The “False Regeneration” Theory

This post will be about the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary episode, The Day of the Doctor.  If you haven’t seen it yet and wish to, leave this article NOW.  If you’re not a fan of Doctor Who, have never seen it, or don’t care about it, you won’t want to read this either.  Alright, onward to my theory!

Before I get into anything too complicated, I want to say that I loved Day of the Doctor.  I thought it was decently action packed, really funny, well acted on all counts, and just all around really good.  That said, like many things with Doctor Who, I thought it was a bit overly complicated.  And, because of its overcomplicated-ness, it was riddled with plot holes.  Now, I’m not going to attempt to explain away every plot hole.  I don’t have that kind of brain capacity.  However, last night, I developed a theory that may explain one that really bothered me:  John Hurt as The Doctor.  Before I can get into that, though, I have to explain why the theory was needed for me in the first place.

The Doctor regenerates himself into a new face whenever he dies (or is about to die).  If you’ve gotten this far into the article, you probably knew that already.  You also probably know that he apparently is only supposed to be able to do this 12 times, allowing for one man to have 13 faces.  Until the 50th, we had a set order with set numbers to set faces.  1) William Hartnell, 2) Patrick Troughton, 3) John Pertwee, 4) Tom Baker, 5) Peter Davison, 6) Colin Baker, 7) Sylvester McCoy, 8) Paul McGann, 9) Christopher Eccleston, 10) David Tennant, 11) Matt Smith, and the upcoming 12) Peter Capaldi.  However, thanks to the 50th Anniversary special, and especially this clip that was released online that was supposed to be watched before the episode, a wrench was thrown in the works. There was now an extra face between McGann and Eccleston:  John Hurt.

For me, this just didn’t make sense.  Did that mean that everyone after McGann is now one number up?  Did the Doctor have no regenerations left after the one to come this Christmas?  According to the current main writer and “show runner” of the show, Steven Moffat, no, the order’s not screwed up.  Why?  Because John Hurt’s Doctor wasn’t calling himself The Doctor.  He was a Warrior, NOT The Doctor.  So, he just “doesn’t count in the official timeline.”  I have major issues with this.  First, we clearly see Paul McGann’s Doctor turning into John Hurt’s Doctor in the above clip.  Second, simply put, I thought John Hurt’s Doctor, despite only really appearing in this special, did too well to not be counted.  I just liked him too much to just say he “doesn’t count.”  It’s like an insult to the man, sweeping him and his performance under the rug because it screwed with long known continuity.

The problem is, Steven Moffat is arguing grammar and semantics in an argument about math.  Twelve plus one is always going to equal thirteen.  There’s simply no way around it.  How can you make twelve plus one still equal twelve?  Unless “plus one” wasn’t really a “plus one.”  Here’s what I mean.

If you watched the above clip, you saw the 8th Doctor, McGann, crash on a planet and is approached by the Sisterhood of Karn.  They say that the Doctor has 4 more minutes to live and offer him a potion.  The potion, while apparently not saving him, would allow him to chose the type of person he’d regenerate into.  Every time before and since, the Doctor had no control about what type of person he’d become.  Now, in the middle of the literal biggest war of all time, the Doctor chooses to become a warrior.  He basically feels that he can do more good now as a warrior than as the Doctor.  Thus, he drinks the potion and regenerates, turning into John Hurt.

My theory:  What if that wasn’t a regeneration?  To put it a different way, what if it wasn’t a “natural” regeneration?  The Sisterhood says that the potion the Doctor drinks will trigger a regeneration and make him anything he wants to be.  However, he takes the potion before he really dies.  My thinking is that the potion saved his life before he died and reformed him, NOT regenerated him.  So, instead of him regenerating into a completely different Doctor, he instead becomes different version of the 8th Doctor, one more equipped and willing to fight in the Time War.  In essence, the regeneration is more of a reformation, a false regeneration brought on by advanced technology (as the Sisterhood calls it) rather than a natural one brought on by a Time Lord’s natural ability.  So, instead of the 9th Doctor, John Hurt can be instead considered as Doctor 8.5.

I know it seems a bit overly complicated and unnecessary to make this theory.  The fact that I was even bothered by the plot hole at all shows how much of a nerd I am.  However, in my opinion, my theory makes about as much sense as any other theory.  Steven Moffat asking us to ignore John Hurt as the Doctor because he technically “wasn’t” is just rubbish.  I have already accepted my own theory as what happened much as other Whovians have developed their own theories about other such things.  If anyone would like to prove me wrong, I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments.  If you have any theories about anything else DW related, also feel free to let me know what they are.  I’m interested in reading a few.

Sorry for such a long, technological, and nerdy post from me today.  That’s just the kind of guy I am.  I will make the next blog much less confusing for those who are not all that much into Doctor Who yet.  It will still be about the show, though.  I’m simply in that kind of a mood right now.  Until next time, keep a look out for aliens in disappearing blue boxes.


3 thoughts on “The “False Regeneration” Theory

  1. Um. We talk of the “eleventh doctor” because the John Hurt incarnation does not think himself worthy of the title “Doctor”, the man who makes things better. Paul McGann chose “Warrior”.

    However, of the living humanoid, Peter Capaldi will play the thirteenth incarnation. (At least: was Morbius raving when those unknown faces appeared, or was he really winning?)

    You can call the Matt Smith doctor the “Eleventh doctor” as we always have, or the “Twelfth Doctor (Matt Smith)” or “The Matt Smith doctor”.

    Did you see the Wikipedia debate over who was a “Companion”? Was Adam a companion, or Lady bionic whateverhernamewas, if she only appeared once? RTD named whoever he liked a “companion” without applying what had previously appeared to be the logic of the situation.

    Anyway, Kate Stewart said “70s or 80s depending on the dating protocol”. William Hartnell’s doctor had only one heart. There have always been discontinuities, and the showrunner of the time likes to entertain those who like to watch the show, and screw with those who like to speculate about it, discuss continuity, and debate these things. I have decided I have to roll with that.

  2. A bigger discontinuity: the billie piper megabomb was going to destroy time lords and daleks, whereas RTD said that the Time War was locked in a separate time warp or loop or something.

    But don’t you love the idea of a sentient weapon with a conscience?

  3. Pingback: Goodbye, My Doctor | Richard's Weekly Journal

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