Synaesthesia and Doctor Who – Part 2 (Terror of the Autons, The Daemons +30th Anniversary Releases)

Click for Part 1.

Other photo edit covers are slightly more intriguing (at least early on).  Fan consciousness has lead to a positive outlook when watching The Ark In Space (1975), yet it is a story rarely visited by this writer.  Its occasional green but otherwise white colour pallet was taken full advantage of for its DVD cover.  However its VHS was given an array of colour that suggested a far more exciting story than it contained.  Apart from a goggle-eyed Tom Baker, the cover used blue for its main motif and yellows coming from a giant wasp covering Earth, producing the most exciting cover from the era.  The wasp like interpretation itself actually looks far better than the Wirrn in the story and, even with the sterile whites of Nerva Beacon, the story is still recalled by this writer as a tropical array of blues and yellows.  This clash may also account for this writer’s low perception of the story; too high expectations brought about by a synaestheic association.  Spearhead From Space (1970), on the other hand, has a vaguely similar relationship to The Robots of Death with its blue typography and dirty blue overalls pretty much summarising the gritty feel of the only Doctor Who shot completely on film.

The deletion of many of the 30th anniversary titles is where my genuine obsession for collecting reached its peak and where many of the synaesthetic relationships take hold.  This starts off with the lesser titles from the series; lesser in the sense of availability which was often pre-determined by The Who Shop’s catalogue that mysteriously put “deleted” by the most sort after titles instead of a price.  The Keeper of Traken (1981) and The Curse of Peladon (1972) are were both deleted but still relatively easy to find.  Both have been given very distinct colours that build on themes in both the stories.  Traken has a beige, yellow feel that is further impressed upon by its buildings and the Melkur itself.  Andrew Skilleter and Alister Pearson clearly took colour pallets from stories and used them as a basis for his cover artwork.  This seems simplistic but effective, especially in defining a story’s colour.  The Curse of Peladon is as purple a story as you can get and the cover back this up by having lush purple based cover straight from Hepesh’s flowing cloak to King Peladon’s equally camp boots.



Much could be dwelt on this obvious linking relationship.  A number of the covers use elements of the story to define their colour and it seems silly to even point it out.  Yet it’s interesting to note how one particular element of a story can be built upon to create something far more elegant than what was actually contained inside the dusty, plastic cases.  Robot (1975)is a great example.  Clearly taking some of the reds from the robot itself, the cover uses red on a minimalist background which hints that the story inside would be a minimal masterpiece in the style of Carl T Dreyer.  The excitement of finding such a clean-cut and cool story (and also one that was deleted and rare) would often be engulfing and even after suffering the disappointment of a visually ropy story, the power of the cover art would prevail allowing the story to be recalled as something wonderfully minimal, at least until further recollection brought about images of Kettlewell’s fuzzy hair and an Action Man tank.

Moving back to the story colour elements, more of this can be found in easier to find stories, especially of the McCoy era.  The Curse of Fenric (1989)is emblazoned with a turquoise motif not unlike the colour of the Haemovors skin while Paradise Towers (1987) is represented by Mel’s horrendous aqua themed costume.  Survival (1989) also depicts the landscape of the dying planet of the cheetah people though it’s safe to assume this colour/story relationship when colourful landscapes and characters are being used predominantly within the artwork.  Stories that develop their own colour stimuli are far more interesting and complex.

The double bill of Terror of the Autons (1971) and The Daemons (1971) were almost a holy grail during the mid 1990s.  Though they bookend the same season, they work well together both visually and narratively as stories for more reasons outside of the stories than within.  However, other than their extreme rarity (and ridiculous pricing) they’re connected by the same idiosyncratic style of cover art.  The excitement of seeing them both together on the advert housed on The Curse of Peladon often became more exciting than actually watching The Curse of Peladon.  These stories were given the most ambitious  garishly colourful artwork, more in line with the Colin Baker era.  There’s nothing remotely pink or lavender in either of the stories, yet recalling them brings to mind these outrageous covers far more than the fuzzy colour restoration jobs both stories underwent (which rather aptly meant them gaining a little paint brush on their spine; another signifying factor to return to later).  This is the first proper synaesthetic relationship built around stories, where the colour association has been built through VHS cover art alone.  It is perhaps also telling that these were two of the most expensive of videos to buy and an ability to spot a flash of garish pink or lavendar on the stalls at fairs and shops was a vital necessity for the VHS fan.


Part 3 coming soon.

Adam Scovell

Images from Galactica, The Doctor Who Collectors Wiki and The Who Shop.

2 thoughts on “Synaesthesia and Doctor Who – Part 2 (Terror of the Autons, The Daemons +30th Anniversary Releases)

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