Doctor Who’s kingpin, Chris Chibnall, has announced that Series 12 will see the return of the pre-titles teaser (or ‘cold open’), which – though absent during Series 11 – has otherwise been a feature of almost every episode back to The End of the World in 2005.
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]!
The cold opening has been a staple of US television since the 1960s. It’s usually a burst of action or intrigue, before the title sequence, designed to grab the audience’s attention, keep them from changing the channel, and – most importantly – hold them until at least the first advertisement break (the fundamental purpose of commercial television being to sell audiences to advertisers). On British TV, they’re still much rarer and, on the BBC, rarer still. In fact, until the 1980s, the BBC would re-edit US imports to put the teaser after the opening titles. Classic Who rarely used them: notable exceptions being Castrovalva, The Five Doctors, Time and the Rani, and Remembrance of the Daleks.
Chibnall has explained that removing the teaser wasn’t a matter of policy, so much as a creative decision intended to be consonant with the new style of storytelling. As such, they won’t be a constant during the new run:
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… 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.
Doctor Who will be back on New Year’s Day at 18.55 on BBC One, a year to the day since we last saw Team TARDIS, in 2019’s Resolution.
The new, full series begins with the first of a two-part story, Spyfall.