Last night, a minisode featuring one of my favorite Doctors, Paul McGann, was uploaded to the BBC YouTube channel. It was a time for joy, tears of happiness, and much excitement, especially for the classic ‘Doctor Who’ fans like myself.
The minisode also revealed to us who the John Hurt Doctor is — a warrior persona the Doctor forced himself to regenerate into in order to stop the Time War — and that the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctor, therefore have been misleadingly numbered for some time. They are actually, the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth!
Oh, except in the newest issue of the ‘Doctor Who Magazine’, Steven Moffat, executive producer, showrunner and head writer of the series has said:
“I’ve been really, really quite careful about the numbering of the Doctors. He’s very specific, the John Hurt Doctor, that he doesn’t take the name of the Doctor. He doesn’t call himself that. He’s the same Time Lord, the same being as the Doctors either side of him, but he’s the one who says, ‘I’m not the Doctor.’ So the Eleventh Doctor is still the Eleventh Doctor, the Tenth Doctor is still the Tenth…”
He also added:
“Technically, if you really counted it, the David Tennant Doctor is two Doctors, on account of the Meta-Crisis Doctor [in Journey’s End]… It’s not a matter of counting the regenerations, but of counting the faces of the Time Lord that calls himself the Doctor. There’s an anomaly Doctor slotted in somewhere, that’s all. In the script to The Day of the Doctor, Matt’s Doctor was called the Eleventh, and David’s was called the Tenth, so the numbering stays exactly the same – and we call Peter Capaldi the Twelfth Doctor.”
There are so many things to say about this, I don’t even know where to start. But let’s start with the less evident elephant in the room: No one counts the Meta Crisis Tenth Doctor as a Doctor. That’s just silly. I mean, seeing as the Meta Crisis Doctor came from a hand he no longer needed, it’s a 10.5 Doctor… at best.
Now, let’s move on to the second, more obvious, elephant in the room.
Here’s the thing: Regenerations, though never really that internally congruous in their canonicity, don’t work like that, and in the past 50 years of ‘Doctor Who’ it has never worked like that. Why do Time Lords only have 13 regenerations? Well, there are a number of theories, though the need to bring the Master back as an antagonist usually throws a wrench in this consistently.
Anyway, some fans assume it’s because there will be too much degradation by the thirteenth regeneration and that it is literally a biological limitation. It’s like making a copy of a copy of a copy, eventually, it’s not going to look as good as the original. What is more canonically consistent, however, is that it’s a Time Lord rule and sort of acts like a long game of Logan’s Run. “You get to be a Time Lord for so long, and then you have to turn yourself in for death, just like in that great 70s movie,” the Time Lords would say in the initiation ceremony. This seems to hold true, even with the Master constantly coming back, as he is usually given a new body (one with an extra regeneration) to explain away his increasingly impossible reappearances.
Basically, the Time Lords seem to give extra regenerations, and force Time Lords to regenerate willy nilly, so it seems to be up to them. It is possible, then, that the Doctor will live forever!
I’m not trying to say the 13 rule is hard and fast, but it is very deeply entrenched, and it usually involves the possession of another body or some act from the High Council if the rule is broken. (Though, the Master did try to steal the Doctor’s remaining regenerations for himself in the 1996 ‘Doctor Who’ film, but since he didn’t succeed, it’s unknown if this would have really worked.)
However, this doesn’t even address the most giant elephant in the room, which is does the Doctor, simply by changing his name, become a different set of regenerations?
I essentially feel that Moffat’s reasoning is that if the Doctor takes different names — The War Doctor in this case–, he’s not using that regeneration of the Doctor, so it doesn’t count in the 13. In that case, I hope you guys are ready for 12 regenerations of Steven Who!
My favorite Steven is the 6th Steven.
Source: Doctor Who TV