This is a gallery of rare VHS sleeves rescued from the Twilight Zone. Many of them have never been seen before by the unwashed masses.  These are the sleeves that might have been, but weren't: provisional designs, mock-ups and cock-ups. I've generally avoided adding sleeves where there are only minor cosmetic differences (sleeves with provisional BBFC certificates, and a whole run of Blake's 7 sleeves with different coloured text, for example), and have focused on sleeves that are radically different from the versions seen on retailer's shelves. 

Those of you with keen eyesight might detect a little tampering - I've "branded" many of the sleeves. It won't stop other sites ripping them off, of course, but I'll be damned if I'm going to make it any easier for the buggers!

Note: Clicking on the thumbnails will take you to a larger version.

DOCTOR WHO

There must be - ohhhh - thousands of photo's of Jon Pertwee from his tenure as The Doctor at the BBC, so why did they chose this one? Ultimately it was rejected for technical reasons - it was simply too blurry, replaced by an equally goofy photo' from an early photo-shoot.

DOOMWATCH

This pair of comic strip-style designs accompanied viewing copies of the two original BBC videos distributed to retailers for assessment. Compositionally they're very similar to the finished sleeves, and may have been the original sketches. Note the circular motif framing the three character portraits, missing from the finished version. The quality of the art suggests, though, that they may have been intended for the finished product. The comic strip look suits the series, and was considerably more dynamic than the nasty airbrushed art they ended up with.

DOOMWATCH

Here's the sleeve for the episodes The Red Sky and You Killed Toby Wren. Note the use of the circular framing device around the three characters, which was dropped from the final version, the more pronounced radiating beam from the lighthouse, and the more striking explosion. Note, too, that two of the photo's were replaced for the finished version. There seems to be an error at the bottom of the "D" in "Doomwatch".

HANCOCK

These simple designs, partly inspired by the series' opening title sequence, are very striking, but the horrible tinted photos are an insult to the lad 'imself's legacy. (I'm sure veteran Radio Times photographer Don Smith would have cringed to see himself credited on the back of the sleeve!) These designs were created for the original batch of retail tapes, when tapes intended for sale were still being sold for something like 25 each! The final designs weren't much more dynamic, but at least they were something you might have been proud to have on your shelf. 

HANCOCK

Here's the second sleeve in the series, which contains the series' signature episode, The Blood Donor (as well as two episodes which are better, in my opinion: The Missing Page and Twelve Angry Men).

THE HITCH HIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY - 

PART ONE 

This design was completely jettisoned, and replaced by something that made better use of the "electronic" pages of the guide which were created for the series (in this case, views of the Babel fish).  The new design has more style, but the new version's spine is unnecessarily cluttered. 

THE HITCH HIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY - 

PART TWO 

Common sense would suggest that you'd design one sleeve for a two-tape series, and see if that was accepted, before designing the second one, but in this case similar designs for both parts were ditched. Here's the other tape's rejected design. 

 

BABYLON 5 - VOLUME 17

The red blob on the front of this sleeve says "IMAGE SUBJECT TO CHANGE", and so it did, eventually replaced by a really, really dull photographic image of two humans. (At least, they look like humans - please email me if you know who they were!)

BABYLON 5 - VOLUME 18

Another one that says "IMAGE SUBJECT TO CHANGE", as if admitting that at the point when the sleeve went to press, they couldn't come up with anything better. The sleeve image didn't change much: the picture was replaced with a very slightly more dynamic image of the starfury taken from another angle.

RED DWARF IV - CAMILLE

One for you Red Dwarf trivia freaks - check out the episode titles at the bottom of this sleeve. Otherwise this sleeve is very similar to the finished version! 

THE SIMPSONS - BART THE GENERAL

This is one of a pair of sleeves for the first two UK VHS releases, (which then carried a measly two-episodes per tape!) This provisional design is quite polished, but the company eventually decided to use plain white backgrounds, and these bright, fun drafts were consigned to history.

THE SIMPSONS - CALL OF THE SIMPSONS

Here's the other rejected sleeve from that original pair of releases. 

STEPTOE AND SON - THE SEVEN STEPTOERAI

Steptoe and Son was one of the first series extensively released on video by the BBC, and had launched, along with Dad's Army and Hancock's Half Hour, in sleeves that were unimaginative and Spartan. These early drafts were a radical departure for the range. The sleeves were redesigned in more conservative fashion, launching a new template that was re-used for several subsequent releases.

STEPTOE AND SON - THE PIANO

Here's The Seven Steptoerai's companion piece, The Piano. It's even less impressive, since now the characters get lost in the background. A shirtless Wilfred Brambell?  What were they thinking?

 

A SHARP INTAKE OF BREATH - VOLUME 1

This series, which starred national treasure David Jason as a man who was especially accident-prone, very nearly reached the shops. The sleeves had been designed, and timecoded copies of the first tape had been circulated to the buying departments of the big retailers, when the release was cancelled. According to the product manager at ITC the release was blocked by Jason, who isn't keen on his early work being released.  

A SHARP INTAKE OF BREATH - VOLUME 2

Here's the sleeve design for the second volume, which is much less likely to have been circulated, since the release had been cancelled before the second volume was promoted to the trade.

ALEXEI SAYLE' STUFF

This is an early printed draft, and it's easy to see that it's simply a bad design. The image of Sayle on the scooter doesn't stand out from the Dali-esque background. Since the finished sleeve won't be familiar to most visitors, I've included the finished version, complete with the back cover blurb, for comparison. Note, too, that the "Starring that fat b*st*rd with no hair and very tight suits" line has been dropped from the finished version. 

THE SECOND COMING

It's hard to know where to start with this provisional DVD sleeve, for Russell Davies' 2002 mini-series about a man who claims to be God. To be fair to Carlton, this was never going to be the final design. Designers often have very poor source materials to work with. Even if a series has a good on-set photographer (something that's becoming increasingly rare), their main concern is to create images suitable for use in TV listings.  

TWIN PEAKS - EPISODE 007

This design, showing Joan Chen's character (Jocelyn "Josie" Packard) was rejected simply because the photo' was "soft" (i.e.: not in sharp focus). Chen was dumped, in favour of a picture of dippy receptionist Lucy Moran. One factor that may have influenced the choice of replacement was that Kimmy Robertson (the actress playing Lucy) was hired by the video company (Screen Entertainment) to help promote the launch of the videos in the UK. 

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Unless explicitly stated, DVD screen captures used in the reviews are for illustrative purposes only, and are not intended to be accurate representations of the DVD image.   While screen captures are generally in their correct aspect ratio, there will often have been changes made to the resolution, contrast, hue and sharpness, to optimise them for web display.

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