The Time of the Doctor - Regeneration 2

Steven Moffat Discusses Regeneration

In the wake of Deep Breath’s broadcast, an interview with showrunner, Steven Moffat has been revealed and it brings up some interesting talking points.

First off, the Doctor’s lack of memory for his previous encounter with the clockwork droids and their quest-for-flesh… The monster was re-used as it was a ready-made threat that didn’t need too much explanation so that the episode could focus on the Doctor’s new self and Clara’s reaction. Moff has this to say: “I think I actually stole this joke from ‘Colombo’ that the Doctor’s completely forgotten a previous adventure… There’s a lovely moment in one of the ‘Columbos’ where somebody is recounting one of his previous cases, and Colombo just says, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve got absolutely no idea what you’re talking about’.”

Good to know traits and tropes are being swapped among televisions most eccentric and cerebral characters! The more interesting discussion is around the regeneration and the Doctor being in Matt Smith’s body one moment and Peter Capaldi’s the next.

“He changes – things about him aren’t the same. Things he reaches for aren’t there. He has feelings he didn’t have before,” Moffat says. “I think that must be awfully alarming. It must make you wonder who you are.”

Moffat goes on to talk about being in a different body, having different traits and the way others react to you. This was certainly something that came over powerfully for me – when Clara leaves the TARDIS to answer the Eleventh’s call from Trenzalore, the bitter pain on the Twelfth’s face is palpable – particularly as the Eleventh Doctor says over the phone, “he is more scared than anything you can imagine right now.” And Moffat has really opened up the idea of regeneration in a new way here. Rather than just being all fun and games, discovery and pratt-falling, there’s genuinely something frightening in the idea of those close to you not being able to recognise you for you. He notes that it’s not something people experience in everyday life…

“So you have to take it seriously and you have to sort of think that it must be frightening. And it must be frightening when you look at your best friend in the whole world, because that’s where I put that line in about seeing. You look at your best friend in the whole world, the person on whom you are anchored, and they don’t see you,” he continues. “If someone’s looking back and not seeing you, how frightening that must be. Not to have your only basic irremovable right, the right to be yourself.”

Moffat also talks about Doctor Who being better than everything else because it can do things like this – it can put characters we care about in these sorts of situations and ask these powerful questions. It’s not simply fanciful. There’s a branch of ethics that focuses on the right to determine your own choices and have your decisions respected by the law as your decisions. Imagine someone suffering an injury like the famous case of Phineas Gage who reportedly underwent a change in personality after he survived damage to his frontal lobes in an 1848 construction accident. Was he the same person after that? Was it still him making decisions and interacting with friends and family or someone else – a new person? In fact regeneration begs the question of what it really means to be the same person from moment to moment or century to century. That’s what enables fans to have heated discussions about whether the character would still be the same character if not played by a white male with a British accent. And it’s questions like that which enable us to look at their own values and assumptions, question them and grow. (For the record, nothing but a British accent is acceptable – move along.)

Moffat goes on to talk about the symmetry between the Doctor’s change of face and the clockwork droid whose face keeps changing. The tension seems to be that while neither is sure where their face came from, the droid doesn’t care what face it has. The Doctor, however, believes he chose that face for a reason. He says to startled, homeless Barney, “why this one? Why did I chose this face? It’s like I’m trying to tell myself something. Like I’m trying to make a point. But what is so important that I can’t just tell myself what I’m thinking?”

Given what we know about the character Capaldi played back Series 4’s Fires of Pompeii, this throws up even more questions. Caecilius was going to be left for dead in the volcanic eruption until Donna convinced the Tenth Doctor to go back and save his family – almost as a token gesture. He saved them while everyone else died allowing the timeline to stay intact (assuming it did?). We know Capaldi’s Doctor is going to be less human and more distant. What could Caecilius’s face mean for him? And what a powerful way to say something, by making you live in the body and face of another. This is all a bit more weighty than when Romana tried on Astra’s body because she liked it though took the arms in a bit!

What do you think Kasterborites – how did you feel about the way Clara’s reaction to the Doctor was handled and what do you think we’ll discover about the reasons behind the Doctor’s choice of face? A reminder about the importance of humanity? A reminder about protecting the timeline regardless of the cost? Or something else? Tell us below in the comments…


'Steven Moffat Discusses Regeneration' have 19 comments

  1. August 28, 2014 @ 6:13 pm Steven B

    I loved the way it was handled my only reservation being I would of not expected Clara to react this way given her prior knowledge of regeneration. But then who knows maybe actually experiencing it first hand is a whole different ball game.


    • August 28, 2014 @ 6:38 pm CJLP88

      I feel like it is for the fans. We all know the rules of regeneration, we’ve seen them all happen. We know the moment the Doctor opens his eyes he is fated to die a few years down the line. It doesn’t make it less painful when it happens, though.


  2. August 28, 2014 @ 6:55 pm Mobius64

    So the intention seems to be to explain why the 12th Doctor (or 13th, depending on your preferences) looks like Caecilius. I wonder if the shall explain why he also looks like John Frobisher?
    I remember reading that Caecilius and Frobisher looked the same because it was the universe balancing out. Caecilius and his family were saved whereas Frobisher had to kill his family and himself to prevent them from being taken by the 456.

    But Colin Baker also played a Commander (Maxwell? Can’t quite remember the name) before he was the 6th Doctor. Richard E. Grant has played the Doctor twice before the Great Intelligence. The Cardinal in The Deadly Assassin also played a Timelord in the War Games (I think). Even David Tennant played a Timelord in a Big Finish Audio before he was 10. So, they don’t really need to explain why 12 (13) looks like other characters, in my opinion anyway


    • August 28, 2014 @ 9:07 pm Steven B

      That’s right that was actor Bernard Horsfall that played Chancelor Goth in Deadly Assasin and The War Games. Can’t remember if he was meant to be the same Time Lord in those two.
      He also played Gulliver in The Mind Robber and Taron in Planet of The Daleks. Would be tricky to come up with an explanation for that.


  3. August 28, 2014 @ 8:23 pm Christine

    I’ve read a lot of comments on this but I rather liked way the relationship between the Doctor and Clara was handled. In fact I rather liked Clara really being someone and not just a plot device. That veil scene gave me the shivers (delighted ones). Also, that great conversation in the restaurant. I wasn’t surprised at all that Clara found his new appearance difficult to cope with. I mean being splinters through out time and knowing about regeneration doesn’t prepare you for the confrontation with the real thing. Just frightening, and excellently played by Jenna!


  4. August 28, 2014 @ 8:47 pm Howard Railton

    Still no explanation for the dinosaur then?


    • August 28, 2014 @ 9:13 pm Philip Bates

      It happens.


    • August 29, 2014 @ 12:02 am TimeChaser

      Well if Jack can be dragged through time by clinging on to the TARDIS, it stands to reason a dinosaur could get dragged along. *shrugs*


  5. August 28, 2014 @ 8:49 pm shanae

    I think the regeneration and reaction of Clara was handled beautifully. Having 11 reassuring Clara was a wonderful touch to also reassure the younger viewers who would not have seen a previous regeneration that it is really the same man. I am intrigued as to how Moffat will explain 12′s similarity to other characters in the Who world but I bet it will be unexpected and clever. Capaldi and Moffat did not set a foot wrong in Deep Breath, I think it is one of the best things Moffat has ever written and Capaldi took about five minutes to convince me that he is the best characterisation of the Doctor we have ever had. Good times!


  6. August 28, 2014 @ 8:52 pm Gary Akers

    The “You don’t see me” scene was very well acted by Capaldi and Coleman, but came at the wrong point in the story. By this late stage in the episode, I don’t think Clara needed yet another push to realize it’s OK to accept the Capaldi Doctor – she’d already realized he was “the” Doctor in the scene with her facing the Clockwork Man and reaching behind her to see if the Doctor had her back. At this point her “arc” in this episode was done – her struggle to accept him should’ve been resolved when he was there to take her hand.

    I realize that all of Smith’s half of the phone conversation had previously been filmed during “Time of the Doctor,” but how much better would it have been to have Clara already pretty much accepting of Capaldi by the end scene, and using the Eleventh-Clara call not as another “don’t be afraid” nudge, but solely as a time for 11 and Clara to say personal goodbyes to each other, which didn’t happen in “Time of the Doctor” when 11 was instead reflecting on his tenure and the nature of change. Then after the call, Clara can go up to Capaldi and say something like “I told him I think you’re going to be fine,” thereby validating Capaldi right to his face.


  7. August 28, 2014 @ 9:12 pm Philip Bates

    I know a few thought it odd that Clara was so unaccepting of his change, but to me, it fitted perfectly. Firstly, that’s how some of the audience felt, so I think you needed someone who represented them. Also – knowing he can regenerate would be quite to actually seeing it. I know the Doctor regenerates, I’ve seen all of them… but the fall of the Eleventh was genuinely upsetting and shocking. Some of Clara’s questions, too, are astute: if he’s been renewed, why is his hair grey, like he’s lived a life already? The Doctor, too, wondered who frowned him his face.


  8. August 29, 2014 @ 12:20 am Ginger Crawford

    “He changes – things about him aren’t the same. Things he reaches for aren’t there. He has feelings he didn’t have before,” Moffat says. “I think that must be awfully alarming. It must make you wonder who you are.”

    Waiting for people to rip into him like they did the Tenth Doctor.

    *crickets chirp*

    Okay so it’s only bad if it’s the Tenth Doctor then.


  9. August 29, 2014 @ 1:08 am rickjlundeen

    It is interesting that it’s been mentioned twice that there seems to be a choice of face on some level. The Caretaker mentioned at the end of the 50th that in the future, the Doctor may decide to revisit some of the old favorites, for whatever reason.

    I think the point with subconsciously choosing Caecilius’ face was to remind him of the mistake he made in the past, breaking another law of time because of Donna’s pleas.

    There could be an argument made for his subconsciously picking the face, body, traits of his new body as a sort of course correction, a type of Time Lord evolution. Example: Troughton faced many monsters during his time. Even though he course corrected and went younger, more vital as Troughton from Hartnell, he also became shorter, which was at times, a handicap. So when he regenerated, he became taller, more imposing and a fighter.

    Of course all that was casting at the time, trying to do something different with the lead actor but I could see Moffat putting a spin on that too.


    • August 29, 2014 @ 8:25 am DByfield

      Very interesting explanation. You could expand on that by reasoning that the time lords are punishing the Doctor for his previous recklessness in Pompeii in return for this new set of regenerations. Perhaps a way of subtly reminding him that they maintain overall control.


  10. August 29, 2014 @ 1:37 am TimeChaser

    I think Clara’s reaction was completely understandable, even knowing the Doctor could regenerate. It’s one thing to meet other Doctors and then see them off on their merry way, and another altogether to see your own Doctor whom you’ve come to form a close bond with disappear only to be confronted by a different person in their clothes.

    Companion reactions over the decades have spanned the gamut from initial hesitation and distrust to almost immediate acceptance. Ben was distrustful of Two at first, and Peri had a difficult and lengthy time getting used to Six until he began to mellow a little, while Sarah Jane seemed immediately accepting of Four.

    I think it all depends on what kind of Doctor come out of the regeneration compared to what the companion(s) was used to before. If Matt had changed into a similar sort of Doctor, Clara might have been thrown at first by the new face but more easily accepted someone else of a similar personality.

    And speaking of Six and Peri, I was glad that they handled the difficulty of this changeover for the characters without going to the extreme of giving Capaldi’s Doctor fits of violence and paranoia, and it seems Clara will have the same journey to make dealing with a now older and spikier Doctor.

    I look forward to it.


  11. August 29, 2014 @ 2:01 am Colin McDonough.

    Well we are all fans posting here, some of a quite old vintage, we’ve all seen Doctors come and go and are quite well versed in the business of regeneration, it can still be a wrench to let an old Doctor go and welcome a new one. As a result I have no problem with Clara’s reaction in Deep Breath, it rang true to me. She might have accepted regeneration on an intellectual level but was hit for six when HER Doctor left.


  12. August 29, 2014 @ 3:20 am jerry

    I wonder if the characters played by Capaldi in DW/TW are actually the Doctor himself? After all, he did disappear in the Tardis for a bit, and came back sane in new clothes. Perhaps he had to “find” himself before going on to adventures with Clara. The choice of this face was simply a reminder of seeing himself in prior regenerations.

    The “am I a good man” question was answered by the two characters we did see, as well as the ones we didn’t (yet) see.


    • August 29, 2014 @ 9:34 pm teddybowties

      Well, John Frobisher shouldn’t be a throwaway line. Either it’s the penguin, or the Man Himself. ;) There is just so much obvious callback there. ;) I thnk it’s horribly cruel to tell a man who has just had to change his entire being in a horrific transformation that you don’t trust him, because YOU are afraid. I would be worried for HIM first, then think of myself a few minutes later. It worries me that so many people identify with Clara’s selfishnes and say that it’s ‘right’. ;) But perhaps I’m in the minority. It’s nothing new for me.


  13. August 30, 2014 @ 4:57 pm Aly

    I think it showed us, brilliantly, that while Clara may have seen all the past regenerations, actually going through it with him was an entirely different experience. Her freakout seemed fairly natural. :) But what I found the most moving was the vulnerability that Capaldi captured, particularly in quieter moments: Seeing his reflection in the tray, or when he lands the TARDIS and tells Clara that she’s home if she wants to be.


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