Last time on ‘The Chairs of Doctor Who’.
Season 20 was a celebration of all things Doctor Who (and Rattan), so for this post I’ve decided to return to a point in time, where simply getting the damn thing made and broadcast was worthy of celebration in itself.
Let’s explore a time of perpetual script problems, change in regular cast and production team. Oh, and a little matter of black and white to colour.
We start with an absolute beaut. This is an ‘Oxted’ seating unit, by William Plunkett, 1965. It’s one of those chairs that looks pretty bold from the front, but absolutely amazing from the side!
At first glance these white chairs look like the ‘Tulip’ chair by Eero Saarinen. But the shape of the back rest is slightly different. In the end the chairs can be traced to (Maurice) Burke Inc, Dallas, Texas.
Alas, I couldn’t find the designer of these swivelers. But I’m happy to have found them still selling online.
The Mind Robber
Two different Curule chairs for those moments of psychological warfare.
As always, honesty is the best policy. ‘The Invasion’ will go down as one of those stories where finding the exact match, to most of the chairs, wasn’t possible.
So let’s speculate. Vaughn’s ‘Blofeld’ chair is similar to a number of 1960’s Danish executive swivel chairs. The best fit is either a design by Johannes Andersen, or a Jupiter desk chair, designed by C.W.F. France for CADO. It’s somewhere between the two.
The leather desk chairs on the other side of Vaughn’s desk, look like a design by Dunbar. Once again, I can’t find the exact match.
The one success I had was a 1966 design, seen in Travers’ flat. This is a Bernard Holdaway Hull Traders Tomotom chair.
One of my favourite ever scenes in Doctor Who is when Zoe engineers the destruction of the reception computer at Vaughn HQ. Nice to be able to watch her handiwork from the black leather tufted lounge char, before the cops come.
Finally, we have modern ‘club’ sofas and industrial chairs from the 1950’s.
No definitive matches, but the Tomotom chair, might be what we can see in the background of this shot, although the proportions look a little different.
These perspex cylindrical chairs pop up well into the 1970’s. They look similar to a number of chairs, including a Charles Hollis Jones Lucite chair (not pictured).
The Seeds of Death
We start with a design classic that has appeared in more seasons than it hasn’t. I’m referring to Arne Jacobson’s ‘Oxford’ chair from the early 1960’s. See season 10 for more.
This chair could be one of many. You win some, you lose some.
I can’t pinpoint this chair either, but it is a good excuse to put up an image of this ‘Little Egg’ swivel chair from Dutch manufacturer Pastoe.
Whether it is village fetes, dentist waiting rooms, or school classrooms, this a chair that I’m sure we’ve all sat on at some point in our lives. This is British furniture designer Robin Day’s iconic 1963 injection-moulded polypropylene school chair.
The Space Pirates
Bah! Just not enough to go on.
The War Games
This modular lounge furniture has many leads. Bernard Govin’s, Asmara Modular furniture (1966) is a good place to start. However the shapes are slightly different. It’s also similar to the Luigi Colani Pool Sofa. It might be custom built, although the search continues for the exact match.
Viva hive mind! ‘Mister_Rhys’ on Twitter has identified the source of the furniture. Nanna Ditzel (who is responsible for a number of other artefacts throughout Doctor Who). Hurrah!
19th century swivel dining chair, similar to this one.
Later in this epic story we have another Robin Day design, a 1960’s swivel chair for Hille. Clearly there is was bulk buy of Day’s designs in the prop warehouse in the late 1960’s.
This plastic bar stool looks like it is based on an Eames design. However an exact match is out of reach. As an aside, I’m sure this desk features in ‘The Ark in Space’ and two Blake’s 7 episodes – ‘Hostage’ and ‘Countdown’.
Here’s a chair that featured in the very first season. It’s a 1960’s Dahlen Mobler AB side chair. It features a unique egg shape with a chrome wire design. It has a swivel base, sculpted wire frame, and a thick padded vinyl seat
And being an epic story with many historical settings, there are various artefacts from the antiques house.
It seems apt to finish the black and white era, as it began six years before, with the Renaissance era chair, and the Knossos chair seen in the TARDIS. See season 1 for more on these chairs.
And that’s Troughton done!
Spearhead from Space
After all these years, this first colour story feels like such a departure. Let’s take a closer look.
We start with some generic 1960’s office chairs. The Brig seems to be sitting in something more contemporary, although we just don’t get to see enough.
These oak dining chairs are mainstays of season 7 – I will talk a bit more about them in ‘Inferno’. They will pop up again in ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’.
The trusty PEL desk chair designed by Oliver Bernard, probably dating from the 1930’s, appears at the factory.
I’m fairly certain the chair sat on by the sweaty UNIT operative is a steel industrial chair from Belgium. Perhaps not enough to put the pink border around it, but almost.
Poor old Meg. Having her house trashed like that. Does this Auton not have any understanding about the value of English Windsor lathe backs, from the late 19th century?
And a final look at some chairs I couldn’t match.
Doctor Who and the Silurians
The stackable chairs seen in the power complex, are fairly collectable. The DSC 106 is one of the most famous chairs of the Castelli brand. It was designed in 1965 by Giancarlo Piretti.
I’m a big fan of these futuristic swivel chairs. No match, but they are similar to these Sculptural Bent Dining Chairs.
Generic industrial swivelers. Of course I’m talking about the chair here. As an aside, if I’m not mistaken, the two in the foreground are Margaret Pillaeu (think Servalan’s Mutoid aide in ‘Hostage’) and Keith Ashley (think the poor hapless technician that Stahlmann drags and shoves his face into the green goo in ‘Inferno’).
Back to the chairs. These white ones are probably made by Overman, but I can’t be certain.
I’m more certain about this Globus pod chair, also from Overman.
The Ambassadors of Death
Episode 1 contains a ton of historical artefacts. Some period furniture can be glimpsed in the Doctor’s lab. But across the road, there is a design classic is on show in Carrington’s hideaway. Michael Thonet’s Chair No. 14. Designed in 1859, this ‘bistro’ chair, remains both influential, and commercially popular. It’s your moral duty to sit on one.
Barbers chairs as high technology! These Takara Belmont chairs from the 1960’s are, I think, the first appearance for the seating that allows characters to deliver high drama, while having a quick short back and sides.
Eero Saarinen’s Tulip makes another one of its regular appearances. See season 11 for more.
Generic chair. But I doubt style was top of the agenda in a secret hideaway.
These swivels are very distinctive. It’s very difficult to decide what type of chair it is. My searches spanned ‘Hillcrest’ chairs, Teak, Oak, Walnut, before settling on the closest match I can find – this 1960’s Danish Eck-Adams executive desk chair.
The waiting/quarantine room at Space Control (in all its forms) are adorned with some nice upholstered modular furniture, and these dining chairs, by Merrow associates, 1970.
A lovely modern design here. The closest I could find was this Italian space age chair, in the style of Tobia Scarpa.
Let’s start with these these unidentifiable dining chairs that feature throughout the Pertwee run – see season 11. They are similar to these German dining chairs from Lübke, 1960. I suspect the reality is that they are less collectable, and were the type of chair used in and around BBC Television Centre (as can be seen in the black and white image).
On ‘our’ Earth, the Brigadier sits on a fabric swivel chair, designed by Eero Saarinen. Good choice Brig.
Meanwhile across the dimension, the Brigade-Leader introduces himself brilliantly, through a combination of rapid rotation, and the whipcrack of a crash zoom. Fabulous stuff. Yes, I’m deviating from the fact that I can’t quite see enough of the chair to make an accurate diagnosis. Probably Danish, although the closest match I can find is this Finnish 1960’s lounge chair by Olli Borg for Asko.
At first I thought this was a S34 chair by Marcel Breuer and Mart Stam, for Thonet. But from another angle, the armrests are more curved, leading me to suspect that this is a 1936 dining chair, by our old friends ‘PEL’, which at the very end of this final post, I have discovered stands for Practical Equipment Ltd, and was founded in 1931 by a consortium of steel tube manufacturers. You learn something new every day.
So there you have it. The 1960’s gave way to the 1970’s in a big way, in terms of production techniques, visual style, narrative and tone. Doctor Who – what an amazing programme, where change and evolution is a natural part of its DNA.
There you have it – season 1 – 26 are catalogued.