Let’s shed some light on the issue.
Quite often people get in contact with me to ask various prop related questions, usually it’s about the TARDIS, the console, K9 or whatever and I really don’t mind helping out if I can. Sometimes people like the answer, sometimes they don’t. I’ve had a few people get a little irate with me in the past when they’ve tried to sell “original” props through various high-profile international auction houses only for me to put a bit of a spanner in the works. It’s not always like this, just from time to time.
What usually happens here is that representatives of these institutions get in contact with me and invite me over for appraisal of the item in question, I’ll have a look and give them my honest thoughts. If I’m on the fence, I usually pass them on to someone else for a second opinion as I think that’s more than fair. The best one recently was when an original condition movie Dalek from the second Peter Cushing film was offered for auction in London… I pointed out a few tell-tale signs about the over-all shape that illustrated that it couldn’t be what it was claimed to be and then finally showed them the killer blow; it was made from MDF. Somehow, I don’t think this material was around in the mid 1960s. Oops!
Anyway, in the last month I’ve had numerous people ask me about the new TARDIS prop as used by the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith – and the topic of the lamp that it uses has cropped up a hell of a lot. It’s funny how things cycle through people’s interest at more or less the same time. I guess this is all down to the newness of it all.
So here we have, below, a sort of chart showing the two new props. On the left is the non screen used Promotional TARDIS and on the right, the screen used Hero TARDIS as utilised throughout all 13 episodes of series five. You can play a game of “Spot the Difference” – just like I invited you to a month or so ago.
Okay then. It’s more than clear that the basic over-all shape and dimensions are identical, as is the construction method. However, it’s the details that differ and these give us a few clues as to what’s going on. It’s my belief that the Promotional prop was built at a later stage to the Hero prop. Why? Well because the construction of the phone panel graphic plate is more simplified for a start, the “Police Public Call Box” top sign graphics are very different, even down to the changed font and it has a completely different lamp on the roof. If these were built in tandem, they’d be absolutely identical as there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to change the details just for the sake of it, it simply creates more work than is necessary.
Back on topic, we’re here to talk lamps. So let’s crack on.
HERO TV PROP – “Anchor” Oil Lamp:
These have recently been discontinued, though if you keep your eye out and check around any chandlers that happen to be near you (or trawl the web) you may find somewhere with some still left in stock. All the places that I usually use don’t have them anymore, but if you had the inclination to do a protracted search, you may prove to be rather more productive than me.
These lamps are hand assembled and finished, are approximately 15cm (6″) in diameter and have four spokes that hold the upper and lower brass sections clamped firmly around the fresnelled beacon in the middle. They also have a hanging rail on the top and a pull rail on the bottom. Ostensibly, they are oil lamps, though at the point of purchase you could have them modified with a ceiling light fixing, thus providing the internal illumination via a standard house bulb.
When used on the prop, the lamp was modified somewhat, having the two rails removed – unfortunately doing this left unsightly holes in the top and bottom brass sections, though rather than fill them, further holes were drilled into these sections to make them into a feature and possibly also to provide a bit of ventilation for the newly attached electrical light fitting that was secured inside. The top of the flip over access lid was cut off and decorated with the cap from one of the old style candle lanterns as used in the previous four series – the assembly was then sprayed blue to match the rest of the prop. **I have to make it abundantly clear here, I’m saying the cap from the old style of candle lantern lamp was used here, NOT one of the actual lamp caps from the older props – that would be just silly… I’ve been told recently that some people have understood it that I was suggesting parts from a previous prop was removed and placed on the new Series Five prop. Not so.
PROMOTIONAL PROP – “New Haven” 60 watt Wall Lamp:
Still currently available, I’ve seen these in Home Base (UK) just a few months ago and they retail at just under £36 including VAT. They’re a little smaller than the “Anchor” lantern, coming in at approximately 13cm (5″) wide, so proportionally, they look a little off when compared to the tv Hero prop lantern. The other differences are that they have six spoke arm rods keeping the upper and lower metal sections fixed to the inner lens as well as a wall fitting on the lower metal casing.
On the Promotional prop lamp, two (opposing) arms of the six present have been removed which results in some very un-even spacing between the remaining four. As with the other lamp, the top has been modified and given a cap from the previous series’ candle lantern, though because of the size, this tends to make this fixture look too tall, quite skinny and very much top-heavy. For obvious reasons, the wall fitting had to be removed too – then the unit was sprayed blue as before.
It’s more than likely that as this prop was built a little later than the Hero version, the builders could no-longer obtain the original “Anchor” fitting that was used previously and thus opted to use something similar, effectively thinking that it was perhaps their only option; it probably didn’t matter that much as no-one would pay that close attention to the differences… they forget about us prop researchers, everything comes under close scrutiny, no matter how insignificant.
So there you are – the differences in a lamp. Now isn’t that just fascinating? No, I know, but there you are. Next we’ll be talking about how to tell the difference between your arse and your elbow, so stay tuned for another thrilling installment of, “The Things around Us.”
By the way… Just as a final point, when I talk about the lamp’s diameter size, I am actually referring specifically to the lens itself and not the whole unit – it’s just how they are listed in catalogues. This did cause me some confusion when I first started to look into this sort of thing all those years ago and you’d think I’d have learnt by now, but no, I still trip up over this!