NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the Doctor Who 2013 Christmas Special. If you do not want to be spoiled, run you clever boy (or girl), and return with your TARDIS after you have viewed "The Time of the Doctor."
Silence has fallen and Doctor Who fans have officially said their goodbye to the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith in the 2013 Christmas Special, "The Time of the Doctor" (read our review) - which, once again, scored big ratings for the BBC and BBC America. For weeks viewers have been debating whether or not the inclusion of John Hurt's War Doctor and acknowledgment of David Tennant's second regeneration would mean a re-ordering of the Time Lord's numbering, but showrunner and writer Steven Moffat made it clear with one simple poetic verse that Smith will always be Eleven and that Capaldi is Twelve: "And now it's time for one last now, like all your other selves. Eleven's hour is over now, the clock is striking Twelve's."
To get around the twelve regeneration limit, Moffat re-introduced the Gallifreyans, who after the events of "The Day of the Doctor," are trapped in a pocket universe - safe but calling out through a crack in time. Just as the Doctor is about to die (with no regenerations left), Clara pleads with the Time Lords to help the Doctor change his future - and fresh regeneration energy comes pouring through another time crack, allowing the Doctor to fend-off a Dalek invasion and, after a lengthy goodbye between Clara (as well as a vision of Amy Pond), regenerate into the Twelfth Doctor. In case you missed the full episode, BBC has released a clip of the Matt Smith/Peter Capaldi regeneration (which you can check out for yourself above).
After the drawn-out regenerations of Eccleston and Tennant, the quick blink and you'll miss it transformation from Smith to Capaldi might have been a shock to some viewers - and was a source of debate among commenters in our review. As with anything Doctor Who, viewers will likely form their own explanation for why Smith wasn't treated to the usual transitioning face effect (he'd already started regenerating on the roof of the bell tower, it was the start of a new regeneration cycle, etc). Yet, regardless of the official explanation, not every Doctor was given a lengthy transition - a few classic series regenerations (especially John Pertwee to Tom Baker) were nearly as quick.
Watch (almost) every Doctor Who regeneration in the compilation below:
Whether or not the Doctor was gifted a single regeneration or an entire regeneration cycle will also be a source of contention among fans - since some viewers might have different interpretations for Smith's line: "I'm getting used to my new regeneration cycle."
If you hated, loved, or are indifferent to the logistics of this regeneration, one thing is still certain: Peter Capaldi is the new Doctor - now that fans have been treated to an official (albeit short) interaction between Clara and Twelve. In the pre-season 8 teaser, Capaldi's Doctor appears to Clara, comments on his new kidneys, and then asks whether she knows how to fly the TARDIS, before the 2013 Christmas Special credits roll.
Here's the full transcript from the exchange:
- The Doctor: "Kidneys! I've got new kidneys. I don't like the color."
- Clara: "Of your kidneys? What's happening?"
- The Doctor: "We're probably crashing! Oh!"
- Clara: "Into what?"
- The Doctor: "Stay calm. Just one question. Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?"
As usual (with any regeneration), it was a hasty glimpse at how a new actor intends to put his mark on the iconic role. Obviously, we don't have much to go by yet but Capaldi appears to be just about what we expected when his casting was first announced: a more severe but still quirky version of the Doctor - one that, as Moffat suggests, can take the character in a fresh direction.
After Smith's impassioned speech about remembering every detail in his many lives, Capaldi's post-regeneration memory troubles might have left some viewers wondering if the Twelfth Doctor was going to suffer from a tragic case of amnesia (possibly as a result of his new regeneration cycle). Nevertheless, longtime viewers will recall that the Doctor is always disoriented following a regeneration - which, at least in the modern series, usually results in a chaotic episode cliff-hanger (Tennant's crash landing in London and Smith's crash landing at Amy Pond's home). Considering Smith's Doctor was "The One Who Forgets" (paired with Tennant as "The One Who Regrets"), fans should expect Capaldi's memory to be fully operational by the end of the season 8 premiere.
Of course, season 8 of Doctor Who isn't expected until Fall of 2014 - though you can pick up "The Time of the Doctor" Blu-ray on March 4, 2014. In the meantime, let us know what you thought of "The Time of the Doctor" as well as Capaldi's brief appearance. If you've yet to get into Doctor Who, check out our Doctor Who Viewing Guide: Tips, Suggestions & Complete Episode List.
Peter Capaldi will return as Doctor Who in Autumn 2014.
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