Last time on ‘The Chairs of Doctor Who’, we took a look at a host of fascinating chairs, at a time where there was a concerted shift to update the look of the series.
This time however, we go back to a distant era, where the number of chairs on screen are somewhat harder to find.
For regular readers, you may have noticed a few rules I’ve set myself.
– If the chair is 100% identifiable, I’ll stick it in a pink frame. Pink for your actual Pterodactyl.
– If the chair appears again and again in a number of stories, then so be it, I’ve got to be completist where possible..
– If I can’t identify the chair, I’ll find a close match where possible, and be honest about it. If nothing else, it might reveal some interesting observations about what was out there, the history of chairs, or give a clue to what the designers were thinking.
And it is definitely the last rule that is the mainstay of this blog post as we explore seasons 2 and 3, where Doctor Who has found its feet, and was starting to run.
You see, there are not many identifiable chairs in this period of the show, but along the way we might discover something about Roman times, chrome cantilever designs, or the ‘Wild West’. Let’s make the best of these slim pickings.
Planet of Giants
Even as a Doctor Who fan of 35 – 40 years, there are still stories that I know little about, or do not remember much. This story is one. Luckily our old friends the PEL desk chairs are more than familiar. These British made chairs were designed by Bruno Pollak in the 1930’s, using steel and canvas. I believe this to be their first appearance in the series.
Just when I thought there was nothing left to find, along comes the magical Clayton Hickman and his Twitter thread of restored festive delight, (see the colourised image below) revealing that one of the chairs is a Bentwood, designed by Michael Thonet in 1861. where the wood is steam pressed to create distinctive shapes. The first set photo tells us that this particular chair does not have the famed circular base, suggesting that it might be a Kohn/Mundus/Thonet collaboration dating from between 1914 and 1923. Educated guesses, and all that.
There are also some nice wooden industrial swivel chairs (based on the Victorian ‘Captain’ chair), and dining chairs, possibly Edwardian in manufacture.
The Dalek Invasion of Earth
For a story that felt like Doctor Who was growing into something bigger, with considerable location filming and expansive set design, there are few chairs to be glimpsed. With the exception of Dortmun’s wheelchair, only a generic wooden stool and a couple of benches are prominent. All are unidentifiable.
Some interesting designs in this story. There is a black leather swivel desk chair, similar to the one pictured. Alas the designer is currently unidentifiable.
Here are some leather and chromed steel Coulsdon side chairs, by William Plunkett for William Plunkett Furniture, 1960s. If I’m not mistaken, it pops up again 13 years later in Blake’s 7 – Mission to Destiny.
A Curule style seat is on show.
The Web Planet
A design classic – the Eames lounge chair, designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1956. A take on the English Club Chair, it somehow feels like a perfect vehicle for Hartnell.
The chaise lounge, first seen in ‘The Edge of Destruction’, makes a reappearance. I’ve found similar designs, however an exact match remains out of reach.
Meanwhile there is an industrial chair in view. And on the TARDIS there is the Renaissance style armchair, and trusty Knossos chair, both there from the very beginning.
Medieval throne type thing for Richard, but otherwise, little on show.
The Space Museum
More frustration. We have a pod/tub chair that Lobos sits on. It’s similar to the one below, but once again, I’m finding it difficult to find an exact match.
But in this dark hour, I try to remind myself that occasionally a custom built chair will be seen, and in this case, it’s a belter.
Remarkably – no chairs. Well, nothing prominent anyway.
The Time Meddler
Some wooden benches. Can you see a pattern in this blog post?
We start the next season with the recurring theme – a lack of identifiable chairs! But it’s nice to see the custom built seats that also featured in the very first season – I’m thinking of Marinus particularly.
Mission to the Unknown
Hooray! Our old friend the Eames desk chair EA108, for Herman Miller, makes another appearance. It’s a mainstay of the series. See season 1 for more.
The Myth Makers
Hardly any archival material – still or moving – exists. But hey, we can imagine.
The Daleks Master Plan
For such an epic story, there are a surprising lack of chairs in this one. And one that does appear is one I associate with late Hartnell / early Troughton. Currently it is hard to find, which is intensely frustrating. It’s got a hint of chic, and an element of cantilever and the sledge base frame is steel yet not tubular. There are chairs that come very close, such as the Bauhaus Thonet ST3 and a Czech cantilever armchair, by Karel Ort for Hynek Gottwald. Despite all the clues, it remains elusive. Interestingly a white padded version appears 13 years later in Blake’s 7 – Breakdown.
STOP PRESS! Hoorah! I found it! It is another William Plunket design, which suggests he was favour of the month for the BBC props buyers around this time. These are ‘Mitcham’ armchairs. I can bask in the glow that I was right in its use of flat-section aluminium alloy frame. The chairs date from 1965, so was straight off the shop floor and into the far future!
I’m so happy to have finally found these – I’ve been searching for them for what seems like forever!
That mavric, Chen, also has a couple of chairs on view. It’s hard to identify from the photos. Initially chairs by Martin De Wit, and Tan-Sad chairs featured in the searches, but in the end, I’m fairly convinced that that it is a 1950 Dutch industrial desk chair by Ahrend de Cirkel.
Various Renaissance era artefacts adorn this particular story, which I prey turns up in a filing cabinet in a far flung country somewhere. Why shouldn’t we continue to dream?
This is a really interesting story from a design point of view, offering a real sense of scale. We have some interesting black leather and chrome daybeds, of which looks like a number on the market at that point. As an illustration, I’ve opted for a ‘Barcelona’ version.
The tub swivel chairs continue to encroach on the series. This example is one of those designs that truly shouts ‘space age’. In the 1970’s the show will be tripping over them. But an early appearance here, is somewhat auspicious – behind a control desk.
The Celestial Toymaker
There is what looks like a Chinese hardwood chair circa 1900. It has a pearl inlay and a white veined marble top in the backrest and the seat. There is another carved wood chair with distinctive arm rests. Again, these are close approximations.
Various wooden and upholstered chairs add to the 1880’s Wild West theme.
And looking at a couple of genuine photographs from the era, it would once again suggest that those BBC designers were pretty much on the money!
But a special note for the accurate barbers chair, similar to this Koken Barber Supply Co chair from the 1980’s. Once again it proves that, as a show that was produced at a breakneck speed, the design is really carefully considered.
Another victim of the archival purge, really tough to work with such little material.
The War Machines
More ornate wooden and upholstered numbers. By the look of the carving, they suggest the Victorian age.
OK, let’s be clear here. I went in knowing that some posts will be better than others. And season three represents not only a dearth of surviving footage, but also a lack of identifiable chairs. These two things are probably connected, but also my knowledge of the historical settings, combined with whatever the BBC props team could get their hands on, means that this blog post is presented for a key intention – to be completist.
I couldn’t add the customary pink border to many identifiable (or matchable) chairs. Yet I was reminded of how season three was such a fascinating season – the first great shift in the tone of Doctor Who, and the first great crisis, with changes of producer, supporting cast, and the final season for the lead actor. I just hoped that season four would have richer pickings. Luckily I would be rewarded.
Photo credit – https://www.acme-art.com/?lightbox=dataItem-k6drco1x3