time.

(1) artic.edu/artworks/228655/elda-chair-no-1005

(2) https://merchantandfound.com/tan-sad-from-pushchairs-to-furniture/

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