Sunday, May 9, 2010

Doctor Who: The Greater Regeneration/Personality Adaptation Theory

In my reviews of Series 5/Season 31, I made reference to my theory regarding The Eleventh Doctor's personality in the wake of his regeneration from Doctor Number Ten to Doctor Number Eleven and said, in grand Doctor Who fashion, that I would explain later.

It is now later.

A quick catch-up for those who are new to the party. Regeneration is a Time Lord super-power that... well, why not let The Ninth Doctor explain it?

"See, Time Lords have this little trick, it's sort of a way of cheating death. Except... it means I'm going to change. And you're not going to see me again... Not like this. Not with this daft old face."

That's it in a nutshell. Any time a Time Lord suffers several physical trauma, they can regenerate their body. But this has the dual side-effects of changing the Time Lord's appearance AND personality.

In reality, this is a very clever way of allowing the show to continue with a new Doctor every time the current actor playing The Doctor retires from the role. But it has never been explained in the reality of the show (or at least, not in any of the episodes or books I've seen) just WHY a Time Lord's personality and appearance has to change whenever they regenerate and how the nature of death might influence their next incarnation.

The popular theory which I subscribe to is that a Time Lord's thoughts and emotions during regeneration will influence the base personality of their next incarnation. This is hardly a new theory, I found out, but I cannot remember where I first read the idea after I proposed it to my friends following the regeneration of Nine into Ten. I haven't seen all of the episodes of the old series involving The Doctor regenerating but I have seen enough of them to think there's some merit to the idea. Of the ones which I have seen...

1. Three to Four - The Third Doctor was a very much the man-of-action and the closest The Doctor ever came to being a James Bond hero. Exiled to the planet Earth for most of his "life", the Third Doctor worked with the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (U.N.I.T.) as a scientific adviser, protecting the Earth from various alien and supernatural threats.

Shortly before his regeneration into The Fourth Doctor, The Doctor was granted the privilege of a working TARDIS and was able to explore Time and Space freely again. He still worked with UNIT during this time but it was apparent he was coming to resent being tied down to a military organization though he did still wish to help protect Earth.

When his death came about because of a mutual need to "confront his fear" and to prevent a disaster he was directly responsible for causing, it is easy to see how The Doctor might come to be frustrated about his responsibilities and at having "died" so soon after finally getting a chance to explore the universe once again.

The Fourth Doctor was probably the most anti-authoritarian incarnation The Doctor had. He also had the strongest sense of wanderlust. As soon as he had recovered, he was very quick to hop in the TARDIS and try and get away from Earth. He was reluctantly dragged into helping UNIT fight a corrupt group of scientists attempting to take over The Earth with an indestructible robot and left to explore the universe again at the earliest opportunity. And only the promise of a chance to stop the Daleks once and for all could get him to submit to the authority and commands of the Time Lords.

2. Four to Five - When the Fourth Doctor died, disabling a doomsday device that arch-enemy The Master was using to ransom the universe (say what you will about The Master: he never thought small), his final thoughts were of his many companions as he lay surrounded by his current companions. His final words were a reassurance that he was fine and that he had been prepared for this moment.

The Fifth Doctor was a much more protective and loving man than his previous incarnation. Not that The Fourth Doctor didn't value those he traveled with but with the Fifth Doctor the relationship was more paternal... more protective.

3. Eight To Nine - We don't know anything about exactly how The Eight Doctor became The Ninth Doctor, save that it was definitely a result of the end of The Time War, when The Doctor sealed both The Time Lords AND The Daleks away from the rest of the universe for all time.

Forged in war, The Ninth Doctor was a harder, more violent man than any other Doctor before. He was quick to seek violent solutions to problems, thinking nothing of - in his first appearance - blowing up a department store in order to disable an alien transmitter device when he could have probably could have disabled it with less fuss.

4. Nine To Ten - The first on-screen regeneration in the new series, The Ninth Doctor sacrificed himself to save his companion Rose's life after she - in turn - risked her life in order to save him as he faced down a revived Dalek army.

Looking into the heart of his TARDIS, Rose had absorbed a dangerous amount of Time Vortex energy that temporarily gave her god-like powers over time and space. Rose spoke about being able to perceive everything that had happened or would happen all at once - a sensation The Doctor had described to her before when trying to convince her of his alien nature. Taking her hands, he said "I think you need a Doctor," before kissing her and absorbing the excess energy into himself, thus saving her life at the cost of his own.

A lot of fans were upset by this - the idea of The Doctor expressing his love of a companion in such a dramatic fashion much less the suggestion of the alien Doctor being able to feel attraction for a human female. However, I think it made a certain amount of sense precisely because The Ninth Doctor WASN'T that comfortable with expressing emotions and he probably felt - in that moment - that they were both likely to die anyway. He was the last of his kind in the universe and had made himself hard in order to cope. When Rose met him, he was saving the Earth more out of habit than out of any honest love of the place. And it was Rose who got him to start coming out of his shell - to start seeing the people he was saving as individuals and not as a faceless mass that needed protection.

It was only in this final moment - when he realized the depth of Rose's feelings and what she was willing to do to save him - that he realized his own feelings for her and what she had done to heal his heart. And it was in this moment that he was able to express himself.

So what does this have to do with The Tenth Doctor?

While the Ninth Doctor did loosen up a fair bit in his travels with Rose, he still wasn't a good fit for her. For one thing, people kept saying he looked too old for her. (If they only knew, eh?) So what better way - now that he realized his feelings - than to regenerate into a younger-looking, more empathic man who could more easily express his emotions?

Not that this totally freed him up to express himself openly. And the whole "I'll still look the same once you are dead and buried" thing was still an issue for him throughout Season Two. But by the time of Doomsday, it seemed that he and Rose had achieved some measure of understanding. And while saying "I love you" might have been a bit beyond him, he certainly showed his feelings in other, smaller ways. But there was no doubt to his feelings once the end of Series Four came around.

5. Ten To Eleven - Toward the end of his life, Ten wound up causing a lot or problems for himself due to his ability to emotionally attach to his companions in specific and people in general. He wound up damaging the Timeline due to his efforts to save the life of one woman he was fond of in The Waters of Mars and he ultimately died to save the life of one man - his companion, Wilf - after risking his life to save all of reality from the Time Lords and somehow surviving what he expected to be his certain death.

So in the final hours - during which he found time to help all his old companions out one lsat time - it probably occurred to The Tenth Doctor that had he been more concerned with his duties than his friends he might have avoided hubris. And had he been a harder man, willing to let an old soldier die a heroic death instead of taking it upon himself so that that man might be spared - that he might have lived a longer life. Of course such ideas are unthinkable to somebody as noble and sacrificing as The Tenth Doctor and it probably scared him that he could think such things. But in the end, his final words said it all: "I don't want to go."

So where does this leave the Eleventh Doctor?

Thus far, of the three episodes, I've seen - he certainly seems to be a much harder man then Ten. Less empathic. More cerebral. Very Sherlock Holmes like. More focused upon his duties as the last of the Time Lords than he is upon impressing his companions or meeting interesting people around the whole of Space and Time.

It's a bit too early to say but I THINK that is how this is playing out with Eleven.

What do you all think? Any other Doctor fans out there have any light to shed on the regenerations I didn't cover?


  1. No I agree with what you said between 10-11, I think I even said something like that in your last review. That 10's death was brought about by his attachments around him, and he regretted going, and why it resulted so far in 11 being the way he is thus far. Like I love the bit of his reaction when he's confronted with River Song this ep. Leave her there! Yes! Get away! RUN.

  2. It's kind of like what Sarah Jane said to Ten at the end of the Stolen Planets: he acts like such a lonely man, yet he has so many people that love him and would sacrifice their own life for him.
    Ten acted like he didn't need people, but in a lot of ways, he kept reaching out. Like in "Midnight", where he went out of his way to talk to people on the train, excitedly.
    It's interesting. I think the show's writers look at the previous incarnation and see what they need to evolve or change. I think you're right. Ten was a little TOO empathetic.
    Whatever you say about Eleven (I'm actually liking him more and more with every new episode), he is more cerebreal. He doesn't even give THOUGHT to the idea of romantic inclincations (less so than Ten, which is saying something). He's also more...reserved than Ten. He certainly has his goofiness side, but it's more pulled back. Ten was almost cartoonish where as Eleven is more...focused.

  3. *eeks* Still haven't seen the new one yet...
    And yes. You did say something like that. That was part of what prompted me to get this written now.

  4. Ten acted like he didn't need people, but in a lot of ways, he kept reaching out. Like in "Midnight", where he went out of his way to talk to people on the train, excitedly.
    Exactly. For all his talking about how he was all alone and would be for the rest of his life, his still loved traveling, meeting people and socializing. This was a step-up from Nine, who was so anti-social as to hang out at a party watching the news.
    Whatever you say about Eleven (I'm actually liking him more and more with every new episode), he is more cerebreal. He doesn't even give THOUGHT to the idea of romantic inclincations (less so than Ten, which is saying something).
    Yeah. It always DID blind-side Ten when it happened. The whole incident with Madame Du Pompador (which the Rose anti-fans seems to forget when they grouse about a Time Lord loving a mortal) was a bit of a shock to him.
    And that - along with the various talks with Rose about the feasibility of their being a couple (i.e. School Reunion and the talk about Time Lords not aging, Rose suggesting they could settle down someplace after it looks like The TARDIS is lost in The Satan Pit) - did seem to get both of them to the point where they could have a relationship in spite of those problems.
    Really the only time Ten seemed oblivious to the possibility of a relationship was around Martha and he was still ass-deep in longing for Rose at that point - something Martha eventually realized even if The Doctor was in denial about it. Martha was the rebound.
    And then there was the incident with the woman in the past where he really DIDN'T see falling in love as a human as a possibility but in Ten's defense he WAS in a bit of a rush.
    And then there was the one-off with Astrid and... well, Donna made her intentions perfectly clear even as she mixed up what his were (You're not mating with me, dumbo!).

  5. Donna was a best friend/big sister at times. Which seriously he really needed.

  6. Slacker? I object!
    My cable system doesn't give me BBC America without paying a ton more every month. And I wait until Mondays so that I can watch it with my friends who aren't available any earlier in the week.
    Sure, I COULD just download all the episodes illegally and watch them on my own. But where would the fun be in that?

  7. I shell out to Apple for my rights and privledges as to watching them.

  8. Ah. But I consider piracy less unethical than giving money to Steve Jobs.