Who By Numbers: adding it all up for the Doctor, some speculation by: GF Willmetts (article).

December 1, 2013 | By | 2 Replies More

The revelation at the end of the 2013 season that before the Eccleston Doctor and after the McGann Doctor, there was another Doctor, whom at this time we shall call the Hurt Doctor rather than the War Doctor, simply to keep track brings a lot of ramifications than putting numbers to them in this article. Using the actor’s name at least makes it easier to identify who I’m referring to than having to count through on your fingers. The exception is the two Bakers, whom becomes TBaker Doctor and CBaker Doctor. Undoubtedly, the same will apply with other common surnames should they appear again.

The discussion point of this article is that now since the Hurt Doctor, all the Doctor regenerations since now have to advanced by one. A lot of people, ourselves included, have referred to the Doctor by numbers and I suspect that rather than change what is already in print, writers from this point on will have to give reference to a new numbering in anything they write when cross-referencing across the Doctors. Me? As you can tell from here, I’m using the actor who played the part as my guide, using numbers only when I need to from now on. Unless all writers across the world go to their already in print articles and modify their Doctor numbering when used, any Doctor between 2005 and November 2013, then you’ll be forever adding plus one. That might be possible with digital articles, but practically impossible for books in print, although it would be interesting to see if any publisher rises to the challenge and boldly has on the cover, ‘Revised edition with the right numbering of the Doctor regenerations’.

I thought for a time that we can be safe in the knowledge that there won’t be any more hidden Doctor regenerations, mostly because that would definitely exceed that critical twelve which brings an end to the life of this particular Doctor. In fact, when it was revealed in the summer, my immediate reaction was they’ve reached twelfth and how are they going to deal with this with the Capaldi Doctor who has to see himself on his last regeneration. The revelation on the 25th November 2013 (important to use the year now) that the Tennant Doctor used up a regeneration makes the Smith Doctor number twelve not eleven, so now that numbering has now gone up two not one. No need for any other changes to revised book covers but the there is still a need to stop calling the Smith Doctor number eleven. Perhaps that picture showing all the regenerations needs a further amendment, as seen below although I’m not sure if the single heart Doctor in that dimension with Rose is actually a regeneration, it would at least stop the novice from counting and saying that there are only eleven regenerations, where’s the twelfth?


It also means that the Hartnell Doctor was clearly the first, although we can’t actually call it a regeneration yet because he hasn’t. Also, his and Susan’s arrival on Earth, where the TARDIS adopted the image of a police telephone box was its first and only proper use of the chameleon circuit. This immediately removes the myth that the Hartnell Doctor wasn’t any number of regenerations in and the only place Susan could have come from was Gallifrey when they arrived on Earth.

Having got that sorted out, it also means we ought to have a look at the possible solutions for the December episode to see what choices show-runner Steven Moffat has to play with. Without these, there won’t be a further regeneration to the Capaldi Doctor which is clearly going to happen.

The best example we have of a Time Lord exceeding the twelfth regenerations is with the Master who got zapped in other adventures of his own. From his last decrepit and probably battle-damaged body, the Master merged his personality energy with Tremas of Traken, effectively killing the latter in the process. Much later, the Master regained a Gallifreyan physiology and a further twelve regenerations when the Time Lords needed his aggressive personality when fighting in the Daleks War. There is also the matter of Morbius, who having been executed, had his brain kept alive and just wanted a new body and proved his spirit could be sustained in an artificial body until the right body came along. Both demonstrate that it’s a lot harder to kill a Time Lord than it appears.

Both these options aren’t really available to the Doctor. To possess another body would mean killing another sentient soul and short of doing this to preserve both their lives before dividing again, that doesn’t seem likely. As the last of the Time Lords, until recent revelations, the Doctor can hardly ask any others of his race to assist him and if there was any machinery on Gallifrey, then it was lost in its destruction. Except now with ‘The Day Of The Doctor’s revelation, if the Doctor restores Gallifrey, they might be generous and offer him another dozen regenerations as reward. Well, unless they are so pissed off with him that they don’t. Their appearance in ‘The End Of Time’ was hardly that cordial.

Before the ‘The Day Of The Doctor’, I did consider that the Doctor has also been given some regenerative energy by both Donna Noble and River Song, neither of whom are Time Lords, one could suppose that this could keep him going for a further regeneration before this problem will rise again. It does then raise an interesting question as to where does their regenerative energy came from and why couldn’t he utilise it in a similar way, especially as the only way that River Song got hers was by being conceived in the TARDIS. The Doctor has been using his for some 900 years now, more than most Time Lords, so you would have thought some of it would have rubbed off on him. For Time Lords themselves, the TARDIS only appears to offer stability not further energy or all of them would be living in them or the time stream than stay on Gallifrey…unless, of course, they didn’t know about this. After all, none of the other renegade Time Lords bother to have human companions.

Is there a solution from anything in the last decade or even before that could be exploited? Are there any other Time Lords still alive who would willingly donate their regeneration energy to keep him going? After all, we only have the Doctor’s word or awareness that all the other Time Lords had died, assuming he doesn’t restore Gallifrey this December. The final fate for the likes of Susan, the Meddling Monk, Cho-Je (I wonder if he was also the High Lama Padmasambhava?), the Rani and Romana has never been disclosed, well…except for those non-canon stories which is why they are non-canon. It would be nice to see any of them come back in the current storylines. Those rare times when the Time Lords arrived back in our reality, you would have thought Romana would have come forward to at least unite and help the Doctor had she been there, so maybe she wasn’t.

Short of an early death on their part, I can’t see the Doctor willingly accept such regeneration energy because it would also shorten their lives by am equal number of regeneration, too, and would still be a stop-gap measure. Of the five of these Time Lords, only Cho-Je was noted at being towards the end of his regenerations so probably shouldn’t be considered. At the time of when Romana left the Doctor to remain in E-space, she had only had committed one regeneration. Outside of the Doctor, the only one of them possessing the knowledge to do anything would be the Rani but would anyone trust her to do anything outside of her own interest?

If not them, there are two other possible candidates. River Song has still to possess some time with the Doctor in an earlier part of her life and although she has given her own regenerative energy she would be aware of the problem, has the knowledge and would seek to keep him going…even against his will in doing so. Then again, we’ve yet to see the middle of her own time-line and events she’s described briefly to the Doctor so there is still much to fulfil there as well.

The other candidate is the Doctor’s clone daughter Jenny because she is out of the left field, simply because the Doctor doesn’t know that she’s still alive. As a clone, she could also provide the clue to creating enough regenerative energy to keep going. Indeed, the speed of her growth could mean a cloned body for the Doctor’s personality to be transferred into except the machinery that created her is gone now. That’s strictly not impossible, with time travel, you just arrive earlier and with the Smith Doctor, no one need know who he really is.

There is a secondary problem. Although cloning on Earth is still somewhat primitive, the clone sheep Dolly had similar problems to her ‘mother’ from an earlier age and developed arthritis. A clone of the thirteenth or Smith Doctor would not have any more regenerations to keep going with unless it could be given regenerative qualities. But then, why give it to a clone rather than the original?

I keep pointing at regenerative energy because without it there would be no opportunity to change actor’s bodies. The last choice above does give the possibility that the Doctor could change genders and that would radically throw things up in the air and truly living up to the saying from the Davison Who, ‘That’s the trouble with regeneration, you never quite know what you’re going to get.’ It would certainly make things interesting at any gathering of Doctors in a future anniversary story if he changed not only sex but colour as well. As both of these have come up before, I will briefly address them. Unlike Earth, where there are gender issues and sex change is possible, Time Lords can easily exceed a thousand years of life. They could quickly populate the universe if they had many children let alone had the option to change sex. What you are is what you stay with. Where skin colour is concerned, pinky white seems to be the prevalent colour on Gallifrey in the same way orange is for the Sontarans. It tells us more about Gallifrey where its people don’t need extra melanin to filter out sunlight.

Of course, there is one quick solution in that when the Doctor recreated the universe using the Pandorica, he gave himself unlimited regenerations. Now that would be the ultimate deux ex machina and cheat. I’m dismissing this one out of hand because had the Doctor changed the chain of events in his own lives then he wouldn’t be the Doctor he was when he started. He could also have radically changed the universe with a few touches like removing the Daleks and Cybermen but didn’t. So all the other alien invasion threats and such the Doctor thwarted would also have to be in place still. A touch of irony there proving he couldn’t change anything at the end of the day. Even if he had changed the number of regenerations, then he couldn’t have done it to himself alone and other Time Lords would have this ability as well and look at how that would have changed the Master’s reckless behaviour.

The worse thing that can be done is a deux ex machina solution ie the Doctor wakens from his next regeneration and thinking that normal Gallifreyan Time Lord rules don’t apply any more or they got it wrong. Frankly, that sounds like a cop-out, too, and after writer Steven Moffat’s demonstration of adhering to well-thought out solutions to SF problems in ‘The Day Of The Doctor’, I can’t see him doing that neither. Thirteen and you’re dead is written into the mythology.

I wrote most of the above before ‘The Day Of The Doctor’ and with the revelations that Gallifrey is still out there and late November that the Smith Doctor is the last regeneration has meant some major additions to the above contemplation and only added to the options to choose from.

It must surely also mean that instead of the Capaldi Doctor spending some or all of his regeneration seeking the means to restore Gallifrey and his own dilemma as to whether he should seek more regenerations, the Smith Doctor will sort it out in a single episode and then things back to normal with his adventures. With the speed of stories in recent years, this shouldn’t be a surprise but it’s a shame that it won’t be milked over more stories. Well, it could except for the regeneration problem to which I’ve offered some solutions above.

The worse problem for the Doctor is when releasing Gallifrey, as pointed out earlier, the other Time Lords aren’t grateful and offer no help. They might see his assistance as the means to redeem himself before he finally dies, assuming of course that he doesn’t in the process or they confiscate or disable his TARDIS again.

Whatever way the final solution is given, it will have repercussions for another thirteen regenerations down the line, even if few of us will be alive then to see it. To add to your numbering worries, should we start the count again with more regenerations with a new body or just keep counting?

GF Willmetts

November 2013



Category: Doctor Who

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

Comments (2)

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  1. John Freeman says:

    If the Eighth Doctor dies in ‘Night of the Doctor’ then doesn’t that make the War Doctor (Hurt) his first regeneration, Eccleston his second and so on? Just throwing that one into the room…

  2. UncleGeoff says:

    Hello John

    But the Hurt Doctor didn’t die, he was the regeneration after the McCann regeneration.


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