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.

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