Doctor Who – Ranking the Regenerations

January 1, 2018

Hello, as a Doctor Who fan who has just watched the Twelfth Doctor regenerate into the character’s first female incarnation, I thought it would be a good time to rank them in my estimation.  My rankings are purely personal, and are based on a mixture of the storylines, the performances and the whole caboodle.

14 Sixth Doctor to Seventh Doctor, Time and the Rani 1987 (Colin Baker to Sylvester McCoy)
Cause of regeneration: fatally injured in a TARDIS crash caused by the Rani

Coming in at the bottom spot, we have the regeneration from Six to Seven.  This really is pretty bad as a regeneration story.  Due to conflict between Baker and the BBC, he did not come back to film his regeneration scene or even tie up his era.  Instead we were given McCoy in a blond wig.  Awful  In addition, because of this, the regeneration story was very underwhelming.  No build up, no farewell to the outgoing Doctor.  A poor showing all round.

13 Third Doctor to Fourth Doctor, Planet of the Spiders 1974 (Jon Pertwee to Tom Baker)
Cause of regeneration: fatally poisoned by radiation

I have no strong feelings on this particular storyline.  

12 Fourth Doctor to Fifth Doctor, Logopolis 1981 (Tom Baker to Peter Davison)
Cause of regeneration: fall from the lighthouse

Again I have little to say about this regeneration.  It’s most notable for the Fourth Doctor’s final words “It is the end; but the moment has been prepared for.”

11 Fifth Doctor to Sixth Doctor, The Caves of Androzani 1984 (Peter Davison to Colin Baker)

Cause of regeneration: spectrox poisoning

The Caves of Androzani is widely considered to be one of Davison’s best performances and I agree.  This regeneration is notable for the distinctly uncomfortable feeling of the Sixth Doctor’s first words about change and not being a moment too soon.  This is clearly a new Doctor to be wary of.

10 Second Doctor to Third Doctor, The War Games 1969 (Patrick Troughton to Jon Pertwee)
Cause of regeneration: forced regeneration by the Time Lords due to breaking time lord protocol

This is an unusual regeneration storyline in that the incoming Doctor was not introduced in the regeneration episode.  I’ll be honest and say I’m not so familiar with this regeneration storyline, having only seen the minutes of the regeneration.  I don’t have much to say about it really.

9 Eleventh Doctor to Twelfth Doctor, The Time of the Doctor 2013 (Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi)
Cause of regeneration: old age

Of the reboot regenerations, this is definitely the weakest, which is a shame as I really liked Matt Smith’s Doctor.  The two big issues I found were; 1) they had a powerful storyline here with Eleven believing he was at the end of his regeneration cycle and would die for reals this time around.  They diluted that strong storyline with a whole bunch of crap.  Secondly, having Matt’s Doctor age to become an old man meant that Smith had to wear a lot of prosthetics and makeup which impacted his performance.  Still, on the positive side, his final monologue was beautiful.

8 Seventh Doctor to Eighth Doctor, Doctor Who, the Movie 1996 (Sylvester McCoy to Paul McGann)

Cause of regeneration: shot by a street gang and died due to the human doctor not understanding his Gallifreyan physiology

I’m happy Sylvester McCoy got the opportunity to say goodbye to his Doctor and I’m sad that McGann only got to play the role on screen in this movie and the webisode.  Nothing much to add.

7 Tenth Doctor to Tenth Doctor, The Stolen Earth 2008 (David Tennant)

Cause of regeneration: shot by a Dalek

This was a lovely fake-out regeneration, although it is still officially a new regeneration.  In essence the Doctor was shot by a Dalek, and started to regenerate, which was the cliffhanger at the end of part one of a two-part story.  Of course people were pretty shocked – normally when a Doctor leaves it’s announced well in advance.

6 War Doctor to Ninth Doctor, Day of the Doctor 2013 (John Hurt to Christopher Eccleston)
Cause of regeneration: similar to First Doctor, body growing old after the trials of the Time War

I liked this regeneration because it filled in the missing gap.  As Ecclestone was involved in the series reboot where his Doctor was already in place we never got to see his regeneration until eight years later.  I would have liked to have seen more of the Ninth Doctor’s first moments, but this is what we got.

5 Ninth Doctor to Tenth Doctor, The Parting of the Ways 2005 (Christopher Eccleston to David Tennant)
Cause of regeneration: absorption of the Time Vortex

This is of course the first regeneration of the new reboot.  They did some nice effects for the regeneration which continued into the other regeneration scenes in the show.  I enjoyed the storyline which is a typical Doctor sacrifices himself to save his Companion.  Nothing much else to add.

4 Tenth Doctor to Eleventh Doctor, The End of Time 2009 (David Tennant to Matt Smith)
Cause of regeneration: radiation absorption

David Tennant was one of the most popular Doctors of the modern era, and they made a big deal out of his departure.  Tennant’s last series was a collection of specials and his departure storyline was threaded through all of them.  I did feel though that they did milk the departure a little too much with a rerun of Ten’s greatest hits so to speak.  It was a regeneration specifically crafted to tug at the heartstrings.  It did have a beautiful score by Murray Gold – I adore Vale Decem.

3 Twelfth Doctor to Thirteenth Doctor, Twice Upon a Time 2017 (Peter Capaldi to Jodie Whittaker)

Cause of regeneration: electrocuted by a Mondasian Cyberman

Coming in at number 3 we have Twice Upon a Time, the most recent regeneration story.  Of the modern era (post 2005) this is my favourite, perhaps because I saw it so recently.  I loved the interaction between the First Doctor and Twelve and their common theme of rejecting regeneration.  I would have liked to have seen that given a bit more emphasis rather than the Testimony, but whatever.  Capaldi’s last monologue as Twelve was beautiful – moving, appropriate and the delivery was perfect.  “Laugh hard.  Run fast.  Be kind.  Doctor, I let you go.  “  A fitting end to Capaldi’s time on the show.

2 Eighth Doctor to War Doctor, Night of the Doctor webisode 2013 (Paul McGann to John Hurt)

Cause of regeneration:  assisted regeneration after a starship crash.

Eight’s regeneration into the War Doctor comes in at my number 2 spot.  McGann’s inclusion in the fiftieth anniversary celebrations in the webisode The Night of the Doctor was unexpected and wonderful.  I loved this regeneration story for several reasons.  First, we got to fill in a gap in Doctor Who lore; seeing Eight’s regeneration.  Secondly, in Eight’s salute to his companions from the Big Finish audiobooks confirms his stories as canon which is excellent.Thirdly, I loved the concept of assisted regeneration and the fact that the Doctor got some say in his next incarnation.  

Mostly though, I loved it because of seeing the growth in Eight’s character.  When we last saw him on screen seven years previously in the Doctor Who movie, the Eighth Doctor was a lighthearted alien who danced with joy because his shoes fitted so perfectly.  Here in the webisode we see a time lord beaten down by the struggles of the Time War, who still clung to peace and wanted to do his best for everyone, even those who hated him.  This really intrigued me and I was very motivated to learn more about this character and what brought him to this place.  This was the point at which I started listening to the Big Finish audio productions.  If you aren’t familiar with them, check them out.

1 First Doctor to Second Doctor, The Tenth Planet 1966 (William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton)
Cause of regeneration: Original body getting old

At first glance, this isn’t a particularly exciting regeneration story.  The Doctor has been in his original incarnation for a while and his body is wearing a bit thin.  There is no dramatic conflict imperilling his life.  1960s special effects mean that the regeneration scene itself is pretty basic.  In actual fact, we only have a few moments of it as the episode was lost due to the BBC purge of videotapes.  

The reason this is my number one pick is because of what it started.  Without this story and concept, Doctor Who would never have survived to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The concept of regeneration to replace a lead actor with someone who looks and acts in a completely different manner is nothing short of brilliant.  And in a time without the internet and spoilers, can you imagine the shock value?  This gives the show a fresh perspective every few years and I believe that has contributed to the show’s longevity.  1960s showrunners, I salute you.

There you have it, my ranking of the Doctor’s regenerations.  How would you order them?  Let me know in the comments.

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