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Billy Hanshaw Discusses New Doctor Who Title Sequence

There’s an applause-worthy moment in The Five(-ish) Doctors Reboot where Sylvester McCoy pauses the action and asks fellow former Doctor Peter Davison, “Why are we doing this?” At first, Davison seems perplexed.

Then, he realizes the obvious answer and resolutely states, “For the fans!” Well, now that seems to have gone both ways, as the new opening titles sequence for Series 8 was designed by one of those very fans!

Whovians have contributed to the show before, of course, from teenager Andrew Smith’s script being used for 1981′s Full Circle, to the design for Love & Monsters‘ Abzorbaloff, to even the devices seen used by the Paternosters in Deep Breath. But, with respect to Strax’s magnifier, arguably the biggest fan contribution came at the beginning of last Saturday night’s show.  With the new Doctor came new fancy opening titles–designed by 46-year-old Billy Hanshaw of Leeds–with their clock gears, swirling Roman numerals, and time-bending TARDIS. As we all witnessed, it marked a unique and different take on the show’s introductory 40 seconds– in with time, and out with space. (It can also be argued that the clockwork gears and sprockets theme also fit in nicely with the revealed villains of Peter Capaldi’s first full episode.)

Above, Billy Hanshaw talks to BBC News about the new Doctor Who title sequence, in a clip that begins with his original version.

Hanshaw, besides being a fan, is a professional designer of motion graphics. He posted his video last September, and made his version of the titles to show off some of his skills to potential clients. As we now know, it ended up doing more than that… like completely winning over head honcho Steven Moffat.  “Hanshaw created this title sequence, put it up on YouTube,” Doctor Who executive producer Steven Moffat explained at a recent fan event in New York. “I happened across it, and it was the only new title idea I’d seen since 1963. We got in touch with him, and said, ‘OK, we’re going to do that one.’”

A few changes were made to Hanshaw’s original video, including the deletion of the Seal of Rassilon titles motif (sadly) and the Doctor’s fob watch (made famous during David Tennant’s Series 3) which was shown before and after the trip through the cogs and gears. Additions include a different font for the actors’ credits and Peter Capaldi’s eyes (and independence-seeking eyebrows?) appearing in space right before the close of the titles.  But the clock theme and most of the timey visuals remain the same.  “The Doctor is a Time Lord, he’s not a Space Lord,” Mr. Hanshaw reasons.  “A lot of people have said that cogs and clocks are an obvious metaphor to use. But if it’s so obvious, why hasn’t it be done before?”

Hanshaw is right, but it’s still a bit sad that the opening used in Series 7 has been put away so soon. It was an exciting voyage through space–with planets, asteroids, and exploding sparks–and re-established the classic theme of putting the current Doctor’s face in the titles, with Matt Smith’s face emerging from the stars and space clouds. But with a new Doctor, a new year, and a new series, has to come new credits.

On a personal note, I like the new opening titles. I saw Hanshaw’s video several months ago on YouTube, and although they didn’t win me over completely at the time because of their clocky uniqueness, I was impressed by Hanshaw’s ideas and skills. Like the designer says, the “time” aspect of the Doctor’s travels had never really been explored in the openings, well, outside of the “time tunnel” of the Tom Baker years and the “jetting TARDIS” through the vague timey-wimey reds and blues of the Russell T. Davies era.

What do you think, Kasterborites? Do you like the new “timey” opening titles or do you yearn for more “space”?


Drew has been a fan of Doctor Who ever since he flipped through the channels late one night and saw a girl blowing up an army of funny robot men with nothing but a slingshot and some old coins. He currently lives somewhere in the woods of Missouri with his beautiful wife Barbara.

'Billy Hanshaw Discusses New Doctor Who Title Sequence' have 19 comments

  1. August 25, 2014 @ 8:45 am bonobobananas

    That music is so much better!


  2. August 25, 2014 @ 8:52 am iLikeTheUDK

    “A lot of people have said that cogs and clocks are an obvious metaphor to use. But if it’s so obvious, why hasn’t it be done before?”
    Because clockwork is a *human* technology, at least in the form they were presented in the titles. And it lacks any sort of a feel of mystery to it, too.
    I do find it sad that the previous titles and theme have been put away so quickly, at least the general idea (though I must be added that I like the new theme’s bassline sound more). It would be interesting to see them with better visuals, remade by people with better experience in 3D motion graphics and visual effects (and I don’t mean Xander Hugh’s version because he really misinterpreted it).
    Some of the visual effect shots representing magic in the Harry Potter films (especially most of the spells, and the pensieve from Goblet of Fire) match the look of what I think works best for the Doctor Who titles, and it turns out that Paul Franklin, one of Double Negative VFX’s visual effects supervisors who worked on Harry Potter, once (in the mid-90s, to be accurate) worked with none other than Bernard Lodge, who told him a lot about his work on Doctor Who. I think Franklin and his team would be the right people for the job.


    • August 25, 2014 @ 10:10 am Tommygun264

      But you’ll have to admit, if the new title sequence was everything you wanted, there would be just as many people criticizing that choice. The new title sequence isn’t my personal favorite, but I’m happy to see a fan have his dream come true. As long as it doesn’t contain product placement – action figures, Starbucks or McDonald’s logos flying across the screen – I’m fine, because I know it won’t be long until the titles are changed to something else. Like the rest of the universe, the one constant in “Doctor Who” is change.


      • August 25, 2014 @ 10:44 am James Mclean

        I don’t totally agree, I think the previous Smith opener was a good balance of all elements EXCEPT the let down in the TARDIS door CG at the end. I was happy with that.

        This, the reason people haven’t used the clockwork/time motif is because it’s too on the nose, too obvious. It’s like crime thrillers that have openers with magnifying glasses and shifty looking butlers… it lacks subtlety – well for me anyway. I said this when we reviewed the fan’s work months back before it was picked, just to clarify this isn’t a “show-can’t-do-anything-right” attack. :)

        The overall consistency of the video is good. None of it looks bad, it’s very smooth, nice transitions – and the idea was well conceived, I just feel it’s college art student in depth (having been down that road). I don’t think it’s that no era has never considered clocks, I just don’t think they’ve wanted them. Oh and I’m glad they got rid of the seal of Rassilon for the same reason as above, again, too on the nose, too obvious. I don’t think the Doctor would like to be represented by that seal either!

        But that’s how I feel, I don’t agree, but I’m not for a moment saying I’m right, just explaining why I stand differently. All opinion. I think one could make a case that it does give the show more grounding for new viewers as to what it’s about. I prefer the video to the theme which feels weak by comparison to Gold’s other renditions.


        • August 25, 2014 @ 11:05 am iLikeTheUDK

          Exactly what I was trying to say.


        • August 25, 2014 @ 1:17 pm FrancoPabloDiablo

          Cogs and clocks are just one small unsubtle step away from question marks on shirt collars, pullovers and umbrellas. Surely they would never do such a ridiculous and obvious… oh wait, sorry!


          • August 25, 2014 @ 1:26 pm James Lomond

            Exactly. The clockworks and roman numerals are like a wink to the audience and damage the reality of the world the show tried to create. It’s like a statement that “this is a fictional show about time travel – you know, clocks n’ stuff”. Think I said somewhere else that you might as well have Clara and the Doctor running around a clock face or falling down through a sand-timer. It’s tacky, obvious and hasn’t been used before because it’s *rubbish*. Theme is OK. Nothing special – kinda like the attempt at eerie-ness but it doesn’t quite manage it. Cogs and clock faces are irrelevant to the TARDIS and timelords and are essentially a reference to the supposed viewer’s expectations. Almost everything else about Deep Breath was wonderful. *grumblegrumble*

          • August 25, 2014 @ 6:54 pm calliarcale

            James — the title sequence damages the reality of the world the show is trying to create? I tend to agree about the question mark sweater and things like that, but the title sequence doesn’t seem to me like the time to worry about suspension of disbelief. I mean, it’s actually listing the lead actors’ names and the name of the person who wrote the story and some of the production crew; the whole *point* of a credit sequence breaks the fourth wall already.

          • August 25, 2014 @ 7:09 pm iLikeTheUDK

            But there needs to be something there to somehow keep a bit of the suspense of disbelief. The new titles completely break it.

          • August 25, 2014 @ 7:55 pm FrancoPabloDiablo

            Calliaracle: “the title sequence doesn’t seem to me like the time to worry about suspension of disbelief”

            So if the very beginning of the episode isn’t the time, then when? The End?

  3. August 25, 2014 @ 10:22 am RR

    Great article.. Titles are great BUT how can they have got away with using such an aweful arrangement of the theme tune? It just feels like a bodged together afterthought, worse than any that were used in the 80s! Capaldi deserves better!


  4. August 25, 2014 @ 11:39 am Bar

    Loved Hanshaw’s original when it came out, love the new one, loathe the music – too reminiscent of early eighties tartrazine era.
    (Odd, given I liked the rest of the episopde’s score much more).

    But those who complain about clocks and clockwork being too obvious or too human have a point; it’s just that I love the artwork, the hint of steampunk and the move away from the merely flying through space as any old Enterprise can do.

    And the age suits Twelve’s decision to drop the veil. look past the surfaces, give it time.


    • August 25, 2014 @ 12:52 pm iLikeTheUDK

      The TARDIS hardly ever merely flew through space in the official titles. I’m fact except for maybe the ’80s titles and technically the titles from the 1996 film it was NEVER seen flying through space in the titles period!


  5. August 25, 2014 @ 1:30 pm James Lomond

    Billy Hanshaw is clearly very good at CGI and realising an idea. But he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the ideas and Moff is a scripting genius but shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near aesthetics.


  6. August 25, 2014 @ 8:43 pm STLShawn

    I like the title sequence. A fresh start. Very crisp and clear, nothing is hidden under blurs and smoke. I like it.

    We get no real new interior, no new sonic, so let’s grasp on to what’s new and exciting.

    My only feeling is that it is not steampunk enough. Capaldi is probably going to be a dark steampunk doctor, so the roman numerals should have been a bit more “hand hammered” look instead of modern machine look….. in my humble opinion. But still,,, KUDOS Mr. Henshaw, fantastic breath of fresh air!

    Besides,,,, I think we are missing the point,,,,
    A fan dreamed up a totally unique idea, created it for hours out of a love of our favorite show, and the powers that be noticed and acknowledged his dedication and skill! Wow!


    • August 25, 2014 @ 11:41 pm James Lomond

      Having a bit of a moody rant but, while this is lovely – 1) he’s already a professional 2) youtube is where a lot of people make their living and is a legitimate mode of exposure – even Ben Wheatly started doing viral ad vids. This is all a bit over romanticised 3) loads of people in the Mill when they were providing effects described themselves as fans – the fact that he’s a fan is no more remarkable than anyone else working on the show being a fan. “Professional gets gig from informal pitch”. It’s nicely done, but has major flaws/ embarrassments according to some vocal fans. …yeah this is largely the bad weather talking through me today. :/


  7. August 25, 2014 @ 11:36 pm James Lomond

    Calliarcale – I see what you’re saying, though don’t agree. My reasons are opinion obviously, but these are they – it bookends every episode so it’s tonally and aesthetically hugely important. It sets the scene, it takes you *in* to the whole world of the show and lets you out at the end. It’s always been one of the most terrifying and fantastical things about the show (when they get it right) and tells everyone that there’s something special about to happen. I’m watching it partly from the point of view of a child, when I became a fan, and it *mattered* to me that THAT was what the time vortex looked liked – that was where the TARDIS went. I wanted that to be the *actual* place because the TARDIS and its moving through time and space was one of the most exciting things about the series. I wanted to SEE that magical place – so it needed to feel credible and real (back in 1988 or whenever). As an adult it is STILL a show that I, for some reason, feel I have to defend to a persistently cynical and patronising peer group/ random strangers/ whoever. And now they’ve put cogs and a clock face in the title sequence. I know there are bigger problems in the world and I know there are more important things about any TV show, but I LOVE Doctor Who and I want it to be as awesome as it can be. And I’m a fan. I like the occasional [ahem] moan ;)


  8. August 26, 2014 @ 3:48 am Jamie-42

    Wow! Some strong opinions! Personally, I loved it. The clock theme to the visuals was good and I like the new arrangement for the theme, much less orchestral which never really grabbed me.

    The only think I will say is that like STLShawn I would have liked the sequence to feel a little more Steam Punk but hey you can’t have everything! :-)


  9. August 26, 2014 @ 7:47 am Jamie Egerton

    I always enjoyed the fact that the obvious time-travel cliches were seemingly avoided in the opening credits. Ticking clocks, cogs, hourglasses etc. we’re never necessary before. The haunting, mysterious and other-worldly time vortex does a much better job of transporting us into uncertainty of the Doctor’s universe in my opinion.
    As for the theme; it’s a bit high-pitched for my liking, and also a bit noisy with all the random bleeps and chirps. I hope they change it soon.
    I’m glad a fan got a chance to contribute meaningfully to the show though. It’s a lovely gesture.
    Everything else about the first episode was great though. I really, thoroughly enjoyed it.


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