The Twelfth Doctor’s title sequence has been pretty consistent during his time, or has it?
The opening titles are almost as important as the Doctor when it comes to defining an era of the series. Though Doctors have shared them or had multiple versions during their run, each has that definitive sequence. The one you associate most with that incarnation. When it comes to Tom Baker, you immediately think of this rather than this. Think of the Matt Smith era and this springs to mind more often than this.
Which brings us to the outgoing Doctor Twelve. At first glance, you might think that Capaldi’s the title sequence has been pretty consistent since its series eight introduction. A few changes in order and lettering but otherwise identical. In actual fact, it’s undergone a surprising number of variations throughout the Capaldi era.
You might already know that this title sequence was actually based on a concept by Leeds-based designer Billy Hanshaw. Steven Moffat caught his work on YouTube and invited Hanshaw to help the BBC develop the Twelfth Doctor’s now-iconic opening.
Death in Heaven
This title sequence remained unchanged until the final episode of series eight, ‘Death in Heaven’. As a ploy to convince the Cybermen not to delete her, current companion Clara claimed that she was the Doctor in disguise. The titles, which followed the scene, were changed accordingly. Clara’s actor, Jenna Coleman, was credited above Capaldi and her eyes were used in place of Twelve’s attack eyebrows.
The next story was 2014’s Christmas special, ‘Last Christmas’. Appropriately, the titles were changed once again to include Nick Frost’s name – guest starring as Father Christmas – and a snow-capped TARDIS.
Before the Flood
Series nine reverted back to the normal intro at first. The biggest exception is in the fourth episode ‘Before the Flood’. Giving a walky-talky fourth-wall-breaky preamble direct to the audience, the Doctor strums a few notes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 on his electric guitar. The last note carries into the opening titles with the usual theme song arrangement replaced by a rock cover. It seems that Capaldi’s own musical talents were employed on this version.
Sleep No More
Episode nine of the ninth series, ‘Sleep No More’, made a dramatic shift away from the usual title sequence. To fit with the “found footage” format that writer Mark Gatiss was going for, the title sequence is eschewed altogether. Instead, a brief title card is shown in amongst all the video static, with the words “Doctor” and “Who” highlighted:
After Clara’s apparent demise in ‘Face the Raven‘, we had a one-hander episode featuring the Twelfth Doctor flying solo. Even though Coleman would make an appearance in a vision and be credited at the end, the opening titles omitted her name. Instead, Capaldi’s name lingers and eventually zooms off before Attack Eyebrows activate. Coleman’s name would be restored to the titles for her final episode, ‘Hell Bent‘, where Clara would depart.
The Husbands of River Song
With Clara gone, River Song filled in as companion for the 2015 Christmas special. After 14 episodes, Alex Kingston finally got her name in the opening credits! ‘The Husbands of River Song’ added the same snowscape as ‘Last Christmas’ did last christmas. But they also threw in some baubles for good measure.
Ten to Twelve
And so, after a long break, the tenth series premiered. The new title sequence for the series underwent some minor tweaks. Of course, since Pearl Mackie was joining the cast as Bill, Jenna Coleman’s name was replaced with hers. Matt Lucas, who had first appeared in ‘The Husbands of River Song’ as Nardole, became a series regular so his name was added too. The Attack Eyebrows were also moved so that they came in after the Doctor Who logo. Also the episode title was made bigger and bolder.
And thus it has remained all through the series. There are two more episodes of the Capaldi era yet to air which may throw another variation our way. But we’re pretty confident this will be a near-definitive list of his intros. So…yeah…
Oh we can’t end on such an anti-climax. Aha! I know…
BONUS: Lego Dimensions
The 2015 video game ‘Lego Dimensions’ featured a plethora of licensed characters and the Doctor was no exception. As the incumbent incarnation, Capaldi reprised his role to voice his minifigure counterpart. For the ‘Doctor Who’ level, the team at Traveller’s Tales – who developed the game – constructed a Lego-themed rendition of the opening titles. Complete with a minifig version of each Doctor getting up to scrapes.