Regeneration 101: The Tenth Doctor

Tenth Doctor Who David Tennant

There seems to be a lot of confusion among Doctor Who fans and websites as to what constitutes a regeneration. Specifically – in this instance – I’m talking about the Tenth Doctor and the crazy moments in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End when the Doctor regenerates, then later his severed hand from The Christmas Invasion, Utopia and several Torchwood episodes gives birth to a half human Doctor.

Basically, there are two things happening here which seem to be getting confused in the minds of fans. Of course, this isn’t gospel as I am not Steven Moffat or Russell T Davies – but it certainly makes a lot more sense than some theories out there. Given Steven Moffat has declared that the current Doctor is the thirteenth incarnation, it’s time to sort this out.

First, the Doctor is shot by a Dalek. Dragged to the TARDIS by Jack and Rose, he climbs to his feet, and says “it’s too late, I’m regenerating!” One week later, mid-regeneration (the process has started) he completes it by syphoning off the regeneration energy from his dormant spare hand, thereby using his Time Lord DNA to maintain his appearance and character. As he observes, after the regeneration has completed: “I like being me.”

This is the Doctor’s tenth regeneration: from Journey’s End onwards, David Tennant is playing the Doctor in his eleventh body – it just so happens that it is identical to his tenth.

Second, a few minutes later, is the moment when the meta-crisis Doctor is born. This is not a regeneration. Rather, this is a result of the Doctor’s regenerative energy restarting the energy already in the hand. With Donna’s contact/close vicinity, the hand grows into what is a half-human clone of the Doctor.

The clone/meta-crisis Doctor is not the Doctor, and so it doesn’t count as a regeneration. The Doctor shot by a Dalek is the Doctor, and the resulting burst of energy is a regeneration.

So, to illustrate – this is a regeneration:

This, on the other hand, isn’t:

So with a lost incarnation in the shape of the War Doctor being the Time Lord known as the Doctor’s ninth incarnation, and two used up by his vain tenth self (in reality the eleventh and twelfth incarnations) Matt Smith – who we know as the Eleventh Doctor – is that Time Lord’s final body.

Now we’re all on the same page, it’s time to look forward to the Doctor’s death… or otherwise 😉

72 thoughts on “Regeneration 101: The Tenth Doctor

    1. On the grounds that I always found the Doctor/Rose “love story” positively nauseating I’d like to believe The Valeyard’s characteristics ended up being siphoned off into a convenient host…

      Just imagine Rose being trapped in her parallell universe with The Valeyard all done up as David Tennant. Be careful what you wish for, or what?

      It brightens my day every time I think of it, sick, twisted and unromantic soul that I am!

        1. But it is somewhere in between. If Hurt’s War Doctor is the 9th incarnation, as stated above, this makes Tennant’s 10th Doctor both the 11th and 12th incarnations. The Meta-Crisis Doctor formed after 10 used up his regeneration, meaning it formed during the Doctor’s 12th incarnation. As stated in Trial of a Time Lord, the Valeyard is a dark form of the Doctor somewhere between his 12th and final incarnation. That puts the Meta-Crisis Doctor in just the right spot. Not to mention he was born in war, destroyed Davros and committed genocide by destroying the Daleks, and the Doctor himself was angry at him for doing this. He left in him in Pete’s World because he was too dangerous, though he thought Rose could calm him. So maybe that doesn’t happen.

  1. I think that Steven Moffat was the first to call that regeneration the one about “the meta-crisis” Doctor…. I always assumed that it was a quick way to address exactly what you wrote here.

    1. He was? Silly Moff.

      The problem with that term is that loads of people (meaning, I think, shippers and tumblr) seem to think that it refers to Mr Half Human. Which is fair enough, as he and Donna are the constituent parts of the human-Time Lord metacrisis

  2. That makes… no sense at all and opens the door to analysis of the Smith stuff in which he dies and is given energy from River Song… The modern program is a mess with this kind of thing. Changing the rules or breaking them is fine, so long as it is properly explained. The ‘meta- crisis’ Doctor is the perfect example as ‘I like being me’ makes no sense and is a poor explanation at best. It implies that the previous Doctors wanted to change which is just silly.

    1. Except it makes perfect sense that he could look the same. It is shown multiple times that the regeneration is not just random. Melody Pond talks of focusing on a dress size, for example. Since David Tennant’s Doctor had his DNA in the hand he was able to just copy it for his new body.

      I believe Melody also just used the regeneration energy to heal the Doctor. We’ve seen the Doctor grow back his hand and Melody heal her bullet wounds with it. Stands to reason that she just used that energy to heal him and it had nothing to do with a Doctor regeneration.

      The one that throws me off though is Lake Silencio. If he is on his last body why would the regeneration process start after the first shot astronaut River did?

    2. Just to muddy the field even more. Does a forced regeneration I.E. The second to the third by the Gallifreyian High Council even count? Was this his energy or was it from the TimeLords?

      Also if River gave all her remaining to him and we know she used 2 regens on herself then she could have added another 10 to the Dr.

      1. this is incorrect. River didn’t give him all her regenerations. Instead, it took all of her regenerations to bring him back to life. She used the energy of her remainging (10) regenerations to bring the Doctor back from being completely dead. But it took all of that energy to do so. Nothing was left over. That’s why it was such a big deal. 10 lives for 1.

    3. 10 needed the hand to siphne off the energy into which most Doctors don’t have extra spare parts hanging about. River healed 11 with her energy. Not the same as giving his the regeneraton energy.

    4. Actually that explanation is completely wrong. The Doctor did not siphone FROM the hand he siphoned off energy TO the hand. Big difference. And he didn’t fully regenerate as the dialogue from the show clearly says. Here is the ACTUAL dialogue that I have typed WORD FOR WORD from the actual episode. I brought it up on Netflix just now and using the closed captions I paused and then typed, then hit play then pause to type the next bit of dialogue.
      Tenth Doctor: “Used the Regeneration Engery to heal myself, But as soon as that was done, I didn’t need to change. I didn’t want to. Why would I? Look at me. So to STOP the energy from going all the way, I siphoned off the rest into (NOT FROM) A handy bio-matching receptacle. Namely my hand there.”

      So it is the Meta-Crisis Doctor they have to be referring to otherwise Moffat wasn’t paying close attention to the dialogue either. But since he hasn’t said, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he DID indeed mean the Meta-Crisis Doctor all along.

    5. I agree! The Doctor aborted the regeneration and redirected the energy into his hand! Moffat is just causing trouble with the long time fan base! The man is a twerp!

      1. In my opinion: the context of the energy direction referred to, is semantics. The regeneration – the face change – isn’t the regeneration but the cumulative effect of the restoration. Your body heals a wound, the wound disappearing isn’t the healing but the bodies use of chemical agents. A Time Lord can regenerate 12 times, see that as 12 times healing a mortal wound with restorative energies. The Doctor siphoned the energies to stop the restoration reaching levels that would trigger a bodily change, but those regenerative energies were used to heal a dying body – but the bodily function naturally takes the body to full bodily regeneration regardless of whether the wound is healed – but that doesn’t mean the bodies regenerative energies weren’t triggered and used. Like River, she uses up her regeneration potential, we don’t see her changing her face as she does so. The energy is key not the effect the energy has on the body if allowed to naturally build up to full potential. You drink a can of beer, you drink most of it but throw the rest away, might just save you from a hang over, but there’s not enough left in that can to get you even near drunk on another outing.

        Or as a more grubby example, see it as only being allowed to have sex 12 times and one time you use protection – you’ve had sex, you don’t get the baby, but doesn’t mean you’ve not had sex. The meta doctor is the result of a gammage collection that’s then fertilised in a surrogate. Anyone else feeling I should stop talking? My point being is what that trapped energy does elsewhere is irrelevant to the host. It’s collected energy.

        It all depends on how you want to argue it, I agree that the argument presented here as equal merit, just clear that the show’s taking the OTHER approach and its logic is sound if it wants to use this perspective. Well sort of. It does feel like a retrospective decision.

    6. Don’t be silly. Other time lords have control over their new appearances, at least to some extent. Romana’s regeneration just off-camera is one particularly precise example, but the Master and other time lords have commented on the Doctor’s inability to control the appearance and personality of his new regenerations. That and his traumatic post-regeneration craziness is decades-long established canon.

      The Tenth Doctor had an opportunity to regenerate while staying the same and took it. He even later says he sees regeneration as a kind of death (which other Doctors don’t).

  3. Yes the 10th Doctor starts to regenerate as a result of being blasted by that sneaky dalek, but as you know he doesn’t go all the way to change again, the doctor actually states he uses the regeneration energy to HEAL himself, so he then pours the excess energy into his handy spare hand in that jar. Anyway we know by what The War Doctor says in the closing seconds of The Night of the Doctor, Doctor no more. Regardless of how the Doctors are numbered, David Tennant is still the 10th Doctor and Matt Smith is still the 11th Doctor n so on, thats how prefer to place them, after all isn’t Trenzalore where the fall of the 11th happens?

    1. I place them, that should of said, thats what happens when using my xbox controller to write posts or replies to them, when my laptop is away getting repaired.

    2. He has 12 regenerations, 13 lives.

      The regeneration is used, only he choose to retain the same body.

      If he was able to stop and start regenerations at will, he’d have complete control over them.

      We know this isn’t the case.

      1. Yes, exactly. The one that really confuses me is when 11th Doctor heals River’s hand in Angels Take Manhatten. Obviously not a full regeneration (because we now know he doesn’t have any more), but what then? Some residual energy left from what River gave him? She was upset with him for using it and called it a waste of regeneration energy. I felt like that opened a can of worms… Why couldn’t he use regeneration energy to save any companion that got hurt or was on the verge of dying? (He could have saved Rory the first time Rory died when he got shot) Or maybe The Moff would say that it only worked on River because she was a timelord. Anyway, sorry to get off topic a little, I now return you to your regularly scheduled debate.

        1. I’m guessing moffat is trying to rush the point where the Doctor ran out of regenerations. So he can reboot something. I guess he already know he got no more regenerations of his own. And he will die on Trenzalore and his very own time lord span will remain in his tomb. But in the end he manages to regenerate one last time, estra his own lifespan because of River`s energy. He still has regeneration energy. River was very upset when he wasted it while curing her wrist. Why was she upset? she knew it was his very last regen energy maybe thats why he regenerates into someone older, not so younger ‘cuase he got it borrowed. Then he needs to find Gallifrey to get new set of lifes. That’s the plot for further seasons. That’s my guess.

      2. Yes we know that the Doctor has 12 Regenerations n a 13th body, when the 10th Doctor healed himself regeneration energy its very possible that he actually used his 13th body instead of regenerating all the way, it’s just a theory of course 🙂 n all this is exciting that us fans are debating this topic. We should take our hats off to the Moff, he so delights in messing with our heads but in a good n clever way lol i salute him, in bringing back Gallifrey too is a good twist because this could be the way how the Doctor gets a new Regeneration cycle but first he has to find Gallifrey. Lets all just wait n see until after, The Time of the Doctor has aired on Christmas day. Merry Christmas to all fellow Doctor Who fans.

      3. Couldn’t find the reply button to the post, but this looks like a good comment to reply to.

        1: Regeneration changes all the cells in a time lord body (presumeably some of the DNA as well). This is the energy we see during a regeneration. Where this mystical energy comes from is, as far as I know, unknown. It looks remarkably similar to the energy of the time vortex that Rose absorbed at the end of the first series… any one ever think of that?

        2: When he regenerated in Journey’s End, it wasn’t a real regeneration… the energy that triggers regeneration started to flow through him, but he used it to HEAL rather than change all his cells. He then sent the remaining energy into the hand that matched his current DNA. Therefore, he didn’t “regenerate into the same body” but somehow halted the actual regeneration (that doesn’t make the point any less sticky though).

        3: Doe anyone really care about the “regeneration limit”? I mean, really? If you’re looking for plot devices that could be used to bypass the limit,
        A: the Master found ways around the regeneration limit even before the current incarnation of the show started.
        B: River used all her “remaining regenerations” to save the doctor… if there is some mysterious bucket of energy that is attached to each time lord, it could be seen as River dumping her regeneration bucket into the Doctor’s.
        C: The Night of The Doctor – The Sisterhood of Caan (sp?) “Keepers of the flame of utter boredom.” – ‘Eternal Life.’ – “That’s the one.” Not only was their potion able to trigger a regeneration, but as she said ‘Time Lord science is elevated here, the change doesn’t have to be random.” What else might that potion have done to him, or what else might they be able to do if he goes back there?
        D: Maybe something happened to him when he took the energy of the time vortex out of Rose? Might explain why he had “regeneration sickness” in the christmas invasion. That’s something we haven’t seen since then, nor do I know of it occurring in classic who.

        4: A note on regeneration in general… In all of Classic Who, even the movie from the 90s, each regeneration process was different, just like each doctor was different. You can find a clip of all the regenerations on youtube. Now, putting aside the evolution of special effects and such as a reason for this, it is a tradition that Davies or Moffet COULD have carried on with if they wanted to… but they didn’t. Perhaps there was some deeper reason for this. But, if we ignore production order, and go only by chronological order, then the first time the modern “standard” of regeneration effect as we know happened after the 8th doctor drank the potion on Caan and regenerated into the War Doctor. Each regeneration since has had a similar effect, could it have something to do with that potion?

        5: Finally… It’s FICTION! If you’re a fan, be a fan, but don’t take it all so bloody seriously. Let your inner child out when you watch something like this.

        1. 3: Doe anyone really care about the “regeneration limit”? I mean, really?

          Steven Moffat appears to. He hasn’t stopped talking about it lately. I’m with you, there are plenty of opps in the past for it to have been dealt with, but the issue is Moffat is dealing with it himself, explicitly.

      4. The Master refused to regenerate and choose to die instead. 10 may not have been able to stop the regen (after it got started) if he didn’t have that extra hand to put the energy into.

      5. You have 13 cans of cola drink.

        1 – 8 (Hartnell to McCoy) all Cokes you drink with no problem. You have 5 cans left.

        9 (War) you drink. It’s Pepsi not Coke like the previous 8 cans and remaining 4 but it’s still 1 of your 13 cans. You have 4 cans left.

        10 -11 (Eccleston to Tennant) you drink but whilst it’s your 10th and 11th cans it’s your 9th and 10th Cokes.You have 2 cans left.

        12 (Metacrisis) – you only start to drink it then give it away. It’s your 12th can and 12th cola but only your 11th full Coke but as you have started it and given the rest away you can’t have it again later and it’s 1 of your 13 cans. You have only drunk 10 full cans of Coke still. You have 1 can left.

        13 (Smith) – you are now on your 13th can but 11th full Coke (the other 2 being a Pepsi and another started and given away). If you drop this one that’s it all gone

    3. I was just thinking. If Hurt’s Doctor is “Really” Doctor number 9, Then Chris’ would be Number 10 and that means it’s TENNENTS DOCTOR who falls at Trenzalore. Hey cool. Not that he falls there but that he’s coming back to film more Doctor Who. 🙂

      1. Sorry! I tried to make a winking face to show I was being facitious but it came out as a smiley face. I was joking. So if Matt’s is Thirteen, then what is he worried about? The Prophecy says THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR FALLS THERE. Well if he isn’t #11, he’s off the hook. lol

    4. He is also the Doctor again at the end of the Day of the Doctor. So he was the Doctor all along but he didn’t realize it and actually never realized it until the 11th. To quote from 10&11. “…you were the doctor more than any of us. You were the doctor the day it was impossible to get it right.”

  4. To Dailypop – I don’t think it implies that. The reason being that the other Doctors didn’t happen to have a spare part of themselves laying around that they could siphon off the rest of their regeneration energy into after healing themselves. I think if anything it shows how attached the Doctor becomes to each incarnation and that given the opportunity he would stay the same. Circumstances had to be just right to allow that to happen. He had to have a spare part AND his body also couldn’t be too damaged. It was a mere glancing wound from a Dalek. If for instance it had been the 10th Doctor when he finally did regenerate after absorbing all that radiation, I don’t feel like he could have simply healed himself and siphoned off the energy into a spare part, he was too badly damaged. Anyway that’s my take on it, for what it’s worth. 🙂

  5. It would have made more sense if they had stated it from that moment on. But when you watch it, it is implied and from then on accepted, that he didn’t use up a body. Once he healed he siphoned on the rest BEFORE HE CHANGED!
    It is up to the writers whether this counts or not and it makes sense either way. It is just annoying that it went on this long without being mentioned.

  6. Moffet has already explained this before the 50th came out, that the John Hurt Doctor isn’t apart of the normal numbering, he’s known as the War Doctor only, that version of the Doctor was given to him during the Time War but the Sisterhood and was only a temp body since he decided to take part at long last in the Time War, however as we’ve all seen at the end of the 50th, it did have a time limit as he noted “It is wearing a bit thin isn’t it” right before he regenerates into the 9th Doctor that we first meet at the start of the current Doctor Who series. So Matt Smith is the 11th Doctor and this Christmas he will be regenerating into the 12th (and possibly last) Doctor. That is the official count by Moffet, however when it comes to the number of Regens, Moffet is saying that 12 might not be the last regeneration considering that there were some things that we might not have taken note of in past episode, and personally I’m still looking for them, and I have a feeling that when River gave up hers, that not only added to his regens, but at the same time gave him a few more. After all we don’t know how many times River had regenerated before given the rest to Matt.

  7. Everyone is forgetting one thing. In Lets Kill Hitler, River used all her remaining regenerations to bring the doctor back to life. Did her remaining regenerations transfer to the Doctor? If so, then by my count, she had used at least 4 regenerations up to that point. The 2 little girls in the back alley in New York, the sick little girl and the girl she regenerated into, then an unknown number, but assuming no more regenerations until the Melody that went back to Kill Hitler and then finally into River. So at the very least, that’s 8 regenerations “transferred” to the Doctor.

  8. It always bugged me that Romana could ‘try out’ all those various bodies, as well as ‘choose’ to look like Astra…
    Though when that scene was made, they likely didn’t expect anyone to be thinking about it 30 years later.

    1. I always love that scene, even if it bugs me too. Must have made the Doctor really jealous having that kind of control over your netx body and look!

    2. I have a theory that since Romana is hundreds of years younger then the Doctor, she probably learned all kinds of MORE ADVANCED techniques at the Time Lord University then the Doctor.
      And so maybe later generations didn’t have to wait until they were badly damaged or extremely old to regenerate.
      So that scene in ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ makes perfect sense. Besides, they had Romana I looking perfectly all right at the end of the ‘Armageddon Factor’ and Mary Tamm didn’t like that they had reduced Romana to a screamer by the end. Plus I’ve never seen them spend the time and money to film a Regeneration for ANYONE but the Doctor. That’s probably why they had her just trying on different bodies until she was at the one she liked.

  9. This is stupid, Matt Smith is in his Eleventh Body and that is the truth since all the doctor did was use the in-progress Regeneration to HEAL his damaged body. So he is still the tenth doctor, Matt is still the eleventh, and Peter Capaldi is the 12th Doctor.

    What is so hard to understand about this?

  10. Basically, its a mess. And a mess the current production crew don’t really seem to have the answer. The Hurt Doctor is a good example:
    1. He’s not the Doctor
    2 He’s the War Doctor
    3 He’s Doctor 8.5
    4 No, he is the Doctor, he’s in the dream sequence.

    Take your pick. (I believe he is a bonafide Doctor for the record!) Now lets all think about the comment the Moff said a month or so ago ‘Count the regeneration’s, check your DVD’s. There’s something you’ve all missed’.
    I bet they wont even reference that.

  11. i think its impossible to tell what official counts as regeneration or not regeneration because other than a few snippets of “lore” like the 12 regeneration rules,we have no idea…like for example what if majority of use of regeneration energy goes to rebuilding noses,ears,arm length,etc so repairing a few organs may only take a fraction of the energy,and for war doctor,i think the potion contained the energy for a new body along with the premade face/body 8 wanted…and idk why people count hartnell as doctor 1 of his regenerations,it was rumored that hartnell was really the 8th doctor which would completely blow out of the water the regenerations count,and plus with all the times the doctor has died,used/given regenerations by river song,used regeneration energy to heal her wrist,been brought back,erased from time to be willed back by amy pond,maybe he came back as “1st doctor” with 11th face XD basically dont worry about the number,just keep viewing it and bbc will keep showing it and find new ways to keep the doctor going on adventures XD

    1. plus forgot to add,everyone seems to forget that while tardis was in idris,she said she had 37 “desktop layouts” for the interior of the tardis,1st and 2nd shared one,3,4,5 and 6 shared one i think,7 had a new one,8 had a new one,8.5 war doctor had a new one,9 and 10 shared one and 11 had 2,so 7 interiors that we know of? so if capaldi is “final doctor” and the tardis ends up as the doctors grave…then capaldis going to get 30 different tardis interiors? wow….thats almost 1 every episode if 13 a year lol

  12. You should all do what I do and accept the bits you like and disregard the bits you don’t. Make the show fit around what you want it to be, it is different for each of us. There are people out there that even come up with imaginative ways of making Peter Cushion’s Dr Who canon. I Don’t, but fair play to them if that makes them happy. Oh, and hows about we all wait and see what happens on Christmas day first eh???

  13. I think that since it is a work of fiction, Moffatt or powers that be can add as many regenerations as they need to in order to keep giving us the doctor for many, many more years to come. 🙂

  14. If you think about it, Patrick Troughton (2nd Doctor) was a forced regeneration, In fact the Head time lords never called it a Regeneration, they just simply changed his appearance when they exiled him to 20th century earth. Tom Baker (4th Doctor) was also a Forced/ Saved regeneration, as he merged with “The Watcher” becoming the fifth incarnation (Peter Davison). So Peter Capaldi is really the twelfth doctor that’s counting John Hurt and Tennants (what I call) “Hand Regeneration. This is just my theory/opinion.

  15. That Matt’s11th named Doctor is the 13th incarnation is also borne out by the fact that he was dying from the poison in Let’s Kill Hitler and would have died without River as he had no more of his own 12 regenerations left.

    Their is a history of changing appearances and looking like others including;

    * Hartnell’s Doctor looked like Abbot of Amboise from The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve
    * Troughton’s Doctor looked like Salamander from The Enemy of the World
    * Ward’s Romana looked like Princess Astra from The Armageddon Factor
    * Baker’s Doctor looked like Commander Maxil from Arc of Infinity
    * Kingston’s River Song was able to change her appearance post-regeneration in Let’s Kill Hitler
    * Baker’s Curator incarnation of The Doctor chose to revisit old favourite faces again in The Day of the Doctor
    * Capaldi’s Doctor looks like Caecilius from The Fires of Pompeii and John Frobisher from Torchwood: Children of Earth

  16. I’m surprised there’s so much confusion about this as it seems pretty straightforward to me, but then I often anticipate these long-term plot points before they’re revealed (I assumed Smith was the 13th before Moffatt hinted, knew they’d save Gallifrey, Clara was pretty much as I expected, etc.) which drives my friends nuts! I just sort of understand how Moffatt thinks in some small way, so these things don’t seem convoluted or surprising. I would like him to be a bit less sloppy about contradicting canon and himself, though. I don’t think there’s been any decent explanation for Skaro still existing (as it was destroyed completely by 7) unless we are to assume it’s because of the events of “The Big Bang,” and I suspect we won’t get much explanation as to why the Daleks still know the Doctor in the upcoming special despite that he was wiped from their memories in “Asylum…” Still, this whole regeneration thing is just adding up the numbers, really. I’d like to know where Smith got a bit of regeneration energy to heal River’s wrist, though…could have been surplus from when she gave him hers, I suppose, but it feels a little thin.

    1. She specifically upbraids him for wasting his “regeneration energy” on her if I remember correctly. It could be some left over from what she gave him. If she knows he’s on his last natural incarnation she’d naturally be upset about him wasting whatever little he’s got left.

  17. Everybody arguing that Tennant-Doctor didn’t use up a regeneration (because he used it to heal himself and siphoned off the energy into his hand)- He STILL USED the energy. It’s still gone. Like the soda analogy above; someone gives you a certain amount of glasses full of water. You don’t get any more than those, no matter how you use them. If you chose to drink half of one, then water a plant with the rest of the water in the glass, you still used it up. You no longer have that glass of water. It’s still gone.

  18. The Doctor’s regeneration energy could obviously be used for other purposes by others as well as for himself. “Christmas Invasion” introduced the Roboforms (pilot fish) attempting to kidnap the Doctor after tracking him on earth where they could “smell” his regeneration energy simply being breath out as he slept. They planned to use the energy to power their ships for years to come.

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