A logo in time and space
On Saturday, 23 November 1963 my favorite television series was aired for the first time. It tells a story about a traveller in time and space whose character is more than meets the eye and calls himself the Doctor; to which the others would reacted by saying “Doctor Who?”, which is the show name itself.
The show was considered one of its kind at the time (and some could even say even until now), a show that combines science fiction, historical drama and education to its audience is a massive undertaking to produce. Especially, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) who owns and produce the show at that time was not the same with the giant BBC we know today. Due to BBC’s own limited budget, and the impression that the show was just “a mere kids show”, the production team had to get extremely creative and imaginative to be able to pull the mission successfully.
Designing Doctor Who
The production team who launched Doctor Who proven to be brilliant designers themselves, for one the design of the Doctor’s time machine was ingenuous: a police box that is bigger on the inside than the exterior. This design choice is absolutely brilliant, a police box a very simple and common element of the contemporary British scenery at the time (and a very iconic one today) thus expressed the idea that the Doctor is trying to blend in to the local, while inside the box a larger space that defies currently known science exist with futuristic design and crowned with a machine called “the console” at its center communicates that this is not an ordinary police box, but an alien technology from the future.
Not only on the props design, the theme tune of the show is also very much innovative and significant. Produced before the availability of commercial synthesizer, the theme tune was made by splicing, combining, cutting, speeding up and speeding down various sounds and non-musical tools to create a sound that is eerie, mysterious, and futuristic at the same time.
The theme tune accompanies another equally innovative and original achievement in visual design, or more appropriately animation design: the title sequence or the intro of the show that prepares the audience for the coming adventure in time and space. For the next half a century and more the intro sequence do change to reflect the aesthetic of the time but generally they follow the similar theme of moving through a time vortex (or sometimes the space) and topped with the show logo, which is our main topic on this article.
The Original Logo
The original logo that first airs on 1963 was accompanied with a time vortex animation that was made by manipulating the “howlaround” feedback of a TV camera to its own monitor, creating a column of light that rises before ripping and swirling, before the logo itself fading in. The logo was designed with a sans-serif typeface, particularly a Grotesque font from Stephenson Blake type foundry. I personally found the choice to use a simple, bold and solid typeface was perfect, as it provides a clear legibility and distinction when placed on top of a ripping and swirling animation at the background, especially on black and white television screen at the time.
Second Doctor Logo
When Patrick Throughton replaces William Hartnell as the Doctor though the in-story process of “regeneration” (it was called “renewal” at the time), the intro sequence was updated along with the logo to mark the era of this younger/renewed version of the Doctor. In this new intro sequence, the time vortex animation has been changed from a chaotic but beautiful swirling pattern into a more symmetrical echoes of columns and pillars of light, and the the sans-serif logo was replaced with a logo made by a serif typeface, particularly Times New Roman. Although personally the Second Doctor is my favorite Doctor, but I found this particular logo (and its animation) is rather uninteresting.
Third Doctor Initial Logo
As color enters Doctor Who broadcasting, a new intro and logo was in order. This time the animation was created with similar “howlaround” technique but colored and reflected to maintain a symmetrical looks before transforming into the face of third Doctor, Jon Pertwee in a manner that for me recalls a similar impression to Kamen Rider transformation sequence. As the time vortex animation fades in again and gradually transitioned into the brand new Doctor Who logo in color and a swirling time vortex behind it. This particular logo is one of my favorite, based on the sans-serif font Futura Bold, but altered and stylized significantly to create a simple, yet stylish and striking logotype that I believe regardless of the coming and going of future design aesthetic, the logo will always looks cool, a truly timeless piece of design. No wonder the logo is also reused again with slight alteration approximately 25 years later in the movie version, and also used many times as the umbrella logo for Doctor Who regardless of the appearance of the current period’s logo.
The Diamond Logo
Originally introduced on the later episodes of the Third Doctor, the logo however is most commonly associated with the Fourth Doctor run. This logo was accompanied with a time vortex animation that for the first time was properly made with CG animation technology. Instead of echoing pillars of light, the time vortex animation now is a series of light beams shot through the space and time vortex tunnels of varying colors before forming a diamond shape where the logo finally appears. This particular logo utilizes again the sans-serif Futura typeface, this time extra bold; housed in a diamond-shaped emblem with a blue color creating a matching impression with the doctor’s time machine that is still (and will always be) in the shape of a blue Police Box. Now it feels as if this logo is the Doctor’s own police badge. An alternate version of the logo also exist with some orange coloration on some parts of the same logo used for merchandise and prints.
Neon Tube Logo
The last series on the Fourth Doctor run replaces the intro sequence and the logo again, and it carries on through the Fifth Doctor and Sixth Doctor run (with better coloring than Fourth Doctor’s). This time Doctor Who got brighter as the intro animation now features instead of a vortex, but bright light beams that filled the space among the stars. The logo appears at the end of the sequence from a flashing bright lights that’s formed in the center as a continuous line that creates an outline of a that writes: DOCTOR WHO, based on OPTIFormula-One typeface. For me the roundish edges of the text and the lines that shapes it, as well as the bright lights from where the logo appears in my mind creates an impression of a neon tube. Coincidentally the logo was first appeared in 1980, as if heralding the coming of 1980s design aesthetic that is very much flashy and colorful in essence. I don’t really like it.
The …I Don’t Know What To Say… Logo
This logo that marks the Seventh Doctor run is perhaps the most outlandish logo of Doctor Who for me. The intro, although it doesn’t age that well, was not bad considering they try to innovate using the latest technology to create CG animation of a spiraling galaxy and on the far reach of space. It’s the 3D logo that I find rather something, a large purple block that writes WHO fall into space, while a yellow a stylized semi-cursive text writes Doctor on its upper left side, tilted. I don’t even know how to describe it! This logo makes Doctor Who looks instead of a science fiction show that’s also enshrouded with mystery and strangeness, into something that resembles a science fiction show for robots in space. The 80s design aesthetic was really a strange place.
Eight Doctor Logo
For the movie special featuring the Eight Doctor, the intro now shows a smother CG space animation and better direction than the Seventh Doctor. And it utilizes the Third Doctor’s Initial Logo albeit slightly altered in a 3D model.
The Revival Logo
After 16 years hiatus, Doctor Who reintroduces again to the public in a modern series starring Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. The intro now updated with modern CG animation technology featuring an intense looking and fast-pacing time vortex animation, now this is adventure. The logo itself is designed with all caps condensed sans-serif typeface housed in a shield that shines with lens flare. When David Tennant took over as the Tenth Doctor, the logo remains albeit with greater brightness and contrast.
Eleventh Doctor DW Logo
With the changing showrunner, Doctor Who aesthetic changed and now the intro features a time vortex that resembles a storm in space with crackling thunder before falling into a fiery chasm. In contrast to the previous logo, current logo chooses a blue color as its base with solid all caps and stylized typeface for the logo. A glyph of D&W forming the shape of a police box separating the text “Doctor” and “Who”. Though I’m not really a fan of the logotype design but it’s not that bad, and the D&W logo is rather smart and works as shorthand logo in other merchandise.
Eleventh Doctor Later Logo
On the later half of the final series of the Eleventh Doctor, the intro and the logo, while retaining the same aesthetic as before, it was slightly altered; and the logo drops the D&W glyph.
Twelfth Doctor Logo
Though Peter Capaldi enters the show as the Twelfth Doctor, the showrunner is still the same and the aesthetic still remains. The intro was redesigned with clock-like aesthetic (to represent time travel) and a larger focus on space rather than time vortex as its focus. The new logo was similar to the previous logo, just slightly trimmed and altered with different texture.
Thirteenth Doctor Logo
With the first female lead as the Doctor, Doctor Who tries to appeal the new era by taking some inspirations in the past. The intro now resembles the mysterious looking original intro but remade with modern aesthetic in mind, I personally like it. The logo on the other hand, was okay it features a gold colored logo with partial strikethrough on the letter D, and another strikethrough that cojoins the letter H and O. Some might analyzed that the the cojoined H & O resembles the symbol of Venus, and the gold colored choice further further strengthened this connection with Venus; symbolizing the first female Doctor on the series.