The past week has been a wild time for Doctor Who fans in Great Britain.  Following a week of frenzied publicity and rumors, a record breaking number of viewers tuned in for the season finale on Saturday night.  The highly anticipated episode, Journey’s End, was the end of a two parter that is reported to be both exciting and shocking.  The unofficial numbers ranked this episode as one of the highest rated ever on the BBC Saturday nights.  Drawing in over 9 million viewers, it’s estimated that this episode attracted 45.9% of the total British television audience.  That means that nearly half of the people watching television on Saturday, were watching the season finale of Doctor Who.  Further figures indicate that after the episode ended, BBC 1 lost 5 million viewers  These impressive numbers will hopefully help ensure the series continued production for quite some time. 

David Tennant and possible replacement, Robert Carlyle

     The question is will star David Tennant be along for the ride?  Rumors are also running rampant that David Tennant intends to retire from the role of the Doctor and that the BBC has already approached Trainspotting star Robert Carlyle as a possible replacement.  Nothing has been confirmed as Tennant continues to remain vague on whether he will return to the role of The Doctor beyond 2009.  But the controversy raises an interesting question. How many times can the role be recast?  How many times can the Doctor be regenerated?

 Ready, Set…Regenerate!

      Gallifreyan Time Lords, such as Doctor Who, can regenerate when they become old or are facing death.  This plot device was inserted into the Doctor Who series back in 1966 when the actor who played first Doctor, William Hartnell, began facing health problems of his own.  It has been used nine times now to recast the role and invigorate the series.  In the beginning it was referred to as “renewal”  It wasn’t until the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, transformed into the fourth, Tom Baker, that it was called regeneration. It was explained to fans, via the show, that the process of regeneration changed not only the Doctor’s physical form but his personality as well.  But there are limits to this Time Lord ability.    According to the Doctor, a Time Lord can only regenerate thirteen times.  After that, he is mortal and subject to the same limitations of a human.  He will grow old and he will eventually die. 

Unlucky Thirteen…
There have been instances of Time Lords cheating this unlucky 13 rule though.  The Master, the Doctor’s nemesis, has regenerated himself numerous times.  Over the course of the series, he has possessed the bodies of other species as well as having been granted further regenerations by the High council of the Time Lords in exchange for his help.  The last time being during the infamous Time War between the Daleks and the Time Lords. 

Ninth Doctor regenerating

Turn and Face the Strange Changes… 
So the question remains, how many times can the role of Doctor Who be recast?  I am confident that when faced with the fourteenth Doctor, the writers will come up with an inventive way to circumnavigate this rule.  In the meantime, I hope that the series will continue with the tenth and current Doctor Who, David Tennant, for awhile longer.  I was uncertain about his ability to capture the magic and the wonder of Doctor Who when he was originally cast but his performance has swayed me.  He is a truly wonderful Doctor Who and I hope he will remain in the role for several more seasons at least.  But if not, there’s always regeneration. 

3 thoughts on “Doctor…who?

  1. Profile photo of BuffyGroupieBuffyGroupie

    I thought it was only 12 times, but I guess I need to read up a little on my Doctor Who lore. I did know that the Master was past that he regenerated again. But I just figure when you’re evil, you can do all sorts of stuff!

    I love David Tennant, though, and I hope he lasts a little longer. But for me, as long as they keep making DW, I’ll keep watching, no matter how may regenerations it takes.

  2. amber

    They’ve also added David Morrissey to the list o’ names that could be the next Doctor, which I think is interesting since he and David Tennant were in Blackpool together. He is in the Christmas Special this year, though with the odd “Special” season for 2009 it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

  3. Profile photo of RindaRinda Post author

    First off, thanks for the comments! And to BuffyGroupie…it is and it isn’t 12 times. Officially, it would be his twelth regeneration and thirteenth life. After which, he should grow old and/or die. But again, I’m sure they’ll find a loophole for that when the need arises! And you’re absolutely right, as long as the series continues, I’ll be happy.
    Amber…I hadn’t read anything about David Morrissey but he would be an interesting choice. He has a very unique look and attitude that might meld well with the Doctor. And as far as the Christmas special, you’re right as well. It doesn’t mean anything with Doctor Who. Freema Agyeman was cast in a small part in the Army of Ghosts episode only to be brought back as one of the Doctor’s Companions the following season. I’m open to other actors filling the Doctor’s shoes. I just hope they pick wisely! :)

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