Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Regarding Those Regenerations

There's been a bit of a discussion since "The Day of the Doctor" aired about the Doctor's regenerations. Canon is that the Doctor can regenerate 12 times, meaning 13 incarnations of the Doctor. With John Hurt's War Doctor slotted in between Paul McGann's 8th and Christopher Eccleston's 9th, that means Peter Capaldi's upcoming version would be the 13th and final version of the Doctor.

Now, Steven Moffat has said--in what I considered a rather nice concession to possible fan confusion--that he didn't renumber the Doctors, instead calling John Hurt "the War Doctor" so that you could sort of make up your own mind as to whether his regeneration counts numerically. I think this is probably why we don't actually see Paul McGann regenerate in "The Night of the Doctor," exactly. There's a cutaway there that gives you an out. Is it a true regeneration? I think an interesting idea that no one's really discussed is that the War Doctor could possibly exist as a creation of the Sisterhood of Karn, outside of time somehow, something between the 8th and 9th Doctors, and not an official regeneration, but some sort of magicky skiffy thing that ceased to exist when he was no longer needed.

Anyway, Moffat's sort of stirred this up by saying that the Doctor for sure only has 12 regenerations. And we know that Capaldi is coming in. But the question a lot of fans are discussing right now is whether or not Matt Smith is the final regeneration or not.

Apparently a lot of the fans have decided that the 10th Doctor deflecting his regeneration energy into his old hand to create the half-human Doctor in "Journey's End" may count as a regeneration, which--including the War Doctor--means there have been 13 incarnations already, and Matt Smith's Doctor is the last.

I don't know that I would count that. That seemed more like a story work-around (an aborted regeneration doesn't seem like an actual regeneration to me) and a way to give Rose a happier ending, by leaving her her own Doctor clone in the Pete's World universe. If you want to count something like that, don't you also have to count the Valeyard as an incarnation of the Doctor? That, along with the clone and Capaldi, would make it 15 Doctors so far.

And then there's the Curator. He makes 16. Back to him in a sec.

There are ways around this, of course. Lots of fans keep bringing up River Song sacrificing her future regenerations to revive the Doctor and wondering if that means he's got more. But I don't think this is really that complicated. Do you?

In "The Day of the Doctor," the show reveals that Gallifrey was never actually destroyed and the Doctor never committed Gallifreyan genocide. Gallifrey is safe and sound in a pocket universe outside of time. Moffat seems to be setting up Capaldi's character arc--unless this somehow gets resolved in the Christmas episode next month--as the search for Gallifrey and its restoration to the universe.

So I think it goes like this: Capaldi finds Gallifrey, restores it to the universe, and in gratitude for saving them, the Supreme Council rewards him with another set of regenerations. After all, the Master keeps getting them, either outright stealing them or being resurrected by the Council to fight in the Time War. So it's not like there's no precedent. It seems like the simplest, most obvious conclusion. It's not like the BBC are going to just let their cash cow go. I've been figuring that that was how Moffat was going to end his run on the show.

I mean, guys, he lampshades it in "The Day of the Doctor" by throwing in the Curator as a future incarnation. How can he have a future incarnation if he has no more regenerations? (And I seriously, seriously don't think Smith is meant to be the last one. But who knows, maybe I'm wrong and that's what the Christmas episode is about. Which, by the way, are their Cybermen in it? Because I don't mind seeing the Cybermen again as long as I don't have to see Smith arguing with an even-campier evil version of himself again.)

(Also, I know people who think we'll find out more about the Curator in the future, which, come on. It's a story work-around to get Tom Baker in the anniversary special, nothing more.)

But, you know, wait and see. I don't think Moffat would have even brought it up if he didn't already know how he was going to work it out.

UPDATE 11/27: Someone mentioned on another site that obviously Moffat has a plan in place, because obviously he introduced the War Doctor so that he could address the whole thing and do that story before stepping down as showrunner. Even I wasn't cynical enough to come up with that. But since Moffat seems hellbent on making everything that happens in his run the most important events ever in the life of the Doctor, that makes total sense.


Bob Rutledge said...

I got spoilers if you want them.

The Valeyard comes "between the 13th and final incarnation"... but the final incarnation could (will?) end up being the Eleventyeth Doctor, because you know they're not going to end the show because of some (originally) throwaway line from 35 years ago.

Also, Moffatt said at some Q&A or round table or wev-the-fuck, that the 10.5 counts as a full regeneration... part of the energy went into healing Tennant from being shot by the Dalek, and the rest into the hand, which grew a body thanks to Doctor Donna. So, yeah, the SmithDoctor is -- and knows he is -- on his last regeneration, unless something timey wimey happens (see top of comment).

Roger Owen Green said...

Canon will change before the franchise ends.

SamuraiFrog said...

Bob: Thanks for that. I never know for sure what Moffat actually says vs. what the fans say he says, you know? So many rumors always fly around. I except that'll all get worked out in the Christmas episode, then.

Roger: Unless the BBC has suddenly decided they don't care about money anymore.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Good Grief. I've been a huge Doctor Who fan for 30 years, and I can not imagine devoting so much cogitation to this imaginary issue. Here's the only fact of importence: when the show needs him to go beyond his set number of regenerations, they'll invent a justification for it. Period. Why bother pointless speculating on what it will be? It will be whatever it is when the time comes. Que cera cera.

The whole limitation on regenerations idea, which makes no sense if you think about it for two seconds (Am I limited in how many times my body can heal a cut?), and clearly some folks are thinking about it a lot longer than that, was invented for one reason alone: to motivate the plot of The Deadly Assassin. The regeneration rule has more loopholes than a Republican campaign promise. It's science fiction. Whatever they need to have happen, they can find a way to justify.

I see no sign of Moffett stepping down any time soon. He's clearly not leaving with Matt Smith.

Yes, the Cybermen are definitley in the Christmas episode.

I saw Day of the Doctor in a theater in Imax 3-D. In an introductory piece, Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor introduced the show "mistakenly" as "The 100th anniversary Show with all 57 Doctors." That right there, seems to me, is Moffett telling us that the Regeneration Limitation Rule is to be ignored. That The Doctor will, OBVIOUSLY, keep on regenerating as long as the show is making money, and given that DOTD was the highest-rated BBC America program ever, and sold out cinemas in 94 countries, that time ain't coming soon. (In the cinema-showing intro we also had David Tennant apologizing to us for having Matt's giant chin thrust at us in 3-D.)

Really, you're debating who many (Weeping?) angels can dance on the head of a pin in this post.

SamuraiFrog said...

Which sounds almost exactly like the point I was making when I say things like "I don't think this is really that complicated. Do you?" or "It's not like the BBC are going to just let their cash cow go." or "But, you know, wait and see."

Moffat stirs up a lot of this, and frankly, the pointless speculation is one of the very few things I've enjoyed about his run on Doctor Who. I don't think anyone genuinely expects the 12 regenerations to be a hard limit. It's just more fun to think of how they'll get around it.

Frankly, I'll take any number of fans getting into hyper-technical and almost certainly pointless fan debates about nothing over being superior in dismissively telling fans that they shouldn't discuss whatever the goddamn hell they feel like discussing, thanks.

Tallulah Morehead said...

I must retract my statement: "[The regeneration Limitation] was invented for one reason alone: to motivate the plot of The Deadly Assassin." I should have known better. It was invented for The War Games, the final Patrick Toughton story, in 1969, which also introduced "Time Lords" and the word "Gallifrey" for the first time, in order for Regeneration to constitute punishment for The Doctor. It re-appeared in The Deadly Assassin in 1976.

To say it's been used inconsistently is to understate. Time Lords force one to punish The Doctor, who spends all his time saving worlds and the universe, yet somehow "grant" another whole cycle of them to The Master, an unrelenting mass murderer. If they can "grant" whole regeneration cycles, why would any Time lord ever die, which makes those 6 billion children on Gallifrey problematic. A nearly undying population needs a REALLY low birth rate. R.T. Davies made matters worse by allowing the Time lords to "resurrect" long-dead Rassilon.

Then there's Romana, who, in 1979's Destiny of the Daleks, not only regenerated merely because she was bored with how she looks (So apparently unconcerned with burning up her future lives; there goes "punishment"), but "tries on" several different looks, so she gratuitously uses up several different lives until she hits one she likes, because, you know, women like to try on different outfits before they go out. So they trashed the logic they'd set up in order to do a sexist joke. There was no internet then, but fanboy outrage showed up in an avalanche of scolding letters.

(It did establish the possibility of "Choosing a face," as Romana chooses to look like Princess Astra, thus at least justifying The Curator's remark about "Revisting an old face," never mind that more than one Doctor has said that "Regeneration is a crap shoot; you never know what you'll get.")

Yet regeneration being like choosing a dress is hardly the "It feels like a death" of David Tennant's regeneration, as Davies tried to summon as much grief as he could wring out of The Doctor merely changing.

The fact is, the rules of regeneration are whatever the current show runner says they are, and when Steven Moffett leaves one day, they'll be whatever the next guy decides they are.

SamuraiFrog said...

You know, that's something I've wondered about but haven't experienced enough: are all Gallifreyans Time Lords? Do they all have the ability to regenerate? I guess I would sort of assume they do, since River Song/Melody Pond was born with the ability. So, yeah, that does make those 6 billion children problematic. And what happens when they die that they can keep being resurrected?

I am fannishly hoping, though, that the return of Gallifrey means the return of the Master and/or the Rani.