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What’s up with Ten’s final line?

Guest contributor Thomas Capon examines Tennant’s divisive final moments.

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“I don’t want to go.”

That line is one of the few in Doctor Who that has ever brought me close to tears. I’ve never cried in an episode, but The End of Time brought me close. Taking that into consideration, you can imagine my shock at the dislike of many fellow fans at those words.

Why are these words hated by some fans? I asked this question in the comments not so long ago and these were some of the responses:

  • “They seemed a bit self obsessed.”
  • “They didn’t seem deep enough. Whereas you could write reams about Eccleston’s departure, all that you can say of Tennant’s is ‘he didn’t want to go.’”
  • “It wasn’t jolly enough. New Life! Hoorah!”
  • “They were out of character, or at least the culmination of serious character development.”
  • “Nine lived for less time and did not react anything like in this way.”

These were but a handful of the replies I received. I’m not going to focus on a direct response to them. Instead I’m going to give the reasons why I believe they were suitable and worthy last words for a brilliant Doctor.

To begin, let us consider the ninth regeneration. This is the one often used in order to criticise the tenth regeneration. What is exactly occurring? Well the Doctor has absorbed the energy of the Time Vortex and his cells are starting to die. However before he regenerates, Rose regains consciousness and the Doctor decides to explain to her what is about to happen. She’s clearly horrified and confused. To calm and comfort her, he uses his catchphrase: “fantastic!” In an attempt at humour, he tells her that she was ‘fantastic, absolutely fantastic and do you know what? So was I’. Then he regenerates.

It is a well known fact that the catchphrase of the Tenth Doctor is the French phrase Allons-­y. When translated this is, of course, the expression ‘Let’s go’.

Now put yourself in the Doctor’s shoes as he enters the TARDIS after meeting Rose again in The End of Time. No doubt in his mind he is going over thoughts of his last regeneration. Then he realises that Rose will never see this face again, this version of him. She’s lost in another universe, not knowing that the Doctor is about to regenerate again. The Doctor decides to try and cheer himself up, like he did last time. Regenerate with a smile.

It is also worth noting at this stage that the upcoming regeneration was going to be painful. Not merely the pain of the regeneration, but the outcome. As a Time Lord ages, it would appear to be the case that each regeneration is more likely to go wrong. Take the Master’s final incarnation as an example. That body was hardly the one he would have hoped for.

There is an argument that the Tenth Doctor should have been use to regenerating and it should be less painful. In response I’ll just ask you to go ask a woman who has had several children, if childbirth got easier as she got older. You’ll find the contrary to be true. Also you’ll find that at older ages, the childbirth has a higher probability of something going wrong. The same is more than likely to be true for regeneration.

Back to the tenth regeneration. To go out with a smile, the Doctor reaches for his catchphrase. After all, he’s already described it as a phrase which ‘brings consolation to the soul in times of need.’ He sees it as a phrase which helps him press on in life. It is wisdom; a saying of encouragement. It says ‘Don’t give up. Onwards and upwards.”

Then it starts, the energy is about to pour out of his body. The Doctor grabs the catchphrase and is about to utter it. Allons­-y, let’s go. Then he realises the truth: his catchphrase won’t help him. It won’t bring consolation to his soul. He doesn’t want ‘aller’. He doesn’t want to go. Rose will never see his face again; the face she fell in love with. No ­one will. But it’s too late and when it comes, he’s realised the truth: no more ‘Allons­-y’. He doesn’t want to give up this body. This is the Doctor that Rose fell in love with. He doesn’t want to lose this form. He doesn’t want it to go. ‘I don’t want to go.’

Then with a sigh, he accepts it and regenerates. His last words express not a selfish wine, but more of a sad lament. An acknowledgement to the fact that the ‘Allons-­y’, which helped so many in time of need, couldn’t help him. Blame him not. Instead feel for the sad, old man. Then rejoice at the appearance of his next wonderful incarnation. A new Doctor who was happy to see that he’d made it through with no mishaps.

Step back in time...

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