The DWC is sad to report the passing of John Griffiths, one of the unsung heroes of the earliest days of classic Doctor Who. Film editor Griffiths was tasked with, and responsible for, piecing together the original (and iconic!) main title sequence of William Hartnell’s First Doctor.
After meeting with not-yet-legendary producer Verity Lambert and director Waris Hussein, he was provided with the “bubbling Rorschach test” film material that had been achieved by pointing an electronic camera through its own viewfinder and filming the resulting feedback. Griffiths found a way to edit together the footage – which had to be extraordinarily strange for its time – and make it work.
The resulting title sequence, especially with the addition of the iconic theme music, is today recognised as one of the most innovative and widely-known in the history of television. For a lovely scene of how the sequence was created, please see 2013’s celebratory TV-movie, An Adventure in Space in Time!
Griffiths’ edited-together creation was used for the duration of Hartnell’s run as the First Doctor, from 1963- 1966. It also greatly influenced the title sequences that were to follow, especially those of the Second and Third Doctors. Over half a century later, this also includes the opening titles of Jodie Whittaker’s current Doctor, with its whirling plumes of purple-grey space liquid, which can be seen as a direct homage to Griffiths’ work.
The history of Doctor Who is full of unsung heroes and behind-the-scenes workers who had a job to do and did their best and to help create the institution that we know and love today. John Griffiths was one of those people. In addition to the original title sequence, his other Doctor Who work includes 1964’s The Dalek Invasion of Earth and (as production assistant) 1971’s The Mind of Evil, which is his final television credit on IMDb.
The next time you pop in a First Doctor DVD or see a 1960s-era episode on a modern streaming service, please give a thought to John Griffiths and his work in humbly editing together one of the greatest legacies of Doctor Who – and television – history.
Our thoughts go to his family and friends.