As a fan of Doctor Who since the early eighties, I’ve seen a lot of changes, both in the program (or programme, for those of a more continental bent) and in the fan base.  The upcoming 50th anniversary show has brought with it not only the news of a new Doctor on the horizon, but the possibility of a missing incarnation as well.  (I am aware of all the theories about John Hurt’s character, but am avoiding specifics in the interests of not repeating wild speculations by fellow Whovians as well as any possible spoilers.). These revelations mean that the Doctor’s next incarnation nay technically be #13, traditionally the end of a Time Lord’s regeneration cycle.  Given the series durability, it seems quite likely that the show will continue beyond Capaldi’s Doctor (whatever his number is) and will require an explanation of this changed bylaw.  This, in turn, begs a query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is fully prepared for internet wags to start using the regeneration threshold issue as “proof” of shark-jump, asking: Will you be bothered when they have to retcon/end-run the twelve regenerations guideline?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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27 Comments

  1. UltraMatt
    November 1, 2013 at 11:46 am — Reply

    Not really no. It was a fairly silly restriction and really was (from what I’ve read though I may be wrong) only meant to be important to one adventure plot wise (The Deadly Assassin). If anything, it would have been a foregone conclusion that at some point it would have to be retconned, at least to keep the series going on.

  2. Frank
    November 1, 2013 at 12:22 pm — Reply

    I can think of two canon ways how to extend regenerations:
    The Time Lords offered the Master a new set of regenerations in the ‘Five Doctors.’
    In ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’, River Song gives her regenerations to the Doctor.

    But to answer the question. No, as long as they come up with a plausible explanation.

  3. November 1, 2013 at 12:31 pm — Reply

    Not really. Ultimately if there are more interesting stories to be told, they will find a way to make it work.

  4. November 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm — Reply

    Not if they work around it in convincing and interesting way. That said, im quite casual Dr Who fan and dont know every single detail.

    • November 1, 2013 at 7:37 pm — Reply

      Check out my bit a little lower.

  5. mrmonkey
    November 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm — Reply

    Ultimately, if the writing is well done, it won’t matter. I’ve greatly enjoyed the modern run and it has spurred me into consuming as much classic who as I can get my hands on. If I don’t like where they go, I’ll stop watching.

  6. November 1, 2013 at 2:31 pm — Reply

    Not really. If someone like The Master can earn, steal and take over more lives than the average Time Lord, I’m sure The Doctor can find some way to survive that makes sense to the character. Maybe the Council granted him extra regens as an enticement to join in the Time War, or maybe when River used her remainin regens to cure the Doctor it gave him a few extra. There are plenty of possible ideas for how to stretch out his number of lives already in the series, and there are countless more sitting in the heads of the writers (and, of course, in the fans).

    • November 9, 2013 at 6:55 pm — Reply

      “River … gave him a few extras” brings up an idea – what if he never knowshow many, or if his next regen is his last?

  7. Kirby
    November 1, 2013 at 2:40 pm — Reply

    Not really as others have already said, there’s plenty of write arounds. So unless the writing is just insulting, I don’t really have a problem with this.

  8. Arbor Day
    November 1, 2013 at 2:41 pm — Reply

    No, I won’t feel particularly bothered. But on the other hand, I prefer shows to have some sense of finality. Having a “the Last Doctor” would’ve made for a great concluding arc.

  9. November 1, 2013 at 2:52 pm — Reply

    no, not really, If I am not mistaken the newest “series” has not actually made a fuss about how many regenerations The Doctor has, only that he wasted some of his regeneration power when he saved River. The only thing that may upset me is if the writers just glance past it and not address it at all. I feel that for the older fans (of which I am not one) it needs to be addressed at least somewhat.

  10. LeeGold
    November 1, 2013 at 3:18 pm — Reply

    I would be if not for the fact that “Dr. Who” is British for “deus ex machina”.

  11. November 1, 2013 at 7:36 pm — Reply

    A few points to ponder.
    1. 2nd Doctor: mentioned regarding Time Lords “The Time Lords are an immensely civilised race. We can control our own environment – we can live forever, barring accidents…”
    We can interpret this as the truth that they can be immortal through regenerations without limit.
    2. 4th Doctor : 12 regeneration “Rule” A plot point to bring back the Master after the Death of Roger Delgado, Unsure of which direction to go with him, they used this as a holding pattern.
    Is “12 Regenerations an irreversable fact or a suggestion by the Council of Time Lords?
    Adric wgile being from E-Space was also from an identical planet in the same spot as Gallifrey (Essentialy making hime a Time Lord because he was also of the Higher Cast) His reptilian descended people had their own regenerative healing powers.
    3. 5th Doctor: The Master was offered more lives (He was already on 14 at this time) if he helped save the Doctor, thereby lending credence to the line of thought that the 12 Regenerations is arbitrary. Rassilon was also described as being truly immortal (a secret he did not share with the Time Lords)
    5. 6th Doctor: In “Trial of a Time Lord” the Valyard was promised the rest of The Doctors’ regenerations since he was on his last.
    4. 7th Doctor: We know that there were 3 original Time Lords: Rassilon resting immortal, Omega trapped in a black hole and Theta Sigma. During the 7th Doctor’s time, it was eluded to the fact that he may be Theta sigma or somehow related. we see later under the 11th Doctor that RiverSong wrote “Hellow Sweetie” and something regarding Theta Sigma on the side of a mountain to get his attention.
    5. The Master: by the time of the 8th doctor, he is in at the very least his 15th life with Eric Roberts, then the 16th in Utopia until he regenerated into the 17th at the end of that episode. He chooses NOT to regenerate into his 18th form in” Last of the Time Lords” despite pleas from The Doctor to do so.
    6. Time Lords did look at regenerations as a fashion to an extent in “The Deadly Assassin” making it appear less costly to the Time Lord.
    7. 11th Doctor mentioned on The Sarah Jane Adventures that he could regenerate 507 times, (this may have been a false statement since we know the Doctor can be cheeky when he doesn’t want to tell the truth.)
    All together, there is more than enough evidence to comfortably state that the 12 regeneration rule is a fabrication an limited only by those in charge rather than Time Lord physiological fact.
    Lastly I am glad you said retcon/end-run. I have a problem with how retcon is sometimes used. I see a retcon as changing history to fit the storyline, such as Iron Munroe as the Superman placeholder in the All-Star Squadron. Filling in someones backstory is not necessarily a retcon in and of itself, otherwise everytime I told someone something I did in earlier days could be interpreted as a retcon rather than filling in gaps of my personal history.

  12. Bill the Ckir
    November 1, 2013 at 8:35 pm — Reply

    Not if they find a reasonable way around it or, alternately, ignore it completely and let the fan base speculate away… speaking of which:

    a: He’s the doctor and it’s a rule, possibly set up by the TimeLord Council (see below). Like he’s ever bothered obeying rules.

    b: Like he’s ever bothered obeying laws of Nature.

    c: They’ve either said or implied that the difference between a “Time Lord” and a Gallifreyan is that the Time Lords are exposed to the Time Vortex. He’s recently stated that no one has ever time traveled as much as he has. Perhaps all that exposure to the Vortex has ‘recharged’ his regeneration ability.

    D: As others have said, River shared her regenerations with him, apparently all of them. That leaves him with at least half of her 13 in addition to his remaining few.

    E: The timelords have proven able to force a regeneration, perhaps the limitation was an artificial one they put in place to prevent any one timelord becoming too powerful. Now that the Council is gone those limitations may be gone too.

    F: The Tardis loves him and will not let him die if she can help it. And she has some kind of bond with him and taps into the Time Vortex for her power source.

    G: I kind of like the idea of them ignoring the limitation in story. Maybe have the occasional oblique reference to it but ignore it and just drive the rules lawyer type Dr Who fans crazy.

  13. Shush
    November 1, 2013 at 9:37 pm — Reply

    Only if I perceive the writer’s reasoning as a slap in the face, flying counter to what we already know about Dr. Who. Slappy has laid out more than enough examples (most of them I did not know) for me to lay any concern I may have had aside.

  14. Ian
    November 1, 2013 at 10:22 pm — Reply

    Everybody seems to be accepting that the Doctor has regenerated each time he has changed appearances. I do not believe that that has explicitly been stated to be the case.Troughton’s Doctors change of appearance is not stated to be anything other than that. A change of appearance forced on him by the timelords. Why did the moment have to be ‘prepared for’ when Tom Baker’s doctor changed into an ex vet. Did that transformation use a regeneration?

  15. Daniel Langsdale
    November 2, 2013 at 9:33 am — Reply

    It depends on how they do it.

    If it is the “Star Trek” movie style where they hit a big “reset” button, and Capaldi is the William Hartnell Doctor, for whom none of the previous 50 years of episodes “happened,” then I think I will be very much bothered. (Hitting the reset button is what’s killed the Legion for me, and was the final nail for the DCU for me, too.) I really hope that “Time can be rewritten” doesn’t lead to starting over.

    Otherwise, I think I’ll be just fine. There are plenty of ways to do an “end run” that would be quite within the spirit of the show. As long as things keep moving forward for the Doctor & companions, I should be fine.

    -Dan’L

    • November 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm — Reply

      I very much hope that they don’t do something that stupid.

      • November 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm — Reply

        Speaking of which, is there any truth to the rumor of Rebooting the Major Spoilers Podcastwith Slappy as the lead and ignoring the fact that Skrull Brian ever left and leaving Matthew Peterson out completely?

  16. Oldcomicfan
    November 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm — Reply

    I haven’t seen Dr. Who since the 80s since it is either not available where I live or when it was, it viewed too late a night for me to stay awake to watch. That said, arguing over how many regenerations the doctor gets is a bit like arguing over how many toilets there are on the U.S.S. Enterprise and what color they are. Since it doesn’t really exist (the space ship not the aircraft carrier) what does it matter? The answer to both questions (how many lives the Doctor gets and how many toilets there are on the Enterprise) is the same: However many the script writers need there to be.

    • November 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm — Reply

      I think you misunderstand. The question isn’t “How many lives” but, how do the fans feel about a possible (though admittedly minor) change in premise.

      • Oldcomicfan
        November 3, 2013 at 8:51 am — Reply

        Given that the show was originally a throw-away program, and it has changed so often over the decades, it won’t bother me in the least. I was more bothered by having favorite doctors leave the show and them bringing in somebody new that I would be by having one or two many doctors than were mentioned as possible in one or two obscure episodes I never saw. And my argument stands: fans getting upset because they bring aboard a 13th doctor and it was once mentioned that there could only be 12 is exactly like arguing over how many toilets there are on the Enterprise. It’s pointless. BBC will make as many doctors as they need to keep the franchise going, and getting upset or ecstatic about that won’t change a thing.

  17. November 2, 2013 at 12:45 pm — Reply

    The toilets are Grey

  18. JoeM
    November 2, 2013 at 2:07 pm — Reply

    I’ll jump right in and say “Me too also!”. I guess I’ll be annoyed if it’s not addressed or done in a clumsy “dumb” way. (i.e. one that I don’t like) But I’m not to worried about that. I have enjoyed the recent writing immensely and have not been upset yet. So I suspect I will just enjoy the heck out of the upcoming special and continue to enjoy.

    Of course I am often accused of being uncritical. :D

  19. Luis Dantas
    November 3, 2013 at 7:14 am — Reply

    People have accepted the Daleks and the Master coming back from certain doom time and again.

    And the Doctor is no one if not the ultimate rule-breaker. Besides, there is no shortage of appropriate explanations and loopholes.

    I just don’t see how (besides disastrous writing) Doc earning new regenerations could be a problem.

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