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 Two
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. You cast hundreds of votes were and now Blogtor can being to reveal the results!
Round Two matched the regeneration stories of the Fifth, Sixth, Seven, and Eighth Doctors. Unsurprising Peter Davison’s exit, The Caves of Androzani, took an early lead and continued to dominate. After all, fans not only regard it as one of the best regeneration stories, but as one of the greatest Doctor Who stories of all time. Moreover, it was up against a selection of regeneration oddities would have struggled in any our groups. So it was always almost a foregone conclusion that The Caves of Androzani would emerge the victor. Even so, it’s 61.1% was impressive, and gave it the biggest margin of victory in the competition.
Ah, Time and the Rani. If you have a nickel for every time our hero regenerated into themselves, you’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird it happened twice
Time and the Rani is almost unique in the show’s history. There have certainly been cases where the incoming Doctor wasn’t available, maybe not even cast, at the time of filming their predecessor’s story. That was the case with Christopher Eccleston becoming David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker becoming, er, David Tennant again. But in those cases it just meant their two parts of the scene are edited together. The War Games actually left audiences hanging, with Patrick Troughton disappearing into a black void, and Jon Pertwee falling out of the Police Box the following year.
But Time and the Rani is about the only time when the outgoing Doctor wasn’t around to film their contribution. Colin Baker had become somewhat of a scapegoat for complaints about 1980s Who’s perceived failings. And so the BBC, looking for the most obvious way to show an effort to revamp the show, pushed Baker out. It’s understandable, then, that he didn’t feel obliged to come back and help bridge the gap to his successor. The result is that the regeneration happens in the opening moments of Time and the Rani, and that the ‘Sixth Doctor’ is actually played by Sylvester McCoy in a wig, before his features glow and blur into… Sylvester McCoy without a wig.
Time and the Rani is not generally regarded as a classic of Doctor Who. But even if the four episodes were one of the best ever, it would be hard to rate it highly as a regeneration story. And Blogtor Who readers clearly agreed. Ultimately it got only 2.1% of the vote in our poll.
The 1996 TV Movie brought back McCoy to hand over the TARDIS key, but it’s very much Paul McGann’s film
Sylvester McCoy’s own regeneration was similarly unusual. McCoy had been playing the Doctor for three seasons when the TARDIS rug was unceremoniously pulled out from under him and the show put on hiatus. It would be seven years before Doctor Who returned. When it did it would be as a TV movie co-produced with American studios and filmed in Canada. A bold reinvention of the show, it wanted to present itself as both a bold reinvention and a legitimate successor. It did so be casting its own new Doctor, Paul McGann, but also including Sylvester McCoy, crediting him as “The Old Doctor.”
McCoy’s appearance is actually far more than the cameo you might have expected. He remains the Doctor for most of the first act, flying the TARDIS to San Francisco in 1999, escaping the Master, getting shot by a street gang, and trying to warn his surgeon, Grace Holloway, that his biology is not what she’s expecting. But the TV Movie is still very much McGann’s show. Like Time and the Rani, it’s a regeneration story primarily about introducing us to the new Doctor rather than saying goodbye to the old. So it’s understandable that, despite having its fans, it still only got 4.9% in our poll.
The Night of the Doctor was a joyous surprise, but as a regeneration minisode it can’t compete with some of the Doctors’ more epic farewells
As with McCoy, for most of Paul McGann’s official tenure as ‘the current Doctor’ the show wasn’t actually on television. In fact, the TV Movie was on screen for one night only, before the Doctor retreated back into the dark for another nine years. When it did, Russell T Davies was at the helm. He was determined to make a show accessible to new fans who had never even heard of it before. So not only did he bring in Christopher Eccleston, one of the most respected actors of his generation, as the Doctor, but the lore and backstory of the 20th century Who was light on the ground. And so McGann was never called upon to hand the baton to his successor. Until…
In 2013, Doctor Who was on a high, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary in grand style. There were three day celebrations, cinema showings for the epic Day of the Doctor, and more books, merchandise and audio dramas than you could shake a perigogo stick at. There was even a Doctor Who Afterparty to scar the memories of a whole new generation. But one of the best, and best kept, surprises was The Night of the Doctor. The Doctor was back! But maybe not the one you were expecting.
Any excuse to see the Eighth Doctor again is always a treat
After thirteen years playing the Doctor for Big Finish, Paul McGann effortlessly owned the character as if no time at all had passed since those Vancouver filming days. He was charming, passionate, and with a new costume that instantly doubled the options for Big Finish CD covers. McGann proved why his take on the character was so beloved despite his limited screen time. His final act of self-sacrifice, refusing to leave the side of someone who refused to be rescued, was perfect for his Doctor. More importantly, it finally lent a satisfying completeness to the Doctor’s story as we finally saw how McGann became… John Hurt?
But as joyous and fun as The Night of the Doctor is, it’s ultimately just the final regeneration scene of a story we didn’t get to see. In fact, it’s sobering to think when Paul McGann’s first appeared in the actual TV show Doctor Who. It was in 2022 for The Power of the Doctor. It’s hard to rank a minisode, however good, against other, full, regeneration stories. So its second place position in this group is actually very impressive, especially with a whopping 31.9% of the vote.
Next up: See who’s victorious in claiming the prize of the best regeneration between the War Doctor and Doctors Nine and Ten!
Come back soon for Round Three of our regeneration celebration of The Power of the Doctor. Three of the most popular stories of all time go head to head, with The Day of the Doctor, The Parting of the Ways and The End of Time facing off. But which will emerge victorious?