Way back in the 1960s, I wrote my Ranking The Regenerations entry (https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-book-of-lists-ranking-regenarations.html). A half-century later, I had to give it a bit of an update (https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2020/12/book-of-lists-appendix-1-ranking.html). I revealed in those entries how I tend to view the Doctor's regeneration stories a bit differently than most fans do. But I felt that I still really didn't explain myself clearly enough. That there's even more viewing that has to go on as you watch the Doctor move into a new incarnation.
So I felt it was time to do a true "deep cut" of how I enjoy each time the Doctor changes. The way I observe a regeneration is almost absurd - but I still wanted to share the process with you. And, because I'm a bit ridiculous in how I do it, I felt this qualified as my latest COMPLETE AND UTTER SILLINESS essay.
As I first pointed out in my Ranking the Regenerations essay, I feel that just watching a Doctor's swansong story is not enough. If you truly want to observe the whole process, you need to also watch the first story of the new Doctor, too. On some occasions, the story starts with a re-cap of the previous incarnation's dying moments. So, from a technical perspective, you are still watching the regeneration. It seems to me, then, that it is crucial to see how the Doctor recovers from the whole transformation and moves on in his new body. That recovery is still part of the whole regeneration process. So if you truly want to follow the experience to its fullest extent, you should be watching more than just a Doctor's final story. If, for example, you put on Time of the Doctor, then you should follow it up with Deep Breath.
But now it's time go one level deeper. In my ridiculously-skewed and/or warped perspective, I've found that there are often even more stories that should be viewed if you're trying to fully take in a complete regeneration that the Doctor is going through.
Once or twice a year, I will just decide to go through all the times the Doctor changes. It can be quite the lengthy undertaking since I do throw in so many additional stories that one normally wouldn't bother with. But I want the full impact of the whole transition. So I go to all these extra lengths.
I should note that I'm not trying to rate these regenerations again. I've done that enough already. I'm just going to tackle them chronologically and site all my reasons for the extra viewing that I feel is required. I do think you'll find most of my reasoning to be outrageously pedantic. But maybe you'll give my way a try, anyway. It might all be a bit silly. But silly can be quite fun.
So, without much further ado....
Up until a few years ago, it was pretty straightforward. I watched the first three episodes of The Tenth Planet along with the reconstructed version of Part Four that uses both telesnaps and some recovered footage. Then I went for the telesnap version of Power of the Daleks.
Things have gotten a bit more complicated, now. I'm not a huge fan of the style of animation that gets used for lost stories. The nicest way to put it is to say that it just doesn't really agree with my tastes. I still respect that efforts are being made to make these lost stories a bit more accessible. I just wish they'd do it differently.
So that means I still tend to watch the reconstructed fourth episode of Tenth Planet rather than the animated version. However, six episodes of telesnaps is a bit tough to push through. So, for Power of the Daleks, I will watch the cartoons.
But, these days. things have become even more complicated. We now have Twice Upon a Time to contend with. Sometime between the First Doctor leaving the Cyber-ship and entering his TARDIS to shed his first body, he has a whole separate adventure with his Twelfth Self. This must now be factored in if you are to fully enjoy the Doctor's very first regeneration.
So now I sandwich in Twice Upon a Time between Tenth Planet and Power of the Daleks. It just doesn't feel right if I don't. As this is a special Appendix that has been added to the whole story where we see the First Doctor wrestling with letting go of himself and surrendering to change. It adds a whole new dimension to this pivotal moment in the Doctor's life.
Important Note: As soon as the First Doctor returns to his proper timeline and initiates the regeneration, I shut Twice Upon a Time off. There's no need to hang around and watch what happens afterwards. That will get its proper viewing much further down the road.
This is another one that used to be a whole lot less complicated. There was a time when you could simply enjoy the long-but-epic War Games followed by the very filmic and colorful Spearhead from Space.
But then we started having some continuity issues with Patrick Troughton's return appearances in the 80s. In The Five Doctors, how did the Second Doctor know about Jamie and Zoe's final fate when he shouldn't? Why is the Second Doctor doing errands for the Time Lords in The Two Doctors when he is meant to still be running away from them?
Fandom manages to come up with the very clever Season 6b theory. The belief that the Doctor led a whole secret life between War Games and Spearhead. That, just before his regeneration was triggered, the Celestial Intervention Agency spirited him away and had him undertake a whole series of secret missions for them. When the whole thing was eventually discovered by the High Council, the Second Doctor was re-captured, forced to regenerate and serve his exile on Earth.
So, now, if you're going to enjoy that second regeneration properly, you're going to have to watch The War Games, The Five Doctors, The Two Doctors and then Spearhead from Space.
It gets quite a few things to make better sense. Not just the discrepancies that present themselves in the multi-Doctor adventures, but even some things that occur in other stories. Like where did the Third Doctor get his TARDIS homing device in Spearhead from Space when he clearly didn't have it in The War Games? (It must have been another gift he was given by the CIA - just like the Statenheim Remote Control) Or why does the Doctor seem to be describing a very different trial to Jo Grant during Frontier In Space? (When the High Council discovered the Doctor's secret life in Season 6b, they brought him back to Gallifrey and put him through a second sentencing).
It's a very cool way to enjoy this regeneration. Those 80s tales where Troughton returns have a very different feel to them, now. You're watching the Second Doctor living on borrowed time that you know he will eventually lose.
No actual change to this one. Which you will see from time-to-time in this entry.
Thus far, there have been no episodes that came out after Planet of Spiders and Robot that have, somehow, added to the whole transition of Third to Fourth Doctor. So there is no need to place more stories in between them like we did with the first two regenerations. The two adventures can stand on their own.
Which, in many ways, is good for me. I'm not particularly fond of either of these tales (neither of them really seem to have enough story to fill the episodes they've been allocated). So the less time I have to spend on this regeneration, the better!
Technically, you can just watch Logopolis and Castrovalva back-to-back and be done with it. But I really do think you should include Keeper of Traken.
These three stories are commonly referred to as The Regeneration Trilogy. So you should keep them all together. Particularly since Keeper of Traken does flow directly into Logopolis. Several key plot points in Keeper of Traken (the Master's "regeneration", the introduction of Nyssa, etc...) have a direct influence on the Fourth Doctor's final tale. Some of these elements will even bleed into Castrovalva just a bit.
So, really, you should experience The Regeneration Trilogy as a whole. Rather than cutting it off at the knees by excluding the first four episodes.
Like the Second Regeneration, this one goes quite a bit longer than one might expect. For me, at least.
I do even bring this up in my original Ranking the Regenerations essay. The Sixth Doctor's recovery period goes on much longer than usual. For the most part, a new Doctor is running on all cylinders by the end of his first adventure. But I don't think Sixie truly settles in until halfway through Vengeance on Varos. We are still seeing lots of clear signs of instability up until that point. The Doctor has weird memory issues in Attack of the Cybermen and seems to be legitimately scattered during Vengeance on Varos. And, in both stories, he's experiencing uncharacteristic manic outbursts that I believe to be negative side effects from his latest transformation.
I do sincerely feel that we haven't truly witnessed the full regeneration until the new Doctor has completely recovered. So, this regeneration is not complete until we have viewed Caves of Androzani, Twin Dilemma, Attack of the Cybermen and the first part of Vengeance on Varos.
The Doctor's near-death experience at the cliffhanger of Part One of Varos gives a shock to his system that finally gets him to stabilise (Thirteen goes through something similar that she describes near the end of The Woman Who Fell to Earth). So you don't have to watch that second part if you don't want to. Truthfully, though, I usually watch the whole story anyway. Because Vengeance on Varos is pretty damned brilliant. I love it this much: https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2016/01/book-of-lists-top-ten-who-stories-3.html.
Believe it or not, I'm actually not going to add something when others might be inclined to.
Some would say that you should watch the final two episodes of Trial of a Time Lord (aka: The Ultimate Foe) before embarking upon Time and the Rani. They claim that, because we see the Doctor in the same outfit he wore as he left the space station/coutroom that the regeneration happens immediately after the events of Season 23.
But I don't subscribe to that particular theory. I'm more inclined to believe that a good 50 years takes place between Trial of a Time Lord and Time and the Rani. The Sixth Doctor just happens to put on the same vest and cravat that he was wearing during Ultimate Foe when the Rani diverts the course of his TARDIS and brings him to Lakyerta. So, as much as I like to watch all the Sixie I can, there is no need to view Ultimate Foe before the regeneration.
Time and the Rani can stand by itself. Yes, there are parts of it that are a bit difficult to watch. But it's really not as bad as some would lead you to believe. So just enjoy it for what it's worth!
No additions necessary, here, either. Just sit back and watch what I believe to be the most visually-impressive regeneration of them all. Watching Seven turn into Eight as Frankenstein plays is absolutely gorgeous.
Doctor Who - The Movie, like Time and the Rani, can be enjoyed all by itself. And, just like Time and the Rani, there are a few problems with the whole plot structure. But, really, you shouldn't get too hung up on it. There's a lot of fun, here, too. Just check your brain at the door and have a good time!
Night of the Doctor can also stand alone. Enjoy the near-seven minutes of the most-anticipated regeneration in the history of the show. McGann is brilliant and the briefest of glimpses of a young John Hurt is an excellent touch.
And, once more, I can start over-complicating things!
Although, really, Moff complicated things, first. He created a hidden Doctor that we never knew existed until the 50th anniversary. So, if you truly want to see every possible moment of the War Doctor's existence, then bother to watch Name of the Doctor. Just so you can see him appear in that final minute of the episode. I don't think it's mandatory, though (but then, is anything that I'm suggesting completely required of you?!). I will admit that, sometimes, I'm in the mood to watch Name of the Doctor when I observe this regeneration. Other times, I choose not to bother with it. So I leave it up to you, too. Watch it if you feel like it.
Day of the Doctor, on the other hand, is completely necessary. It really is the only story that gives us any legitimate exposure to the War Doctor. John Hurt makes the best of his brief appearance. And, while it still pains me more that we don't get a greater quantity of McGann, it is also a bit sad that we will only ever see Hurt here and nowhere else.
Like Twice Upon a Time, you are welcome to shut everything down after the War Doctor regenerates. But it's tough to stop things when you know that the Tom Baker cameo is coming. All eleven incarnations of the Doctor standing in dry ice fog is also great fun to watch. So, chances are you will finish things up.
Once you are done, though, you need to include Rose in the viewing. That briefest of scenes where Nine appears to be seeing himself in a mirror for the first time indicates to me that the regeneration occurred only moments ago. So Day of the Doctor and Rose flow into each other and need to be watched back-to-back.
This is another one where I feel you get some options to play with.
You do need to watch Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways to get the full experience of seeing Nine die. Some might argue that you should also watch Boomtown since it explains the all-important concept of staring into the Heart of the TARDIS. But I don't think that's necessary. Skip Boomtown.
Once in a Blue Moon, I will bother with the Children In Need Special that they shot that is meant to take place immediately after the regeneration. But, really, it's so inconsequential that it doesn't need to be included. It really is much better to go straight from Parting of Ways to The Christmas Invasion.
After that, you have more choices to make. I will, on occasion, pop in New Earth. That opening sequence where the Tenth Doctor is powering up the TARDIS console for the first time in his new body while Rose says bye to Mom and Mickey does feel very poignant. It, sort of, indicates that the regeneration recovery is truly complete. He's feeling better and is ready to go.
So, sometimes, I will just bother to watch that scene and then be done with it. Other times, I will watch all of New Earth - just because it feels weird to stop things after the pre-titles! Most of the time, however, it really is just Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways and The Christmas Invasion. It's just that, every once in a while, I'm in the mood for a bit more...
Don't get confused, here. We're counting Ten changing back into himself as a proper regeneration.
For me, this is simply about Stolen Earth and Journey's End and nothing else. Even though some might feel that Turn Left should be included in the mix.
However, I did do a big POINT OF DEBATE essay a while back about What Constitutes a Three Parter? (https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2019/09/points-of-debate-what-constitutes-three.html). In it, I claimed that I felt that Turn Left stands as its own separate story and that the season finale is just a two-parter. So, once again, I'm trimming things down, here. I really enjoy Turn Left, but I don't include it in this particular study. This is, in my opinion, a completely ludicrous regeneration. So, the quicker we can get through it, the better.
This is another one I like to get through fast. I'm really not fond of The End of Time Part 1 and 2. In terms of final stories for a Doctor, I think it's probably the worst one that's been made, so far.
I am much happier with the The Eleventh Hour. It does, perhaps, move a bit too slowly at the beginning. But it finishes up quite well. Overall, though, I treat this one in much the same way as I would the Third Regeneration (although with a little bit less disdain since most of Eleventh Hour is rather enjoyable). Essentially, watch End of Time and Eleventh Hour and get on to something better.
And so, the first regeneration cycle reaches its conclusion. A truly momentous occasion, but I still keep it pretty simple: Time of the Doctor and Deep Breath. That's all you need, here. Nothing more.
I just recently talked about my reasoning for this one in my Ranking The Regenerations Appendix so I won't go on about it too much in case you bothered to read that entry.
World Enough and Time opens with the Doctor stumbling out of the TARDIS at the South Pole and starting to regenerate. So, to me, this is where the regeneration story starts. Because The Woman Who Fell to Earth ends on a cliffhanger, we should also include The Ghost Monument in the whole arc.
So this regeneration takes a whopping five episodes: World Enough and Time, The Doctor Falls, Twice Upon a Time (you can watch it all the way through, this time - don't shut it off after One dies!), The Woman Who Fell to Earth and The Ghost Monument. This is quite long by New Who standards. But it is fun to watch. For me, at least. Those less fond of Chibnall-era Who may beg to differ!
SUPPLEMENTAL REGENERATION STUFF:
In the last few years, we've watched the Doctor mess around a bit here and there with regeneration energy. We're not entirely sure what sort of consequence such gestures might have. The Twelfth Doctor joked that it may cause deficiencies in future incarnations but he didn't sound particularly serious about it. If you are doing a deep study into the Doctor's regenerations, you may want to observe all these sequences. So, I'll bother to list them:
The first time we saw the Doctor do this was in Angels Take Manhattan. After River's hand gets hurt, he gives her a little regeneration energy to heal it. Up until this moment, we'd never seen him do this. I suppose he could only accomplish this sort of trick with another Time Lord. Or, in the case of River, a partial Time Lord. I even think this might be a special modification that was made to their DNA during the Time Wars. As a means to help cure light wounds during battle, a Time Lord can give some of their regeneration energy to another Time Lord who might be in need of it.
What makes less sense about this sequence, however, is the fact that the Doctor is meant to be on his last incarnation. How did he find any regeneration energy to give her? It's my guess that, even in the final incarnation, a Time Lord does have some regeneration energy left in them. Just not enough to trigger a complete transformation.
The next occasion that this occurs would be in The Witch's Familiar. Believing Davros to be near death and wanting him to live long enough to watch one more Skarosian sunrise, the Doctor modifies some life-support equipment so that he can donate regeneration energy to the mad scientist. It's all just a big trap that Davros has set up, of course. But that didn't matter, cause the Doctor knew what was really going on and had a trick of his own up his sleeve. It all almost kinda felt like Remembrance of the Daleks again!
The Doctor does seem to be using a lot of regeneration energy, here. He does, essentially, end up donating it to every single Dalek on Skaro. The regeneration energy is also drained from him for a substantial period of time before it's finally stopped. If there's ever a time when he may have actually used up an entire regeneration, it might be here.
Finally there's that time he tests Bill during The Lie of the Land. She shoots him with a gun loaded with blanks and he pretends to go into a regeneration. We see that familiar golden glow envelope him for a moment and then he suddenly brings it to a stop. The whole thing was just a big prank!
This one seems the most inconsequential. He doesn't seem to use up much regeneration energy during this sequence.
All these incidents lead us to wonder what exactly might be going on with the just how much the Doctor will be able to regenerate in this latest cycle. This could just be "spare" regeneration energy that he can mess with a bit without it really affecting his overall ability to change into new bodies. Or he may have lost an entire incarnation or two.
Of course, Moff was clever enough not to reveal just how many regenerations the Doctor had been granted, this time. So part of the reason why the Doctor might be more liberal with his regeneration energy is because he has been given a whole lot more of it. Alternatively, it could just be that the Doctor has become quite reckless and doesn't care about how much longer he might be able to live (unlike that moment of reluctance in Mawdryn Undead where helping the weird exposed-brain aliens would have robbed him of his remaining lives). Better he sacrifice some regeneration energy to accomplish a greater good than try to survive for as long as possible.
Special Note: "But Rob," some of you might be saying (there you go again!), "you forgot about that time in The Impossible Astronaut where the Doctor used some regeneration energy up when he was faking his death! Surely that counts as another one of those occasions!"
I assume that, because he is safely inside the Teselecta while all of this is happening that he is not creating the effect. But, rather, the Teselecta, itself, is doing it (if they can create a whole motorcycle, they should be able to produce a golden glow!). More than likely, the miniaturized people piloting the whole thing understood how Time Lords worked and knew they had to make it look like the Doctor was attempting a regeneration before he died. Alternatively, the Doctor may have explained this to them. Either way, his death had to look convincing so they added the effect at the appropriate moment. But this is not the Doctor doing this. Which is why I don't qualify it as a "messing with regeneration energy" moment.
WHAT ABOUT THAT CRAZY TIMELESS CHILD?!
I suppose, technically, if you want to watch all the Doctor's regenerations, then you will also have to watch The Timeless Children. While some fans are still holding on to a belief that the Master was lying to the Doctor, most of us feel that this is now an important aspect of the Doctor's origins. That, as the Chibnall era progresses, we'll learn more and more of how this whole backstory fits in. So the very first regeneration on Gallifrey also counts as another one of the Doctor's.
It should be noted, however, that there is one substantial difference between how the Timeless Child and the Doctor regenerate. It really does seem like the Timeless Child had an infinite (or, at the very least, near-infinite) number of regenerations. While we still haven't quite gotten the full story, it would appear that the Timeless Child, somehow, pissed off the Division and was punished by being turned into a normal Time Lord. So, while the Doctor was originally the Timeless Child, he has lost that ability to regenerate endlessly. He really did only have twelve regenerations in his first cycle. Again, we don't know how many this new cycle has (and he might not know, either!). But, at the end of Time of the Doctor, he really was going to die unless the Time Lords interceded.
I am, very much, interested in seeing what other differences may exist with the regeneration process of the Timeless Child and the Doctor. We have seen that there are things that can kill a Time Lord, outright. That, if enough damage is done, the Doctor won't actually be able initiate a regeneration. He'll simply just die. I do suspect that the Timeless Child really was immortal. That, no matter what damage was done to her, she'll still regenerate. We'll have to wait and see if my theory is correct. More than likely, it won't be. Just about any time I try to predict something on Doctor Who, I am dead wrong. If I'm really lucky, Chibnall just won't actually reveal if the Timeless Child has this ability or not.
So, there we go: How to watch all the Doctor's regenerations properly. To even insinuate that there is a true way to enjoy them is completely ludicrous, of course. Which is why I've made this a COMPLETE AND UTTER SILLINESS essay. I know how ridiculous all of this looks.
Still, if you've got a complete collection of all existing episodes - give it a try. It's actually a lot of fun.