The short sequence was designed to open every episode of the eleventh season of Doctor Who, but the BBC declined the concept for an as-yet-unseen alternative design.
The unused S11 title sequence, which you can watch below in full, is the work of graphic designer Stuart Manning, motion designer Jonny Eveson, and Class composer Blair Mowat who arranged a new version of Ron Grainer’s iconic theme for the project.
The concept is the culmination of a year’s hard work for the trio of die-hard Doctor Who fans, who all have extensive experience of working in television and film.
“I love Bernard Lodge’s work on the show’s titles during the sixties and seventies,” explains Manning, whose previous commissions include Radio Times and BBC Worldwide, “and that very much informed our approach, which was an attempt to move away from the literal treatments of the modern era and return to a more abstract, graphic representation of space and time travel.”
“Many of Doctor Who’s title sequences feature a circular tunnel motif. During the show’s classic era that was ideal, since the shape filled the square proportions of old TV screen,” Manning adds.
“In today’s widescreen format, I’ve never felt it’s worked as well, with the cropping at the top and bottom creating a slightly claustrophobic feeling. I wanted to find a solution to that, so hit upon the idea of using a series of floating shapes to create a virtual corridor for the viewer to travel through, with the depths of outer space glimpsed through the gaps.”
We also wanted it to feel vibrant and alive, and used colours beyond the usual metallic colours that have been in recent title sequences,” explains Eveson, whose credits include BBC iWonder, and Alien: Covenant Phobos. ”
“The colours we picked were brighter and more acidic, similar to the colour palettes of space adventure films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok. Blair’s sound design brought everything together, and really helped to shape the feel of the visuals.”
(Stuart Manning/Jonny Eveson/Blair Mowat)
The new arrangement of the 50+ year old theme song takes Ron Grainger’s composition back to basics, offering a more old-school sound that the one we’ve grown used to over the last few seasons of Doctor Who.
“The idea was based around taking the original 1963 theme and imagining how one might go about that now, rebuilding it completely from scratch and giving it some new twists,” shares Mowat who composed the music for the 2016 Doctor Who spin-off Class, and the much-loved S10 teaser trailer ‘A Time For Heroes’.
“When I saw the stunning visuals they sent through I made some tweaks to connect it better with what they’d created. One of the exciting things about that piece of music is how malleable it is: there are endless directions you can push it in and because the basic elements are so strong it almost always remains recognisable.”
Although the BBC is going with something completely different, all three look back on the design process in a positive light, and look forward to seeing the final title sequence when Doctor Who returns later this year.
“We were drawing from a rich history of iconic title sequences, and were able to play around with elements that we’d love to see as part of the show,” concludes Eveson.
“There’s a lot of great title sequence design happening in film and TV right now, so it’s more important than ever to have a strong and iconic visual style. We’d like to think that we achieved this with our creation, and can’t wait to see what season 11 looks like.”