by T. Mack
Within the Doctor Who universe, there are many things to make us geek out and get pumped up. I could do an entire list on all the great things about Doctor Who. Today, though, I’d like to talk about just one of the terrific elements of the series. That one thing is the absolute awesomeness of getting a brand new Doctor!
It just so happens that we are currently experiencing this exact phenomenon. We have less than 3 weeks until Season 11 of Doctor Who premiers worldwide with the first adventure of the 13th Doctor, Jodie Whittaker. The anticipation is high and fans all over the world are figuratively holding their breath as we wait to see exactly who this new Doctor will be and how her personality will differ from every Doctor who came before.
Already, there is controversy stirring as the Doctor has switched gender for the first time in the 55-year history of the series. However, the switch is not unprecedented in the show’s lore. And even aside from that massive change, there are all the questions, mysteries, and unknowns that come with any new Doctor, be she female or male.
Let’s take a look at ten of the reasons it’s so exciting whenever the Doctor regenerates and a new Doctor arrives on our TV screens:
- NEW PERSONALITY
Every new Doctor is a version of the same character that has always been on the show since the beginning in 1963. However, they are all a different version of the character. This means that while they retain the memories of the previous incarnations, and typically have the same values, everything else is up in the air. The age, look, gender, temperament, tolerance for BS, lovableness, cheerfulness, grumpiness, romantic inclination, all of this and more can be as different as night is from day once a regeneration has occurred.
Basically, the Doctor is an entirely new person with a new set of quirks and idiosyncrasies. They have a completely different set of likes, dislikes, preferences, and prejudices. This new person is totally different is many ways from anyone who came before. However, they may also be very similar. The audience doesn’t know yet. And neither does the Doctor! It will take time to discover who this new person is and how they may be alike and different from the versions of themself who came before. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking for the audience not to know. And it’s equally exciting and nerve-wracking getting to go on the journey with the character to find out.
- NEW COMPANIONS (or a New Dynamic with an Old Companion)
New Doctors often come with a new Companion or Companions. Of course, these newcomers are always fun for several reasons. One, they tend to breathe new life into the series by bringing a fresh perspective. Second, it’s always fun to watch someone discover the universe with the Doctor for the first time. It allows the audience to discover it all over again through their experience. Third, a new Doctor and new Companion bring a fresh dynamic that has never been felt before in the series. Because every Doctor is different and every Companion is different, every Doctor/Companion combination will have a different tone, feel, and vibe. We may enjoy some better than others, but it’s fun getting to know new Companions and their relationship with the Doctor.
For the record, even when a Companion is not new, they might as well be when a new Doctor comes along. As previously stated, every new Doctor is essentially a different person. So a seasoned Companion has to rediscover their place with a new Doctor and redetermine the nature of their relationship. So even though they’ve been around, it’s like getting a new Companion anyway. For example: Rose’s relationship with 10 went to a level that it probably wouldn’t have hit with 9. And Clara couldn’t flirt in nearly the same way with 12 as she did with 11. These Companions weren’t new, but their relationships to the different Doctors were. And like it or loath it, you have to admit it makes for interesting TV.
- NEW STYLE
Along with their new personality, each new Doctor has a different sense of style. Typically, each has a distinct wardrobe that defines their era and at least one piece of flair that makes them stand out among the crowd. Whether it’s a multi-colored, mile-long scarf, a piece of celery, a leather jacket, a pinstripe suit, or a bow tie, each Doctor takes the time to figure out a look that is uniquely theirs. By doing so, they help themselves and the audience understand them a bit better.
The 13th Doctor has revealed what seems to me like a rather whimsical nature with her suspenders and striped shirt. There is nothing buttoned up about her. This is a Doctor who looks ready to have a bit of fun by jumping feet first into a bunch of trouble. We’ll see soon enough if my first impressions are correct.
- NEW T.A.R.D.I.S.
In addition to getting to shake up their personality and wardrobe, it has become tradition for new Doctors to get the chance to redecorate their T.A.R.D.I.S. a bit. This is a tradition that goes back to the old days of Doctor Who, though back then, the change wasn’t as dramatic nor was it discussed as extensively as in more recent years.
In the decade of this revived Doctor Who series, the T.A.R.D.I.S. has been damaged severely by each regeneration process the Doctor has undergone. When it puts itself back together, it does so in a way that better reflects the new personality of the Doctor that has just arrived on the scene. During the 50th Anniversary Special, Doctors 10 and 11 reminisced about the T.A.R.D.I.S. of old (the original 20th Century design) and how 10 was less than keen on 11’s redesign in particular. “I don’t like it,” he stated with a frown, upon walking into what was then the latest version of the time machine.
- NEW MONSTERS
With each new Doctor comes new threats. And if they’re very lucky, they can usher in a new era of terror and be part of the creation of a monster that will become in some way iconic. Of course, not every monster can be the Daleks or the Cybermen. But sometimes, new villains come along that are truly memorable and can help define a particular Doctor’s time in the role.
For example, 10 was fortunate enough to be the one who helped introduce the world to the ravenous, flesh-eating Vashta Nerada from “The Silence in the Library” and the ever-terrifying Weeping Angels, originally from the masterpiece episode, “Blink.”
- OLD MONSTERS vs. NEW PERSONALITY
Even when a new Doctor goes up against old foes, the approach is often very different. Since the Doctor’s personality has changed, the way they relate to their adversaries has often changed along with it. They may find that an enemy who once terrified them now makes them only moderately wary. Or the other way around. They could also find that their new personality brings with it fresh strategies for handling an enemy that has always managed to survive the Doctors of the past.
This is not to say that the Doctor doesn’t always take his or her enemies seriously. It’s just that since each Doctor is a essentially a different person, their reactions to and strategies against their enemies are necessarily different as well. This is just one more way each Doctor is different from every other.
- NEW OPENING TITLE & THEME
With each new Doctor, the title sequence of the show changes, obviously. But it’s not as simple as plugging in a new name and face in the Doctor slot. The entire sequence becomes completely different. The visuals change, the theme music is slightly updated, and the logo is rejiggered. Essentially, the entire series is rebranded under the mantle of the new Doctor.
This allows each Doctor to own the series as their own. And it allows fans to embrace each Doctor completely, as if they have their own show, even though all the Doctors are part of the same series. It’s a very cool way to engage the audience and allow the show to keep up with changing times, trends, and visual styles.
- A POTENTIAL NEW CATCHPHRASE
In the 21st Century revival of Doctor Who, most of the Doctors have had a catchphrase. It could be argued that they’ve all had one and that in fact, all the classic Doctors also had catchphrases. After all, Number 4 was constantly asking people if they’d like a jelly baby to the point where he is still known for it decades later. However, here in the new millennium, most of the Doctors managed to make a single exclamatory word their signature early in their run. For 9, it was “Fantastic!” And 10 had “Allons-y!” Number 11 made his mark with “Geronimo!” while 12 seemed to opt out of the trend.
However, savvy viewers will have noticed that right after her regeneration from 12 to 13, our new Doctor uttered a single word that might just come to be known as her signature exclamation. “Brilliant!” Time will tell if this one word comes to be synonymous with this new Time Lady.
- SAME SHOW / NEW SHOW
The regeneration process was invented out of necessity when William Hartnell, the original Doctor, needed to leave the show. However, it was so popular that the creators were not ready to let it go. The brilliance of regeneration was born. As a result, generations of TV viewers have been able to continue enjoying the series for nearly 60 years. One of the reasons regeneration works so well, has let the show last so long, and created a revival in a new century is because each time the Doctor regenerates, so does the show itself.
The look, feel, and energy of the show all change. With each new Doctor, the show becomes something new and audiences get to rediscover their love for it with the new main character. Also. it allows for a reboot of whatever may not be working for the show anymore. It lets the show runners update what may need to change with the times. And yes, truth be told, those changes don’t always click for everyone. There are always those who don’t connect with a new Doctor or the things that change around them. And that’s okay. Because we know as an audience that each new Doctor will eventually become another. So we hang in there with the knowledge that soon enough, another regeneration will come and we’ll have the chance to love the show all over again.
- NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Each regeneration brings a brand new Doctor, but more importantly, it brings brand new possibilities. There is the chance to see the Doctor in ways we’ve never seen him (or her!) before. There is a chance to throw back and pay homage to Doctors of yesteryear. There are opportunities to re-invent the myths, legends, and histories within the show. There are possibilities to build upon what’s come before in ways that have not previously been possible through new technology and special effects. New Doctors will bring new ideas, points of view, opinions, and perspectives. New companions will bring new excitement and wonder. New show runners will bring new imaginings and re-imaginings. With Doctor Who, there is all of time and space with which to play. The possibilities are endless. I, for one, can’t wait to see where this next new Doctor will take us!
Do you enjoy getting new Doctors or do you dislike the change that comes with regeneration? Are you excited or nervous for the new Doctor coming in just a few weeks? Why? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.