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Doctor Who’s Biggest Missed Opportunity: A Surprise Regeneration

Guest contributor James Hill wonders if it would be better and possible to keep regenerations a secret.

capaldi-regen-time

Last year, a guest writer contributed a two-part article which ranked the top ten “missed magic moments” in Doctor Who. I tried predicting what the top five entries would be and figured I had #1 nailed down. But, once I reached the end of his list I was surprised to find that my predicted #1 hadn’t cracked the list at all…but hey, that gave me an excuse to write this.

Since its revival in 2005, Doctor Who has seen three full, lead-actor-change regenerations: Christopher Eccleston to David Tennant in 2005’s “The Parting of the Ways”, David Tennant to Matt Smith in 2010’s “The End of Time: Part Two”, and Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi in 2013’s “The Time of the Doctor”. In all three cases – though the first was rather different from the next two – news of said regeneration was released, on purpose, months in advance, which built up a huge amount of anticipation but lost an aspect that I feel carries as much value: the element of surprise.

As I touched upon earlier, circumstances surrounding Eccleston’s departure were completely different, and I’m mostly focusing on the other two transitions. Eccleston’s exit was announced only four days after his first episode aired and exact details are still hazy, so I’m willing to give the series a pass in that case. For all we know, Davies planned to surprise everyone at the end of Series 1 and the BBC ruined it by leaking the announcement earlier.

But was it really necessary to know of Tennant and Smith’s exit months (and in Tennant’s case over a year) beforehand? I’d argue this was especially pertinent for Smith’s; the 50th anniversary and subsequent Christmas special would’ve already garnered a fair deal of attention for the show, regeneration or not.

When I’ve talked about this idea before, there are a few main issues people have usually brought up. Firstly, they have claimed it would be impossible to keep a secret that big for however long it was between the new Doctor’s casting and the episode’s airdate. Secondly, they have asserted it would be disrespectful to the incumbent Doctor. Next, they express skepticism the BBC would be willing to give up their new Doctor marketing blitz. And finally, they wonder what the in-story reasoning would be for such an act. I’ll address each of those points below and tell you why a surprise Doctor could be a fantastic idea.

Ok, so the Internet is not very good at keeping secrets. Social media, camera phones, and the quick-draw nature of sites like Twitter and Vine make a quick leak all too likely. However, one man seems to have figured things out a bit, and he’s my precedent-setter: J.J. Abrams. I’m not here to start a debate about Abrams work; instead, I solely bring him up to mention his penchant for almost absurd levels of secrecy. Spoilers are below for Star Trek Into Darkness, so if you haven’t seen it yet, skip down a paragraph.

cumberbatch-star-trek-darknessThe Star Trek fanbase is nearly as old and rabid as Doctor Who’s, and speculation was rampant regarding who the villain of Into Darkness, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, would be. Many people guessed, correctly, that Cumberbatch would be playing Khan, but numerous other possibilities arose, and to Abrams’ – and everyone else involved in the film’s – credit, official news didn’t leak, to my knowledge, until the film’s Australian premiere, the first actual screening of the movie.

I’m not saying Moffat and the BBC would be able to stamp out all fan or media speculation if a prominent actor/actress (especially an actress) was suddenly invited on set and rumored to be playing a major role. I’m just saying that there’s no reason such role has to be confirmed until the episode airs. Doctor Who already has a strong history of huge guest stars and anyone brought into the studio could easily be waved off. Will some people still read between the lines? Of course. Will something leak? Probably. But for the majority of fans, those reports will be nothing more than rumors, if anything, preserving the surprise of the moment.

There seems to be a perception among some that unless the current Doctor gets a “goodbye tour” of sorts he won’t be getting the respect he deserves, or the fans won’t be able to take it. I’m certainly not proposing that this should come a few episodes into a new Doctor’s run, or even at the end of their first season.

But after a few seasons, any Doctor will have had numerous great moments and memorable times with companions and enemies. They will have seen big finales, Christmas celebrations, cameo appearances and, decent odds, at least one anniversary/special of some sort. The fans will have had so many chances to see that Doctor at their best and their final episode would be no different. Give them a mid-season two-parter or an epic finale. Treat the episode like any regeneration episode is treated but – preferably at the end of part one – have the Doctor, in his usually valiant way, become injured and regenerate. Imagine the reactions, whether you know the new actor or not. Imagine learning of the new Doctor’s identity in his debut episode.

I’d advocate for this to happen at the end of the first half of a mid-season two-parter because the shock factor and emotional impact would be through the roof, with another episode coming immediately. The whole point of this is to break the rules and even we weren’t notified, a regeneration in the last five minutes of the season finale would certainly fall within the normal standard. This also addresses the marketing point; sure, the BBC wouldn’t be able to rile up the masses over new Doctor betting, announcement and debate or old-Doctor reminiscing, but all of that could still happen, just after the regeneration has occurred…and this time fans wouldn’t have to wait so long to see the new Doctor again.

tennant-final-line-regen-want-to-go-end-of-timeThe cast, crew and writers could even maintain radio silence for a week to keep everyone guessing even further. Fans would be convinced this was a more convoluted version of “The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End”, where an apparent regeneration was overridden within minutes. And then, by the time part two ends and the new Doctor has saved the day yet again, it will have sunk in: a new era has begun. Just imagine the interview the next day, or even that night, with the current showrunner and the episode’s two Doctors all together, discussing the stunning surprise and hinting at the future.

One small note: I wouldn’t personally wish for this to be the manner in which a female Doctor is brought in, unless it happens so far down the line that she wouldn’t be the first female Doctor. I do hope that, sooner rather than later, we will see a female Doctor – and a minority one – but that’s for another article. However, changing a Doctor without an announcement would already be controversial, and the last thing the show would need is to anger even some of the people who might have supported the decision by making it feel like the rug was completely pulled out from under them. If people need time to “get ready” for a female or Black Doctor, so be it. That’s a small price to pay.

Finally, people will ask why something like that would be necessary, claiming it would be nothing more than a “publicity stunt”. To that I say…yes! That’s exactly what it would be! But, frankly, that’s what every regeneration’s build-up is: a long publicity stunt. Peter Capaldi was announced during a worldwide simulcast months before his first official, full appearance. The last two Doctors have regenerated on major holidays. All of the specials, Doctor revisited documentaries, interviews…they’re all publicity stunts!

Look, I wouldn’t want this to become the new normal. Building up to a Doctor’s departure and arrival has been a very effective tradition during the run of New Who. And as I said earlier, this should be a few seasons into a Doctor’s run, so it feels like they’ve gotten their due. But, as usual, I think things are best when they’re shaken up a bit, and this could work wonders in that regard.

Make it seem like, say, the Master wins. Have him and maybe even the Doctor’s companions think the Doctor is dead, only to find out that he regenerated after all. Use this to explore new avenues and adjust the tone. What happens when change comes sooner than you expect? All three previous New Who Doctors finished their task and fulfilled their destiny before regenerating. What if, this time, the Doctor fails and the new one has to pick up the pieces?

Ultimately, my main point is this: there’s no reason this idea of a long-announced, long-known, “event” regeneration has to be set in stone. After all, the most memorable storms are often the ones we never see coming…

Step back in time...

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162 comments
bringmeknitting
bringmeknitting

I have long wanted this. I doubt it would ever happen, for the reasons already discussed, but I love the idea of the Doctor being forced to regenerate DURING a story for a change and a new guy having to somehow still save the day despite not knowing who they are yet! As a one-off I think it could be brilliant. 



But then I've often entertained the idea of a 'dummy' Doctor - a regeneration that actually fails in some way, so that the new Doctor genuinely doesn't work or the body cannot survive - and so has to regenerate again, possibly before the end of the story or perhaps in the next one. I know that's a 'waste' of a regeneration, just trying to think outside the box :)

TaylorBoone
TaylorBoone

what people dont realize is that the doctor CANT be a female, cause anyone who knows of doctor who's history knows this" MALE GALIFREYANS ARE CALLED TIME LORDS, AND FEMALE GALLIFREYANS ARE CALLED TIME LADYS.  AND IT HAS ALREADY BEEN ESTABLISHED THAT THE DOCTOR IS A TIME LORD

OwenWildish
OwenWildish

I had this Idea for a While, that for a "secret" regeneration, which  happens early in the first of a two parter, (which we don't witness until later in a flashback scene) an unseen figure traps the Doctor in a room and "something" happens off screen, we then apparently see the Doctor leaving unharmed, but his companions notice that the Doctor is acting oddly and out of charater, in fact he's behaving like a villian, then at the cliffhanger a mysterious stranger the we keep glimpsing throughtout the first episode turns up and confronts the Doctor and with a bit of inital confusion it's revealed that the Doctor is an imposter and the stranger is non other than the real and newly regenerated Doctor...thought this approach would be tricky to get right, but if done properly would it work?

Polyphase
Polyphase

I doubt if they would want to keep anything that big secret. TV shows don't work like that these days. For some reason most tv shows have all the spoilery bits shown at the start of the program to get the the short attention span crowd not to switch over.

This is why we always find out if there is something big happening, It's to get the all important big ratings :)

ThatGuywiththeBowTie
ThatGuywiththeBowTie

Yeah, I don't think they'll be able to keep it a secret either. Remember those leaks about John Hurt in Day of the Doctor? Kinda ruined the season 7 finale for me a bit. It would be pretty freaking cool if they managed to pull it off though.

Diana van der Pluijm
Diana van der Pluijm

Yes, yes, YES! This so much! I don't want to know that the Doctor is regenerating, I want to be surprised!

teddybowties - the one on FFN not Tumblr
teddybowties - the one on FFN not Tumblr

yes, it would DEFO be better to keep it a delectable secret until we see it.although, the publicity stunt was so.... gaudily.... PUBLIC. It screams of Moffat's favorite dish:

RED HERRING. Even now, as we are watching Capaldi get suited up... it still... feels... like... FISH. If the man actually gets to do any season at all, I will be very entertained. 








NewWho2012
NewWho2012

I agree with a surprise regeneration also. David Tennant's regeneration at the end of The Stolen Earth was unknown to be before that and I was speechless at the end of the episode and wondered what was going to happen, would there be a new Doctor or not. Would like some sort of surprise like that in the future.

DW_girl
DW_girl

I completely agree with you here. The element of surprise in Doctor Who is missing today, and I think if it was brought back, Doctor Who would be better than ever. Change the show up a bit I say, but at the same time, regain some of those elements which made it so popular during RTD's run (eg, 2 parters, lighter story memes), and why not have an alien for a companion for a change?

Eradallion
Eradallion

They've managed to pull surprise deaths off in other series, such as House of Cards. I suppose this is different, though

Eradallion
Eradallion

I have always wanted a surprise regeneration, and it doesn't even have to be like that. They can still announce that Capadli is leaving in a year and tell us who's taking over, and then surprise us by having him regenerate much earlier than announced. The best would be if we didn't know who the new actor was though. It would be so cool

brch2
brch2

Personally, I would have loved Capaldi's intro into the show exactly how it happened, it would have just been more powerful (which is saying something) had we not known he was coming at all. I'm speaking of the 'eye cameo' in the 50th. Even though we knew Capaldi was going to be 12, we didn't know we'd get "all 13" in the 50th. That intro was strong, and actually sent chills up my spine. But... imagine how even more powerful it would have been if we didn't know Matt was leaving and Capaldi was coming in the Christmas special. It would have been the most mind blowing scene in nuWho history if we'd seen the 12th Doctor fly up to help save Gallifrey, without even knowing there was about to be a 12th Doctor. Would have been epic, possibly if not definitely even more so than had it been a straight up surprise regeneration.


The problem is... can they keep it secret? If they really wanted to. Obviously there'd be the problem of the leaving actor having other jobs start and be publicized before the regen episode aired, but at the very least they could keep silent officially and try to contain it (they kept Clara's appearance in "Asylum..." tight lipped, and very few people if anyone knew the 8th Doctor/McGann would be in "Night of the Doctor", so they CAN keep secrets if they want. But... will they? No, cause they lose the publicity and hype they create to get ratings for the regeneration episode and new Doctor. 


Now, as far as a female Doctor... I actually had an idea of how to bring one on (the only way that would interest me personally through an interesting story concept and not just being stunt casting if handled right)... and this way would allow them to keep anyone from finding out who the new Doctor is simply by who goes to the set. Supposedly Moffat is going to, or has said he would, explain why 12 looks like Capaldi's other Who characters. Suggesting that the Doctor's look after regeneration is based on some real person/people (and we know already due to Romana that they can regenerate to look like other people). Well if the Doctor has to be female one day, I'd like to see the actress be the companion for a season before becoming the Doctor. Imagine... something goes wrong with the regeneration, and the Doctor has a 'metacrisis' of sorts. But, instead of creating a clone or human with a timelord brain, his regeneration is somehow 'contaminated' by his companion's DNA, causing him to turn into her (look wise at lest, maybe a little personality clashing too depending on how it was written). I think it'd be interesting... how would the companion react? We could get a few stories with seeing the companion and Doctor dealing with each other after the fact. And get to see one actress play two roles (and hopefully, if they choose a good actress with good range, we could see two sides to her performances). If done right, the PC crowd would get their female Doctor, and we'd have an interesting twist and some interesting stories out of it. And... if that happened, they could keep WHO the new Doctor is completely secret if they wanted, because the actress would be expected to be filming as the companion anyway, so no one would suspect anything just cause she showed up to set (as they would if an unknown person showed up, especially if it's the situation where they can't keep the fact a regen is coming a secret, but can keep the person one).


Otherwise, the only other way I think they could completely keep a regeneration a secret (without worrying about anyone finding out one's coming based on the leaving actor's schedule, or who the new one is based on who shows up to film during the regen episode) would be if we got to see the regeneration BEFORE the current Doctor was through (similar to how Moffat did the Lake Silincio storyline, but instead of seeing him die we see a future Doctor regenerate). That may 'ruin' it for us in that we'd still know before the official change, but it may be the only way they could completely ensure the regeneration itself was a surprise. Or, if they REALLY wanted to be bold, they could give us an entire multi-Doctor arc. It would likely have to be a Moffat style time loop, but it would be interesting to see the 'current' (at the time) Doctor's last few episodes take place alongside the 'next' Doctor's first few. Let us see a future version of the 'current' Doctor regenerate, his predecessor then work next to him to solve whatever the story arc is, and end with the regeneration and have the new guy keep going on.


There are ways they could do it... as far as whether it would be 'disrespectful' to the 'current' Doctor... well, if they have someone that is truly a fan of the show and the history of the show playing the Doctor, then whomever it was leaving at the time most likely would not only not have a problem, but would probably be glad to go along with the story/plan (if it was an interesting story/reason for whatever method they chose to keep the surprise).

JamesStroud
JamesStroud

I think this is a brilliant idea. When I first watched 'The Parting Of The Ways' I had no clue that the Doctor would regenerate (I was younger at the time, I hadn't read the papers and seen the spoilers) and that surprise of seeing Tennant's hair erupt from the scalp of my dearly beloved Doctor was fantastic. The key surprise factor is something that I have sorely missed in the later regenerations. I quite honestly thought they were going to regenerate Tennant in 'The Stolen Earth' - I had seen the rumours he would leave after the next series and specials and whatnot, and when he started regenerating I was gearing up for a big reveal of a new Doctor... Which didn't happen. I was sorely disappointed with RTD and the entirety of NuWho, and that final episode of series 4 was just a disappointment for me to be completely honest


But I could see this happening for real with Capaldi, or the next Doctor after him. Say, for example, that we get a new regeneration of the Master at the end of Capaldi's first series. He would see this latest regeneration and think to himself "Ahah, this is his thirteenth form, I can kill him for good now!". And by all rights, he could legitimately think this. He saw the War Doctor (presumably) and he wouldn't know of Tennant's vanity issues, so to him Capaldi would be Doctor Number 13. Throughout Capaldi's second series, there could be an overarching evil, something orchestrating events, and just like in Classic Who we would discover in the final moments of episode 12 that it is the Master, who comes out of the shadows and kills the Doctor. Shock from the companion(s), manic laughter from the Master, Capaldi giving a final speech as he falls to his knees... and then BAM, there's a quick flash of light and his face changes. We could just see him from the back, see the Master's shocked face in front of him, see the confusion of the companions, then pan round to see his face, before a catchy line like "You weren't expecting that, were you?"


The fandom would go insane. Absolutely, completely and utterly, 100% insane. This is pure speculation, but Moffat has been showrunner for a while now, and it is is feasible that he could be leaving the show after Capaldi's second series (since he certainly has the first). Why not go out with a bang? The fandom would scream at him (and be confused that the final episode was written by the new showrunner) and he could give an evil chuckle as per usual. It would be his crowning glory, and would surely bring any Moffat-haters to his side as fans. It would be THE most dramatic thing that could happen to Who. If the media were left speculating for a week, as Mr Hill pondered, and then a big reveal that they have planned this since Capaldi was in the show or something like that, airing just after the new Doctor's first episode... They would be onto a winner

WhoPotterVian
WhoPotterVian

This will never happen. They'd never be able to keep it secret. Someone would spot a actor wearing Doctor-y clothing walking on-set or into a studio building and it would leak out.

OnTheFieldsOfTrenzalore
OnTheFieldsOfTrenzalore

I would rather have the announcement of the current Doctor leaving, as it allows the fans who love their Doctor to take in the fact that their favourite Doctor is leaving - sudden emotional shock is not always a great idea, specially if some of the fans grow attatched to a particular incarnation. However, it would have been interesting if they had kept the identity of the new Doctor as a secret until their debut episode airs. The speculation would be prolonged, fans would be kept hyped, interested and making theories on who the new Doctor is. The Oswin reveal in AOTD and the 8th Doctor's appearance in Night of The Doctor show that secrets CAN be kept even in this time where the internet and the press seem to spread spoilers instantly.

RichardDannenberg
RichardDannenberg

There might be need to let people get ready for a female Doctor, but certainly NO NEED for them to get ready for a black or any other skin-coloured Doctor!

JeffBrewer
JeffBrewer

I agree with this. Things don't always work out as we want, and people die everyday. That's life. It would be an interesting story - especially if the regeneration occurs at the culmination of some great story arc, which has the Doctor fail in his current adventure. The ramifications could be staggering in the Whoniverse. For example, what if the fourth Doctor had failed to foil the Master? Or ten/eleven had let things go too long with the Rack'noss (actually, we pretty much know what happened there...). Sadly, I don't think the current showrunner is up to something of that magnitude...

Maiden_Ty_One
Maiden_Ty_One

I hate the goodbye-tours the revived series Doctors all seem to be getting. Tennant's was the worst - half a god-damn hour doing the rounds of EVERY character he'd ever bloody met, it was ridiculous! I really don't get what people like about this idea! For me regenerations should be sudden and fast, the Doctor having little time to come to terms with it - this is more dramatic! And conveys the seriousness of what's going on far better than half an hour of weepy moping! 


In the classic series people often didn't know at all that a regeneration was coming in any given episode, and when it did it was a shock that smacked you in the face. I'd like to see this in today's show. 


Yes, it wouldn't remain a "secret" as some pillock will leak photographs from behind the scenes, or something to that effect - but without a confirmation from the show's runner, or the BBC - and even better, a direct denial of the rumours, then that's all they'd remain; rumours. 


Look how well they kept the Paul McGann webisode a secret, only one week before it was due to air did the information actually get out, and I bet even if they'd stuck to their original schedule instead of releasing it a week earlier, I bet over 50% of audience members still wouldn't have found out about it prior.

JFrance
JFrance

The stolen earth regeneration was spoiled for me. I was reading a newspaper in the week between The stolen earth and Journeys end episodes and I noticed in the newspaper they had pictures of David Tennant filming The Next Doctor so I knew there and then there was no new Doctor.       

JFrance
JFrance

It would be nice to have a secret regeneration but the secret will get out somehow it all ways dose.  


Baker Street is on the Orient Express
Baker Street is on the Orient Express

Honestly, I think this would be great. Something like this is just what the show needs so that it can break away from it's usual format. And if the regeneration was a cliffhanger, I would probably wet myself. Really. Because I was just 8 when it aired, The Stolen Earth's cliffhanger had me unbelievably excited week.

Planet of the Deaf
Planet of the Deaf

I think the character of the Doctor is too important to just regenerate without people being given notice, imagine your favourite Doctor 'dying' unexpectedly, and the reaction of the audience, especially the younger ones. 


You can do it a bit more with Companions, Jenna appearing as Oswin in AOTD (and dying) was a major shock, and Clara dying in The Snowmen was also a genuine shock, knowing that she was the new companion.


Having said that, when Matt Smith reappeared in the TARDIS to Clara, after 'regenerating' on the roof, I thought for a moment that they'd pulled the ultimate stunt and that he wouldn't be leaving! I think it's easier to do it that way round.



Swozor
Swozor

I totally agree with this! As much as I loved the whole speculating part before Capaldi was announced, I would much rather watch a completely normal episode in the series, nothing special about it in the way of finales, then WHAM! The Doctor regenerates. I also think the same should go for companions. I'm growing tired of them all having a large send off every time. Just have a quick goodbye, or better yet, have them killed in the middle of an episode, or at the end. I mean actually killed. Not Moffats "killed but not really killed or dead for long" version of killed. 


The8thDoctor
The8thDoctor

A shock regeneration would be a amazing but impossible to pull off due to leaks and even if fans want to avoid spoilers the newspapers would be crowing about it.

Regarding JJ Abrams,  The Khan cat was out of the bag as soon as Benedicto Del Toro  was approached to play the antagonist





AlmightyAllan
AlmightyAllan

Doctor Who has never had a "surprise regeneration". And I don't think in all honesty that by announcing that the lead is leaving the show that it harms the regeneration episode in any way.  

TimCerchia
TimCerchia

While it would be great to keep it a secret, it would be impossible.   with Eccleston they hadn't intended to tell people about it, in fact they wanted it a secret right up until it happened.   What happened though was that because he had to open up his availability through his agent, people found out that way that he was being attached to other projects, and it eventually got out that he was moving on, so they went ahead and made the official announcement.  as for recently under Moffat, he's been pretty smart about it.  He knows something will get leaked or people will find out through some strange contact and it'll spread like wildfire.   So instead he plans the leaks and leaks what HE wants so other more important things that must be kept secret don't get leaked.  so while it would be nice if they could not say anything, it's going to happen anyway.  so best to control the circumstances surrounding it and keep people just satisfied enough to not ask too many other questions or dig too deep.



badwolfjen
badwolfjen

I a\gree that we didn't need to know about the regeneration before it happens on TV.

MowTheFrontLawn
MowTheFrontLawn

Finding out Matt Smith would leave 2 EPISODES before he left was enough of a surprise for me, thanks.

Shadestryke
Shadestryke

What if there was a Series long arc (such as the Lake Silencio one), only this time the Doctor is (apparently) disintegrated - only to reveal in the 2-part finale that one of the minor guest stars was actually the next Doctor crossing his own timeline to work on his final victory!

Adric the Genius
Adric the Genius

I think perhaps the sudden death of one or more companions would be an easier, and more devestating surprise.  The Doctor could have four companions, and then in a Dalek episode, three are exterminated, tortured or poisoned and only one and the Doctor survive.  This could really shock the viewing audience and make the Daleks scary again.

rtc125
rtc125

Sadly, it is all but impossible to keep a secret of this magnitude in today's social media/cameraphone age. BBC, Moffat and co. know this and so they opt to own the news by announcing it on their terms. Moffat himself has complained about this.


AshH654
AshH654

@bringmeknitting that would have worked in tTotD. Matt smith gets killed at the first wave of the attack and regenerates into someone. That guy is the doctor for the years that the dpc was trapped there. And the end, he regenerates into capaldi and its that doctor (the second one) who has the conversation with Clara about being the last doctor. The meta crisis doctor doesn't count in that version!

AnthonyJFuchs
AnthonyJFuchs

This tired nonsense again? Honestly: the Doctor is a Time Lord while male, and a Time Lady, if you must, while female. It's really that simple. Though, personally, I'd still call a female incarnation of the Doctor, or even the Rani for that matter, a Time Lord, because I feel no need to assign a specialized title to female Time Lords.


SirTrey
SirTrey

@TaylorBoone And also...I haven't watched the first 16 seasons of the Classic Series, but the first time the phrase "Time Lady" was used was in City of Death.  Were there no female Time Lords (also, this is the overarching name for their people, much as there isn't a separate term for female Americans, so to speak) or had they just all been called "Time Lords" under a blanket statement because the term is interchangeable?  

Finally, there was Jenny, who had Time Lord DNA and was always referred to with those terms, not "Time Lady" DNA.  Same goes for when Donna was "part human, part Time LORD".  That phrasing doesn't indicate gender.

SirTrey
SirTrey

@TaylorBoone There's also the canonical mention of the Corsair in "The Doctor's Wife", who pretty explicitly a) was a Gallifreyan/Time Lord and b) switched genders.   


Also, in "The Parting of the Ways" Nine says to Rose that he might not even end up looking humanoid - "two heads, or no head".  I doubt a simple semantic use of language would survive if a Doctor changed physical/physiological form in such a manner; if their heads - a pretty important part - can change, why not other parts of their body?  

There's also Xisco's point below...we don't know what the Time Lords call themselves any more than we know the real names of the Doctor or the Master or any more than we can read high Gallifreyan, which may not even make a gender distinction.

Xisco Lozdob
Xisco Lozdob

@TaylorBoone Well, it's a little bit more tricky this issue, as all the times those terms have been used it's been by alien beings who don't speak English, so they are translations by the TARDIS, which tries to accommodate those terms to the English language and culture, while possibly being the same in Gallifreyan.

Eradallion
Eradallion

@WhoPotterVian  Not if they filmed it at a closed location at a time that was announced they would be filming on. 

GrahamRaitt
GrahamRaitt

@Maiden_Ty_One  ''...In the classic series people often didn't know at all that a regeneration was coming in any given episode...''    When..?  Seriously - when did this happen...?  All (even Hartnell) the Doctors were announced as leaving before they did, and the press of the day (sometimes even news reports on TV) always mentioned that ''tonight was the night..'' (sic).  No Doctor has EVER regenerated in complete secrecy.  It's just that today the BBC actually gives a damn about the programme, realise what value it is and actively promotes it.






DW_girl
DW_girl

@TimCerchia Yes, that is true. But that doesn't mean that the identity of the new Doctor has to be leaked aswell. 

The_War_Braden
The_War_Braden

@Adric the Genius  I agree, I often think they should have done this in The Stolen Earth, instead of having the Dalek shoot The Doctor, it should have shot Rose, think how shocking that would have been. All of a sudden the children of time would have seemed expendable

WhoPotterVian
WhoPotterVian

@Eradallion Somebody would still find out somehow. One of those spoiler people in the know would probably find out from one of his or her sources at the BBC.