58 Years Ago Today, Filming on Doctor Who Began for the First Time

It was on August 20, 1963 that something pretty momentous happened in the world of Doctor Who:  production began!

(Daily Doctor Who #270)

It was pretty low-key sort of production, as these things go.  There were no Daleks, no TARDIS, no Doctor or companions or even sets involved.  Rather, it was the beginning of putting together the very first opening title sequence for the show.

If you are a Doctor Who fan (and I can’t imagine why you are reading this if you are not), then probably the opening title sequence of the show is a subject of great interest to you.  It is to many of us fans, anyway.  We eagerly look forward to ever iteration; we argue about which ones are good or bad; we create top 10 lists of the best ones; and we debate the merits of including the Doctor’s face or the TARDIS. 

The original opening title sequence is credited to Bernard Lodge (who also designed the titles used for the first 17 seasons of the show).

Also involved was BBC technician Norman Taylor, who had actually discovered and developed the so-called “howl around” effect which the titles featured, and cameraman Hugh Sheppard.

I think there are few people who would list the original title sequence as their very favorite, but I for my money it is one of the most effective, and certainly the most eerie. Other versions have more strongly hearkened the concept of journey or adventure, but none have exuded such a strong sense of mystery. Just think of how much of an imagination-grabber it would have been to the kids tuning in on November 23, 1963.

The original opening title was used on the show until the midst of the fourth season, for something like 156 episodes, which is the most for which any title sequence was used. Tom Baker’s first titles ran for 144 episodes, which would have been 150 if Shada hadn’t been cancelled. If you count up the usages of every version of the starfield sequence (there were three), then you only get to 130 episodes. And if you look at the titles for the Eccleston / Tennant Doctors as the same sequence (in spite of all the variations), then you only get to 60 episodes. Even taking into account the fact that these were all longer episodes and you still don’t hit the lofty heights of the original black & white sequence used by William Hartnell’s Doctor (and into Patrick Troughton’s).

So here’s to Bernard Lodge, Norman Taylor and Hugh Sheppard for this pivotal part of Doctor Who history, and for Verity Lambert for pulling it all together.

It turns out, by the way, that as best as I can tell at the time of this writing, that Bernard Lodge is still alive, and active doing really interesting stuff with printmaking–woodcuts and linocuts. You can see his website here if you are interested.

3 thoughts on “58 Years Ago Today, Filming on Doctor Who Began for the First Time

  1. Tom Baker’s Seasons 12-17 titles are still my favorite. But it’s interesting to learn more about how the original Doctor Who titles first came about. Thanks.

  2. I know a lot of people love those Tom Baker titles. I like them, but they were never my clear favorite. But then, I’m not sure what I’d pick for a favorite.

  3. What I also liked about Tom Baker’s titles is how they were adapted from Douglas Trumbull’s slit scan effect for 2001: A Space Odyssey’s stargate sequence, which is also a favorite of mine in the pre-CGI visual effects universe.

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