10.6 million viewers watched the 50th Anniversary Special of Doctor Who, “The Day of the Doctor.” Not only was the episode full of rollicking good fun (fan-favorite David Tennant shared the screen with current Doctor Matt Smith) but the episode managed to change the past and future of all of space and time in one fell swoop.
Kind of a big deal? Yes. How so? Spoilers, sweetie.
Enter John Hurt as The War Doctor. Fans will remember the reboot of Doctor Who in the the “modern era” in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston in the title role. He was a serious and brooding Doctor instead of the whimsical space hobo older fans had grown to love in classic Who. Of course one wonders, “Why so serious?”
Eccleston’s doctor (the 9th doctor) explains that double genocide weighs heavily on his mind. He destroyed the Daleks and the Time Lords (his own people) to put an end to the Time War which was threatening to burn out the whole universe. Do the ends justify the means? Later incarnations of the Doctor are not so sure. They regret this choice.
In the 50th Anniversary, John Hurt emerges as that doctor, the one in between classic Who and modern Who, the time lord who destroys time lords. John Hurt was ashamed of what he did and never called himself The Doctor. So he was never counted as a doctor.
Yada yada yada and a whole lot of timey wimey bibbidi bobbidi boo, the future Doctors help the War Doctor make a better choice at this important moment in time saving their home planet of Gallifrey and redeeming John Hurt’s Doctor. So now we have to count him. He’s #9, bumping Christopher Eccleston to #10, David Tennant to #11, and Matt Smith to #12.
OK. Got it. Easy. What’s the problem?
There’s no problem. Unless you count saying goodbye to Matt Smith in a few months a problem (which I do). We, and by “we” I mean “devoted whovians,” already know who the next Doctor is going to be. It’s Peter Capaldi. He’s signed on. He’s great. Full steam ahead!
There’s just one little sticking point. Time lords only get 12 regenerations. Our doctor has used them all up over the last 50 years changing from actor to actor. David Tennant used up an extra regeneration once creating a clone of himself so when Matt Smith dies (presumably on Trenzalore), that’s it. The Doctor is done for.
But we know it won’t end like that. With Peter Capaldi at the ready and fans hoping for another 50 years, all we have left to do is put our faith in Steven Moffat, writer of Doctor Who. He says, “The 12 regenerations limit is a central part of Doctor Who mythology—science fiction is all about rules, you can’t just casually break them.”
It will be tricky, for sure. But if anyone can solve the regeneration riddle, it’s Moffat who, after all, will be resurrecting Sherlock Holmes from the dead on January 14. He’s the most clever show runner around. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.