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Christopher December 8 2013 07:01 PM

A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor")
 
Something occurred to me this morning. Within the past couple of weeks, we've learned the details of two of the Doctor's regenerations: from the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) into the War Doctor (John Hurt), and from the War Doctor into the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston). And yet both of those regenerations were the result of "causes of death" that we've seen before. Eight was killed by a spaceship crash, just as Six's regeneration in "Time and the Rani" was triggered by the crash of the TARDIS. And the War Doctor regenerated due to old age just like the First Doctor; he even quoted Hartnell's line that his body was "wearing a bit thin."

And the last regeneration we saw before that, David Tennant into Matt Smith, was due to radiation poisoning -- the same thing that "killed" the Third Doctor in "Planet of the Spiders." Which means that every regeneration we've seen in the past several years has been due to a cause we've seen before. He hasn't had an "original" cause of death since "The Parting of the Ways." (And even that, his body being devastated by time vortex energy, could arguably be lumped into the radiation-damage category.) Or at least since "The Stolen Earth," which should probably be counted as at least a partial regeneration (though there's disagreement over how full a regeneration it was and whether it counts against the total). Although that was a case of the Doctor being shot, which was also part of the cause of the Seventh Doctor's regeneration (that was arguably due more to botched surgery, but I think that would fall under "complications" from the gunshot wounds).

So here are the Doctor's mechanisms of regeneration to date:

Old age/wearing thin: First Doctor, War Doctor
Enforced regeneration: Second
Radiation/energy overdose: Third, Ninth, Tenth
Fall from a height: Fourth
Poisoning: Fifth
Ship crash: Sixth, Eighth
Gunfire or subsequent complications: Seventh, Metacrisis Tenth (oh yes, and Fake Eleventh)

(And yes, there's a big difference between a Dalek blaster and a semiautomatic rifle -- but technically a Dalek blaster is an intense dose of radiation, so either way it's gonna fall into an existing category.)

So out of the twelve (or eleven and a half?) regenerations we've seen, the causes arguably fall into only about seven categories -- which are the causes of the first seven regenerations. There hasn't been a new category added since 1996, just variations on the previous ones.

Which leads me to wonder how Matt Smith will regenerate in the upcoming Christmas special. Maybe he's due for another fall from a tall structure. After being poisoned.

The Scrooge Doctor December 8 2013 07:17 PM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
Quote:

Christopher wrote: (Post 8990068)
Which leads me to wonder how Matt Smith will regenerate in the upcoming Christmas special. Maybe he's due for another fall from a tall structure. After being poisoned.

And shot.

And all of his enemies will scream "Die, Doctor, Die!"

Alidar Jarok December 8 2013 07:20 PM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
Well, if you want to use broad generalizations, aren't spaceship crashes really just falls from great heights? ;)

Iamnotspock December 8 2013 07:39 PM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
Or perhaps he'll be poisoned by one of Clara's soufflés.

DWF December 8 2013 07:43 PM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
How about divine intervention? ;)

lvsxy808 December 8 2013 07:57 PM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
Quote:

Christopher wrote: (Post 8990068)
Maybe he's due for another fall from a tall structure.

Well, it is supposed to be the Fall of the Eleventh after all.

.

Christopher December 8 2013 08:01 PM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
Quote:

Alidar Jarok wrote: (Post 8990122)
Well, if you want to use broad generalizations, aren't spaceship crashes really just falls from great heights? ;)

Confound your logic... ;)

Another thought occurs to me. The Doctor's first, third, and fifth regenerations were essentially due to natural causes. (His third was due to confronting the Metebelis spider queen, but it was the ambient radiation, rather than her actions, which caused his death.) His second was induced by the Time Lord Council, his fourth was caused by the Master (he fell because the Master tilted the radio telescope), and his sixth was precipitated by the Rani. His seventh was the result of botched surgery. That means that Grace Hollowell is the first non-Time Lord to "kill' the Doctor.

Hmm, and I suppose Cass might be considered the second, since her refusal to leave the crashing ship was the reason the Doctor was still aboard. Rose Tyler would be the third, since it was her opening of the TARDIS core (abetted by Mickey and Jackie) that led to the Doctor's vortex-energy overdose. The Dalek in "The Stolen Earth" was the only one of its race that ever managed to trigger a regeneration, but it was only half a regeneration, perhaps.

I suppose that Joshua Naismith and the Master would be the ones legally culpable for the Doctor's fatal radiation overdose in "The End of Time," since it was Naismith who built and used the machine and the Master who left it running and building to critical. (Wilf can't be blamed here, since he was a victim of the others' machinations as well.) So the Master got to kill the Doctor twice.

It's interesting how few of the Doctor's regenerations have been the result of direct, intentional malice. I'd say that only the Time Lord Council, the Master in "Logopolis," and the Dalek in "The Stolen Earth" intentionally brought about his regeneration. All the others were either accidents or natural causes, even if they were the unintentional result of malice ("Time and the Rani," "The End of Time"). Heck, even in "Logopolis," the Master's primary goal was to redirect the telescope as part of his universe-conquest plan; the Doctor's fall was just a welcome side effect. And since the regeneration limit hadn't yet been established as of "The War Games," that wasn't treated as a malicious act, but simply a sort of disguise, and there was certainly no intention to kill him altogether. So we've pretty much never seen the Doctor regenerate as a direct result of someone's deliberate effort to murder him. In both times when we thought we were seeing that -- "The Stolen Earth" and "The Impossible Astronaut" -- the Doctor managed to get out of regenerating.

Alidar Jarok December 8 2013 08:38 PM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
Well, if you believe in Season 6B, the Time Lords didn't use up a regeneration changing his appearance (obviously, that wasn't the intent of the scene, but it makes their actions seem less cruel).

Christopher December 8 2013 08:56 PM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
I don't see how that follows. My understanding of the Season 6B theory is that yes, they did regenerate Troughton into Pertwee, but only after sending him on missions including "The Two Doctors."

Mr Awe December 8 2013 08:58 PM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
Quote:

Christopher wrote: (Post 8990068)
Which leads me to wonder how Matt Smith will regenerate in the upcoming Christmas special. Maybe he's due for another fall from a tall structure. After being poisoned.

According to Moffat at the 50th celebration, Smith was being suspended during the regeneration scene. So, possibly a fall.

Mr Awe

Christopher December 8 2013 09:15 PM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
^Or a hanging. That'd be a new one.

Alidar Jarok December 8 2013 10:02 PM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
Quote:

Christopher wrote: (Post 8990485)
I don't see how that follows. My understanding of the Season 6B theory is that yes, they did regenerate Troughton into Pertwee, but only after sending him on missions including "The Two Doctors."

OK, you might be right. Time Lords are assholes ;)

DWF December 8 2013 10:27 PM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
After seeing the leaked plot of the Christmas special all I'm going to say is that the regeneration follows this part of Ozzy Osbourne's No More Tears.

Quote:

The light in the window is a crack in the sky
A stairway to darkness in the blink of an eye
A levee of tears to learn she'll never be coming back
The man in the dark will bring another attack.

RJDonner&Blitzen December 8 2013 11:15 PM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
It seems to me that there are four causes so far:

Old Age
Enforced Regeneration
Trauma
Poison

The interesting one is poison. Obviously, regeneration must purge the body of the poison, otherwise he'd keep dying until he ran out of regenerations. So, if he were to die of a fatal, communicable, disease, the same would likely occur. Or would the new body simply be immune to the poison or disease? This could lead to an interesting situation where the Doctor contracts a disease, regenerates, and is subsequently a source of antibodies.

Another interesting scenario would be if he died of cancer (can Time Lords have cancer?). How would the regeneration effect the cancer cells? All sorts of possibilities present themselves here, the most obvious being a sort of evil twin, a personification of the cancer.

Suppose he died of decapitation or a severe head injury? This is a specific case of trauma, but one still has to wonder how it would effect the next regeneration. It would depend upon the specifics of the regeneration process, of course, but it's possible that the next Doctor could be retarded or at least amnesiac.

This is an interesting train of thought.

Christopher December 9 2013 12:59 AM

Re: A thought on regenerations (spoilers for "Night/Day of the Doctor"
 
Quote:

RJDonner&Blitzen wrote: (Post 8991277)
It seems to me that there are four causes so far:

Old Age
Enforced Regeneration
Trauma
Poison

Wouldn't radiation/energy damage count as a fifth cause? It's a distinct physical process from chemical/biological poisoning.


Quote:

The interesting one is poison. Obviously, regeneration must purge the body of the poison, otherwise he'd keep dying until he ran out of regenerations. So, if he were to die of a fatal, communicable, disease, the same would likely occur. Or would the new body simply be immune to the poison or disease? This could lead to an interesting situation where the Doctor contracts a disease, regenerates, and is subsequently a source of antibodies.
Regeneration is the rapid replacement of every cell in the body, so the metabolism must go into extraordinarily high gear. That's probably enough to metabolize a toxin or burn out an infectious agent. Not sure that makes sense for something like heavy metal poisoning, though; regeneration would have to function somewhat like chelation.

But we know that regeneration involves the release of energy from within the body, and that release is often quite intense. That might be sufficient to burn out any toxins or infections.


Quote:

Another interesting scenario would be if he died of cancer (can Time Lords have cancer?). How would the regeneration effect the cancer cells? All sorts of possibilities present themselves here, the most obvious being a sort of evil twin, a personification of the cancer.
Interesting. Cancer is cell regeneration run amuck. Indeed, Time Lord regeneration has a lot in common with cancer -- the cell replication is rapid and effectively unstoppable. But in that case, I'd assume there must be robust error-checking mechanisms in place to regulate the replication and resist malfunctions or runaways, or else cancer would be hard to avoid.


Quote:

Suppose he died of decapitation or a severe head injury? This is a specific case of trauma, but one still has to wonder how it would effect the next regeneration. It would depend upon the specifics of the regeneration process, of course, but it's possible that the next Doctor could be retarded or at least amnesiac.
I think decapitation would be instantaneous enough to prevent regeneration. After all, regeneration is not resurrection. It's not guaranteed to happen no matter what. It's analogous to emergency surgery, say: it can save your life if there's time to get you stabilized, but if you're killed instantly, you're out of luck. That's why, in "The Impossible Astronaut," the Doctor (apparently) died when he was shot during the regeneration. The second shot killed him decisively and interrupted the process. And we know that in the '96 movie, the anaesthetic almost prevented regeneration from starting. In "The Night of the Doctor," the Doctor actually was killed instantly on impact and needed the Sisterhood's potion to revive him long enough to allow regeneration to occur. (In "The Stolen Earth," the shot from the Dalek was only a glancing blow. A dead-on hit would've killed him instantly, with no hope of regeneration.)

Severe head injury is another matter. I think his brain would regenerate fully, but he might lose a lot of his memories and knowledge.


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