The Keys of Marinus

6 December 2009

I'd always planned to have the Conscience machine at the heart of my 'Marinus' cover, aware that while photos of it always had the silver beams criss-crossing in front of it, I knew of several shots from different angles allowing me, I hoped, to create a 'clean' version of the central dodecahedron. In practice this proved trickier than I'd imagined. The starting point was a photo of the Doctor and Arbitan which had the Conscience machine behind them nicely face on to the 'control' panel, their heads just covering the left and right panels. It was also missing the top third or so and had two beams crossing it, but fortunately above the circular piece. I managed to find enough shots of other faces of the machine from the DVD's photo gallery and Jeremy Bentham's 'Doctor Who: The Early years'. Piecing them together convincingly took some work, however, and that on the final cover is my second attempt. Even then, the upper left panel is distorted from a more perpendicular shot of that panel, which means the internal mechanism lacks a proper sense of depth. Transparent objects are a pain also because if you mask them out completely you lose any sense of surface and shine they originally had, but if you just make them slightly transparent elements behind them in the original photo are still visible. Finally I drew vector outlines of the pentagonal faces in Illustrator and imported these into Photoshop to strengthen the edges of the dodecahedron.

I had thought originally to have the Conscience in the centre with scenes from the different regions the Tardis crew visit in radiating panels, separated, of course, by the silver beams, with the Doctor and a Voord in the bottom corners. The first thing I did on getting the DVD was check the photo gallery to see if there were suitable shots to allow this. I knew of some photos of the brain creatures, and in 'The Early Years' one of the rotating idol in the 'screaming jungle'. So I was in particular hoping for photos of the Ice Soliders and anything from the Millenius section of the story. I was lucky with the former, but less so with the latter - the gallery had just a couple of shots of the living quarters set, which didn't seem appropriate. So when I came to sketch out my cover design, I decided to have the Conscience machine to one side so if necessary I could have three instead of four 'scene' panels. In positioning the beams to delineate the sections, though, I figured a fourth behind the logo and season number would allow for some representation of Millenius without having to be a sharply rendered scene. The arrangement also didn't really have room for the story title in the usual upper right or left corners, but did have a gap centre bottom, so I placed it there as I have done on a few other covers.

A simple shot of the brain creatures formed the Morphoton section - I just cut out and enlarged the frontmost one to heighten the perspective and better fill the wedge shape. The ice caves section is a blend of two shots to get all four Ice Soldiers in. And the jungle section is mainly the photo of the idol (with added arms) with a fluted column from elsewhere on the set to the left to replace a rather dull flat, and some extra foliage on the right. For the Millenius section I ended up using a screengrab of the courtroom from the episode itself - something I don't like doing particularly with these early stories as the image quality is pretty poor (for print work - the clean-up and VidFiring looks great on screen!). The colours for the first three suggested themselves - reds for the brain creatures, icy blues for the caves, greens for the jungle - and so I chose orangey-yellows for the Millenius court and purple for the background Conscience machine room.

This last area took some thought. I had intended to have just a Voord but photos of them were surprisingly few, and then mainly from behind as one attacks Arbitan. This gave me the idea to represent that scene, therefore, but then shots of Arbitan suffered from the same problem as those of the Conscience machine, having the silver beams in the way. The clearest Voord shot had him hunkered down as he approached Arbitan so I chose to use this, adding a raised knife-wielding arm from a different photo. I then picked a photo of Arbitan in an appropriate pose and carefully cloned and patched from other shots things like his shoulder, sleeve and the hem of his habit to fill in where beams crossed the image and make him a full-length figure. Once the two characters were positioned together in front of the Conscience machine, I think this little tableau works quite well.

Finally the Doctor ended up an amalgamation of two images. I had planned to just use a shot where he's with Ian and Susan when they find Barbara's travel dial at the end of episode one. The Doctor was looking down at Ian's hands, which was a shame, but it was the best of the colour photos of him from the story and I had a decent quality copy in the Radio Times 20th Anniversary Special I could scan. I then spotted a photo from episode two where, although slightly soft and not a clear body shot, was a good image of his head. So I scaled this up and added it to the former body, using a grab from the photo gallery rather than a scan to it wasn't significantly sharper than the head, which required careful sharpening and painting of some facial detail. The result isn't totally natural looking but makes for an overall better pose.

Download the final KEYS OF MARINUS cover here

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