Explanation/description/coolness from the BBC:
In 1963, producers of new science fiction drama series Doctor Who asked BBC graphic designer Bernard Lodge to create a title sequence for their show. Dealing with time travel across all manner of alien worlds, the show couldn’t afford to be tied down to a specific look. It had to hint at the mystery that the show would offer, and perhaps play on the pun in the show’s title (‘Doctor … who?’). At the suggestion of associate producer Mervyn Pinfield, Lodge began experimenting with a technique called ‘howl-around’. In the same way that placing a microphone too close to its speaker can result in a high-pitched feedback, pointing a black-and-white video camera at its own monitor can distort the image and produce abstract patterns of light. The technique itself wasn’t new; a technician called Ben Palmer had created similar patterns for Amahl and the Night Visitors, a drama broadcast in 1951. Lodge and the producer of Doctor Who, Verity Lambert, watched yards of Palmer’s experimental footage and decided to have a go at making their own.
Lambert asked Lodge to try to get the show’s title into the sequence, and the first footage for the sequence was shot on 20 August, 1963, three months before the first episode was scheduled to air. ‘What I didn’t realise,’ admitted Lodge some years later, ‘was that the simple shape of the words, the two lines of fairly symmetrical type, would actually generate its own feedback pattern.’ Though the opening shot – a thin, foggy line of light that begins to break apart, like a rocket – came from Palmer’s original footage, the remaining sequence comprised of Lodge’s new film sequences of clouds of feedback (formed both from the logo and from the use of a pen-torch). Combined with an equally unique title music (written by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire and Dick Mills of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop), the title sequence ‘effortlessly’ epitomised the most unusual, imaginative and economically-innovative drama series ever to hit British (and eventually worldwide) TV screens.
Also, Paul Cornell’s novel Human Nature is available on the BBC website. It was of course adapted for TV in the excellent Season Four two-parter “Human Nature”/”Family of Blood”. I’ve wanted to read it for a long time, so squeeeee!