There seems to be a lot of confusion among Doctor Who fans and websites as to what constitutes a regeneration. Specifically – in this instance – I’m talking about the Tenth Doctor and the crazy moments in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End when the Doctor regenerates, then later his severed hand from The Christmas Invasion, Utopia and several Torchwood episodes gives birth to a half human Doctor.
Basically, there are two things happening here which seem to be getting confused in the minds of fans. Of course, this isn’t gospel as I am not Steven Moffat or Russell T Davies – but it certainly makes a lot more sense than some theories out there. Given Steven Moffat has declared that the current Doctor is the thirteenth incarnation, it’s time to sort this out.
First, the Doctor is shot by a Dalek. Dragged to the TARDIS by Jack and Rose, he climbs to his feet, and says “it’s too late, I’m regenerating!” One week later, mid-regeneration (the process has started) he completes it by syphoning off the regeneration energy from his dormant spare hand, thereby using his Time Lord DNA to maintain his appearance and character. As he observes, after the regeneration has completed: “I like being me.”
This is the Doctor’s tenth regeneration: from Journey’s End onwards, David Tennant is playing the Doctor in his eleventh body – it just so happens that it is identical to his tenth.
Second, a few minutes later, is the moment when the meta-crisis Doctor is born. This is not a regeneration. Rather, this is a result of the Doctor’s regenerative energy restarting the energy already in the hand. With Donna’s contact/close vicinity, the hand grows into what is a half-human clone of the Doctor.
The clone/meta-crisis Doctor is not the Doctor, and so it doesn’t count as a regeneration. The Doctor shot by a Dalek is the Doctor, and the resulting burst of energy is a regeneration.
So, to illustrate – this is a regeneration:
This, on the other hand, isn’t:
So with a lost incarnation in the shape of the War Doctor being the Time Lord known as the Doctor’s ninth incarnation, and two used up by his vain tenth self (in reality the eleventh and twelfth incarnations) Matt Smith – who we know as the Eleventh Doctor – is that Time Lord’s final body.
Now we’re all on the same page, it’s time to look forward to the Doctor’s death… or otherwise 😉