This weekend a realisation hit us here at the studio – it’s exactly a year since the media frenzy surrounding our involvement with Doctor Who was at fever pitch. So what better time to sit back for a moment or two and revisit that month of madness in August 2014.
Image to the right is a very early concept sketch of the “infinity clock” scene from our mood board. It would later become an important aspect of the final televised version.
We’d been aware that we were doing the Doctor Who title sequence as early as February of 2014, when preliminary discussions with Brian Minchin had begun. Ever since then we’d been keeping it all to ourselves. After a good six months of secrets and codewords we were getting quite adept at our deception. That was until the script for the first episode ‘Deep Breath’ leaked online in July, with Billy’s name featured in the crew credits. We happened to be down in Cardiff at the time, as the finishing touches were being put to the new title sequence, and observed the BBC go into lockdown for fear of any more material leaking out onto the web. We were advised that we may get some odd emails or phone calls from dedicated Who fans impersonating members of the production team, desperate for a glimpse of what had been created. They were right, we did. We were also advised to maintain our silence until an official announcement was forthcoming.
The result led to a much wider range of brand properties and imagery for use across all marketing collateral, in comparison with previous New Who seasons.
Article written by
Jon Butler, Billy Hanshaw Studio
Fast forward a month, and the Cardiff premiere of Deep Breath, the first time our titles would be seen by the public. Showrunner Steven Moffat had a word with us, and gave us a fantastic piece of advice… keep away from Doctor Who forums! The criticism will hurt you, he advised, and the praise will kill you. It’s advice we chose to follow, and was very timely in its delivery, as later that same day a very poor quality video of the titles that had been recorded on someone’s phone was posted online. Commonly known as the ‘Edward Clockworks’ video, the unfortunate angle, irritating voiceover commentary and tinny theme tune did little to show the sequence in its best light. Once again, we were advised to say nothing and await the official announcement after the broadcast of Deep Breath.
This all went out of the window a week later, when Steven Moffat made the decision to namecheck Billy at the New York premiere press conference, and confirm our association with the titles. The madness began. We were inundated with requests for quotes and interviews from all over the world, as newspapers, magazines and sci-fi websites scrambled for the gossip. We knew it was going to create some interest, but we never realised quite how much. It even surprised our PR representative. The views on the original concept Youtube video went through the roof, with many messages of congratulation being sent our way, and Billy even ended up being interviewed on the TV news. It was crazy, and continued unabated until about a week after the BBC1 broadcast of Deep Breath, at which point we were exhausted and glad of a bit of peace!
Steven Moffat had told us he believed the new titles would polarise opinion because they were so different to what had gone before, and to a degree he was right. But it was this difference that had attracted him to our work in the first place. A common misconception seems to be that we were in some kind of competition with other title sequence designers on Youtube over who would get the gig. We had messages sent our way saying ‘so-and-so should have been chosen instead of you’, but the truth is that no one else was in the running. We didn’t have to pitch. It was a combination of our original concept and our proven track record as conceptual designers that sealed the deal.
By removing emphasis from the TARDIS in the titles, and allowing room for a more stylised vision of space and time, we were taking the sequence in a new direction. The result led to a much wider range of brand properties and imagery for use across all marketing collateral, in comparison with previous New Who seasons.
Perhaps the most striking thing to have emerged in the last year is the positive effect our story has had on younger, creative Doctor Who fans. The concept may have been initially divisive, however there was almost universal praise for the production team embracing unsolicited work – enabling anyone to become part of the show. We are immensely proud of our association with Doctor Who, and will always be grateful to the production team for the recognition they gave us. Original, polished, well-conceived ideas always get noticed eventually. Having the courage to challenge the rule book is when true creativity begins.