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Doctor Who: The Tenth Regeneration
Wilfred: Still with us?
The Tenth Doctor: System’s dead. I absorbed it all. Whole thing’s kaput. Oh! Now it opens…yeah.
Wilfred: Well, there we are then! Safe and sound. Mind you, you’re in a hell of a state. You’ve got some battle scars there. [The Doctor runs his hands down his face, and his injuries vanish] But they’ve…your face! How did you do that??
The Tenth Doctor: It’s started.
Story (from “The End of Time (Parts 1 and 2)” and “The Eleventh Hour”):
After hearing the prophesy that his life will end after hearing a man knock four times, the Doctor goes on numerous trips through time and space to avoid his fate. Finally, Ood Sigma contacts the Doctor and convinces him to come to the Ood Sphere. Once there, Ood Sigma informs the Doctor of not only the Master’s reincarnation but a dark force threatening to wipe out all of existence (again).
The Doctor arrives at Earth in the present day to find that billionaire Joshua Naismith has acquired a devise called the Immortality Gate, and plans on using it to grant his daughter immortality. However, he cannot get it to work, and has kidnapped the Master to fix it. The Master’s reincarnation was incomplete however, and he has become unstable, brimming with strange telekinetic powers and requiring a constant supply of meat (even live humans).
The Master sabotages the Gate before the Doctor can stop him, and changes the function of it to overwrite every human’s DNA and mind with that of the Master’s, except Donna Noble due to her subdued but still imbued half Time-Lord nature (see “Journey’s End”), and her grandfather Wilfred (who the Doctor has protected).
However, the true nature of the Gate soon becomes apparent. In the last day of the Time War, the Lord President Rassilon (more on this later) and the High Council save two voted on sending the whole of Gallifrey into another time and place, and away from where the Eighth Doctor was about to use The Moment. To achieve this, they sent a signal through the time vortex into the mind of the Master when he was a child and staring into the schism (see “The Sound of Drums”). It was this signal that drove him mad. And now that the Master is using a Whitepoint Star Diamond with the Immortality Gate, the Time Lords can escape the Time War.
At first, the Master tries to take advantage of this opportunity by using the Gate to overwrite the Time Lords' biology as he did with the Humans, but Rassilon easily thwarts this attempt. The Doctor warns the Master that the Time Lords have to be sent back, and reveals that during the Time War, the Time Lords became insane with the evils they had committed. Indeed, now free of the war, they intend to evolve themselves to a higher plane of existence at the cost of the universe itself.
As the war-torn Gallifrey begins to appear in Earth’s orbit, the Doctor, with Wilfred’s gun, finds himself having to choose between severing one of the two points keeping the link open: the Master or Rassilon. He hesitates between shooting either, until he sees one of the dissenting High Council; a woman he recognizes. She nods to him, and the Doctor is inspired. He turns and shoots the Whitepoint Star Diamond, destroying the focus of the link. The Time Lords start being sent back into the Time War, and Rassilon prepares to kill the Doctor with his gauntlet before he vanishes. The Master, infuriated that his whole tormented life was orchestrated by the Time Lords’ plans, rushes at Rassilon, and the two fall into the Gate and back into the War to be killed.
The Doctor, astonished that he is still alive, suddenly hears four knocks from Wilfred, who is in a chamber sealed for the Immortality Gate’s radiation purge. The only way out is for someone to go into the adjacent chamber and release the door mechanism. Wilfred, pleads with the Doctor to not bother saving him, as he is an old man who has already lived his life. The Doctor is anguished at first with being confronted by this scenario, but knows he can not sacrifice Wilfred’s life for his own. He goes into the second chamber and releases Wilfred, just as the radiation purges and seeps into his body.
With the radiation released, the chamber door opens and Wilfred perceives the Doctor as being all right. The Doctor reveals that he is dying due to radiation poisoning, and leaves. While dying, the Doctor visits all his past companions to see how they are faring (but we only see a select few), even pausing to wish Rose Tyler a happy New Year in January 2005.
Staggering into the TARDIS, the Doctor engages in flight before tearfully admitting he doesn’t want to go. The regeneration commences explosively, shooting radiation and heat out of his body, devastating the TARDIS console room. The regeneration complete, the Doctor inspects himself cheerfully to see how he looks, and then remembers the ship is plummeting towards the Earth.
Crashing in a backyard pool in 1996, the Doctor climbs out of the dilapidated TARDIS and meets 10 year old Amy Pond. The Doctor demands to be fed, and Amy tries to feed him an assortment of food, which the Doctor in his confused state believes to all be poisonous. He soon discovers that Amy is haunted by a crack in her wall, which is a crack in space-time leading to an Atraxi prison. And coming from that crack is a message that “Prisoner Zero has escaped.”
After three years, David Tennant and the production team had taken the already successful Doctor Who, and built upon it. Ratings were consistently high, and every season head writer / executive producer Russell T Davies were shooting for bigger and better things in the program.
Under their wings, plot elements from the past series crept back in for a new audience including Davros (creator of the Daleks), the Sontarans, the Macra, and the Master. There was even an appearance of the Fifth Doctor in “Time Crash.” At this point, there was no question that not only was it a continuation of the old series, but was as popular as it as well. David Tennant became as recognized in the role as Tom Baker had been thirty years before.
However, Tennant decided that he had spent enough time on the series and was game to move on. Likewise, the production team was ready to move on as well, and Davies was ready to hand over his titles to Steven Moffat, a regular writer on the series. To ease the transition, in lieu of another season, 2009 would have five hour-long specials airing through out the course of the year: Christmas 2008, Easter, November 15th, Christmas 2009, and New Years 2010.
Steven Moffat was the most logical choice to fill the shows Davies was leaving behind. Again, he was already writing for the program, and he was also a long-time fan. Sitting down with the rest of the new production team (executive producers Piers Wenger and Beth Willis, and producer Tracie Simpson), it was a consensus that they wanted to find a older, more distinguished actor. 26-year old Matt Smith was the first person to audition, and greatly impressed the team. However, they continued to audition others, because they were worried about passing the torch to someone so young.
In the end, the team couldn’t find anyone who matched Smith’s obvious talent and hired him on, making him officially the youngest actor to play the Doctor so far. Unlike Tennant, Smith had no real exposure to Doctor Who before. Granted, he was aware of it, but he was from a generation that grew up in that gap between series. So Smith took the assignment to heart and watched some old stories to catch up.
The production team’s initial idea for the Eleventh Doctor’s costume was actually more like Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (a chic swashbuckler?). However, Smith became quite taken with the Second Doctor’s portrayal upon watching “Tomb of the Cybermen,” and insisted on a costume more reminiscent of that.
As for the regeneration itself, Davies’ team had already firmly established that unlike regenerations in the old series, they wanted consistent-looking regenerations. As such, when the Master regenerated in the Tenth Doctor story “Utopia” it was basically the same effects, but with a few different colours. As such, when the Doctor regenerated in this story, we see essentially the same effect with one notable difference: the explosion of fire outwards. This served the story well too; after this devastation, they could change the TARDIS set.
I have a big problem with this regeneration. The theme of the specials was the Doctor’s impending regeneration and his inner turmoil as he struggled to figure out who he really is. We see him turn down acquiring companions due to his fear of just losing them again. We see him decide to challenge fate and declare that he is the Lord and Master of Time, only to have it backfire on him. We see him run away from disaster, shrugging off his responsibilities because he’s afraid of what might happen.
And then at the end, he comes face to face with the worst experience of his life, again, and is forced to redefine himself. And he finds he is ready to sacrifice his life for that. When he discovers he’s still alive, he’s shocked and elated, but then disheartened to once more find that he still must sacrifice his life. That being said, it was probably an easier choice, as the radiation would cause him to regenerate, whereas Rassilon was going to vaporize him.
And once he has accepted that, we see him go back and visit his companions. And then in The Sarah-Jane Adventures episode “Death of the Doctor” we learn that he went and visited ALL his past companions. Why do this? Probably to remind himself of his whole life and who he is.
I don’t object to any of this; in fact I think it’s great. What I object to are his final words: “I don’t want to go!” That is the grinding halt of his character development. He should have not only accepted it, but embraced it! He had evaluated himself and his whole life, and seen all the good he had accomplished. And to blubber a bit before regenerating feels more like Davies milking the audience at home for sympathy than for a satisfying end.
As for the story itself, I like “The End of Time” quite a bit. I think it really ties things together for the Time War. You would probably notice that I drew a lot for the Eighth Regeneration article from this story. And now that Davies has answered all these loose ends about the Time War, we can move on from it into new territory.
Rassilon, played by the ever sinister Timothy Dalton, is a great addition. And yes, I believe he is THE Rassilon, hero of Time Lord society who has been dead for millennia. We saw in “The Five Doctors” that he was really not dead as much as non-corporeal. So I think it’s reasonable that the Time Lords resurrected him in this great time of need. Too bad he went bonkers.
There’s some question as to who that mystery woman from the High Council is that helps Wilfred and tips the Doctor off at the end. Davies said that it’s implicitly supposed to be the Doctor’s mother (again, totally disregarding the “half-human” theory), but could we not entertain the notion that it’s Romana? If you’re firmly in the camp that Romana never escaped E-Space (even though the audio adventures state she did, and became Lord President for a while), what about Flavia? Or here’s a wild card…the Rani?
I’m quite happy with the Eleventh Doctor, and Matt Smith’s portrayal. I’m a big sucker for a youthful appearance betraying the wise man underneath – hence why I really dug the Fifth Doctor. That doesn’t mean I want only young men to play the role, but handled correctly, I think it makes for a fascinating character to watch. And Smith nailed the costume on the head; the look is excellent.
“The Eleventh Hour” was also a great introductory episode. It was very accessible, which is something I really expect from a first episode even for a season. There’s no real need to see any Doctor Who previously.
The Doctor post-regeneration is a little less catatonic, and a little battier. He’s first worried that he’s swapped genders, and then he’s dismayed to learn that he’s still not a redhead (something the Tenth Doctor was hoping to be, mentioned in “The Christmas Invasion”). He has a strange curiousity about every new experience, but the knowledge is still there in his head and it slowly reasserts itself through the episode. Amy Pond, played by Karen Gillan, is a great choice as well. This is a quirky girl who’s tormented – not an easy role to fill.
I have always enjoyed Steven Moffat’s stories in the past seasons, so imagine my elation to hear that he was becoming head writer. I was ecstatic. I also enjoyed that whole fifth season, but that’s a subject for a different article.
The new title sequence and the new TARDIS set are also welcome additions to the production. If the production team was looking for a way to kick-start the series and bring in fresh blood, they definitely found it.
I want to quickly mention The Sarah-Jane Adventures episode “Death of the Doctor.” For those who don’t know, back in 1981 a Doctor Who spinoff series called K-9 and Company spawned a pilot episode. The series would revolve around ex-companions Sarah-Jane Smith and the robot dog K-9. It was not produced further than the pilot, allegedly because the then-BBC1 controller really hated it (sounds silly to me too). Anyway, in 2007, the Davies Doctor Who team produced a new version of the show called The Sarah-Jane Adventures, which again starred Sarah-Jane but had less K-9 and more of a supercomputer named Mr. Smith, and a kid named Luke who’s some genetic copy of someone or something. Anyway, there was a few Doctor Who crossovers, and the “Death of the Doctor” includes the Eleventh Doctor. While talking to this kid Clyde, the Doctor says he can regenerate 507 times. Naturally, fans were aghast. How does THAT make sense? Time Lords can only regenerate 12 times! Well, Davies (probably) sighed really loudly and then issued a statement saying the Doctor was just being glib, and that he had no intent on taking something so integral to the series and tossing it out in an odd line on another series entirely. So yeah, don’t worry about it.
This brings my Doctor Who Regeneration series to a close (for now). The series has been renewed for at least two more seasons and writer Neil Gaiman has joined Moffat in contributing to the new series. Yes, really. I’m excited to see how this all pans out, and who knows? Maybe in a few years, I’ll be writing an eleventh entry to this series.
And Another Thing…
The Sarah-Jane Adventures would be far better if they got rid of the teens.
The Eleventh Doctor: Legs! I’ve still got legs! Good. Arms! Hands! Ooh, fingers! Lots of fingers! Ears! Yes, eyes, two. Nose. Ooh, I’ve had worse. Chin! Blimey! Hair! I’m a girl! No! No…I’m not a girl! Oh…and still not ginger!!