This may not be a recent trend, though I've only personally noticed it in the last couple of years. Some shows will have a voiceover on the opening credits where the general premise of the show is explained, often - but not always - by one of the main characters.


  • Arrow. Voice over by Oliver Queen, explaining his history and how he became The Arrow.
  • Flash. Voiceover by Barry Allen, explaining who he is/how he became The Flash.
  • Grimm. Voiceover by an unknown person (not a character of the show) explaining the general premise.
  • Doctor Who. Only for a single season, but a voice over by Amy Pond explaining her history with The Doctor during Matt Smith's second (I think) season.

Arrow and Flash are broadcast on the same network, and have a lot of crossover, so it's not surprising that they'd both take the same approach. I'm not entirely sure which network broadcasts Grimm. However, Doctor Who is a BBC show, so it's not limited to a single broadcast network, or even one country.

What reasons are there for choosing this style of opening credits? Note that I'm not looking for subjective opinions/reasoning but verifiable information, such as comments from the people involved with those shows on why they made that choice, or the results of research that indicates it makes a difference to viewer retention, attracting new viewers partway through a shows run, etc.

  • 3
    I can't answer why with references, hence the comment, but recent it certainly isn't. Ever hear about a Sci fi show from the sixties which starts "space, the final frontier, these are the voyages of the starship Enterprise ..."? If anything I think it was more common back then, I'm certain Star Trek was far from the first. I think the idea is to allow people who haven't been following the series to enjoy sporadic episodes. Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 22:20

3 Answers 3


Good question, what you are talking about is referred to as an Opening Monologue or less often, Opening Narration in which (typically) a character recalls either a kind of mission statement or quick summary to set up the show. I've found some references to this TV trope which you can read below.

Bert Salzman explains (via the book: The Everything Creative Writing Book) that in his work in creating short films

"You have to set your characters and conflict up very quickly. It takes too long to reveal characters through dialogue. I use what's called interior monologue voice-over early on: "My name is so and so, I'm a migrant worker..." This starts the story and also sets the tone by the way the character tells the story. Somewhere down the line I might use interior monologue again, because it gives expository information again and heightens the conflict. If you want to tell a big story in a short film, that's the way to do it."

Now, obviously he is talking about short film, but that translates fantastically into TV, as you can imagine there is typically only 30 to 60 minutes in one episode, and as he explains, you need to set up the characters, conflict, give information and evoke some kind of emotion/reaction.

Similarly, in Star Trek (the original series, and subsequent other series) an opening narration/monologue is presented by William Shatner (playing Captain James T. Kirk) in the words of the show writers, this is a Teaser

Letter to Gene Roddenberry from Bob Justman

In this letter you can see that Bob refers to this as a Teaser Narration and from this, we can summarize that the intention of the show runners is to "hype up" the audience so that they are more likely to continue into the show, while knowing what it is going to be about.

  • Seems this was an early draft. Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 1:19

As for Doctor Who example, this narrative was done in the US version only. That is due to the fact that Matt Smith's second season was both the first to air on BBC America and heavily featuring the US in its promo stage, and thus appealing to the American public which (perhaps) was unaware of the show's premise.

This technique was, however, consistently used in all but pilot episodes of its spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, possibly due to its younger audience and a concept of more standalone episodes.

  • Not true - we in New Zealand had to suffer through that crap too.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 2:27
  • 1
    @Tim: There is a recurring pattern of you kiwis and ozzies getting lumped in with the Americans though. The best example I have is World of Warcraft (and similar games with regions), where you get lumped into the Americas, as opposed to Europe (which Africa gets lumped in with) and Asia.
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 14:44

It's definitely to bring new viewers up to speed on the story without having to dump a bunch of exposition into the script. It was likely more common in the past, especially pre-Internet and, for that matter, pre-streaming. Everything from Star Trek to Gilligan's Island did this (the theme song to Gilligan was explicitly put in there for this purpose.)

  • Compare to Babylon 5, Farscape, Person Of Interest … all those did it too, but for the purposes of serving as an overture to each episode — they were certainly done during the era of the internet, and the producers of Babylon 5 especially encouraged their communities of online discussion. With Farscape, it was written as a distress message which we expect was floating through the intersteller aether during the events of each episode. Commented Oct 13, 2019 at 17:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .