The creation of the concept of regeneration was arguably the most important development in the history of Doctor Who. Whilst the shows premise of a man travelling through time and space obviously gave it a virtually limitless potential in the different types of stories it could produce. It was still nevertheless regeneration that has ultimately allowed the show to endure for over 50 years as it has allowed so many different writers and actors to completely reinterpret both the character of the Doctor and the series itself over the decades.
In this article I am going to explore how I feel regeneration should always be tackled in Doctor Who. A lot of Who fans have different opinions on this. Some have a very relaxed view of regeneration believing that the Doctor can be anyone, whilst others have very strong opinions in some cases believing that the Doctor should be anyone whilst others believe that the Doctor should be a very specific type of person.
I as you will see fall into the latter type of fan and I will explain why in this article. I would really like to hear what other fans think about this however particularly from many of my regular followers.
The Consistency of Regeneration
Now this might sound like an odd thing to say that I want regeneration to be consistent considering regeneration by its very nature is about the character of the Doctor changing but hear me out on this.
I think that regeneration should be about both changing the Doctor and at the same time making sure he stays the same in other ways.
After all that is the point of regeneration as well that even though our favourite character has changed he is still the same man. That is what I think causes people to continue watching even after their Doctor, which ever Doctor that is leaves.
The similarities between all of the Doctors however in my opinion have to be subtle yet strong at the same time.
In my opinion you can not make the Doctor absolutely anyone and in actual fact I think that the majority of Who fans would agree with me on this whether they know it or not.
Put it this way if you were to cast Arnold Schwarzenegger as the 13th Doctor who carried machine guns with him everywhere he went, shot bad guys as a first resort, made quips about it, shagged every woman he came across and told us his real name was Tony.
Would we still think of him as the Doctor?
No of course not it would seem ridiculous and jarring too. However if the Doctor can be absolutely anyone then why not have Arnie as the 13th Doctor?
Simple because most people whether they know it or not also have a certain idea about what they think the Doctor should be.
Of course I am not saying that this means everyone has the same idea about what the Doctor should be as me. Maybe your ideas are more flexible, but to me the following is what the Doctor should always be regardless of whether or not he is old or young.
To me the Doctor should always be a more cerebral hero. He shouldn’t be averse to using a gun or a weapon if he has to, but the Doctor is a hero who prefers to find a peaceful solution first. The Doctor is also someone who in my opinion should enjoy hi life of travelling. That’s part of the appeal of the character that he is in many ways a rebel who just does what he wants and lives the life he likes. We can see this run though out all of the Doctors as they all resent having to do things they don’t want to. I also think that the Doctor should have an air of mystery about him. It doesn’t have to be his defining trait, but he does have to remain mysterious in some way and the proof of that is the fact that after 52 years we still don’t know the good Doctors name or much about his past either.
I also feel that physically the Doctor should look somewhat odd. His costume should be a mix mash of different era’s preferably from both the Victorian and Edwardian era’s as to me those are probably the periods he seems to like. He should also have long or at the very least big hair as I think this reflects the bohemian nature of the character. At the same time I don’t think that the Doctor should have a beard or mustache. The Doctor to me is someone who cares very much about his appearance.
When you look at all of the Doctors they all have those aspects. The only one who doesn’t is the War Doctor but that’s because he was meant to stand out from the others. He had taken a bloody magic potion designed to make him not the Doctor hence why he did non Doctory things like wielding a gun, had a more miserable, pessimistic attitude to life and even did not look like the Doctor. He dressed in modern day clothing, and had a scruffy unkempt appearance that he clearly didn’t care about. 9 similarly in terms of his appearance looked somewhat out of place but that was because he was the Doctor after the time war who still wasn’t quite himself.
Other than those two exceptions however the Doctor always follows that pattern both mentally and physically that I just described which I feel was really laid down by William Hartnell the first Doctor.
I feel that certain other Time Lords have this same consistency to their characters. The Master I personally feel should always be a more manipulative character. He enjoys getting under people’s skin, twisting their minds, making them trust him. He also craves absolute power, and generally tries to remain calm, and has a suave, charming demeanour, yet when provoked can lose his cool. To me this is what the Masters character should always be at his core.
Even physically the Master I think in contrast to the Doctor should dress in black clothes, have short hair and a beard and mustache. Having said that though I think that there is more flexibility in regards to the Masters appearance than there is to the Doctors due to the fact that the Master is known to steal other people’s bodies rather than simply regenerate into a new incarnation. That’s also why I have no objection to a female Master as long as it was a case of the Master stealing someone’s body like he did to Bruce and as long as she was written in character with the Master which sadly as we all know I feel the first female Master was not in any way.
Borusa another time lord meanwhile I feel should always have a certain pompous, arrogant quality to him and should look a little bit older and more dignified too. You couldn’t cast say Ross Kemp who’s known for playing working class characters as Borusa with his cockney accent. He would seem out of place.
Similarly Romana I feel always has to be a bit more refined and posh. Again would you cast say an actress like Michelle Rodriguez who is known for playing more working class, angry, violent characters as the more posh, cerebral Romana. I also think physically that Romana should be more fine featured too.
As you can see for me regeneration has to be treated very delicately. It has to be subtle it can’t just be lets get someone who is completely different, there has to be a very particular type of actor for each time lord. Of course each actor has to make each incarnation of a time lord or time lady their own, but in my opinion they can’t go too far in changing them its as simple as that.
It is for this reason that I am not a fan of time lords changing gender when they regenerate as to me it is just too big a change. A female Doctor would look out of place. You would have 13 men and then one woman stuck on at the end. I am sorry it wouldn’t look right it would look odd. Don’t believe me look below
See what I mean its just odd and there are plenty of men, white men that I would say the same about.
Of course I am sure that several people will be quick to call me a sexist for saying this and someone who is trying to limit the show. Doctor Who is all about change so any change is good right?
Except that’s not true in either cases. First of all I have no problem with female heroes and quite frankly I am sick of saying that. It should be obvious to anyone who follows my blog that I have no problem with female heroes considering the fact that the series I have arguably written most extensively about after Doctor Who are ones starring women such as Xena the Warrior Princess.
So tell me why is it I apparently just have a problem with female heroes when it comes to a female Doctor, but I don’t when it comes to Xena or Buffy? Could it be because my problem with a female Doctor has not got anything to do with sexism and is just because I feel a female Doctor looks out of place and destroys the consistency of the character of the Doctor.
Its one thing to have Hartnell change into someone like McCoy another weird guy with a similar look, but to have Hartnell change into say Jennifer Anniston is just a step too far. Again look below and tell me that one isn’t a bigger stretch for the viewers to believe than the other?
It annoys me that the question of am I a sexist or not for saying even gets brought up in this debate. The debate should centre entirely on whether or not it is a good creative decision.
I blame Paul Cornell an author of several Doctor Who stories for this type of thinking that anyone who doesn’t want a female Doctor is a sexist. Cornell has often claimed that the Doctor not only can be a woman, but should be a woman and expressed anger that Peter Capaldi had been cast instead of a woman.
The thing is that I have never seen Paul Cornell ever give a single reason as to why the Doctor should be a woman. Its always instead just attacking the people who don’t want one which leads me to believe that his reasons for wanting one are non existent.
Look at this quote from Cornell.
“The absolute worst extreme of that trait is the sort of fan that thinks there shouldn’t be a female Doctor. They’re sure they’re good people, so there must, their reasoning goes, be a good reason why they feel that way. They’re not bigots, after all. They can’t be. So they find some very awkward ‘reason’ that can just about be made to sound okay. But it must be okay. Because they’re good people.
And they are good people. It’s just that good people sometimes express bigoted thoughts. I had a fanzine article published about why the Doctor should always be ‘a fair-skinned being’. I wasn’t a villain then, I was just infected by bigotry. Because we all are. It took many years, but I finally realised I didn’t have a good reason to think that. (I also needed to realise that admitting I didn’t have a good reason didn’t mean I was suddenly a horrible person, a fear that, I think, lies behind a lot of entrenched fan opinion about this sort of thing.) I was being a bigot when I said it, but I probably said something entirely sincere against bigotry a few minutes later. That’s how the vast majority of people are. These days the consensus is that it’s not okay to have any sort of reason why there shouldn’t be a Doctor Of Colour. That’s only become the case in the last two or three years. Though everyone is unconsciously pushing that date further and further back, to the point where soon nobody could ever have believed something as terrible as that. In a few years, it’ll be the same with the possibility of a female Doctor.”
I find this quote from Cornell very objectionable as to me Cornell is essentially dismissing the notion that anybody could have a problem with a female Doctor that wasn’t because they were a sexist.
Its arrogant of him to say that and proof that he doesn’t want to actually try and defend his position. He says that the Doctor can be anyone and therefore can and should be a woman. I say purely from a creative point of view that no he can’t, that regeneration for both the Doctor and other time lords has to be treated very delicately hence why there are very few men I would cast as the Doctor.
Rather than try and say why he thinks that isn’t the case and back it up with aspects of the Doctors character and the show that would support his claim, Paul Cornell would just dismiss my opinions as being a result of conservatism and that’s that. Its literally like he just sticks his fingers in his ears and shouts “YOU’RE A SEXIST SHUT UP YOU’RE A SEXIST SHUT UP” the second he hears that someone doesn’t want a female Doctor.
Funny how this type of conservatism Paul says I need to fight against, where I apparently can’t stand to see a woman in a strong role doesn’t affect me when I watch Xena or write 10 thousand word articles on this blog about characters from Xena? Could it be that its not got anything to do with that Paul and I might just actually think that a female Doctor looks out of place and to be honest silly.
I mean imagine if at the end of The End of Time David Tennant rather than change into Matt Smith had morphed into Miranda Hart. Is anyone really gonna tell me that that wouldn’t have looked more daft. Similarly if he had morphed into Joanna Lumley in front of Clara you don’t think that would have looked more out of place?
Of course I don’t mean to sidetrack this into yet another female Doctor debate, but I feel it is relevant to mention it here as I think whilst there are many reasons a female Doctor wouldn’t work, this is really the main one for me.
Of course I don’t mean to lump everyone who does want a female Doctor in with Paul as that would be doing what he does. Just because Paul I am convinced doesn’t have a genuine reason for wanting a female Doctor (as he has never supplied one beyond people like me are sexists and emotional conservatives for not wanting one) does not mean others wont have them and that they wont be for genuinely creative reasons either.
A regular follower of my blog ilanalydia is for a female Doctor and unlike Cornell has genuine reasons for wanting it to happen.
However I still am never going to be for a female Doctor and its not got anything to do with whether or not a woman can be a hero. Clearly I think they can I just simply do not think that the Doctor can be anyone and that’s that. A woman would always look out of place to me.
As for the other argument of Doctor Who is about change so therefore every change is good, something that Cornell has also regularly stated well I have this to say.
Doctor Who is about change, but not only can it never change too much, but its changes I feel have to be more natural. Like for instance take look at the change over from Hartnell to Troughton that came about because they needed to get rid of the ill Hartnell. Similarly making Pertwee into a more action based Doctor came about because the series was now set on earth and was adopting a more action based formula. Even in the revival making the Doctor younger and more romantic was needed to help the series win over new audiences.
Thus all of the major changes that have happened in the shows history have come about because the show has needed to do them to survive. However changing the Doctor too much like having the Doctor reveal his name, suddenly carry a gun everywhere he goes or turn into a woman are changes that I don’t think would ever need to happen. They are artificial changes like suddenly having the Doctor become tasteless and wear an awful costume or strangle his companion. Lets not forget these were changes in the Doctors character that did NOT benefit the show.
Also like I said even with all of the changes that have taken place in Doctor Who it still can’t change that much. After all the TARDIS is still a blue police box, UNIT are still the Doctors allies aren’t they, the Daleks are still his archenemies, the Cybemen, the Master, the Sontarans, the Ice Warriors are all still thorns in his side aren’t they?
Again look at Paul Cornell’s quotes about why Who must change all of the time.
“It still amazes me that there’s a kind of Doctor Who fan who like certainty above all things, who hate change, emotional conservatives whose first response to a development in Doctor Who that they like is to declare that there’s a precedent for it. Or worse, who can’t deal with any development in Doctor Who until it’s a few years old. They have, almost masochistically, opted to follow a show that changes all the time. (I suspect they’re represented in the show itself by the creature Light in ‘Ghost Light’.) To be a good writer, you have to smash things up. To make great Doctor Who, especially, you have to destroy something someone values with every step. ”
Okay Paul then tell me do you want the TARDIS to no longer be a police box? Do you want the Daleks to all become peaceful friendly creatures who love the Doctor? Do you want the Cybermen to be emotional, sensitive characters who cry at sad films? Do you want UNIT to become evil villains who want to destroy the world? If you say no then you are a conservative. These ideas after all are destroying something that someone values with every step.
By the way JNT did try and change the TARDIS’S exterior in the 1980’s from being a police box and the decision was met with disdain by everyone to the point where he had to stop right away. You can see in this interview here how pleased everyone including Peter Davison and Colin Baker themselves are that the TARDIS is remaining in the shape of a police box. I guess Peter Davison and Colin Baker are just emotional conservatives in Cornell’s eyes for not approving of JNT’s decision to bring about a major change to the show.
To me personally regeneration must be treated very delicately. Yes the Doctors should all be unique, but ultimately they all have to have certain qualities that link them together as the Doctor and the same applies for any other time lord character and whilst some people like Paul Cornell may say I am limiting the show with this view ultimately I think that the consistency from Doctor to Doctor as well as the differences are what has allowed the show to survive.
My Interpretation of Regeneration Vs Those Who Think The Doctor Can Be Anyone
I thought just for a bit of fun to give you an example of a time lord character who follows my interpretation of regeneration against one who follows the idea spouted by the likes of Cornell who think that the Doctor and indeed any time lord can be anyone. Hopefully this may give you an idea of why I feel that there has to be a certain pattern to the different incarnations of different time lord characters.
Now lets have a made up Time Lord character called The Rector to use as an example. The Rector in her first incarnation is played by Ingrid Oliver my fave, Her character is somewhat more light hearted than other time lords. She is easy going, fun loving and has a terrific sense of humour but nevertheless has a very strong moral centre and is incredibly brave as well.
The first incarnation of The Rector.
Okay now then lets cast her next 5 incarnations first using my take on regeneration and then using Cornells.
For the Rectors second incarnation you would need to get someone who was like Ingrid in some ways but different. Now as we have been over some physical features run throughout all time lords incarnations. In the Doctors case long hair, a shaven face, in the Masters short hair, darker features, thick facial hair, in Borusa’s a slightly older face etc.
So which physical features of The Rector would run from incarnation to incarnation? Well lets say it would be her dark hair, and the fact that Ingrid has a somewhat larger build. I am not saying that hair colour matters for all other time lords looks. The Doctor for instance’s changed as did his build, but however just as the Doctor’s hair was always big and his face always clean shaven then lets just say that The Rectors look is dark hair and a larger build. As for what aspects of her personality are retained well lets say it is her sense of humour and obviously her bravery and strong moral sense too.
So using this method lets try and get someone with those traits who is still different enough to Ingrid that they will seem like a totally different person in some ways.
The Second incarnation of The Rector
Katey Sagal’s incarnation of The Rector is a slightly older, more cynical version than Ingrid’s whose humour is more biting. She has an acid tongue and a much more serious demeanour, as well as a harder edge to her and even seems at times a bit cold compared to Ingrid’s warmer Rector, but she is still just as brave, and just as kind underneath.
The third incarnation of The Rector
This incarnation of the Rector played by Lucy Lawless is a lot more of a physical character than either of her two predecessors. She tends to solve her problems with brute force more often and is not above using weapons or lethal force. She is fond of making quips whenever she fights villains and has a more dry and sarcastic sense of humour compared to her two predecessors.
The Fourth incarnation of the Rector
This incarnation played by Eliza Dushku is a lot more openly aggressive than any of her three predecessors and has more of a tomboyish appearance and attitude, and has a more vulgar sense of humour.
The Fifth Incarnation of The Rector
This incarnation is slightly more ruthless and quieter on the surfacer. She is manipulative, scheming, determined but still nevertheless always does things for the greater good like her predecessors. Her sense of humour is wittier than many of her predecessors.
The Sixth Incarnation of The Rector
This incarnation of the Rector is somewhat more egotistical and conceited than her predecessors. She is boastful, arrogant and her sense of humour is often at others people’s expense. Still underneath she is still just as compassionate as her previous incarnations.
Paul Cornell’s Method
Now since Paul Cornell has said that the Doctor can be absolutely anybody and therefore all time lords can then lets apply that type of thinking to casting The Rectors later incarnations. Apparently if a time lord can be anybody regardless of gender, personality type then fine the Rectors following incarnations after her initial Ingrid Oliver incarnation go like this.
The Rectors second incarnation
A loud, verbose yet charismatic Scotsman.
The Rectors third incarnation
A soul diva with attitude, a self destructive streak and a taste in men who are no good for her.
The Rectors Fourth Incarnation
A perfect Australian gentleman who loves broadway shows.
The Rectors Fifth Incarnation
An old respectable dame who loves the theatre.
The Sixth Incarnation of The Rector
A skilled musician with a wild side and a taste for fancy clothes.
Now be honest here out of those two interpretations which one seems like a parody and which one seems closer to how we have always seen regeneration tackled in Doctor Who up until now. I am sure plenty of people will still disagree with me on this, but in all honesty I don’t think I can really make it clearer than that as to how I do not think that the Doctor or any time lord for that matter can be absolutely anybody when they regenerate. As far as I am concerned there has to be a certain level of consistency to all time lord characters, the Doctor most of all.
3 Gender Changes In The Style Of Missy
For the final part of this article I thought it would be quite fun to show you three more time lord gender changes done in the same style as Missy the female Master IE we cast a well known comedian in the role, rewrite the character to fit the type of character they normally play and give them an inappropriate love interest as a result of their gender change.
The Rani Becomes The Mani
The Mani is played by Matt Berry and is portrayed as the usual boisterous, woman obsessed lothario he normally plays. The Mani is in love with Clara and the second he first sees her his reaction is to try and shag her and he spends the rest of the episode trying to make love to her even asking the Doctor how he can be around her all the time without being a 24 hour tripod.
Susan Becomes SuMan
SuMan is played by David Mitchell and is portrayed as a down on his luck loser that is desperate to find the one. Ultimately SuMan is raped by Osgood whilst they are both on the TARDIS.
Romana Becomes RoMANa
RoMANa is played by Richard Ayoyade and is a geeky, weird guy who eventually finds a kindred spirit in Osgood and the two fall in love.