Last time on ‘The Chairs of Doctor Who’.
Season 25 and 26 was a fascinating era, where space age modernist furniture was abandoned in favour of a knowing, postmodernist approach. So while there were plenty of artefacts on show, the actual number of identifiable seating – always the game I like to play – was comparatively small.
This time, the Randomiser has selected seasons 16 – 17. I love this era – well most of it. Season 15 is still a season where Doctor Who shows off the range and pushes the limits of what is was capable of, particularly when the world was shrinking around it. It still remains unbeatable when it comes to chairs too. Season 16 is an ambitious and worthwhile experiment – and in the true spirit of experimentation, it’s not wholly successful. And season 17 is a wildly fluctuating roller coaster of quality. But its high points are exceptionally high. It’s Doctor Who at it’s most unpredictable, and for me, that’s terribly exciting.
So as the 1970’s drew to a close, what chairs can we see?
Let’s find out.
The Ribos Operation
First up we have a classic – a ‘Peacock’ chair made famous by The Adams Family, and Emmanuelle (not that I’ve ever watched it, you understand.) 😉 There were many different versions made, and although I can’t find the original source of this particular design, it seems to be readily available on the market, as the photo below is an exact match. The French company Kok Maison is a likely contender as the source of this chair.
A Curule chair – always a favourite of the show – can be glimpsed in the throne room of Ribos. This is alongside what looks like a medieval throne.
The Pirate Planet
We have a design classic – the LC4 Chaise Lounge by Le Corbusier for Cassina. Clearly the ‘Golden Age of Prosperity’ on Zanak included a bounty of chairs.
I’ve no idea what Queen Xanxia is sitting on. Her robes, and false teeth (which got paid extra) cover up the vital evidence!
The Stones of Blood
The home of De Vries includes all kind of furniture from the ages – Tudor, Renaissance, possibly Edwardian. There are box seats, monks benches armchairs and couches. Mind you it’ll mean nothing to him, or Martha, once they end up in Plymouth.
There is also a good mix in the cottage, with some rather fine floral sofas. None of which masks the fact that little can be identified in this tale of blood thirsty stones.
The Androids of Tara
In Reynart’s modest dwellings, there are upholstered chairs and the like, while Reynart himself sits in what looks like a 19th century French oak armchair.
Some familiar carved wooden chairs also feature in Castle Gracht. According to Barry Newbury, these were made for a 1969 BBC version of ‘The Canterbury Tales’, for the designer Norman James. They first made their Doctor Who appearance in ‘The Curse of Peladon’.
Elsewhere in the prison, there is a ‘Jack Grimble’ chair, probably dating from the 1940’s. Jack Grimble of Cromer, worked on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, and developed his style after careful study of medieval English furniture techniques, construction and materials.
The coronation room, possibly houses an imitation French Regence style throne chair.
In fact there are quite a lot of chairs in this tale, most of which are from stock.
The Power of Kroll
I’d really like to find these chairs. So far, I’m not having much success. They echo the Pieff Eleganza, but are all on a swivel base, with rounded chrome armrests, with what looks like a plastic seat. They also feature in ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’, so they are fairly high up on the a small hit-list of chairs still to be discovered. The closest I can find is this chair (not a swivel) posted on a buy/sell website. If anyone out there can help, please say hello.
The Armageddon Factor
Centre stage is a high backed version of what looks like Charles Pollack’s office armchair. This chair is named ‘Comforto’ so is the same manufacturer. The main difference between the high back ‘executive’ version and the more available office chair, is a slightly different design to the armrests. This chair also memorably features in the Blake’s 7 episode ‘Voice from the Past’ where the cast wheel Blake around the flight deck, crashing him into the scenery between takes. Probably.
Once again, we also say hello to the Peiff ‘Eleganza’ leather office chair, circa 1968. This time it is seen at a 45degree angle, proving that it is robust, at the very least.
Destiny of the Daleks
Here’s an ingenious use of a chair. Take a load of 1952 Harry Bertoia wire frame side chairs for Knoll, remove the base, and then turn it into a tool for collecting rocks. I was initially horrified that a design classic could be used in such a manner, then I remembered that this is the Graham Williams era, where rampant postmodernism allows these things to happen!
Although I can’t identify this particular chair, it does pop up in various other television of the time. Around the same time as its appearance here, it features in Blake’s 7 – ‘Aftermath’, at the back of Hal Mellanby’s submerged base.
And a few years later, Paul Coia chairs an interview with various Who luminaries in the foyer of Pebble Mill studios, complete with Dalek cake, where the candles don’t blow out.
The Movellan’s clearly have a fine sense of style, sitting down robotically on Don Chadwick’s famed 1974 modular sofa.
City of Death
Duggan, what are you doing? For heavens sake, that’s an (imitation) Louis XV.
Louis XIV (whose long reign lasted from 1643 to 1715) felt that his surroundings should mirror the divine power of the monarchy itself. Artists and craftsmen followed suit, resulting in furnishings that were highly ornate, often gilded, and decidedly dramatic.
Louis XV’s reign, from 1715 to 1774, aligned with the Rococo period in European art and design, characterized by a love of organic motifs and intricate ornamentation. Chair styles loosened up accordingly, with an increase in curvilinear shapes and a new emphasis on comfort. It’s easy to picture one of these elegant pieces in the lavish rooms of Louis XV’s mistress Madame de Pompadour. (1)
Meanwhile back at the cafe, there are some fairly generic steel and wooden chairs – designer unknown.
And a rather fetching red bench at the Louvre.
Back to the 16th century, and we have a range of carved wooden chairs (maybe with a little creative licence – it looks slightly Jacobean in style). And Captain Tancredi gets all hot and bothered, next to an upholstered ‘throne’ chair, one of which I’ve no idea at all what it is supposed to be resembling.
And as the TARDIS disappears back to the dawn of life, the Chadwick sofa is revealed once more, this time showing off its ability to be fitted in a straight line, though the two differing shapes on offer.
Exquisite, absolutely exquisite.
The Creature from the Pit
Lady Adastra sits on a throne that has clearly gone through its own time warp, featuring in ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ (1975).
Nightmare of Eden
On the Empress, the Eleganza’s are once more dragged out onto the studio floor. Here we have an interesting mix of mustard, and varying shades of grey.
Meanwhile on the bridge, the crew sit on some ergonomic looking swivel desk chairs – designer unknown. A pity, because they are quite distinctive. If anyone knows, please get in touch.
In episode three, there is a chair that lurks in the background. It’s a 1960’s Plia folding chair by Giancarlo Piretti for Castelli. It’s previously seen in ‘Planet of Evil’.
Chadwick’s sofa once again makes an appearance, alongside an unidentifiable white armchair.
The Horns of Nimon
At the centre of the Skonnan battle cruiser is an Eames Leather high back soft pad chair. Designed by Herman Miller in 1969, it is covered by some kind of Bacofoil affair. This kind of heinous chair vandalism will be repeated later in the year in ‘Meglos’.
Back down to Earth now, and there is a rich mix in Chronotis’ pad. Wingbacks, probable 17th century armchairs etc… These are impossible to identify, but lovely to look at.
Poor Graham Williams – the world threw everything at him in those three years. As you might have picked up, I’m a big fan of his. I think his eclectic approach, combined with some inventive problem solving, allowed Doctor Who to shake off its solemn shackles and live a little. And while the chairs featured in these two seasons, do not reach the dizzying heights of season 15, this sparky era still remains one of my favourite periods of the first great age of Who, alongside the Hinchcliffe era, the Letts era, the various JNT eras, the Wiles era, the Lloyd era, the Sherwin/Bryant era, and the Lambert era.
The randomiser is a useful device but it lacks true discrimination – I wonder where we’re off to next?
Adrasta’s throne was instantly recognisable to most viewers in 1979 as Timbo’s in later episodes of ‘The Goodies’. Sometimes it was sprayed silver, sometimes gold and close examination reveals that over the years he had three different thrones. The earliest I can find is ‘Chubby Chumps’, from 1975, where it’s used for a spoof Miss World (so Tim must have taken it home because it’s plainly visible in ‘Kung Fu Capers’ behind his desk).
Thanks for showing this much enthusiasm and diligence for the recurrent props: it’s nice to know I’m not alone.
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Thank you for your most excellent observation, Tat. And thanks for the heads up about the Morbious chairs in Not Only But Also. I will check this out! And THANK YOU for the About Time books – a mainstay of bedtime reading! T