Friday, August 17, 2007

Who wants to read a tediously detailed moan about a DVD cover?

For me, Doctor Who DVDs are best known for three things.

1. The quality of the transfer will be as good as is humanly possible - far, far better than other archive TV shows.

2. Any documentary will involve a bad title (often punning), humour which isn't funny and will have the production values of a 1980s BBC2 gameshow.

3. The covers will be rubbish to the point of parody, often in fact so unprofessional that you can't help wondering if the person being paid for creating them is some homeless alkie pal of the man at the BBC who awards the cover contracts, and the whole thing is simply a means by which the drunken pal can be kept in finest quality sippin' sanitiser.

Time-Flight is the first story in the recent two story box set released by 2entertain (originally to be called 'Tegan Tales', which tells you all you need to know about the abilities of 2entertain marketing). And even in so crowded a market, the cover plumbs new depths of ineptitude.

First off, there only seems to be one picture of Davison which has been officially sanctioned by the BBC for use on Time-Flight-y releases.

It's this photo, taken at the time and first used on the cover of DWM68.

So far so good. It's a picture of Davison, in costume, in front of the main selling point of the story and, from the look of the snow on the ground, at the time of filming.

It does exactly what a decent publicity still should do, in fact, and so it's no surprise to see the same image appear, cropped at the bottom a little, on the initial Target novelisation of the story.

You could, of course, argue that the whole run of photo covers for the Davison stories is a very poor idea, but Time-Flight isn't the worst of the set. That would be Earthshock, an image so bad it makes a crap book cover and a rotten jigsaw. Or Four to Doomsday, where Davison appears to have just had a big bowl of Ready Brek. Or maybe Terminus, which should surely have had Sarah Sutton in her underwear on the cover...

Eh, where was I again?

Oh yes. The Target cover is extraordinarily unimaginative but it's of a piece with the book series at the time, and at least it's a complete publicity shot and not a cut and paste of a random sample of screendumps and generic character stills, as seen so often elsewhere on Target front covers.

Or indeed on the BBC Video release.

Same image again, you see, but this time the designer has cut out the Concorde background and left just the Doctor, sans everything below the nipples. Which leaves a side on picture of the Doctor with no obvious link to Time-Flight. Still, better use it, I suppose. Wouldn't want to break the chain and bring seven year's bad luck.

In any case, he's in the clouds (which is good, since the story is about a plane - even if very little is actually set in the air) and Concorde is still there, flying out of Kalid's shoulder for some reason (which is also good since, you know, the story is about a plane, even though it's not really).

Throw (literally I suspect) in an image of a floaty Kalid looking longingly and mildly homo-erotically at Davison's hair ('how would you feel if I licked that ear, Doctor? Here Kalid is King!!!') Place Kalid image right above Nyssa's disembodied head and shoulders looking terribly happy amongst the fluffy clouds (she's an angel, that Nyssa) and well, there you have it.

Christ knows where Tegan is, mind. On Concorde possibly, after the Doctor pissed off and left her without so much as a second thought at the end of Time-Flight.*

And now we have the DVD. In which the Doctor's chest is returned to him and he's put back on the ground. Tegan's back too - brutally cut out using the Photoshop Lasso tool by a blind man with the DTs in the dark and pasted at an oddly small scale at the Doctor's shoulder. But there, nonetheless.

Kalid meanwhile is at least staring at his crystal ball rather than holding himself back from snipping off a keepsake from Davison's flowing locks. Cleverly, the ball is showing Concorde from two different angles - one a close up of the cockpit and the other a long shot of it flying away like the end credits of a holiday program. Useful for a segue should the actual Holiday Programme with Anne Gregg be on next.

But what's happened to Nyssa?! No more the beatific presence in the clouds, she's been turned into some kind of junkie goth chick, with unwashed knotted hair framing her disturbingly frozen face and one side trimmed off as though by a plane (the other kind, that is). She looks like a corpse, newly pulled from the river or a particularly chirpy Chalet School zombie, desperate to get into the house hockey team.

The entire cover cannot possibly have taken more than five minutes from beginning to end, even allowing for three and a half minutes for Photoshop to open on a slow PC. I can think of literally no-one who knows how to use a mouse who couldn't have 'created' this cover in ten minutes.

In light of all of which, take a bow Mr Dan Budden - a man who has the lack of shame to accept the credit for work this shoddily executed. That kind of brass-neck is something to respect.

And plaudits to 2entertain for exhibiting equal lack of quality control in accepting a cover which is the exact same as the video, except in the bits where it's much, much worse.

Finally, and not connected to the rest of this at all really but it needs to be said, a round of applause to Peter Grimwade for accepting payment for a script so dreadful that I'd watch Evolution of the Daleks again first.

A non-triumph all round, frankly.

* You know he's wanted to do that ever since she nipped on board on Logopolis, but even more so now that Adric's gone and he could be travelling the universe with someone young, intelligent and pretty and not a moaning-faced Aussie with big gaps between her teeth, bad hair and a belief that serving drinks on a plane constitutes an 'exciting' life.


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Blogger Scott Liddell said...


8:04 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Scott: "Dullest...Blogpost...Ever..."!

You might think so, but someone had to say it. I think of myself as taking one for the team :)

8:46 am  
Blogger TimeWarden said...

There are quite a few publicity stills for "Time-Flight", and a nice selection can be found on, so they could've used a different image of Peter, just for a change!

I find the UK DVD covers, for classic "Who", pretty unimaginative generally with the top half always given over to TARDIS roundels, each release, for the sake of uniformity!

1:01 pm  
Blogger alienvoord said...

OMG what have they done to Nyssa!!!111one

1:55 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Tim: "There are quite a few publicity stills for "Time-Flight", and a nice selection can be found on,"

You know, I've never come across that fabulous site before - ta, Tim.

2:04 pm  
Blogger SAF said...

Heheh. It's like they thought they had to come up with a cover to deter people from buying it. When all sensible, right minded folks - and me - would steer well clear.

Still, I found your blogpost amusing, so that's something good that's come out of the whole sorry mess. :)

11:02 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

SAF: "Heheh. It's like they thought they had to come up with a cover to deter people from buying it. "

That can't be right though because they put it in a cardboard box with a large close-up picture of Tegan'

Ah, I see your point :)

9:28 am  

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