Beyond the 13th Doctor
Guest contributor Henry James looks at how the show might break the regeneration limit.
It’s no secret that the Time Lords only have twelve regenerations, thus giving them thirteen lives in total. This was alluded to on multiple occasions in the classic era and was even a key component of a couple of stories involving the Master attempting to steal more for himself, being the malevolent and greedy man he was. But, in my opinion, this is a rule not entirely set in stone (possibly custard though).
Consider this: if regeneration occurred due to the Time Lord’s exposure to the time vortex, then why wouldn’t there be an indefinite limit to it? Wouldn’t continual exposure effectively make a limit redundant? Well, many believe that the answer (or the way writers will have to get round this problem if they want the show to continue) lies with the destruction of the Time Lords themselves. I myself believed this was the best theory until recently. It is simply that due to the Time Lords all being dead, nobody can stop the Doctor regenerating past his thirteenth incarnation as it may well have been a rule set by the Time Lords to possibly control overpopulation. Can you imagine a society where nobody died? (Torchwood: Miracle Day explored this idea) The entire planet would be overrun in a few years and the Time Lords being intelligent beings would not allow such a thing to occur.
This theory doesn’t have any major problems with it, although many may feel it a cheap and lazy way of getting past the limit, and thus I have a preferred theory that could make for much more interesting stories whilst still keeping with the original ‘rule’. Many of you may have noticed that with each regeneration, it seems to get more volatile and explosive, from the calm and peaceful transition between Hartnell and Troughton in the first regeneration story ‘The Tenth Planet’ all the way to David Tennant’s explosive change to Matt Smith in ‘The End of Time: Part 2’ which almost blew up the entire TARDIS. This could be, for lack of a better phrase, unintentionally intentional.
What if, as recently suggested by Neil Gaiman, the regeneration limit was more like a speed limit put in place and managed by the Time Lords whereby you can break it, but there is more chance you would crash the faster you go. If this were true each regeneration could become more and more dangerous, which as I previously alluded to, has been happening. If you also consider Christopher Eccleston’s final speech where he states that “this process is a bit dodgy” then it all starts to come together. According to this theory, the ‘final Doctor’, would have to go through a much more difficult regeneration, and when this eventually happens we could have some very interesting results and stories, that could possibly revolve around the Doctor searching for safer way to regenerate (maybe using a seatbelt).
Despite this, I am most probably wrong and Moffat (if he is still running the show) could come up with a more mad and brilliant idea, but for now I think we should entertain the idea and hope that the show doesn’t doesn’t just use something like River’s extra regenerations as a cheap explanation. Although I would much rather that than the show be, god forbid, cancelled again due to an old ‘rule’…