Love Story: Regeneration Adoration and a General Proclamation of Love for the Doctor

Ed. Note: Our “Love Story” feature encourages writers to tell the story behind their love for their favorite movie, band, or television show. Today, Kat writes about Doctor Who

Confession – I love Doctor Who! With this in mind, I decided to embark on a personal quest to unveil what it is exactly that keeps me tuned in to this dearly loved show. To focus my thoughts, I strapped on my headphones and searched for inspiration in my iTunes library. Logically, I queued up a sequence of Who tunes to assist me in my mental meanderings. As the heroic Eleventh Doctor’s theme “I Am the Doctor” thundered in my ears, I began to muse on some specific things I like about Doctor Who. I thought about the companions, the villains, the music, the settings, and about travel through time and space. Then, midway through the song, I had a Cher from Clueless moment of clarity. Remember when she was standing in front of the fountain and had the illuminated realization that she loved Josh? Like duh, epiphany, the Doctor is what I love most about Doctor Who.

“Okay, okay, so he’s kind of a Baldwin.” – Cher Horowitz realizing her love for Josh in Clueless (1995)

“Okay, okay, so he’s kind of a Baldwin.” – Cher Horowitz realizing her love for Josh in Clueless (1995)

I mean, I have an “I (Heart Heart) THE DOCTOR” button pinned to my apron, for goodness sake.

Love Love

Love Love

Narrowing my love to the lead character may have eluded me at first but now seems completely obvious. I’ve always felt that a show’s lead character should carry a good bit of influence pertaining to the show’s appeal. Of course, they shouldn’t carry the show exclusively, but they should be one of the observable things that make a great series grand.

To me, there appears to be one blaring difference when comparing the character of the Doctor to lead characters on other television shows — that he has been played by several different actors throughout the years, and yet remained to me equally interesting and compelling.

To further identify what it is about this character that I find so captivating, I resolved to flash back to my first interaction with Doctor Who. Standing at the edge of 35, I shouted, “Geronimo!” as I intrepidly plunged into my childhood memories and incisively claimed, “I will never forget my first Doctor!” It’s true, no matter what age you were when you first met the Doctor, you will forever remember that first encounter like any other first love. I feel positive in saying that any respectable Whovian would elatedly reiterate my assertion.

Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor, was my first Doctor. In appearance, he has been commonly referred to as the “Clown” Doctor. I could see how critics may liken his manifestation to that of the Lucky Charms mascot, but as a child he proved to be an ideal introduction to this show. His vibrant and animated attire entranced my eager child eyes. Of course, other aspects, particularly some of the settings and monsters on this show, would dole out copious amounts of nightmare fodder. Anyway, after carefully rummaging through my memory catalogue and tucking away any minor trauma caused by Doctor Who, I can see now that the Sixth Doctor may have influenced certain future wardrobe decisions in my life. Excusing, but not discounting his attire, Colin Baker’s Doctor was bold, slightly manic, clever, and in reflection, every bit as charming as both his predecessors and successors.

Colin Baker as the 6th incarnation of the Doctor in “Attack of the Cybermen” (1985)

Colin Baker as the 6th incarnation of the Doctor in “Attack of the Cybermen” (1985)

I was hurt and extremely confused when Colin Baker was no longer on the show. Actually, at that point, I was only marginally aware that regeneration, the act of transforming into a new form, is something that Time Lords have the ability to do. While I was intrigued by the notion of rebirth, the concept was still a little too challenging for me as a child. As an adult, the regeneration process has ultimately become something that I envy about the Doctor.

The Doctor reentered my life in 2009. Chance and channel surfing on a Saturday night would lead me to the same network outlet that introduced me to my first Doctor, PBS. There, David Tennant would be my reentrance into the Whoniverse, and without recounting every detail of that night, I fell madly and deeply in love all over again. Accordingly, I made the conscious effort to start at the beginning of the new series with the Ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston. Through dedicated power watching, I eventually caught up to Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor and most recent Doctor to go through the regeneration process.

At this instant, if I had to identify one thing or cite one word that describes what I love the most about the Doctor, I would resoundingly conclude—regeneration. This process is an element of the show that makes my heart drum and roar with anticipation, in the same way that I expect it would pound if I heard the whooshing of the TARDIS outside my door. As with any major change, I find the regeneration process to be heartbreaking and expressively taxing, but I also find the process to be hypnotically thrilling and teeming with promise and excitement.

Life is a peculiar and puzzling thing, and death increases the complexity of this puzzle, rendering it nearly impossible to piece together. After meticulous consideration and analysis, conclusively, regeneration is one of the key elements that keep this show, as well as the Doctor, fresh and engaging.

Every incident of Doctor Who regeneration proves to be quintessentially ethereal. In my experience, each transformation pushes that nuisance of an emotional frog into my throat and as it grips the walls of my esophagus, tears mount then flood my cheeks. I have loved each Doctor and therefore, severely hated to see him depart, but I am always optimistic and eager to learn what valuable idiosyncrasies the new Doctor will bring. The Doctor’s most recent departure was difficult. That raggedy and whimsical man, the Eleventh Doctor, made possible by Matt Smith, is my current favorite. Having said that, I have set the bar high for Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor, but feel confident he will ascend beyond my expectations. Capaldi made his debut in December at the end of “The Time of the Doctor”. The few words uttered by the Twelfth Doctor already provoked intrigue. Frantic, he exclaims, “Kidneys, I’ve got new kidneys! I don’t like the color.” Soon after, he turns to his companion Clara and asks, “Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?” For the Doctor, regeneration is a physical and emotional adjustment often accompanied by physical pain and profound energy drainage. Historically, this shift has also contributed to issues with memory lapses and loss for the Doctor. The Twelfth Doctor’s words suggest that his experience with this regeneration will continue in that manner. For me, I already sincerely miss Eleven, but Twelve’s appearance and words have empowered and invigorated my belief in this show’s unrelenting ability to keep me enamored, curious and enthused.

On a deeply personal level, I find regeneration to be a desirable and attractive end/beginning. In my own thoughts I have conceived that to die is to dissolve and evolve. The thought of my own death is a gruesome and unnecessary deed, but when paired with prospect, death offers the notion of something unexpected, fresh and possible to face. The proposal of death with hope, oversimplified, suggests the following: afterlife is nothing, afterlife is something or afterlife is the all-encompassing EVERYTHING. Whatever follows my demise, one thing is certain; death is inevitable for everyone, even the Doctor. But with the Doctor and his regeneration resides the promise of something more.

Notes

  1. For time purposes, I only focused on the regeneration of the Doctors, but realize other characters have experienced regeneration as well and offer my apologies for omitting these characters from this discussion.
  2. According to web rumors floating about in the geek sphere – Doctor Who (series 8) is slated to return at some point during or after August 2014. The BBC has yet to confirm a date.
  3. Previously on Love Story.