The Five Doctors Console Project: (4) Central Rotor Column, research and design.
It’s been a few months since I last updated the project progress, five of them actually, but that’s not to say that nothing has been done – stuff has, though not too much as I’ve had my attentions drawn elsewhere for various reasons. Childcare, chiefly.
Anyway, the project has slowly been ticking over and one of the issues of interest was; what do we do about the central rotor?
The central rotor changed slightly during the course of its life on the show. (See below and click to enlarge.)
When it was built originally back in 1983 for The Five Doctors, the rotor internals (if we discount the lighting system) was comprised of eleven, eight pointed, perspex tiers stacked on top of one another and connected to each other via various clear rods of a circular and triangular nature.
Working up from the bottom, each tier was slightly smaller than the one below and as they progressed upwards, their shape simplified from the very prominent star formation to a quite a subtle star shape.
By the time that we reach Resurrection of the Daleks, in 1984, it can be very clearly seen that the upper three tiers have shattered – probably due to a combination of the fragile nature of this aspect of the prop and a bout of coarse handling by either the scene shifters or an accident at Visual Effects.
It only stays in this damaged form for a short while and is quickly repaired, but the repairs don’t quite match the original formation. Instead of the tiers tapering to the smallest shape at the top as you’d expect, the top three tiers are almost the same size with the very top one being slightly wider than the two below it. Also, some of the new additions are no-longer star shaped, but are now straight forward octagons.
Why this is we shall never know. It could have been accidental.
However, this brings us back to the issue of; in what form do we build the rotor? As it was originally, as it was after the repair or how it should logically flow? In the end, I opted for the slightly ugly 1984 repair formation, simply because that’s how the original prop is and how it was for the most part of its life in the programme from 1984 to its final appearance 1989′s Battlefield.
In an attempt to get our heads around how exactly the internal tiers are laid out, myself and blog commenter (and friend) Ben King, studied images of the original prop and corralated these together with my own notes and sketches that I’d made in the early 1990′s when I had the opportunity to study the console myself, first hand.
Between us, we managed to thrash out a general guide, as seen above. It’s not entirely to scale or fully proportional yet, but that will come in time. For now, it just illustrates what is going on in that almost unfathomable mass of clear perspex shapes. To be honest, I reckon you could make up any old thing that follows the general form and no-one would be any the wiser. Even looking at the real thing up close, it’s easy to get lost and confused as to what’s really going on in there!
The drawings themselves are presented in the “logical” formation that you’d think the pattern (post 1984) should follow – with the tiers getting smaller towards the top. The numbering notations show the actual order that they go in, with the top four layers breaking the logical progression.
Something that the drawings did bring to my attention, that I hadn’t considered before, was the positioning of the rods that stand on the base, in between the “arms” of the stars. You’d think that they’d stand upright at 90 degree to the surface, right? But they don’t, that’s impossible, well it’s not impossible, but it is (in construction terms) very weak and highly likely to break with any given movement of the rotor.
They actually lean and make contact with the arms.
Once you realise this, suddenly it becomes blatantly obvious – you can clearly see them doing this in all the photos of the prop. It makes a lot more sense too because with them making physical contact with the arms, there is more surface area for them to bond with the rest of the design and thus, the structural integrity becomes massively improved.
I’ve located the company who I believe to be the original supplier of the rods and they still do carry them – bonus. What’s not a bonus is the price. Un-cut, they total to around three or more hundred pounds. I don’t recall exactly how much they cost off hand and I don’t have the price list with me right now. Any way, we all knew that this section of the prop was the second most expensive part to manufacture.
I’ve also tracked down a number of suppliers who have the correct type of strip light and connector blocks for this prop. I was fearing for a long while that I’d have to make these from scratch using tubes and LEDs as I’d not seen the lamps in years, but that’s not the case now.
We need 14 of them, eight for the rotor (four covered with red gels) and six to surround the rotor housing, just under the top collar of the six control panels.
In other news on this project;
That underside panel was completed, so we’re just waiting to get shop time to make the moulds – oh, and for the shop itself to be completed. That may help. Plus, we’ve tracked down a copy of the original console construction plans… quite revealing they are (that sounded a bit Yoda there) and also by the same token, stuff that we’d hoped would be included on them, isn’t. Never mind, it’s not a problem.
Hopefully the next update will be sooner, rather than later – but then I’ve always said, this is going to be a long term project if we want to do the console justice.