Wednesday, 26 August 2015



A pivotal moment in the History of Pretentious Doctor Who Essays: our first guest author! 

Adam Gobeski is not only a very smart guy, academically (he's pursuing a doctorate in linguistics at Michigan State University), he also really knows his Who.  In fact, he knows it so well that he's been published a few times in some non-fictional Doctor Who anthologies. Which means he's already written some Doctor Who essays for actual publishers. All the more nice of him to write one for me, too. 

If you like what he's written (and I'm sure you will), Adam has a blog of his own that is also Who-related:

He does other cool things on the internet, too. Including a very entertaining podcast series:

Check them out after you've given this a read....

After Doctor Who returned to our screens in 2005, it was inevitable that we'd see the return of the Doctor's greatest and best-known enemies: the Daleks.  It was also inevitable that we'd get a number of return engagements from these most popular of foes. But as the Doctor's 21st-century encounters with his old foes added up, a curious pattern emerged: virtually every Dalek story has been set after the previous one in terms of the Daleks' personal history and interaction with the Doctor, regardless of the year the stories were set.

This is notable because, with one rather large exception, the original run of Doctor Who wasn't concerned with continuing the stories it had created in earlier serials.  Indeed, Doctor Who's first sequel, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, is actually a prequel:  "My dear boy," the Doctor tells Ian, after Ian wonders how there can be Daleks on Earth after their defeat in their first story, "what happened in Skaro was a million years ahead of us in the future.  What we're seeing now is about the middle history of the Daleks."  (Of course, this "million years" line is going to be contradicted when we get to Planet of the Daleks, but let's not get weighed down by pedantry.)  The implication is that the TARDIS can travel anywhere up and down a species' timeline without issue, and fans can have all sorts of fun trying to work out when all the stories fit in a species' given history.  However, as television storytelling has become more serialized, it makes sense from a dramatic point of view that we would want to see rematches, rather than prequels and side stories, and so many of the returning villains are explicitly coming off their most recent defeat.  The only problem is that this is happening in a show about time travel, which does rather complicate the issue.  It's one thing to return to a specific time zone and see what's been happening since the last visit, as with Cassandra in the year five billion, or (apparently, judging from publicity material) the Zygons in the early 21st century -- it's quite another to deal with a different time-travel-capable race in various time zones but still have everything follow on from the last televised encounter.
Of course, this isn't an issue that's entirely confined to the 21st-century series.  That large exception mentioned above is the Doctor's own people, the Time Lords.  From the moment the Monk made a return appearance in The Daleks' Master Plan, it was the case throughout the original run that every time the Doctor met one of his own race, it was in sequence.  "So you escaped from Castrovalva," the fifth Doctor says to the Master in Time-Flight, not "Castrovalva.  Have we done that one yet?"  And moreover, all these meetings seemed to be anchored to a Gallifreyan "present" -- so it's the Time Lords of the third Doctor's era who need help in The Three Doctors, while it seems as much time has passed between The Deadly Assassin and The Five Doctors for Borusa as for the Doctor, despite Borusa's alarming number of regenerations.  (Let's acknowledge the debates about when in Gallifrey's timeline The Two Doctors and The Trial of a Time Lord are set and then quietly draw a veil over the subject, as nothing there explicitly contradicts the idea of a shared "present".)  It's perhaps a coincidence that, with one minor deviation, all the stories involving Gallifrey or Time Lords seem to take place in sequence, but as this is nevertheless the case it's meant that fans have created the idea of a "Gallifreyan Mean Time", where the reason all the Gallifrey stories follow each other is because the Time Lords have made it that way.  This makes sense from an internal logic point-of-view. After all, the last thing you'd want to do as a time-travelling species is change your own past or future and potentially ruin everything. You'd want to have safeguards in place.  (That deviation, by the way, is Shada, where the Doctor is said to have met Professor Chronotis in 1955, 1960, and 1964, as well as in 1958, "but in a different body".  But as this story wasn't actually broadcast we can probably safely ignore it.)
So in fandom the idea of a Gallifreyan Mean Time took hold, and, perhaps remarkably (given Steven Moffat's fascination with time travel), nothing in the BBC Wales series has contradicted the idea.  The Doctor can't go back and visit Gallifrey in the past, and when he meets the Master it's always after their previous encounter.  And, in fact, the three instances of Gallifreyan Mean Time being violated in the modern series -- The End of TimeThe Day of the Doctor, and Listen -- are pitched as unusual circumstances rather than as a matter of course. Rassilon is trying desperately to escape, the Moment is letting all the other Doctors back into the Time War, and the Doctor has turned off the safeguards in the TARDIS, respectively.  And note that we're only concerned with televised stories here -- the books and audios have played a little looser with Time Lord meetings.
So far, so good.  But as the name suggests, this is a Gallifreyan thing rather than a universal law.  And yet the Dalek stories of the modern series seem to follow one another in the order that the Doctor experiences.  Army of Ghosts / Doomsday is explicitly followed by Daleks in Manhattan /Evolution of the Daleks, which is explicitly followed by The Stolen Earth / Journey's End, which is implicitly followed by Victory of the Daleks and all the other Matt Smith Dalek stories - no matter the time period they're set.  

The most obvious piece of supporting evidence for the Matt Smith stories following in sequence is the design of the Daleks themselves. We never see a bronze Time War Dalek until Dalek. And, until Victory of the Daleks , we'd never seen a New Paradigm Dalek (aka the chunky colour-coded ones) before. But then they started popping up in every Matt Smith episode - mixing with those RTD-era bronze Daleks by the time of Asylum of the Daleks. So we can't just pretend that that's what the Daleks always looked like - because that's explicitly and repeatedly shown not to be true.  So sequential encounters, it is.  But what reason would there be for this to keep happening?  Six stories in a row (or nine, if you include the three stories -- Dalek,Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways, and Into the Dalek -- that are ambiguous as to their placement in the grand scheme of post-Time War Dalek history, and there's no real reason not to) is stretching coincidence to a breaking point. So there's more likely something else going on.
Is it a universal law?  Perhaps there's some higher law regarding time travel that governs not just Time Lords and Daleks, but all species who have conquered free movement in time and space. Maybe, when you can travel back and forth in time you become subject to a higher-dimension physical law that ensures everyone moves along the same amount.  

Do we have any evidence for this?  Well, discounting all the time travellers that we've only seen once (as we have no idea when, say, the Navarinos from Delta and the Bannermen fit into all this), this pattern does hold up for a large number of the rest: the Trickster from The Sarah Jane Adventures; the Black and White Guardians; even the Daleks themselves, if you assume that The Chase is set before Remembrance of the Daleks and don't worry about the stories that don't involve free movement through time (for the sake of the current argument we're assuming that time corridor technology isn't bound by the same rules, or else we'll never get anywhere).  In all these cases, they encounter the Doctor in the same order as he encounters them.
Alas, it's not perfect; even if you believe Silver Nemesis doesn't involve time-travelling Cybermen, you'd still have to accept the somewhat counter-intuitive idea that Earthshock is set before Attack of the Cybermen, even though Attack of the Cybermen sure looks like the Cybermen's first flirtations with time travel -- and, of course, there's the issue of how the Cybermen can review a moment from Revenge of the Cybermen, which is set after Earthshock's date of 2526.  

Plus there's the big problem of River Song; untangling her personal timeline is a bit tricky, but even if we accept that she couldn't time travel on her own until she acquires a vortex manipulator in The Pandorica Opens, the scene in The Impossible Astronaut, where River and the old Doctor compare notes and then River subsequently encounters the younger version, seems to put paid to this idea of meeting in sequence being a universal property of the universe.  It, therefore, looks like this idea of a universal law governing all time travellers is ultimately a nonstarter.
Still, that leaves the impressive number of encounters between the Doctor and the Daleks in the New Series happening in the same order for both parties across time and space.  As noted earlier, this is hardly a straightforward sequence of events, so there must be something going on to keep these foes meeting in sequence.
Perhaps the answer is related to the Time War.  (But don't worry; while this might look at first blush like the default "anything that doesn't make sense continuity-wise must be a result of the Time War" explanation that some corners of fandom love to trot out, we're going to attempt to justify this instead of treating it like a hand-wavy catch-all solution.)  Specifically, let's look at the time lock that the War is said to have been put under.  We're told that the entire War has been time locked but we're never really told what that means.  The closest thing we get to an explanation is in The End of Time: "The whole war was time locked.  Like sealed inside a bubble," the Doctor tells Wilf.  "It's not a bubble but just think of a bubble."  This was essentially a piece of technobabble designed to deal with the "hey, why doesn't he go back and change history?" question that kept cropping up periodically, but it was an explanation that left more questions than answers.  How do you lock off parts of history, particularly in a war that spans all of time?  What stops you from travelling to the right time period and moving the rest of the way through physical space?
But let's run with this idea.  What if the time lock doesn't just seal the War off in a non-bubble bubble?  What if it also affects any possible survivors, regardless of where/when they are?  After all, one way to prevent anyone from reentering the War would be to impose Gallifreyan Mean Time on them, to stop them from trying to change their past.  It's just a side-effect of this that causes the Doctor and the Daleks to now meet in sequence.  And it would also explain why we haven't seen any old-style Daleks after the seventh Doctor's era, except as battered, damaged examples in the Dalek asylum, and why New Paradigm Daleks don't pop up until after Victory of the Daleks. We're now watching Dalek history as it happens, instead of dipping in and out of their timeline.  As with most of the Time War, the mechanism by which this happened is unclear, but given the other things we've seen and heard about during the Time War, it doesn't seem like a stretch that something could impose GMT on people/Daleks. Indeed, based on what we see, the Moment might be very well be capable of such a thing.  This would also potentially stop any survivors from starting a new Time War. If you can't go back and try and change time because you're locked in sequence with your foes, the use of time travel ceases to be a significant advantage.
So no, it's not a coincidence, The Doctor and the Daleks are meeting in sequence as a side-effect of the Last Great Time War being time locked.  Of course, it's possible that future Dalek stories will throw this into doubt. But, for now, we have a robust set of converging data that points to a clear result: the Doctor and the Daleks are locked in step. Forced to keep encountering each other in the same order.  No more chances to alter each other's histories. From now on, more mundane methods have to be used to defeat one another.

A special thanks to Adam for his most excellent contribution. Some great thought was put into this and his efforts are greatly appreciated. 

Would you like to contribute your own Pretentious Doctor Who Essay? Contact me at: (put "Pretentious Doctor Who Essays" in the title of the message) and I'll be more-than-happy to discuss some ideas with you. As you can see, you will be given full credit for anything you write. 

Saturday, 15 August 2015


Weird Regenerations

It started as a way to keep the show going after William Hartnell fell ill and turned into one of the most important cornerstones of the entire show's mythos. Regeneration is always a big deal on Doctor Who. Fans both dread and look forward to it every time an incarnation of the Doctor must relinquish himself and let a new man step in. But it can even be a fairly big ocassion when another Time Lord does it. The Master metamorphosing from Derek Jacobi to Jon Simm in Utopia, for instance, was one hell of a jaw-dropping moment.

Basically, no matter who is doing it, the regenerative process can create all kinds of drama and grandeur.

Like so many other elements of the show's continuity, the rules of regeneration evolved along the way as different production teams staged them. But there does seem to be a certain standardized method that remains consistent within most of the regenerations we've witnessed. But even though a good chunk of them happen the same way, we have seen some curious variations. Or weird regenerations as I like to call them. The Doctor's had a few of them, himself. Other Time Lords or even certain alien races have also experienced them. Over the next few paragraphs, we'll analyze a few of them. But before we can do that, it's important to define what a normal regeneration is:


While the process of regeneration is not an ability that is completely exclusive to the Time Lords - they seem to have mastered it better than most other species that are capable of doing it. Basically, when a Time Lord's body has grown too old or gotten too badly damaged, they can induce a regeneration. It is a conscious act in which a Time Lord wills a new body into existence.

A normal regeneration shows the old body fading away and a new one taking its place. The old and new bodies look completely different from each other. In the Classic Series, this was usually achieved through a standard cross-fade. In the New Series, "morphing" (a CGI technique first made famous in the film Terminator 2) is employed. Other post-production effects have frequently been added to enhance the whole thing - but that's the basic visual representation of a regeneration.

Within the context of the storytelling itself, the new body that emerges from a regeneration is random. A Time Lord rarely knows exactly what they're going to get when they induce the process. A new incarnation also tends to have a slightly different personality from the last one but still retains the overall core values of the Time Lord.

It should also be noted that there are usually side effects from the process. It can cause physical, mental or even psychological disruption. As a rule, a Time Lord is frequently weak and/or vulnerable after a regeneration.

Of course, if a body is too badly damaged or the process is, somehow, interrupted by still further destruction being inflicted upon the Time Lord - than the regeneration process won't happen at all. So, if a Time Lord isn't cautious, they might not get to go through all 13 of their incarnations. They can still die. Just like anyone else in the Universe. It's just a bit more difficult to kill them.

Okay, that's the basic definition of a "normal" regeneration. Let's start looking at the variations:


The first "proper" weird regeneration didn't occur til Planet of Spiders. The Doctor went through the process somewhat normally at the end of that story - but we also saw K'anpo Ripoche regenerate midway through Episode 6. And his regeneration was far from normal.

K'anpo (or, perhaps, The Mentor might be a better name for him) was able to create what I like to refer to as a Shayde. This is a projection of the next incarnation that is a unique being in and of itself. When the regeneration occurs, the Shayde re-joins its body and becomes the Time Lord again. But, for a brief time, a Time Lord can exist as two seperate entities at the same time. It's a weird process that we know little about. But the Doctor has been able to do this trick, himself. So we'll look at it some more in a bit.

The next weird regeneration that a Time Lord accomplishes is also not one that the Doctor does. At the beginning of Destiny of the Daleks, Romana appears to be breaking several of the standardized rules of regeneration.

First off, the process is far from random. She very consciously chooses to appear as Princess Astra from The Armageddon Factor. When the Doctor insists she can't go parading around as another person, Romana does something else we've never seen a Time Lord do. She starts swapping through a series of bodies that the Doctor rejects over and over. She changes her appearance several times before returning back to Astra. Being able to assume multiple forms like that is something else that seems to contradict all the rules.  We've never seen a Time Lord do this before or since.

The problem with the whole sequence, of course, is that it was written more for laughs than for drama. So it's difficult to take the whole thing all that seriously. But if we want to try to figure it out - there can be a few different explanations.

Romana teases the Doctor quite heavilly at the beginning of The Ribos Operation about how poorly he did at the Academy. Whereas her marks where much higher. Could it be that a Time Lord who did better at school can have better control over their ability to regenerate?

The other explanation might be that the Doctor has a Metamorphic Symbiosis Regenerator (we see one in Mawdryn Undead) or some other similiar piece of technology somewhere aboard the TARDIS. He doesn't like to use it - he prefers to keep regeneration as natural as possible, But Romana has no quelms about interacting with it. Such a device is meant to be used mainly for emergency situations where a regeneration is going badly. But it might also be used to simply give a Time Lord much better control over the whole regeneration experience. It might even enable them to make selections over the appearance of the next incarnation. To "try on" bodies in the same way one might select different outfits. So whenever Romana leaves the console room, she is going to the Regenerator to swap in a new body.

These seem to be the two most likely explanations for what is, probably, the weirdest of all the weird regenerations.

The Master has had such weird regenerations that we're not sure if they're regenerations at all. The first one takes place between Deadly Assassin and Keeper of Traken. He had leached a considerable amount of energy off of The Eye Of Harmony - was he able to use it to induce some sort of partial regeneration of some sort? This would explain why it's a different actor playing the Master in Keeper.

And then there's the possession of Tremas when the Master is, again, leaching off of a strong source of energy (this time, the Keepership). Cosmetic changes occur to the Trakenite's body after the Time Lord takes it over. Does this also constitute as a regeneration of some sort?

I'm more inclined to believe that the take-over of Bruce's body in The 96 Telemovie is more of just a straight possession rather than a regeneration - even though there are also some changes that take place to the body in that circumstance. But still, it's a very grey area. Particularly with the Master running on "borrowed time" the way he is. He's going to be bending the rules all over the place. So could this be yet another weird regeneration?

Any other time we've seen other Time Lords regenerate, they tend to follow the standardized rules. But what about people who possess some traits of the species but aren't "true" Time Lords?


We've seen a few of them in the New Series: aliens with a bit of Time Lord biology infused into them.They are, essentially, Half-Time Lords. Which means, of course, that they have the potential to regenerate. And some of those regenerations could be quite weird, indeed.

River Song, oddly enough, has had pretty standardized regenerations. Although, she does seem to be able to mess with her aging process a bit. She talks about aging backwards in Let's Kill Hitler (an in-joke to explain that she will look a bit younger in some of her stories that are meant to be taking place in her future). We also have to assume that  when she regenerated into Mels she, somehow, suspended her aging process for a bit until she could meet Rory and Amy as kids. She induces her regeneration sometime in the 70s but still has an entire childhood with the two of them in what would've probably been the late 80s/early 90s.

We also see River using excess regeneration energy at the beginning of her third incarnation and we'll discuss that in a bit. But, really, I would consider neither of her regenerations to be legitimately weird.

The other Half-Time Lord that we meet in the New Series definitely has a weird regeneration. If we can call it a regeneration at all. Jenny, the Doctor's daughter, seems to go through some sort of regenerative process at the end of her first and only story. It has none of the hallmarks of a normal regeneration, though.  To all intents and purposes, she appears to be dead at the end of the episode. Then she suddenly breathes in what appears to be regenerative energy and pops awake. There's no change in appearance. She doesn't even grow younger. She's just, suddenly, alive again.

Did this actually have anything to do with her Time Lord inheritance? Might she have actually done a "Spock in Wrath of Kahn" and used the terraforming energy that was around her to return from the dead? Was it more of a resurrection rather than a regeneration? Admittedly, the energy we see flowing into her is a bit of a weird color. Oftentimes, regeneration energy looks gold. There seems to be traces of green and blue in there, too. So, was there a regeneration at all? A return appearance for Jenny would be nice. If, for no other reason, then to give us a few more answers.


In most cases, non-Time Lords who have this ability have taken it from the Time Lords, themselves'. Because it isn't something they developed on their own, the whole process tends to happen in a very different way.

The Minyans are a prime example of this. When the Time Lords set out to "improve" them, they managed to pass on regeneration to them. It seems to be induced in a very artificial manner, though. Again, it looks like a Metamorphic Symbiosis Regenerator of some sort seems to be in use. The Minyans lie on a very special pallet that causes the process to occur. It seems as if they need to be brought to this special equipment. If they aren't - they just die. It's not something they can do without the assistance of technology.

The process also doesn't give the Minyan a totally different-looking body. It just causes them to become young again. In that respect, it seems more like a rejuvenation rather than a regeneration (rest assured, by the way, there will be more arguments about rejuvenation later!).

The other example we see of Time Lord technology causing weird regenerations in aliens occurs in Mawdryn Undead. Mawdryn's unamed species has actually stolen our frequently-mentioned Metamorphic Symbosios Regenerator from the Time Lords but their lack of knowledge on how it operates has induced some serious consequences. Mawdryn and his comrads can regenerate independently of the equipment, but each regeneration causes hideous mutation. The new body is malformed. It even seems as though the aliens are in pain. Oddly enough, the whole process also appears to be mildly contagious.  Both Nyssa and Tegan contract Mawdryn's "disease" and start mutating and radically rejuvenating as the TARDIS moves forwards and backwards in time.

It is significant to note that, in both these cases, the imposed limit of 13 incarnations has been removed. The Minyans and Mawdryn's race are immortal and can keep regenerating indefinitely. Which leads us to believe that the 12 regeneration limit is something the Time Lords have chosen to impose upon themselves'. It is not a limit of their own technology. The Master getting offered a whole new cycle in The Five Doctors and the Doctor being given one in Time of the Doctor seems to support this notion.

While on the subject of Metamorphic Symbiosis Regenerators, it seems the Argolins have created a primitive version of one using tachyonics. Again, it doesn't assign a completely new body to someone if they should use the technology - it just makes them young again. Alternatively, it can also age them. So we're not entirely sure if we can even consider this a regeneration or just a method to age a being forwards or backwards. It's another "grey area" where the regeneration is so weird - it might not actually be one!

The Kastrians, on the other hand, seemed to have perfected the process of regeneration all on their own. Eldrad claims no assistance from the Time Lords in developping the skill. There is a machine that facilitates the process but a Kastrian really only needs radiation and the genetic code implanted in the rings they wear (similar, perhaps, to the Kamelion Arches we've seen used in the New Series?) to induce a regeneration. And it is much truer to the idea of a Time Lord regeneration - the Kastrian seems to get a new appearance when it's induced. Unlike the Time Lords, however, a Kastrian is far more resilient. They can receive massive amounts of damage and still regenerate if the necessary ring and radiation factors are still in place. Thus making them one of the most indestructible alien species in the Universe. However, I would say that a Kastrian regeneration resembles the Time Lord method enough that I wouldn't label it as weird. They're the only aliens who actually follow the same basic guidelines of a normal regeneration.

The only other alien species that seems to be able to regenerate is, perhaps, the Xeraphin. In Time Flight, they claim to be regenerating from a single organism that they had infused with the consciousness of their entire race.  This process, however, does not seem to resemble the Time Lord method of regeneration in any way shape or form. As far aliens go, these guys have the weirdest of all the weird regenerations.


By my own definition, some corners of fandom might claim that the Doctor's very first regeneration would be a weird one. It's the only time the Doctor's clothes change along with his body. Also, the Doctor doesn't refer to the process as regeneration. Rather, he calls it a rejuvenation.

While the experience does vary slightly from other regenerations - I wouldn't call it a fully-fledged weird regeneration. I'm more inclined to think that the first and last regeneration of a Time Lord contains a lot of excess energy. In Part Two of The End of Time, the Doctor can't contain that energy and it ends up wrecking the console room (there's a second issue affecting that regeneration that I'll go into in a later essay). In Part One of Power of the Daleks, the Doctor is able to better restrain the energy and uses it to change his clothes along with his body.

The fact that he's using the term rejuvenation rather than regeneration is merely a way to simplify the explanation to Ben and Polly. His first incarnation does seem to age to death and the man who replaces him is considerably younger. So it was just easier to label it a rejuvenation to his companions rather than getting into something that would've been far more complicated to explain.

Which means, in my terms of reference, the first genuinely weird regeneration happens when Fourth turns into Fifth. Inspired by what his Mentor did during his last change, the Doctor is able to create a Shayde of his own. This is not something a Time Lord normally does during such a time of transition. But it does come in handy when you want to pick up a new companion from Traken or take companions out of Time and Space to protect them whilst still trying to fix a chamelion circuit and form an alliance with a greatest enemy in order to save the Universe. If nothing else, Shaydes are very handy for multi-tasking!

Our next weird regeneration happens as the Eigth Doctor transforms into the War Doctor. Seventh to Eighth gets a bit weird because the Doctor is in a death-like state for quite some time. But in Night of the Doctor, he is well and truly dead. If the Sisterhood of Karn hadn't resurrected him, that would've been the end of our favorite Time Lord. The fact that he is then able to choose what his next form will be truly pushes the whole regeneration into legitimate weirdness. He's never been able to control what he will be in his next incarnation before. When we saw Romana doing the same thing, I applied the same label. So this regeneration should also get that title. Particularly since it's a controlled regeneration that takes place after a limited resurrection.

Of course, the weirdest of the Doctor's regenerations happens at the end of Stolen Earth and the beginning of Journey's End. In order to heal from the wounds inflicted on him by Dalek firepower, Doctor Ten induces a regeneration. But there is no change at all in his physical form (there might be some slight character changes as he becomes extra angsty for the rest of his era!). The regeneration simply repairs the damage done to the body. The remaining regeneration energy is syphoned off into the Doctor's spare hand where it is eventually used to create an instaneous biological meta crisis. I think, even if Romana had witnessed that one, she would have said: "Wow! That's a weird regeneration!"

And our last weird regeneration is the Doctor's last regeneration. If nothing else, it's weird because it was never meant to happen. The Doctor had regenerated twelve times and was meant to die on Trenzalore (we'd even seen the after-effects of his death in Name of the Doctor) but the Time Lords granted him a whole new life cycle. Like the First Doctor and the War Doctor, Doctor Eleven (who was, truly, the thirteenth incarnation) had worn his body out with old age. Which meant he was looking very elderly as he reached the end of his existence. The regeneration becomes truly weird when he temporarily regresses to a younger version of himself before changing into Doctor Twelve (or, more appropriately, his fourteenth incarnation).   We'd never seen a Time Lord do that before. But, apparently, that's what happens when you get an extra regeneration cycle. You go on a sort of "factory re-set" before truly transforming into a new body. Of course, it also allows you to do a really touching farewell scene without having to wear heavy prosthetics!


We can't really wrap this up unless we mention the way regeneration seems to be working very differently in the New Series. In Classic Who, regeneration was visually depicted in all kinds of different manners but the process has become quite standardized since it's returned in 2005. Along with the afore-mentioned CGI transition, a Time Lord's body becomes bathed in a golden glow as regeneration occurs. Or, at least, this happens to their hands and face. Presumably, it's happening all over but we don't see it beneath clothing.

That golden glow has come to be known as regeneration energy. We've not really seen it before the New Series but it seems to have had a strange effect on the way Time Lords regenerate, these days.

Apparently, even after the new body has stabilized, lots can be done with the regeneration energy that is coursing through a Time Lord. We see this right on the very first occasion that regeneration is displayed on the show. The newly-formed Tenth Doctor appears to be expelling excess regeneration energy that attracts the interest of intergalactic scavenger androids. He also reveals near the climax of The Christmas Invasion that within thirteen hours of a regeneration he still has the ability to replace severed appendages. The Sycorax Commander cuts off his hand.  Within a mysterious golden glow, a new hand materializes.

This continues on when Ten finally transforms into Eleven. This time, the regeneration energy rages out of control and seems to do some legitimate damage to the TARDIS. But things are even more violent as Eleven turns to Twelve. The regeneration energy takes out some Daleks that are floating around in their hovercrafts and then completely destroys a Dalek mothership
We also see River Song using her regeneration energy aggressively against some Nazis in Let's Kill Hitler after they attempt to mow her down. One even has to wonder if Donna Noble's transformation from the Meta-Crisis has given her a bit of regeneration energy that she's able to use as a defence mechanism during Part 2 of The End of Time.

As a quick footnote, we should add that regeneration energy in New Who isn't just aggressive. We've also seen the Eleventh Doctor and River Song use it to heal each other in Let's Kill Hitler and Angels Take Manhatten.

The big question is: where did regeneration energy come from? We've never really seen it until the New Series. It seems very mulit-purpose. We've seen it re-shape a Time Lord's body even after the regeneration seems complete. It can also heal the wounds of other Time Lords and can even be used as a sort of weapon.

With respect to post-regeneration body re-shapement, we may have seen hints of it in the Classic Series. Romana might have been using regeneration energy at the beginning of Destiny of the Daleks (okay, a possible third explanation for the sequence) and I love the idea that something of this nature was also happening to the Fifth Doctor's hair when he first sprang into existence (a way to compensate for the fact that he had different hair lengths throughout his first few stories because they were filmed out of sequence). But we've never seen Time Lords wreck stuff with their regenerative energy or use it to mend each other's wounds. That is totally new.

Which leads me to believe that the Time Lords re-engineered themselves' slightly when the Time Wars began. In the Classic Series, regeneration made a Time Lord vulnerable for a period of time. No doubt, regenerations were going to happen on the battlefield and there was no time for vulnerability. So now a Time Lord can use the excess regeneration energy as an actual form of attack while they're trying to recover from the process. Time Lords could also now trade small amounts of regeneration energy to help with minor wounds (or even major wounds - but it might mean that the Time Lord giving the energy would lose the ability to regenerate any further). Another useful trait to have on the battlefield.  This is why regeneration, in general, seems very different from the way it worked in the Classic Series. Certain alterations were somehow made to the process during the Time Wars. So these aren't, necessarily, weird regenerations. But, rather, the way regeneration now works.

It would seem that the rules of regeneration work in much the same way that the rules of french grammar do. There are certain patterns that are followed somewhat regularly. But for every legitimate rule that gets established - there are a slew of exceptions that present themselves'.

For example:

A new incarnation is random. Except for when Romana regenerated or when the 8th Doctor transformed into the War Doctor.


Regeneration produces an entirely new body, it is not a form of revitalization. Except for the Minyans or the way the Doctor changes in Time of the Doctor


If a Time Lord is well and truly dead, he won't regenerate. Except for Jenny's regeneration or 8th to the War Doctor.

And so on...

Regeneration is an awesome concept that kept the show alive at a time when it should've died. It continues to keep the show fresh, even now. Replacing the lead every few seasons is a great way to hold an audience's interest and never let anything get too stale. Like all good science fiction, there must be certain rules to how something like this works. And the show has done a fairly good job of establishing these rules.

But in the same way that regeneration keeps the show interesting, weird regenerations add that extra little bit of spice. They keep us guessing about how exactly the process really works and cause us to make all kinds of wild speculation.

On a good day, they can even get us to write pretentious essays.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015



Every now and again, I'll deal with smaller continuity issues that don't quite merit a full essay. They can be tackled in a matter of paragraphs so I'll take 3 or 4 of these problems and just merge them all together into one longer piece. 


A continuity issue that, amazingly enough, really doesn't get discussed that much. Steven Moffat, however, recently brought a lot of attention to it in Doctor Who Magazine.

The fact of the matter is, the idea of the Doctor having two hearts doesn't really get firmly established until Spearhead From Space. At the begining of his second regeneration, the Doctor is hospitalized and X-rays get taken of his chest. Surprise! Surprise! There's an extra heart, there.

From that point onward, the idea of Time Lord's having two hearts is an established piece of continuity. Bad puns get made on a fairly regular basis (my favorite being: "I'll keep it close to my hearts - both of them!") whenever discussions about Gallifreyan cardio-vascular systems arise. Both sides of the Doctor's chest get checked whenever someone is verifying his pulse. And so on....

Here's the problem: Before Spearhead, there are times when the Doctor's heartbeat is checked. No mention is ever made of the second pulse. The first time we see this is in the very third story of the first season. Ian Chesterton leans his head against the Doctor's chest and comments that everything seems fine. Shouldn't he be shocked that he's hearing mores lub-dubs than he ought to?

Lots of discussions have erupted over the nature of the Doctor's first two incarnations because of this. Many are fueled by such facts as the Second Doctor referring to the process of regeneration as rejuvenation, instead. And the 8th Doctor's claim of being half-human added more gas to the fire. Then there's the mention in Ribos Operation of the Doctor only passing his Time Lord exams on the second attempt. Wild theories claiming that the Doctor wasn't truly a Time Lord in his first two incarnations have been whispered in all sorts of shadowy corners.

I think there's a much simpler answer, though. Ian only heard one heartbeat because he only put his head on one side of the Doctor's chest! If you're not looking for an extra pulse on someone, you probably won't find it. Simple as that, really.

Things do become slightly more complicated when we consider that the Doctor received a full physical during Wheel In Space. No mention is made, then, of the double-pulse. One would expect an actual medical professional to be fairly thorough and would catch such a discrepancy. This can be easily explained. Chances are, a discussion did occur about the matter but it happened off-screen. I'm guessing Humanity, by this stage of development, has run into aliens. So the Doctor very simply explains to the person that is treating him that he's not actually a human. But that we, as an audience, don't witness this discussion. We're too busy following the plot-thread of those nasty bernalium-eating cybermats at the time!


I love the fact that right in the very first episode of the New Series we immediately run into a continuity error. I'm not actually being sarcastic, here. Doctor Who never cared much about continuity in the Classic Series and I was happy to see, in its new incarnation, it was quickly establishing itself as still being that sort of show.

I'm referring, of course, to the scene in Rose where internet conspiracy theorist Clive provides Rose Tyler with some background on this mysterious Doctor she's researching. It's a very cool and sinister moment but it also doesn't quite gel with what will happen in the rest of Series One.

Clive shows Rose all kinds of pics of the Ninth Doctor throughout the ages. He's at the Kennedy assassination, he's getting a family to avoid a journey on the Titanic and he's visiting Krakatoa just before it erupts (according to Inferno, it's his second trip). Again, it's a really great and mysterious moment. There's just one problem: Rose isn't in any of these pics. And she should be.

There's a little moment earlier in the episode that indicates that the Doctor is fresh from his regeneration at the end of Day of the Doctor. He passes a mirror in Rose's apartment and seems to be reacting to his new face for the first time. So this must be the Doctor at the very beginning of his Ninth Incarnation. The War Doctor, having just had his big adventure with Doctors Ten and Eleven, induces his latest regeneration, and then notices Nestene activity on Earth in 2005. I doubt there's been any time to do much of anything else (a quick change of clothes and an alteration to the console room's desktop theme - and that's about it!).

So Rose is joining the Ninth Doctor only moments after he's regenerated and continues to travel with him until he regenerates again. Basically, she's with him the whole season. So when he watched Kennedy get shot, saved the family from the Titanic and went to Krakatoa - shouldn't Rose be in those pics, too?

Some theorize that Doctor Nine did some travelling on his own before the events of Rose transpire and that's where the pictures come from. I find it hard to believe that he could make multiple journeys in the TARDIS after regenerating and never bother to check in a mirror to see what his new face looks like. On most other occasions, he's checking out a new face within a few minutes of getting it. So this idea doesn't work for me.

Other fans suggest that Rose just didn't happen to be around when the pictures were taken. She was buying some hot dogs down the street when Kennedy got shot. Or was the one holding the camera when the picture of the family that avoided the Titanic was taken. Or the sketch artist didn't like Rose and decided not to include her in the Krakatoa picture. It seems highly unlikely that the only pictures Clive got of the Doctor just happened to be the ones that Rose was coincidentally absent from.

I suggest, instead, that a bunch of travelling occurs for the Doctor between the dematerialisation and rematerialisation of the TARDIS at the end of the episode. When he offers Rose the chance to be his companion and she says "No." and then he comes back a moment later and gets her to change her mind it looks like only seconds have passed. But this is a time machine. It can return to a location in time and space only seconds after it left but can take a huge journey between those two points.

I suggest Doctor Nine spent a considerable amount of time travelling throughout the Universe after being turned down by Rose. Among those journeys, he watched Kennedy get shot, saved a family from boarding the Titanic and made his second visit to Krakatoa. He probably did a bunch of other stuff, too. For all we know, he may have even picked up a few companions for a bit here and there. These journeys could've gone on for several years. But he always remembered Rose and wished she had said yes to his offer. So when the TARDIS finally returns, either by accident or design, to that moment of refusal only a few seconds later -  the Doctor pops back out and makes a second offer to
Rose. She climbs aboard and off they go to experience the rest of Series One.

This idea, to me, makes better sense.   It also enables us to believe that the Ninth Doctor had a longer lifespan than just the year he seems to spend travelling with Rose (was it even a year? It's hard to tell...).


The production team tried to have a bit of fun with continuity during Season 14 of the Classic Series. Apparently, they wanted to insinuate that there were incarnations of the Doctor that existed before the William Hartnell version.

One of the nods they make happens right in the first story of the new season. The Doctor re-discovers an alternate console room. Apparently, there's some visual clues that are supposed to get us to believe that incarnations before the Hartnell Doctor had been there. The best we see to support this is a ruffled shirt that looks like Jon Pertwee might not have worn it since it looks a bit pinkish. And a shaving mirror. Was this meant to indicate there was a bearded Doctor at some point? Wouldn't a person who hasn't grown a beard be more likely to having a shaving mirror? After all, they're going to be shaving a whole lot more than a bearded man does (at best, we bearded fellows groom our beard - something we can actually do half-decently without a mirror).  

The other big nod to these "hidden incarnations" occurs a few stories later in Brain of Morbius. As the Doctor and Morbius are mind-bending, we see images of previous incarnations appearing within the machinery they're using to battle each other. Pertwee, Throughton and Hartnell all show up. And then, a whole series of other faces start appearing. Oh my God! It's earlier incarnations of the Doctor!

Or it's Morbius' past lives. Which seems more likely. The Doctor quickly regresses back to his first life and does his damnedest to hold on in battle. He fights back with all he's got and starts forcing Morbius back through his earlier bodies. Those are the pictures we see after the Hartnell Doctor appears. They are not earlier incarnations of the Doctor that we never knew about. They're Morbius.

Yes, Morbius cries: "How far back, Doctor? How long have you lived?" (or words to that effect) which tends to indicate that these are the Doctor's lives we're seeing. But it could have just as easilly been a cry of desperation. The Doctor is starting to burn through Morbius' past and the evil renegade Time Lord is really hoping that these three previous incarnations are all the Doctor has. He's yelling out in just a bit of panic rather than questionning just how many lives the Doctor appears to have.
Interestingly enough, I had watched Brain of Morbius before I'd learnt of this amendment the production team was trying to make to continuity so this has always been the way I've interpretted that scene. I was still a relatively new fan at that point but I knew there were only 3 Doctors before Tom Baker. So I just assumed those other faces were meant to be Morbius. So this theory was a sound one for me even before I learnt what the sequence was meant to convey.

I'm perfectly fine with one incarnation of the Doctor remaining "hidden" from us until the 50th anniversary. But the other 8 to 10 that we see in Brain of Morbius are just too big of a stretch.  I know some fans like to refer to the theory of "the Other" that starts to get talked about during the Seventh Doctor era and try to say that these are his incarnations. But that whole concept starts falling to pieces when the New Series comes into play. In New Who, we seem to be back to the idea that Gallifreyans reproduce the way humans do rather than having to rely on Looms. So those mysterious faces have to belong to Morbius. Of course, they also happen to belong to the production team that was working on Doctor Who at the time!

There you go, a few quick continuity glitches fixed. Did you notice how I put the Number One beside the title, though? That means, of course, that this is another ongoing series. We'll see more of these down the road....