Among many other changes to Doctor Who in 2018, many fans were saddened to see the loss of the usual “cold opens” from episodes, the pre-credits scenes that would set up the story before concluding on an exciting mini-cliffhanger.
It might sound like a small change, but in recent years on Doctor Who the cold open had become a staple of the series, and its absence inspired some disappointment among fans – but we have some good news.
In 2020, RadioTimes.com can exclusively reveal, the cold opens are back – and according to series head writer and showrunner Chris Chibnall, it was an easy decision to make.
“It’s back – episode one,” Chibnall told us. “There were just some episodes this year where I thought ‘Oh, that’ll be a great cold open.’
“You won’t necessarily get the ‘scream’ of the opening theme, because the score will go into the titles and stuff like that. But yes [they’re back]!”
Chibnall went on to reveal that removing the cold open wasn’t exactly a conscious choice in 2018, with the decision instead taken based on the type of stories they were telling – and going by the same logic, he explained that the cold open won’t appear in every episode in the 2020 series.
“It wasn’t an absolute, hard and fast rule [last year] – I just think what you always want to do is, particularly now it’s series 12 of the revived series, you just want to be doing different things all the time, really,” he told us.
“So some have a cold open, some don’t. I think the danger is, if you shape everything towards it all the time then your shapes will become predictable.
“I think it’s really important in a time when television is moving so fast and there’s so much content, that nothing feels too fixed. It’s really important for the show.
“The show’s gotta be nimble, and so when you turn on you’re not quite sure whether you’re going to get a pre-titles, you’re not quite sure whether you’re going straight into the credits. I think that’s really good, that it should be per whatever the series demands, whatever the episode demands.”
And to that end, apparently one episode this series was written and shot without a pre-credits scene, only to have one added in postproduction.
“There’s one instance I can think of where we shifted it in the edit,” he said.
“Because there was a lovely little moment that wasn’t apparent in the script, but in terms of the way it was shot, it was like ‘Oh OK, great, we can do that as a cold open now.’”
So yes, anyone who missed this classic piece of the Doctor Who puzzle will be very satisfied when Jodie Whittaker’s TARDIS team touch down on New Year’s Day. Though perhaps, as noted by Chibnall himself, we haven’t gone quite as long without a cold open as we thought…
“You could argue that the whole of episode one last year is a cold open!” Chibnall laughed, noting that for Whittaker’s first adventure the episode never segues into the opening credits.
“So I would argue I gave you 60 minutes of a cold open last series.”
Doctor Who returns to BBC One on New Year’s Day at 6:55pm