Blogtor Who Titles For Essays

What's in a name...?

If there is one thing that Doctor Who fans love to do - and we're very good at it - it's debate. And argue - in a nice way, mostly. We can find many things to argue about. For instance, a programme as long-lived as ours, with so many changes in production crew, is sure to throw up a whole host of continuity issues which we must try to accommodate / rationalise if we are to remain sane.
We debate the UNIT  Dating issue; Dalek Continuity; Cybermen Continuity; the definition of what makes someone a fully fledged companion; Canonicity; "Season 6b"; how many regenerations a Time Lord can have; was the 200th story really the 200th? and many, many more. I will have my own say about most of these issues at some point.

One area which you would think would be straightforward is the naming of different stories, and I think I need to address this myself at this stage before I proceed with these musings - as I have already referred to a few story titles.
For those relatively new to Classic Who (as the the pre-Russell T Davies version is often called - and there is debate over that as well) I will explain.
When the programme first started, right through to the tail-end of William Hartnell's tenure, each episode of Doctor Who had its own on screen title - beginning with "An Unearthly Child".

Each story, for the most part, led directly into the next, so it was like one continuous adventure. However, groups of consecutive episodes formed distinct stories, with their own writers, who were commissioned to write their 3, 4, 5 or whatever number of episodes as a single storyline. Some stories have always been trouble free - everyone agreeing from the start what it could be called. But others have been more problematic - mainly due to the fact that neither the writer nor the production team ever really agreed a collective name for the episodes at the time - and often called it different things on different documents.

The troubles start right with the first story. This is generally accepted as a 4 part story written by Anthony Coburn and mainly dealing with a prehistoric tribe's quest for fire.The first episode, which pretty much stands apart from the following three, is called "An Unearthly Child" and this is often taken to be the title for the whole story. Indeed it is the one used on both the VHS and DVD releases, and so I am also going to use it. Other titles are "The Cavemen", "The Tribe of Gumm" and "100,000 BC". Take your pick.
Things get even more confusing with the next story - Terry Nation's 7 part Dalek story. I go with calling it "The Daleks" - again it is the one chosen for BBC VHS and DVD releases. More popular in some quarters is "The Mutants". It probably should be called this - but there is a Third Doctor story with this name and I find it too confusing to cope with that. Others refer to it by the first episode title "The Dead Planet". This only works for that episode however, as we quickly learn the planet isn't exactly devoid of life.
The third story I call "The Edge of Destruction" - again I am following the VHS / DVD release titles, and it is a better title than the other most commonly used one of "Inside the Spaceship" - which is a bit dull don't you think?

Things quieten down a bit after this opening trilogy. We have "Marco Polo" - though some like to call it "A Journey to Cathay", followed by "The Keys of Marinus", "The Aztecs" and "The Sensorites". No argument about the latter three. "The Reign of Terror" has also been called "The French Revolution".
Next up are all problem free - "The Planet of Giants", "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", "The Rescue", "The Romans" and "The Web Planet". After that we have "The Lionheart" or "The Crusade" as I prefer.
This is followed by "The Space Museum", "The Chase" (sometimes called "The Executioners"), "The TimeMeddler" and "Galaxy 4".
These are followed by a single episode story which has the on screen title of "Mission to the Unknown". You'd expect that one to be trouble free, but if so, you'd be wrong. In production terms it was sometimes referred to as "Dalek Cutaway" - i.e. an episode cutting away from the main narrative to act as a prequel to the 12 part Dalek story to come. Now there is no way that this was ever supposed to be its title but because it is on a piece of paper in the BBC archives, some idiots hold to it.
The next story goes by "The Trojan War" and "The Myth Makers". That 12 part Dalek story is known as "The Daleks' Master Plan" though some people drop the s'.
We are now on the home straight. Next up is "The Massacre" which some know by the fuller title "The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve". Then we have "The Ark", "The Celestial Toymaker" and "TheGunfighters". Episode 4 of the latter, "The O.K. Corral", is the last time we see an individual episode title until the RTD era, as the following week we had Episode 1 of "The Savages". Whilst the "Next Episode" (see below) called it "Dr Who and the Savages", when Episode 1 rolled round it was just "The Savages".

Name problems didn't entirely go away, however. The second Third Doctor story - "The Silurians" - should technically be called "Doctor Who and the Silurians", for that was what appeared on screen for all 7 episodes. Most agree this was a mistake and not intended, so most don't use the full title.

There is also a lot of debate about the 14 part "Trial of a Time Lord". The four sections (split by writer and plot elements) of Season 23 have been given individual story titles - for their novelisations for instance. The first part is generally accepted as "The Mysterious Planet", and the next "Mindwarp". I personally think the third part is called "Terror of the Vervoids", but some hold with "The Ultimate Foe". Others use this latter title for the final two episodes, whilst others give those the title of "Time Inc."  It only really matters if you think it is one long story, or four separate stories making up a season arc.

The last bone of contention goes to the 1996 Paul McGann movie. Everything around that production is contentious, and it really needs a few posts of its own to sort out - so I won't go there just now.

So there you go - I've said which titles I'm going to use and why. They might not be as the purist might use, but I'm comfortable with them.
The Twelfth Doctor’s title sequence has been pretty consistent during his time, or has it?

The opening titles are almost as important as the Doctor when it comes to defining an era of the series. Though Doctors have shared them or had multiple versions during their run, each has that definitive sequence. The one you associate most with that incarnation. When it comes to Tom Baker, you immediately think of this rather than this. Think of the Matt Smith era and this springs to mind more often than this.

Twelve Titles

Which brings us to the outgoing Doctor Twelve. At first glance, you might think that Capaldi’s the title sequence has been pretty consistent since its series eight introduction. A few changes in order and lettering but otherwise identical. In actual fact, it’s undergone a surprising number of variations throughout the Capaldi era.

Billy Hanshaw

You might already know that this title sequence was actually based on a concept by Leeds-based designer Billy Hanshaw. Steven Moffat caught his work on YouTube and invited Hanshaw to help the BBC develop the Twelfth Doctor’s now-iconic opening.

Death in Heaven

This title sequence remained unchanged until the final episode of series eight, ‘Death in Heaven’. As a ploy to convince the Cybermen not to delete her, current companion Clara claimed that she was the Doctor in disguise. The titles, which followed the scene, were changed accordingly. Clara’s actor, Jenna Coleman, was credited above Capaldi and her eyes were used in place of Twelve’s attack eyebrows.

Last Christmas

The next story was 2014’s Christmas special, ‘Last Christmas’. Appropriately, the titles were changed once again to include Nick Frost’s name – guest starring as Father Christmas – and a snow-capped TARDIS.

Before the Flood

Series nine reverted back to the normal intro at first. The biggest exception is in the fourth episode ‘Before the Flood’. Giving a walky-talky fourth-wall-breaky preamble direct to the audience, the Doctor strums a few notes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 on his electric guitar. The last note carries into the opening titles with the usual theme song arrangement replaced by a rock cover. It seems that Capaldi’s own musical talents were employed on this version.

Sleep No More

Episode nine of the ninth series, ‘Sleep No More’, made a dramatic shift away from the usual title sequence. To fit with the “found footage” format that writer Mark Gatiss was going for, the title sequence is eschewed altogether. Instead, a brief title card is shown in amongst all the video static, with the words “Doctor” and “Who” highlighted:

Heaven Sent

After Clara’s apparent demise in ‘Face the Raven‘, we had a one-hander episode featuring the Twelfth Doctor flying solo. Even though Coleman would make an appearance in a vision and be credited at the end, the opening titles omitted her name. Instead, Capaldi’s name lingers and eventually zooms off before Attack Eyebrows activate. Coleman’s name would be restored to the titles for her final episode, ‘Hell Bent‘, where Clara would depart.

The Husbands of River Song

With Clara gone, River Song filled in as companion for the 2015 Christmas special. After 14 episodes, Alex Kingston finally got her name in the opening credits! ‘The Husbands of River Song’ added the same snowscape as ‘Last Christmas’ did last christmas. But they also threw in some baubles for good measure.

Ten to Twelve

And so, after a long break, the tenth series premiered. The new title sequence for the series underwent some minor tweaks. Of course, since Pearl Mackie was joining the cast as Bill, Jenna Coleman’s name was replaced with hers. Matt Lucas, who had first appeared in ‘The Husbands of River Song’ as Nardole, became a series regular so his name was added too. The Attack Eyebrows were also moved so that they came in after the Doctor Who logo. Also the episode title was made bigger and bolder.

And thus it has remained all through the series. There are two more episodes of the Capaldi era yet to air which may throw another variation our way. But we’re pretty confident this will be a near-definitive list of his intros. So…yeah…

Oh we can’t end on such an anti-climax. Aha! I know…

BONUS: Lego Dimensions

The 2015 video game ‘Lego Dimensions’ featured a plethora of licensed characters and the Doctor was no exception. As the incumbent incarnation, Capaldi reprised his role to voice his minifigure counterpart. For the ‘Doctor Who’ level, the team at Traveller’s Tales – who developed the game – constructed a Lego-themed rendition of the opening titles. Complete with a minifig version of each Doctor getting up to scrapes.

Which is your favourite title sequence of the Twelfth (or any other) Doctor? Let us know in the comments below!


Mat Greenfield

Mat is a technical writer and freelance journalist. He lives in London with his two imaginary cats because his landlord is prejudiced against real ones.

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