The Blogtor Who readership have been voting and we now have our list of the best Doctor Who regenerations ever! Here’s how the action played out in Round One
In the days since The Power of the Doctor, and Jodie Whittaker stepping out of the TARDIS and passed her role as the Doctor over to the next in line, Blogtor Who has been running a Twitter poll to find your favourite Doctor Who regeneration story. Hundreds of votes were cast and now Blogtor can being to reveal the results!
The Tenth Planet is the story that stared in all with one of the best ideas in television history
Blogtor started off by breaking the regenerations into four groups for a first round of voting. Group A was the batttleground for one of the most exciting clashes of the competition. Patrick Troughton’s finale The War Games and Tom Baker’s Logopolis went the distance, constantly swapping places for the lead. Ultimately only a single 1%, and two votes, separated the pair, with The War Games scraping through to the final on 33.8% of the vote to Logopolis’ 32.8%. With such an epic punch-up going on the group it didn’t leave much room for Planet of the Spiders (21.1%) and The Tenth Planet (12.3%) to make their mark.
The Tenth Planet, of course was the story that started it all regeneration wise. A story that looms so huge in Doctor Who history that it also introducing the Cybermen is simply a bonus. The very first regeneration, almost a decade before the word ‘regeneration’ would even enter Who’s vocabulary, is an awesome innovation and hands down one of the best ideas in television history. We’ll still be watching the Doctor’s adventures for the Diamond Anniversary next year. And it’s all because of the genius of the 1966 team dealing with William Hartnell’s failing health.
It is curiously low key to modern eyes, though, almost tacked on to the end of the adventure and with no grand speech from the Doctor at all. In fact, the First Doctor’s final words on screen are simply “keep warm.” It does establish the pattern of very high stakes in the main action, though, with the entire Earth facing annihilation at a point in the show’s history where that hardly ever happened.
Planet of the Spiders creates for the first time a sense of regeneration as personal growth and renewal
Planet of the Spiders isn’t just the first story in which the word ‘regeneration’ features. It’s also the first time there’s some effort for a Doctor’s final story to be about it. It’s largely a runabout of people chasing each other by every conceivable means of transport, getting caught, escaping, and getting caught again. But it’s a story about hubris and rebirth. The final couple of episodes feature the Third Doctor as we’ve rarely seen him – scared. His old Time Lord mentor is also on hand to issue lessons on the importance of accepting one’s failings and reaching to be a better version of oneself. And the redemption of disgraced former UNIT family member Mike Yates, and the changes the Metebilis crystal brings to Tommy the caretaker also underline the theme.
Even the villains’ motivations are grounded in their refusal to accept that what they’re looking for is impossible and that sometimes wanting something just isn’t enough. More than that, sometimes getting what you want is the worst thing that could happen to you. Planet of the Spiders also introduces two other vital regeneration concepts. Firstly, that it’s a natural biological process of Time Lords rather than something accomplished by technology (as both previous regenerations had hinted.)
“No, don’t cry. Where there’s life, there’s…”
But more importantly, while the different acting styles of Hartnell, Troughton, and Pertwee, had been a simple fact of life, Planet of the Spiders establishes that a new Doctor should be different. That each new Doctor is the person they need to be for that new phase of their life, and that that’s good. The Third Doctor might not get to complete his final thought, “No, don’t cry. Where there’s life, there’s…” but the sentiment holds true. Planet of the Spiders is a story about renewal and life beginning anew. It’s something that would become the cornerstone of many regeneration scenes to come…
Season Eighteen’s Logopolis arguably sets the template for future regeneration stories, with a meditation on the Fourth Doctor’s impending ‘death’
Logopolis closed the single longest run of any Doctor, with Tom Baker bowing out after seven years. And while one of Baker’s running gags in the years since has been to pretend not to know there are other Doctors at all, there’s an element of truth to it. For a whole generation of young fans Tom Baker simply was the Doctor, the only one they’d ever known. So it’s appropriate that Logopolis is the first of the truly reflective regeneration stories. There had been a certain gloom over proceedings right the way through Season Eighteen, but there’s a palpable sense of impending doom right through all four episodes of Logopolis. The spectre like Watcher hangs around the edges of proceedings, leaving the Doctor uncharacteristically maudlin, before being revealed as a kind of echo of the Doctor-soon-to-be.
If the first two regenerations were purely functional, the third and fourth established the two types of regeneration stories that would follow. Pertwee departed with a celebration of life’s ability to always find a way, but Baker’s treats regeneration very much as a death scene. The stakes have never been higher, with the Master managing to wipe out a quarter of all life in the universe by accident before deciding to have a proper go. The Fourth Doctor sacrifices himself in true Endgame style to save us all in a climactic fight atop a radio telescope. As he lies dying on the grass, he says farewell with carefully chosen words that show, perhaps, a consciousness for the first time of the weight they’ll carry, remembered for decades and turning up on posters and t-shirts.
“It’s the end. But the moment has been prepared for…”
No wonder Logopolis put up such a fight for a place in the final.
Next up: See who’s victorious in claiming the prize of the best regeneration between Doctors Five to Eight!
Come back soon for Round Two of our regeneration celebration of The Power of the Doctor. It’s three Davids versus Goliath, as regular fan favourite The Caves of Androzani takes on the ad hoc regeneration of Time and the Rani, the Seventh Doctor’s extended cameo in the TV Movie, and Paul McGann’s minisode!