If you’re a dedicated follower of Doctor Who viral hits, then you may have noticed something a tad familiar about the show’s new opening title sequence tonight. That’s because, in a somewhat unprecedented move for the show, they were adapted from a fan-made interpretation of what Peter Capaldi’s intro should look like – a YouTube hit that impressed showrunner Steven Moffat so much that he went ahead and made it official.
Billy Hanshaw, a motion graphics specialist from Leeds, uploaded his own take on the titles in September last year, which – as you’ve just seen – opens with a swooping shot through the gears of a clock before the Tardis spins into view, spiralling through a surrealist vortex of clock faces. It became a viral hit on YouTube, notching over 885,000 views, and Moffat was one of them.
“It was the only new title idea I’d seen since 1963,” he said recently. “We got in touch with him, and said, ‘OK, we’re going to do that one.'”
Hanshaw, as you can imagine, was chuffed – although he thought the whole thing was a “wind-up” when Doctor Who executive producer Brian Minchin got in contact with him.
“I had to pinch myself because I didn’t know if it was really happening,” he told BBC News. “It’s one of those stories about people putting something on YouTube – it’s usually a musician this happens to. They put a performance on there and they get picked up by a label. It’s a similar kind of story. I thought, these things don’t generally happen.”
The motion graphics designer, who usually creates TV adverts and corporate videos in his home studio, initially made the video as a showcase of his skills, and to further his ambitions of moving into TV and film. Going against the norm of having the Tardis hurtling through the space-time vortex, Hanshaw decided to make the concept of the police box travelling through time more literal, with the aesthetic being inspired by Dutch surrealist artist MC Escher, who is known for optical illusions.
“The Doctor is a Time Lord, he’s not a Space Lord,” he said. “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?”
As you may have noticed, the official version of the title sequence is not all that different to Hanshaw’s original, but has been sprinkled with a few flourishes by the BBC visual effects team.
“[It’s] a genius stroke that they’ve pulled,” Hanshaw says. “It’s wonderful and it’s a little diversion from what I’ve done, but it works so beautifully.”
And as for his ambitions of working in TV and film?
“It’s the biggest opening of a door you could possibly imagine.”
The second episode of Doctor Who series eight, Into The Dalek, will air 30th August.