THE CHAIRS OF DOCTOR WHO – Season 18 & 19

Last time on ‘The Chairs of Doctor Who’.

Season 9 was another point of stability for the series, where the regular cast and crew were unchanged.

For this blog post, I’ve gone for the opposite. A season where a new production team would make some big changes, resulting in a very different look.

The Leisure Live

Brighton, 1980.

Land of sex, sea, glamour, and attempts to walk in a sophisticated manner along the pebbles.

Let’s start with the Doctor sitting on a ‘rocking’ deck chair, bringing in the 1980’s with joy, energy and enthusiasm. Hmmmm – perhaps it was something to do with the weather.

The two deck chairs for Doctor Tom and Romana, have a suitably Edwardian look about them, and are probably props, surrounded by the real Brighton stock.

And studying the footage, it looks like the Doctor has his own ‘deluxe’ deck chair to sit on, with added foot rest.

The handful of hardcore readers, who have braved these posts, will have noticed that custom built chairs are actually the rarity in Doctor Who. Sometimes it’s tricky to guess whether specific chairs are customised from an established design, 100% custom built, or are a genuinely ‘on the market’ chair. Either way, these Z-framed cantilever chairs, suggest the world of Pierre Cardin, Milo Baughman, or chairs by ‘Flair’. These chrome designs, of various heights, will appear a few times over the next few years, and also pop up in Blake’s 7 on the planet Helotrix, recorded not long after ‘The Leisure Hive’.

Meglos

Following the glitz of ‘The Leisure Hive’, it is a jolt to see characters sporting a blond ‘space wig’ which is 10 – 15 years out of date. In this situation, it is important to go the whole hog, and plonk them in a chair that equally suggests ‘ITC telefantasy’. Perhaps fortuitously, I can’t identify this cream leather high backed office chair.

On the other side of the control room are some familiar ergonomic ‘Vitromat’ chairs – see ‘Logopolis’ for more on these important 1970’s designs.

On Grugger’s ship, a design classic is ‘enhanced’ with cheap plastic tubing. In this case it is an Eames soft pad EA 216. Sometimes, with the best will in the world, the designers don’t always make the right decisions.

Full Circle

This story marks the debut of a chair that will be synonymous with the early JNT era. This is Heron Parigi’s ‘Polo’ drafting chair, from 1975. You’ll be seeing it a lot throughout this blog post, and there’s more in the post about season 21. For now, you just get to see a little taster poking up at the bottom of the frame.

Onto a couple of disappointments. I had no luck in finding this state of the art dentists chair, nor the modular sofa, which looks similar to a Chadwick. Answers on a postcard, please.

State of Decay

Not many chairs in this one, as everyone is too busy vamping it up. Most notable is this throne / sedan styled thing, probably a custom built prop, alongside the chair next to the double doors, which echoes many of the gothic chairs throughout history.

Warriors’ Gate

For me, one of the greatest stories – visually speaking. We have what looks like 17th century armchairs, scattered around the banqueting table.

On the fight deck, I can’t make these black and chrome desk chairs out. I fully blame Paul Joyce’s camera angles and set design concepts. (To be clear, I love the direction of this so much).

The Keeper of Traken

Interesting array of artefacts on Traken. For a start we have a Qing dynasty Chinese Dragon throne chair made of Rosewood. Apparently these where still being made for various markets until the 1950’s, so entirely plausible that they would be present in a BBC prop/scenic warehouse.

Other Dragon throne chairs are also visible.

And we have the mother of throne chairs, presumably custom built for stage and screen.

Logopolis

If Tom Baker started his final season jet lagged, and slouching on an Edwardian deck chair, he ended it maintaining correct posture – the raison d’être of the Vitramat 20 chair featured on Logopolis.

The first thing that was noteworthy and novel about this chair was its three-part seat shell. The rear upward slant of the seat surface, which – according to a Vitra advertisement – ‘prevents the pelvis from tilting backwards’, merged into a flexible lumbar support connecting the seat and backrest. The construction culminated in a ‘swivel-mounted backrest, which flexes in every direction to provide resilient support to the upper back’ – and unlike that of conventional task chairs, required no height adjustment mechanism.” (1)

Back on Earth, I’m still searching for these 1960’s lounge / slipper/ easy chairs. They’re a tad generic, so I’m not going to lose too much sleep.

Season 19

Castrovalva

No luck with the electric wheelchair, that ultimately meets its end in the lake. But I now know a little more about Everest & Jennings, and the development of motorised mobility equipment. What I did discover is that it is a 1970’s design, at the very latest, as the backrest and arms are identical to the chair used by The Collector in ‘The Sun Makers’ (1977).

Four to Doomsday

Ah! The Omkstak by Rodey Kinsman for OMK. Originally designed in 1972 it has been in continuous production since with sales now exceeding one million units.  It’s had good coverage in both Doctor Who and Blake’s 7. 

Onwards we go, to the main fight deck where Monarch, Persuasion and Enlightenment sit. Some gold chrome and velvet seats have been encased within Tony Burrough’s fabulous futuristic design. The chair in question has also been seen in Blake’s 7, as part of Freedom City in ‘Gambit’. It’s a gold-plated brass and original textile armchair from Willy Rizzo (1928-2013), circa 1970, Italy.

It’s worth noting a few little extra set dressings, such as the microfiche readers, the drawers also seen in the final episode of Blake’s 7, and the trusty Sorella lamp – a mainstay of UK sci-fi.

Kinda

We have another new chair, a leather office chair, designed by Vico Magistretti for LBM. It’s a touch quirky, and definitely suggests some of the post-modern themes that would find home in the 1980’s. Apparently the disc like caps that hide the castors are designed to give the chair a hovering appearance

It’s been a bad day at the chair salesroom.

The Visitation

As with Warriors’ Gate, there are 17th century chairs galore. Doctor Who always seems to have a plentiful supply of chairs from this period.

Black Orchid

We have Edwardian desk chairs, and a George V three-piece mahogany bergere cane suite, roughly circa 1910. A bergère is an enclosed upholstered French armchair with an upholstered back and armrests on upholstered frames. You learn something new every day.

We have some kind of imitation Louis XV chair (ish).

And we have an upholstered Victorian tufted sofa, and library chairs.

Earthshock

So this fabulous chair is a constant source of irritation. The design is distinctive, a kind of love child of the famed Eames lounge chair of the 1960’s, and a Martin Stoll designed office chair for Giroplex, with hint of Joe Columbo’s ‘Elda’ cushion design.

But identifying the designer and manufacturer, remains a mystery. Luckily a kind soul on Twitter (Mister Rhys) led me to this Dutch collection https://devreugdedesign.com/18-02-ii-84-large/ who, in turn, kindly supplied me with these fantastic photos, so we can see in glorious close up the kind of chair Beryl Reid sat on when she took us to ‘Warp Drive’.

Elsewhere on the freighter, Berger looks at her iPad on the Polo drafting chair from 1975, – see ‘Full Circle’. We can also glimpse it in episode 1, where Walters talks to Snyder.

It’ll pop up again in Davison’s run.

Time-Flight

Considering the sheer, wonderful, preposterous concepts behind Time-Flight, it’s sobering to realise that the red leather and oak chairs featured at flight HQ are more mundane.

Not the glamorous way I would want to end this post, but hey, that’s showbiz. It’s a long way from Argolis. Ta ta.

(1) https://www.vitra.com/en-me/magazine/details/40-years-vitramat

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s