Published on August 28th, 2014 | by James Lomond
Steven Moffat Discusses Regeneration
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…