The E-Space Trilogy

10 February 2009

All three covers for the E-Space trilogy - 'Full Circle', 'State of Decay' and 'Warriors' Gate' - are now available from the 1980-1984 page above, bringing Season 18 one story away from completion.

The genesis of these covers began, appropriately enough, with 'Full Circle'. For some stories it's hard to find suitably eye-catching photos for the cover; for others there are key images that stick in your mind and seem ideally suited to the job. One such is that shot of a Marshman (or it may actually be the Marshchild, I think), leering out at the viewer, surgical-glove-covered hands outstretched. They used it for the Target jacket, they used it for the VHS sleeve, and Clayton obviously couldn't resist using it for the DVD cover. And nor could I. It was earmarked in my mind way back for whenever 'Full Circle' happened to be released, and although I did reconsider briefly when I first saw the official DVD cover, by then I had a theme in mind that demanded I use that shot. For having decided on that Marshman image, I knew I'd have to position it high up in the frame to leave room for the Doctor at the bottom. I then realised that the picture I'd filed away in my mind for possible use on 'State of Decay' - Aukon with arms outstretched - would require a similar composition, which led me to recall a photo of Biroc also holding out his arms. And so a consistent construction for the E-Space stories emerged, even though I don't usually constrain myself with such ideas given my covers aren't required to appear on shop shelves together in a boxset.

Thus I planned three similar covers - creature/villain reaching out above, the Doctor as usual in a bottom corner and, to fill the gap in the other corner, I thought a little tableau from the story would work well. This emerged from the 'State of Decay' cover where, focusing on Aukon above, I knew I'd have to include the other two of the Three Who Rule somehow, and settled on compositing them with that great photo of Romana laid out on the sacrificial slab. As regular visitors will know, I tend to focus on the bad guys for my covers, but am not averse to including a companion where appropriate - hence Barbara on 'The Aztecs', Sarah on 'The Hand of Fear' and Ace on 'The Curse of Fenric'. I can't swear to including all companions on at least one cover (although I think that'd be nice), and 'State' isn't a particularly great Romana story, but I liked the photo and the idea of Zargo and Camilla bearing down on her. So for 'Full Circle' I chose to have Dexeter (arguably the only vaguely villainous character in the story) dissecting the Marshchild, and for 'Warriors' Gate' I was going to use one of the many photos of Rorvik and his crew wielding their guns (they were only supposed to be plastic, you know). The latter changed in the end, and deviated a little from consistency, but more on that later.

Surprisingly, given John Nathan-Turner's fondness for publicity, there are relatively few photos from Season 18, at least in terms of variety. They tend to focus on one or two key characters/scenes rather than representing the full story (I've never seen a photo of a Gundan, for example). So while I knew some of the images I wanted to use, I had to wait for the discs' release to see if the photo galleries turned up any useful gems, as they so often do, for other elements. I began, for no other reason than I thought it would be the easiest and thus quickest, with 'Full Circle' and the Marshman. For this I had two sources: a half-page photo in DWM which I could scan larger than needed for clean-up, sharpening the detail when scaling it down again for the cover, but which was somewhat bleached out in the highlights; and a grab from the photo gallery which was a little soft and slightly smaller than required but had better balanced levels and more detail in the highlights. I therefore began with the former, blurring out the print screening and sharpening with the clone and smudge tools, then overlaid it on the softer screengrab to return detail to the white highlights (and also add in the outer fingers of one hand which had been cropped in the DWM photo). Further colour balancing was done once these two layers were combined. Partly because Clayton had Marshmen rising out of the lake, I decided on a forest background. But how to fade out the Marshman, the image of which only went down to his chest anyway? After trying but abandoning a graphical element, I twigged I could extend the mist I'd added among the trees (simply painted in layers with a low-opacity, highly jittered soft brush) to the foreground. The Doctor I had planned to scan from the cover of the 1981 Dr Who Annual but discovered a better quality full-page shot in Peter Haining's The Doctor Who File. I did think to completely paint out the grass in his hand, but decided the empty hand would look odd so just cut back some of the longer blades. Finally, at the last minute I swapped a full-length shot of Dexter and the Marshchild for the close-up shot from the disc's photo gallery, as it made the scalpel (slightly) clearer and, I felt, got across the idea of the dissection better.

That finished and uploaded, I moved swiftly on to 'State of Decay'. Aukon began as a screengrab from the gallery, as the only printed copies I could find were very dark and lacked detail. Other than general tidying up and sharpening, the only change was to replace his eyes, downcast in the original photo, with those of a close-up of his staring eyes from episode 2. I usually avoid images grabbed from the episodes themselves as the resolution is pretty low, but a big close-up for such a small element was fine. Camilla came from another gallery shot, but Zargo was more complicated. All the still images had him either out of focus in the background or partially obscured by Aukon in the foreground. I did originally plan to simply put Zargo's head on Aukon's body, but decided it would be too obvious with Aukon's costume already appearing so large in the illustration. So again I had to resort to a suitably angled grab from the programme itself, but once colour adjusted and scaled down it was of good enough quality. His head was transposed from a still, though, as it showed more detail, particularly of his glorious beard. The Doctor was scanned from one of DWM's Yearbooks and wasn't a great photo but I cleaned it up as best I could. Finally the tower came from Howe-Stammers-Walker's The Eighties - a good, clear shot of the model in the visual effects workshop - while the sunset background I took from a previous cover (but I bet you can't guess which) with the darker areas of sky tinted green. And the bats are obligatory, surely.

'Warriors' Gate began unfortunately because the photo of Biroc I wanted I could only find in black and white. I was sure I'd seen a colour version, but even on the disc's photo gallery it was only in mono, so my memory's presumably at fault. Fortunately I already planned to replace the head with a good colour close-up from the gallery, so I only had to colourise his body, but with the pale colours of his costume and a highly magnified scan from an early-80s DWM (when the print quality was pretty coarse), the end result was a bit ropey. Fortunately much is covered by the Gateway, and the eye focuses on his face, I think, and so I get away with it (I hope). The most suitable shot I could find of the Doctor had him in profile, something I usually avoid, and this led to me including Rorvik alone, rather than with his crew, as it gave an impression of them facing off against each other. Finally, the upper right corner felt empty (appropriate given the story's setting, perhaps, but awkward for the composition) so the multiple Birocs are a bit of a space filler but, I feel, tie into the story and so work.

Download the final FULL CIRCLE cover here, STATE OF DECAY here and WARRIORS' GATE here

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