Beneath The Surface boxset

18 January 2008

I do like the boxsets we're now getting - they're such an 'event' release and, of course, get us closer to a full set of stories on DVD that bit quicker. But when it comes to the covers, each time it throws up the question of whether or not to include some uniform element. I can see why the official covers generally do, as if you're selling a set of three stories that are, by implication, linked in some way then the covers should reflect that. That seems less relevant to replacement covers, so with the previous Beginnings and New Beginning sets I've done standalone covers as if the stories had been standard separate releases. But Beneath The Surface is slightly different, being the first boxset of non-consecutive stories. While the likelihood that they'll be split up on people's shelves once placed in broadcast order makes themed covers seem less necessary, does the fact that they have a stronger connection than just three stories that were shown in a row warrant some similarity in the covers? (Even the reappearance of the Master across the New Beginning set is less of a connection than the recurring monsters, ideas and arguments in these three.)

So still undecided whether this time to do themed covers, I began to source photos, as that would be a big decider on whether the idea was even feasible. Starting with 'The Silurians' as having the least choice of images, I quickly realised I'd be more or less limited to a shot of a Silurian and the Doctor, but knew it would need a third element to fill the space beside the Doctor. I was sure I'd seen a pose with a Silurian holding out its claw to the camera and that gave me the idea of it holding the Earth, signifying the creatures' reclaim of the planet. My memory let me down, however. The closest I could find was on the cover of The Frame #21/22 but it was too small and not quite the right pose. I rather liked the idea by now, though, so resigned myself to compiling the required pose from multiple images. This wasn't so bad as I'd already decided to combine a good colour close-up of a Silurian head with a black-and-white photo that was the only full body shot I could find. So I coloured the body, replaced the head with the higher quality colour image and tried to produce a claw that looked like it was reaching forward, palm up (with only limited success). Attaching it to the body with an elbow joint was going to be tricky, however, so I left it for now and moved on to the Doctor.

He too required compositing as I couldn't find a decent single shot from the story. Even now I'm not sure if his head, from a publicity shot with Caroline John, is from this or 'The Ambassadors of Death', but it's near enough! This colour head-and-shoulders shot needed a lot of tidying up to remove grain and JPEG artifacts, improve the colouring and sharpen the details. It was then combined with a black-and-white image from the same publicity shoot of his shirt front and the remainder of his jacket and cape were easily filled in as they're conveniently black. Placing this into the final cover template along the body of the Silurian threw up a piece of luck as I found the Silurian elbow could be hidden behind the Doctor, so I wouldn't need to draw it. A Google image search produced a nice shot of the Earth and some stalactite-filled caves for the background. It was then the idea of a theme reared its head again. I gave the Earth an atmospheric shell, and another to represent the Van Allen belt (I have no idea if this is accurate in appearance or relative distance from the Earth). It then occurred to me that, as I was almost certainly going to use the famous image of a Sea Devil holding up its circular gun, perhaps a rings motif could be applied loosely to all three covers after all. So I gave the background a partial radial blur and added some graphical rings, all centred on the Earth.

On to 'The Sea Devils' then, and I had now had to use that Sea Devil image, of which I had a good shot from one of the DWM series of postcards. Masking out the holes in its gills and strong vest cuffs was the most tedious work. As I'd be using the gun as the centre of the ring motif, that had to be a genuine circle, which of course it wasn't quite in the photo. So I isolated it on a separate layer and distorted it to the right shape, painting in a little of the Sea Devil's face where the original gun stuck out from behind the new one. I also painted in some of his right iris where it was bleached out by the strong sunlight originally. Pictures of the Doctor in this story are easier to come by, so I was able to find a good-qualty colour shot to use. I also had a good photo of the Master, again courtesy of DWM's postcards, which I duly touched up. But would I need it? When it came to compiling the three elements on the cover, getting them to fit pleasingly and leave room for the title proved tricky. I needed the Doctor on the right to reduce the amount of 'empty' black cape on show. And I wanted the Sea Devil's gun fairly central as it would be the focus for the rings motif. But however I placed things, a full-colour Master just seemed to detract from the Sea Devil too much and left the composition with no focal point. (I even tried flipping the Sea Devil but it didn't help and would have meant the light on him was coming from a different direction to that in the other elements - something I always consider, even if at times I may choose to ignore it.) So the Master was relegated to a ghostly overlay and the title fitted best at the bottom, as I have occasionally placed it on previous covers.

So far I hadn't really thought what I'd do with 'Warriors of the Deep'. I knew from memory what kind of photos were about - in particular I knew of a good full body shot of a Silurian I had in an old DWM that I had always earmarked for likely use - but when it came to it, and now needing to apply some kind of circular motif, I was less sure. For one thing, even though the Silurians arguably play a bigger role in the story, I felt the Sea Devils should get 'equal billing' on the cover, but I couldn't find any good, big shots of them to match the Silurian photo I had in mind. Thinking of circles thus led to having each monster in its own 'bubble' with the Doctor between (which felt nice having had Jon Pertwee on the left and right in the other two covers). The Silurian ultimately came from Tragical History Tour as I liked the way it was looking down towards the Doctor, while this much-seen Sea Devil image just seemed too perfect for the composition. I could only find it in black and white, though, so added some colour - although as their uniforms are grey and even the skin on these new Sea Devils is kind of silvery, it's hard to tell the difference, even though I made it greener than they appear on screen. I thought finding a picture of the Doctor would be easy, but all the good shots had him with either Tegan or Solow obscuring his chest and shoulder. So I took the best headshot and combined it with an appropriately posed body - a non-prize for the first person to work out where it's from! That left a nice space to add in the Seabase model, which I've always really liked, and the Silurian ship for balance.


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