Tom Yardley-Jones prop History (By Tony Farrell) - DISCUSSION THREAD

Started by tony farrell, Sep 10, 2016, 04:28 pm

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So perhaps the wooden doors had to be set further back to give the screws enough purchase to keep the doors on. I'm by no means an expert, but a wooden door would be significantly heavier than a fibre glass one, wouldn't it? The extra weight would pull the screws from the holes.

tony farrell

Well, before he was contractually forced not to contribute to TB, I think I'm correct in saying that Mark Barton Hill/Timerotor did mention that the older TY-J prop had had a lot of strengthening woodwork added to the insides of the corner-posts when he saw it.

Obviously, we don't know when this additional woodwork was added, so it isn't definitive proof. But, what you say makes perfect sense.



I wonder how many people working on the show over those last nine years said: 'Y'know, had we just built this out of wood in the first place...' :D

Angelus Lupus

Not much to add only to say I agree with the conclusions that the 'dummy'/stunt door with a hole or empty panel seems to have been used for the 'working' PTO cubby version and then had an insert fitted to take the arrow.
Also, having had to refit more than one cupboard or wardrobe door over the years, I can attest that even a slight difference in hinge placement (or even the screws move it as you tighten them) can make a pair of doors sit at differing depths.
It also wouldn't surprise me that, after several assembly/rebuild combos, the screw-holes in the fibreglass ended up loose, necessitating new ones in a slightly different position.
I guess all this goes to show that there really was no such thing as 'The' TYJ box, just countless almost identical builds. Unless you're drawing plans (or replicating in your build) how it appeared in one particular scene the best you'll get is idealised, near-as-dammit, best-guess-on-the-sides-we-can't-see.
But it's still fun to document the variants.
A mixed-up non-conformist, trying to fit in.

Angelus Lupus

Quote from: ionsith on Sep 17, 2016, 01:48 pm
I wonder how many people working on the show over those last nine years said: 'Y'know, had we just built this out of wood in the first place...' :D

I guess that comes down to the old durability vs. portability debate that so many people grapple with in their builds.
A mixed-up non-conformist, trying to fit in.


True, but consider that the original Brachacki prop lasted for 13 years, even with all the chopping up and patching up, without having any of its integral parts replaced. The Newbery as far as I'm aware survived beyond its time on screen and showed no visible signs of deterioration in its three or four years or service. The TY-J was starting to look battered by its third outing!


One thing that occurs to me is you wouldn't need a set of drawings for something that you had moulds for.  

Could it be that the reason for the POF drawings was that ongoing maintenance of the prop had become impossible because the moulds had failed.

Is it also  possible that there wasn't actually ever a distinct prop but a pile of modular parts that were continually replaced leading to the triggers broom situation.  We can see that even during season18 the box was in need of repairs and alterations.  

Equally the 2 or more box situation may be that the pile of parts was split up into two boxes at some point in it's life and there was never a new box made as a whole item.


That certainly makes sense to me and a logical explanation for the Two Box Conundrum. Perhaps there were enough usable parts to make two boxes, but there were never two distinct boxes in their own right (Tony has pretty much put this one to bed already). My own thought on the POF plans is were they contemplating a fresh design and not just a recasting of the same box? The MET/Brachacki style sign box on the plan is different from the TY-J one on the prop... Was this a mistake or a deliberate intention?

Angelus Lupus

The longevity of the Brachaki does serve as testament to the benefits of a wooden prop. Did the powers that be ever state their reasons for switching to fibreglass? Ease of transport might be one, but given that, whatever the materials, the walls, posts, etc would be the same size, it's not as if you can suddenly put it in a mini.
Setting up in awkward locations? Brachaki solved that with the 1/3 scale model, and the original casters suggest studio manoeuvrability wasn't the issue.
What then? Time taken to set up on location? Hardly Cost? If so, the constant repairs and replacements would indicate that the wooden Brachaki build wins out in cost effectiveness over time.

Sorry for rambling, I was just musing aloud as it were. Slap my wrist if I ever get too far off topic  ;D
A mixed-up non-conformist, trying to fit in.


Well, it's the BBC we're talking about so the reason had to be financially motivated! :D A prop made from a lighter material requires fewer people to move and construct it perhaps? Perhaps they underestimated how quickly fibre glass would deteriorate under that continued strain. I wonder how much it would have cost them to build a TARDIS prop? It can't have been that much of a saving, surely?

  Apologies if this is getting very off-topic!

tony farrell

I think everyone has contributed some really valid and well-argued points - all of which are relevant.

Regarding wood versus fibreglass in terms of assembly and dis-assembly of the prop: I'm not sure that there really would be much difference in terms of the labour required. There are plenty of pictures of the New Series wooden prop being assembled which show three or four people being involved.

The location pictures of the TY-J prop being assembled/dis-assembled from "Caves of Androzani" show a similar number of people. Both the wooden (new series) and fibreglass props require two people to hold the sides upright whilst someone else fits the sign-boxes/lintels and someone has to pass those sign-boxes up to the chap fitting them.

There's obviously no real difference in the size of the various props in terms of how they would be transported to the various location shoots - both the fibreglass and new series props demount in virtually the same way; so, you end up with a base, a roof, two side-panels, two sets of doors (for the TY-J version) or a set of doors and back-lit panel showing the Tardis interior for the new series prop. So, give or take a few square inches, both props would take up the same amount of space in the goods van.

So, if the labour required to assemble the props is broadly the same and the space required to transport the props is broadly the same, then what was the actual reason for choosing fibreglass over wood to make the TY-J props? Presumably, this comes down to what it says on both the 1980 and 1983 versions of the plans: To make a new light-weight de-mountable Tardis. Well, we know the weights of the component parts that were taken to Lanzarote from the cargo manifest listing. The two doors way a little over 60 pounds and the two side-panels have a combined weight of 140 pounds (70 pounds per side-panel).

In my view, the weight of the prop both for transportation and assembly/dis-assembly considerations was most probably the over-riding factor for the choice of fibreglass for the TY-J props. As Ian has said - this is the BBC; anything to save money! Whether - in terms of the longevity of the TY-J props - this goal was achieved is a moot point.  As Ian states, the Newbery prop still survives in private hands and the Brachacki prop survived until at least 1993 (and, in reality, probably still does - these things do seem to have a habit of being 'rescued').

In terms of the other point raised in the discussion so far - the 'mix-and-match' nature of the TY-J props constituent parts (the Theseus Paradox/Trigger's Broom effect) - here I have to slightly disagree: Before the parts can get mixed-up, they have to be created.

Fairly obviously in 1980 (the first key date), there were only enough parts made to create one TY-J prop. But, in the present day, we have two props. Sufficient parts to make two TY-J props have to have come from somewhere. So, to know when those parts were created you have to start looking at the prop to try to establish when changes to it were made (or at least become apparent).

The first major change was at the start-of-season 20 when it acquired new (taller) doors, new 'rear' corner-posts and new sections above the sign-boxes. Now, given that the corner-posts, side-panels and side sign-boxes were all permanently joined together, that's a lot of work. As far as my history of the prop(s) goes, if 1980 was the first key date, then the start-of-season 20 is the second key date.

The third key date is 1983 and the trip to Lanzarote (and here we come back to weight); the BBC's own plans state to build a new, light-weight, de-mountable prop by the 30th September so that it can be taken on location. The prop that preceded the one used in "Planet of Fire" was in a poor state of repair but the one used after this date was in a good state of repair. (Its doors had three hinges whereas the older prop's had two hinges.) Lastly, it is immediately after the 1983 Christmas shut-down that we see a new (taller) base for the first time.

The information plaque in Cardiff states that two props were built and - before his contract banned him from contributing to TB - in this post, , Mark Barton Hill states that the Cardiff prop was created in 1983.

The fourth key date is 1986 when both props seem to have been refitted - the newer prop gained two-hinged doors whilst the older was repaired/strengthened and had the three-hinged doors fitted.

So, in terms of durability, the fibreglass props seem to last about two years before they are each in need of a major overhaul. In terms of "Trigger's Broom" - well, you can't start swapping parts around before you've made them - so that's the spring of 1982 (season 20 refit), the autumn of 1983 (Planet of Fire new prop) and the spring of 1986 (refit and new doors).



I don't know much about the TYJ props but I found this pic on Twitter recently and wondered if this helps the discussion in any way....


tony farrell

Fascinating picture - many thanks Jonathan. Did the picture give a date? This looks like the seasons 20 to 21 prop (possibly the photo was taken whilst setting up or de-mounting the prop for Colin Baker's photocall of 10/1/84).

It's no wonder the props didn't last very long when they were treated like this!

Thanks for posting.


tony farrell

A quick check and yes, the picture Jonathan posted does indeed appear to be from Colin Baker's introductory in-costume photo-call of January 1984. Note how the left-hand door in Jonathan's picture has been mounted too high and compare it to this one:


Note too the wooden fence and the conifer-type bushes in Jonathan's picture and compare them. Colin is stood in the doorway on the side of the prop where the stagehand is stood on the ladder in Jonathan's picture:


No wonder they had to build a new prop to take to Lanzarote - the older one was absolutely knackered and looks like it was held together with some 2" by 1" timbers behind the sign-box!


tony farrell

I've been sent this e-mail from Ian/Ionsith - apparently he's having difficulties accessing the forum at the moment:

Hi Tony,

Just went to put a comment on the forum but I can't access it on my phone all of a sudden!

You said earlier today, in response to my musing about where the magic figure of two props came from, that for two to have existed there would have had to be enough parts to make two. I just thought of the redressed Newbery in Logopolis. Where did that stacked roof come from? In one scene Adric is sprawling on top of it. Is it fibreglass? Would it take his weight if it were? Or is it the wooden original that the mould came from?


Sent from my iPhone

It's a very good point - was the Newbery prop re-dressed with a fibreglass TY-J style roof or a wooden version of the TY-J roof (possibly even the wooden master from which the TY-J mould was drawn).

I'm not sure about the strength/weakness of fibreglass in the sense of its load-bearing capabilities - we see the fibreglass TY-J prop laid on its back in "Timeflight" and it seems perfectly capable of taking Peter Davison's weight as he climbs over and into it whilst the prop is inside Concorde's hold. But, we know by that time the prop had been repaired and its corner-posts had been strengthened (i.e., the presence of the bolts in two of the corner-posts indicates some kind of internal re-inforcing work). So, it is perfectly possible that - without this strengthening work - the prop might not have been able to support his weight.

When the Newbery prop appeared at 1983's Longleat convention, it was still fitted with the TY-J style stepped roof and it was subsequently sold with that roof still fitted (and the TY-J prop was there at the same time complete with its own roof):

(Pictures courtesy of Mark Barton Hill.)

If Ian is correct and that roof on the Newbery prop was the wooden 'master' for the TY-J prop, this would support the idea that a new set of master moulds were needed when (as their plans say that they did) the BBC commissioned a new prop for "Planet of Fire".