The topic of regeneration has been on the minds of many a Doctor Who fan, especially since the reboot in 2005. We started with Nine and Christopher Eccleston and now, we’re at Twelve with Peter Capaldi.
Twelve. It doesn’t seem so horrible until we go back to the Classic Who era and remember that the Time Lords imposed a twelve regeneration limit on our beloved Time Lord. Twelve seems pretty scary now doesn’t it?
Well, Steven Moffat just added fuel to the fire of fear at the Ad-Lib event at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. When Frank Skinner, the host for the event, asked Moffat about the topic and if he acknowledged it, Moffat said, “Yes”.
So, what does that mean for Capaldi’s twelfth incarnation? In fact, what does it even mean for John Hurt’s Doctor who was introduced dramatically at the end of the episode “The Name of the Doctor”? Hurt is rumoured to be a lost regeneration between Eccleston and Paul McGann, who played the eighth incarnation in a one off made for TV movie, and who is set to possibly be the Doctor from the Time War.
It could be a big problem or it could be a big red herring. Former show-runner Russell T. Davies made quite a stir three years ago on The Sarah Jane Adventures when he wrote Eleven (played by Matt Smith) saying that he could regenerate up to 507 times or more.
The Sarah Jane Adventures is considered cannon but since Davies isn’t show-runner anymore, he has no say in the matter, Moffat does and he can stymie the show in it’s prime or reveal something we never saw coming.
Or have we seen it? Red herrings are Moffat’s specialty. So are teases and people jumping off of tall buildings and dying. But, he’s a fan of the show. Of course, he should have a plan to keep the gravy train rolling and I believe we’ve seen parts of the plan.
Let’s start with the episode “Let’s Kill Hitler” which aired in the second part of series six. Enter Melody Pond, aka River Song. She’s a child of the TARDIS and is thus able to regenerate. We saw her do it twice. She was born to kill the Doctor and she did in Hitler’s office but at the end of the episode, she gave him all of her remaining generations to save him because she loved him. So, that should at least make sixteen regenerations that the Doctor can go through.
Or there’s another theory (because that one is a little too obvious for Moffat). Everyone’s favorite show-runner also loves putting things into the script and making it go by so fast or putting it after something shocking that people tend to miss them. The end of “The Name Of the Doctor” is one such instance.
We watched him save Clara from his time stream and then Clara saw John Hurt and there was talking and then bam new Doctor. Wait, what was Eleven saying before we all screamed loudly at the TV? The Doctor is a name he chose. While his name can form armies and topple regimes, the Doctor actually tries to handle things in a diplomatic, non-violent manner. It’s why he chose the name.
Okay, fast forward a little bit, Clara’s down and John Hurt is talking. “What I did, I did without choice. In the name of peace and sanity.”
Eleven is quick to point out that what he did was not in the name of the Doctor. This clearly means something significant. Peter Capaldi may not be Twelve. He may not even be Thirteen. He may, in fact, be number twenty or fifty or even 507.
How? Well, we don’t know the Doctor’s true age, for one. He could be over two thousand years old. That is a lot of time to make poor choices and disown yourself. There could be more secrets out there, hidden in the cascades of Medusa and High Old Gallifreyan that we and the Doctor don’t know.
There is such a thing as acknowledging a fact and actually sticking to it. Moffat is about to change cannon as we know it so don’t be too frightened. We should take each new news snippet with a grain of salt until it’s confirmed because we can be here from now until Sunday discussing theories.
So, Wrappers, what do you think? Will Steven Moffat uphold the regeneration limit or will we get a witty loophole that only he can come up with?