From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.
|This article is written from the Real World point of view.
Black Sheep was the company that produced all of the BBC's novel covers throughout the BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures and the BBC Past Doctor Adventures ranges. They also produced covers for a majority of the BBC's later BBC Video releases.
Black Sheep have in the past been criticised for their lack of quality control and attention to detail, by authors and artists alike.
Bad choice of colours and photos (with inconsistant resolution) cobbled together in a haphazard composition. It seems to me entirely accidental that some covers work because they rarely have any focus. The simpler ones like Drift are better but generally they are pretty careless affairs. And of course many of the same photos are used ad naseum. They pretty much all look like roughs you'd pass over to an illustrator.
Some basic common sense seems to be missing too, trees are shown on the cover of The Tenth Planet - a story set in Antarctica, and there are four aliens shown on the Ambassadors of Death, though that's only one of said covers numerous problems.
Individual author experience with Black Sheep
I've had two dreadful experiences with Black Sheep. On both occasions, the company actually *forgot* to do the covers till the very last minute, meaning that they were rushed. The Quantum Archangel's cover does have all the elements I asked for (apart from Bonnie Langford), but despite sending reference material and a detailed description, it's still a mess, especially the mutilated genital region of what passes for the Archangel herself (which should have looked like Phoenix from the X-Men, to be honest).
I was happy with the original version of the Synthespians™ cover: I asked for Spearhead from Space meets Dynasty, and that's exactly what I got. James Gent of this parish was good enough to Photoshop a mock-up of the cover which was sent to Black Sheep for reference. However, they neglected to check with the photo agency that they could manipulate that image, so the entire first print run was pulped. The replacement isn't unbearably hideous, but it's not a patch on the original, which itself isn't a patch on James' version.
I was very happy with Heritage, although it's interesting reading what Craig has to say because Heritage was also a last minute rush job because the company forgot about it. If there'd been more time I would've asked them to change the Sarlac to a cave-in like I suggested, but that's an old story.
Another old story belongs to the lovely Mark Clapham. So the story goes, he suggested a cover for Hope that was a single silver fist, similar to the cover for The Dark Knight Strikes Back but quite a while before that comic was even a glint in Frank Miller's eye. He was told by Black Sheep that the authors don't get to make suggestions for the covers of Dr Who books, and so got the Hope cover that we all know and . . . erm, recognise.
I've been very happy with each of my covers. Maybe I'm lucky.
For 'Festy' I dimly recall asking for something in black, with Tom and Lalla looking moody and with a skull-faced angel doing something exultationy. I also asked for an iguana wearing sunglasses but, alas, poor Hoopy did not make the grade. Nevertheless it was stunning and fabulous.
For 'Anachy' I mocked-up a rough idea of what I wanted, by photoshopping a Magritte, and the finished article was similar but not quite as copyright-infringing. Originally the clock was a little too big and the tie was blue with white clouds (very Magritte, but not very sinister). Still have these about somewhere.
For 'Windy' I just sent them the paragraphs from the book describing the Church of the Holy Prophet Moop. And it turned out rather more beautiful than I had imagined it.
This quote is also in response to Dale Smith's response
I wasn't actually told that by Black Sheep, but by someone at BBC Books. It was made acutely clear to me that under no circumstances was any author ever, ever allowed to contribute ideas to the cover.
About a month later, one of my fellow authors blithely forwarded around the draft cover he had prepared for his own book, which Black Sheep had followed to the letter. Desperately idealistic readers may wish to put this down to a sudden change in policy, rather than there being one rule for some authors and a different one for others! If so, the Clapham Landmark Acquisition Company would like to offer you the chance to buy London Bridge - all enquiries and cheques to the name below, folks.
The final 'boyband' cover of 'Hope' was actually arrived at through a process of knocking back the draft covers a couple of times. The fey young lads at the front were in the cover from the beginning, but I got two original variants of the landscape - one which looked like 'Emmerdale', with farm buildings and such, and another which bore an unfortunate resemblance to an Afghan village. The latter was especially unfortunate considering the events of the time, but neither bore any resemblance to the Anton Furst-esque city in the book. In the end the Towers of Disco on the finished cover are about as good as we were ever going to get. At least they looked vaguely urban.
Dominion, my first Doctor Who novel, and my first experience with Black Sheep. Back in the early days of the EDAs there was a circular motif going on, instigated by the Seal of Rassilon on the cover of The Eight Doctors, and with this in mind I suggested to Black Sheep the image of “a wormhole in the midst of a Swedish forest”, which is more or less what I got.
For The Fall of Yquatine I had a specific idea, which I have stated here a couple of times – silver, dart-like spaceships zooming into the sky above the horizon of a planet. But what Black Sheep came up with was horrible – and when I asked them to change it, all they did was change the colour of the cloud around the ship.
In the end I gave up.
So I was determined that Superior Beings would get a better cover. What I ended up with was perfect – I wanted to evoke the James Herbert novels I read when I was a kid. And it does! Those eyes follow you around the room – brr! But it has to be said, their first version was absolutely and utterly *****ing abysmal, shocking, horrible, you wouldn’t have thought a professional design company could come up with something so *****. It was only after I put this to them, not in those terms of course!, that they came up with the goods, and admirably too.
Reckless Engineering they got dead right first time, it’s a fantastic cover and my favourite.
So, in conclusion, er, they’re largely good. I suppose it depends who they’ve got working for them at the time. I think maybe they let the tea boy have a go sometimes.
For 'Dying in the Sun' I think I was asked by Sarah Lavelle (who was copy editing the book) at the BBC what I wanted on the cover. I sent her a package containing a sketch of what the cover should be in pencils and crayons, a text description of what I was aiming for, plus a couple of photos from LA to illustrate the street scene. Sarah passed them on to Black Sheep who followed the suggestion closely, but with so little creativity that the original cover was legendarily awful (it had a Muppet on the front) - one of these days I must scan it and put it online, as only about ten people have ever seen it but it deserves a wider audience.
I wrote back and said it wasn't good enough and did a detailed breakdown of what I wanted changed, and the next draft that came back was the final one - I loved it, it was perfect. They'd even scanned a palm tree from one of my holiday snaps.
With Devil Goblins we just provided the BBC - and thus Black Sheep - with Paul Griffin's artwork, and they, er, did what you see... I don't think the clash of styles (black ink illustration, photograph of Pertwee's face) really works. Hollow Men is much better: we sent chunks of prose description of the scarecrows through to the beeb, and thus to Colin Howard, and I really like what we ended up with, although again - because we were adamant that we wanted a scarecrow on the front - you do have a bit of a clash of styles.
For Bunker Soldiers I asked a good friend of mine, John Williams, to come up with something. He produced a vista of the Mongol army advancing, which - on the back cover - had become an alien army, as viewed from the warped perspective of the eponymous 'bunker soldier'. This was probably a bit esoteric for the beeb/Black Sheep (and, to be fair, there's very little alien stuff in Bunker Soldiers), so they took the basic idea of John's forground image, and so we ended up with a picture of a Mongol soldier's skin breaking up to reveal something alien underneath (nothing like my description from the book, but hey ho), with the Mongol army marching towards the spine of the book in the background.
I think this is one of my favourite covers - it's quite striking - but I had a devil of a job getting them to put a Mongol on the front. Again, buried in my Web site, you'll see the earlier versions, where he's quite obviously an Inuit in a duffle coat! I then had to provide extra factual/pictorial details, and we got a helmet of sorts, and then finally they stuck a plume in the top.
I haven't got a clue what I asked for for Sleep of Reason: probably just a graveyard, or a mausoleum, or a statue, or a ghostly dog. I found this the hardest to think about - it's much less 'concrete' than my other books, I feel - and the request for ideas came quite late in the day, if I recall correctly. I was broadly happy with what Black Sheep came up with - though the creature is obvioiusly just a wolf, and I'm not sure about the snarl - though Justin asked for one of the dogs to be removed (although there are two creatures in the dream sequence near the beginning, in the book itself there's only really one, albeit exisiting in subtly different forms in the two time zones).