The Monster of Peladon

2 January 2011

Sometimes it's a real struggle to come up with ideas for a cover illustration. It might be that you really like the story and want your creation to do it proud, or that the story simply doesn't inspire much feeling at all - and I like to think the best covers (not just of mine, but any) are not simply a collection of images pleasantly arranged but convey some of the atmosphere of the story. Well, that's the ambition. 'The Monster of Peladon' falls into the latter category, the story itself not really engaging me, so making it hard to get a feel for what the cover should be like.

Obviously it had to have the Ice Warriors on. I had a good photo in DWM of the Aggedor statue unobstructed, which I thought would be good to use as a background or perhaps a centre point around which to arrange other characters. I also wanted to include Eckersley, but ideally in a way that didn't immediately flag he was a villain. Alpha Centauri is also pretty iconic for the Peladon stories. That led me to the shots of Sarah, Eckersley and Alpha looking at the control screens, thinking I could replace Sarah with, perhaps, Vega Nexos to have a collection of figures without giving away which were bad and which were good. This would need to sit along the bottom of the illustration, beside the Doctor, leaving room the Ice Warriors above, although I wasn't keen on any of the static poses of them. Thus, with some half-formed ideas, I began to look through my picture sources for usable photos.

The immediate problem was finding a suitable shot of the Doctor. Frustratingly, while there are a few of him from this story (none of them great poses) clearly they were taken during dress rehearsals as Jon isn't wearing his full costume, most noticeably missing his bow tie and wearing his wide shirt collar over his jacket lapels. Fortunately both jacket and tie are a very dark green in this story, thereby showing minimal detail, so I decided I could paint in the tie and paint out the shirt collars. No shots of the Doctor had him face on and most were in profile, so I went with a scan from DWM that at least had him in a three-quarter profile and wasn't as soft as screengrabs from the DVD's photo gallery.

Looking through the gallery also revealed a couple of shots of miners holding Eckersley at sword-point that I'd forgotten about. I liked these as they suggested some action (always nicer than static poses) and allowed me to include the traitorous engineer while making him appear to be a victim. As this was a self-contained image - well-arranged figures in front of a usable background (I just had to extend the room behind the miner's shoulder and to the left behind the Doctor with patches from another shot taken on that set) - my thoughts turned to having two horizontal panels for this and the Ice Warriors, with the Aggedor statue behind. Roughing this out, I placed the panels at an angle so not too much of the statue was covered and, I felt, enhancing the 'action shot' of the miners.

Further inspiration struck when looking through Ice Warrior photos. There are a couple of Sarah caught by Sskel as Gebek prepares to bash him with a rock, and I realised I could replace her with Alpha. I initially had Alpha facing Sskel, with Azaxyr standing behind, but when I decided to use a photo of the Ice Lord menacing Sarah, it looked better with Alpha facing him (and the lighting matched better too). Photos of Alpha had his top eyelid quite low, which made him look unconcerned at his predicament, so I warped his eyelid to open it up more and added in more eyeball so he could look at Azaxyr with a bit more fear. As the bottom panel was in a technical setting, I chose to put the Ice Warriors in the trisilicate caves (as the Sskel shot was there anyway), multiplying the ore seams and adding some of the cave set on the left.

So in the end, having struggled for ages to find inspiration, it came together relatively quickly and has turned out much better than I had expected.

Download the final MONSTER OF PELADON cover here

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