Top Post-Regeneration Stories (5-1)
Guest contributors Yossi Pinkus and Isaac Bowen conclude their countdown for the top 11 post-regeneration stories so far.
5. The Christmas Invasion
Christopher Eccleston’s single season was rather an odd occurrence, but a regeneration so soon in the show’s revival, and its success, shows off the strength of the programme. Amusing now to recall that after fans fell in love with the Ninth Doctor, people were sceptical about the Tenth.
Even though Tennant’s new Doctor is unconscious for much of this episode, we get a great look at how time has ticked by in Rose’s absence from the Powell Estate. Christmas time is not so cheery, as the vicious attacks from pilot fish and killer trees are enough to show that the show’s sinister tone should never be put on hold, and even at times of celebration no one is safe. The Sycorax likewise are cruel and callous in their negotiations with humanity, not hesitating to render people into scorched skeletal remains.
Naturally, after he awakes, it takes mere minutes for David Tennant’s charisma to kick in, and suddenly we all know and love the Doctor again. He’s a good man, but not the sort to mess about when there are threats made against the ones he loves. We see principal in him, genuine strength and integrity. There’s little to criticise here. The Christmas special idea simply doesn’t water anything down, this is straight-up true Who.
4. The Eleventh Hour
The Eleventh Hour was one of the most anticipated episodes of Doctor Who to date, with the question on everyone’s minds being “how is Matt Smith going to top David Tennant’s performance?” To help us with this transition, we had an episode that was all about change.
We had a new Doctor, a new companion, a new TARDIS, a new theme, a new title sequence, a new head writer and an entirely new production crew all coming together in this one hour long episode, and boy does it pay off.
For once we have a post regeneration episode where the Doctor does not spend any time in a coma, a deep trance, or in a state where he wants to murder his companion. Instead we have a new Doctor bursting with energy and youth that Matt Smith carries all throughout his time as the enigmatic Time Lord. With 20 minutes to save the world, no sonic screwdriver to save the day, not to mention Moffat placing in starting points to story arcs that would not be resolved until three years later, this really is classic Who at some of its best.
Serving as both a finale of the trilogy surrounding the Master’s resurrection and rise to power over the Universe and the introductory episode of Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor, Castrovalva works excellently in bringing original ideas forth for a bold new era of Doctor Who.
Expanding upon the harder science-fiction that was shown in the previous season, it gives us further insight concerning the TARDIS, giving us the Zero Room and the dangers of mass jettisoning. But also it shows a new spin of the regenerative process, really emphasising the vulnerability the Doctor displays in his new self as we see this young looking man being wheeled around as if he were made of glass. The concept of The Master creating the world of Castrovalva via a ‘hadron web’ powered by a freshly kidnapped Adric, is like nothing ever written in the series before. Even the design of the city could only be described as something out of an M.C. Escher nightmare.
The conclusion leaves room for the Master’s future return, stranded in his own space-time trap with the furious Castrovalvans, and the new Doctor is doing absolutely splendidly, even if a world of difference away from his predecessor – didn’t it just break your heart when he unravelled Baker’s scarf?- The three seasons to follow could not have started better.
It’s March 2005 and the impossible has happened: the Doctor has returned to our screens in the form of an all new Doctor, Christopher Eccleston. Emerging newly regenerated and battle scarred after the events of the Time War, we are presented with very dark doctor, who remains dark throughout his lone season on screen.
Rose contains has your run-of-the-mill classic alien invasion, while also introducing the domestic side of Rose Tyler’s life and re-introducing the mystery of who this strange man in a leather jacket really is.
This post-regeneration story is a fantastic Doctor Who romp that can be watched over and over again. It has enough elements to appease the parents and grandparents who grew up on classic episodes, while also introducing a whole new generation of fans to the show. As Steven Moffat has said, if you watch Survival and Rose back to back, it really is the same show.
1. Spearhead from Space
Spearhead from Space offers as much a sense of renewal and refreshment as other beginnings of new eras for Who, and as such one can draw several parallels between this and The Eleventh Hour. Both feature brand new Doctors and companions with a familiar enough Earth-bound setting.
We also have the introduction of the Autons, these plastic horrors becoming fan-favourites overnight, not to mention the fact that we learn more about the Doctor’s unique physiology (his binary vascular system). The format of the Doctor working alongside UNIT as tested in The Invasion works perfectly, as does the higher-budget, more violent and gritty direction for the programme. Despite the Doctor spending much of this story unconscious, there’s enough action to keep the viewers enthralled by the exciting plot, well reflected by the new Doctor’s more Bond-esque approach (in flamboyant charm and gadgetry) to those who oppose him.
Spearhead from Space truly is a remarkable display of all of Doctor Who’s elements we know and love forming a well-paced and enchanting gem that will remain well respected for decades to come. It doesn’t feel dated by any means; it stands up well to the test of time, as every good Doctor Who episode should. This story is not only the best post regeneration tale to date, but is one of the best of Doctor Who full stop.