A Brief History of Doctor Who Logos

The BBC unveiled the new look Doctor Who logo. A fiery font with a streak of adventure running through it, and the promise of a new era dawning. Much has been said of the new logo, and more could be said still, no doubt. But let’s take a moment to remember how the show’s logos have evolved.

I apologise if I miss any, but this show has been running for fifty something years. To the best of my knowledge these are the different versions of the titles as we have seen them since 1963. So, take it all in and remember how far we’ve come!

The First Doctor

The first Doctor, William Hartnell, arrived in 1963. The titles and intro music were famous for being revolutionary. Nothing quite like this had been seen or heard before.

The general arrangement of the letters would become something of a staple. WHO being emphasised, perhaps drawing attention to the great mystery of the show – just who is this Doctor fellow anyway? Or, maybe it just looks aesthetically pleasing. The font is impactful, bold, standing out of the waving intro visuals.

An interesting bit of trivia is that when creating the opening titles, the effects team put it through various mirrors. This meant the logo got mirrored, too, so they had to superimpose the logo over it. For a brief time, you can see the half mirrored version in the background.

The Second Doctor

When Patrick Troughton took over as the Doctor, the logo underwent a slight alteration, too. Nothing too major, but the font is different. Something with a serif.

This was also the time when the titles began to show the current Doctor’s face in the intro. Patrick Troughton appears out of the swirling clouds, disintegrates, and then the logo appears. A subtly different one, but a nice one. One gets the impression they didn’t want to change too much too fast for fear of scaring people off.

The Third Doctor

With Jon Pertwee, the show moved to colour television for the first time. It would seem the logo was designed to reflect that. It’s in a new colour, bigger letters to show it off.

The whole title sequence is very colourful. It might almost be better alongside Colin Baker’s coat, it’s so colourful! But this version of the logo has almost become one of the definitive versions. The unique font, the arrangement, and the general vibe of it come back again and again. As we will see, it is essentially reused a couple of times, too. 

The Fourth Doctor

When Tom Baker’s Doctor got going the production team tried to revamp the logo in a major way. This diamond shape also became somewhat iconic in its own way and we would see it crop up time and again on merchandising and other media.

There are actually two versions of this diamond logo. The blue, and the orange. Though ‘orange’ is a bit inaccurate as it has other colours, too.

 

I have very fond memories of this diamond logo and once tried to make my own version of it for an old internet forum avatar. Not to be too much of a nerd or anything. I’m cool! Honest!

The Fifth and Sixth Doctor

For Tom Baker’s final series and for Peter Davison’s run we had another redesign. This neon light style sign lasted (in a couple of forms) throughout the Fifth and Sixth Doctor’s runs.

 

The bright, shining logo sailing through space was quite a spectacle. It has its own glow and lights up the screen all on its own. For many, this was the logo that defined Doctor Who in the 80s, and given how long it lasted, that’s no surprise.

The Seventh Doctor

Okay, now, hear me out. I like this one. I know very few people do, but I have something of an emotional bias to it. See, this was my first proper exposure to Doctor Who. I’d seen a couple of Pertwee episodes, even some Tom Baker ones on UKGold in the early 2000s. But when I actually sat down to watch Doctor Who, this was the logo.

I like the fact that they were clearly trying something new. They wanted the logo to be different, unique, and to stand out. Perhaps that’s what people have a problem with – it stands out a little too much. It’s too different to the other ones. It’s not properly aligned, its all askew, the fonts are different. It really rubs people the wrong way. Still, I have a soft spot for it.

The Eighth Doctor

For one night only! Paul McGann was the Doctor. And they basically stole Jon Pertwee’s logo. There are some subtle differences, it’s a bit more polished and such. But, let’s face it, this is basically the same one.

The same logo would be used again in the 2004 webcast story ‘Scream of the Shalka’. Starring Richard E Grant, the animated story was completed just before the revived series was announced. Poor REG.

Ninth and Tenth Doctor

As we enter the modern era we see the logo take on a brand new look once more. The ‘Taxi Cab’ logo, as it has come to be known, burned onto our screens in 2005 and stayed until 2010. A blazing, orange, eye of Sauron looking thing. Initially there were dots between some of the letters, which led to a lot of speculation as to what they indicated. And then the dots went away and we didn’t really think about it much after that.

Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor

With the Steven Moffat era came yet another redesign. As a contrast to Davies’ red and orange, Moffat went with white and blue for his logo. For a while it also had the D and W shaped to look like a little TARDIS, too. Which was kind of cool, I guess.

 

Thirteenth Doctor

For Jodi Whittaker’s series there is a new showrunner, and so a new logo. A streak of fire, and a thinner font. It’s hard to see how long this incarnation will last. Time will tell. It usually does.

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Joel Cornah
Joel Cornah is an author, journalist, and blogger. He is the author of a number of novels and novellas including; The Sea-Stone Sword, The Spire of Frozen Fire and The Silent Helm, with the upcoming novel The Sky Slayer, expected some time in 2016. He is an editor for The Science-Fiction and Fantasy Network, head of the Doctor Who department, and member of the Tolkien Society. He is a frequent blogger for the Pack of Aces blog, focussing on issues of Asexuality in media, specialising in sci-fi and fantasy.