I recently acquired the DVD of The End of Time (at last), and after watching it I realised there are some details about the tenth Doctor’s regeneration that aren’t in keeping with the standard routine that we’ve been used to. The differences do not bother me at all and I have a theory on why this regeneration is slightly different. Firstly, think back to the fourth and sixth Doctors’ deaths. The fourth fell from around 100ft from a TV tower, while the sixth banged his head on the TARDIS console. In The End of Time, the Doctor jumped from a ship from well over 100ft, through a glass ceiling and smacked onto a hard floor. Of course, he goes on to jump into save Wilf, absorbing the radiation that caused his death. But what if he knew he was dying because of the fall and that played a part in his decision to sacrifice himself. Even if he hadn’t jumped and fallen, he would probably still have saved Wilf, but when you look back at past deaths, it does seem unlikely the Doctor could’ve avoided regeneration after such a fall.
Sticking with that theory closely and combining it with the next, I think that the Doctor’s cause of death impacts a lot on how he regenerates. If you take the tenth Doctor’s regeneration for example, say he did need to regenerate after the fall and then go onto absorb all of that radiation, that would be enough to destroy most life forms completely. So does that make the process of regeneration more extreme. It was the first time the process had done damage to the TARDIS and I think it’s a valid theory because if you look back, then the Doctor probably hasn’t had a more physically impactful death. That tied along with the tenth Doctor’s reluctance to change form (after all, in terms of the show’s narrative, the Doctor spent the least time in that form) caused such a huge eruption of regeneration energy. You could argue the ninth Doctor’s death would’ve caused more destruction but he wasn’t particularly upset about changing. He also encountered a fatal experience once, if you understand what I mean. Continue to go along with the fall killing the tenth Doctor, Eccleston’s incarnation only absorbed energy from the time vortex, probably with similar affects as the radiation that Tennant absorbed. Therefore if you add in the the tenth Doctor’s initial fall and then his emotion and reluctance to regenerate, it makes sense that the more damage done, the more impactful the regeneration process is. If you want to look at the flip side, the Matt Smith into Peter Capaldi change was over in a flash, a no frills regeneration. Although there was a “reset”, where the eleventh Doctor went back to looking his younger self, rather than the old man who had been guarding Christmas for hundreds of years, the actual process itself was very quick. And if you consider that incarnation simply needed to regenerate because of old age and natural causes, it again makes sense that the harm done to the body has consequences when it comes to changing. You can even look further back than the modern era. In the TV movie, the seventh Doctor suffered quite a traumatic death it’s fair to say. The subsequent regeneration was then relatively dramatic as the eight Doctor looked to have some sort of electricity running through him. We didn’t even see the sixth Doctor regenerate properly (the BBC dismissed Colin Baker before filming his regeneration scene) so we can gather it was a low key process in keeping with his tiny fall, where he bumped his head on the TARDIS console. You can go even further back, although as the special effects aren’t as good, it’s hard to determine any true clear pattern. The second Doctor’s regeneration was quite a dramatic change after he was forced into it by the Time Lords. I’d imagine with the power at the Time Lords disposal that would certainly hurt, but that’s not as clear cut as some of the more recent ones. Certainly though, in the last half a dozen changes there’s been an obvious link between cause of death and the impact on the body and the extremity of the regeneration process. It will be interesting to see if Steven Moffat or perhaps Chris Chibnall notices and continues with this trend when the sad day comes when Peter Capaldi eventually regenerates.
My last theory is one where I won’t talk about every Doctor, although it does fit in with each incarnation. Although the Doctor may not be able to control what he looks like, (well he’s still never managed to get ginger hair) he does have a lot of control over what sort of man he becomes. Picking out a few Doctors just to prove this, the first Doctor was often perceived to be quite an uptight and grumpy man, and his companions rarely held back in letting him know this. The second Doctor though was then more bumbly and didn’t care if he didn’t have full control. He was more of a joker and it seems as though this could have been to compensate for his previous incarnation’s more conservative persona. The sixth Doctor was by far the most arrogant and pompous incarnation, and I think by the time we met the seventh Doctor, he’d realised he’d gone a bit too far. He’d even throttled his companion in his last body. So the seventh Doctor was another joker, somebody who was a lot more respectful, less likely to boss people around and was a lot more lovable. Finally, the tenth Doctor’s “I don’t want to go” final line, led to perhaps the most similar Doctor proceeding his last incarnation. The eleventh Doctor continued to be youthful, energetic and have an eye for the ladies. The tenth Doctor’s previously mentioned desire to remain himself shone through in his next incarnation more than ever as if he’d deliberately maintained a lot of his previous personality to enjoy a similar life. Going through all of the Doctors would take too long, but have a quick think about it, and there are clear reasons as to why each Doctor was the man that he was. The Doctor has never admitted he has control over this, he might not even know, but I think that there are noticeable clear signs that he can affect what sort of man he changes into.