The Gallifrey Chronicles attribute the regeneration of Time Lords to a nano-molecular virus that rebuilds the body. I’ve never really watched much Doctor Who, but I’m enough of a geek to be aware of some of the lore and history of the series. The canonicity of the true meaning as to why Time Lords regenerate is open to debate. There are several reasons pitched in various different novels and spin-off books that have been published across the many years that the show has been running. It seems to me that the only real reason that regeneration exists in the Doctor Who universe is so that they can replace actors. James Bond has never written in such an explanation – though that would be welcomed.
I suppose it makes sense in the context of a science fiction show that when a Time Lord dies he regenerates into a new Time Lord. They are the same person only their physical appearance and personality has changed. This change of personality reveals itself mostly in the various different quirks of each Doctor, but the personality traits that make the Doctor who he is – heroism, fear of Dalek’s, whatever – these remain unchanged by the regeneration. Therefore every time the Doctor dies, sad as it may be, he returns with a new body, new face, slightly altered personality. Once he even forgot how to fly the TARDIS – could you imagine!?
Legs – still got legs.
We all regenerate. We are all like the Doctor and that’s why regeneration (as a narrative device) works so well. All good science fiction is relatable – it tells us something about what it is to be human. It might not be as dramatic as having your whole being pulled apart by rays of orange light that flood out of you like a virus, but we all regenerate.
This whole process of regeneration and change got me thinking about how many times I have regenerated. It’s important to note that I’m not just talking about minor change – we are forever changing. The person you are today is different from the person you were yesterday because of the things that you have experienced. Regeneration is sudden, its dramatic, its a major change – something that alters your personality. Changes you innately. Never the same again. This isn’t to say that it has to come as a result of a dramatic event in your life – like the death of a loved one or a major break-up. It can be subtle. It can be hard to truly identify what has caused the regeneration, but you regenerate anyway.
I think I’ve regenerated about five times. I’m on my fifth Doctor. A lot of this obviously comes with aging. You’re definitely not the same person that you were when you were a child. So let’s call that one regeneration. Let’s say from childhood to early adolescence. My second regeneration certainly occurred when I was about nineteen years old when I went from being a curious and hardworking student, to a cock-sure and arrogant know-all. I guess the teen angst came pretty late for me. This probably ended when I was twenty-one and I moved to the USA for the summer. Over the course of that summer I regenerated into a much more open person. I read a lot. I did a lot. I learned a lot. I made some wonderful new friends. I started to wise-up to the ways of the world and I turned my anger towards society into something positive for the first time. My fourth regeneration happened whilst I was living in South Korea. I found some direction. That direction really changed me. My final regeneration happened about two years ago. I do feel like I’ve settled quite comfortably into adulthood, but that anger has remained. How I’ve dealt with that anger and confusion that I’ve had with me since as long as I can remember is the main thing that’s changed each time I’ve regenerated. I think I’ve got much better at using my frustration to be creative. For better or worse I’ve probably become more tolerant. Good God, my second generation self would hate me for saying that!
That’s the thing about regeneration. What is at our core never truly changes. It’s how we deal with it. Various different Time Lords have all dealt with their regenerations in various different ways. Apples – no apples are rubbish. Fish fingers and mustard – it would be better with custard. But we’re not Time Lords. We’re just people. We’re out here in the world trying to do what’s right. Trying to be stay true to ourselves on our journey through Time, Space and the Universe.
I like to think that when we regenerate we do it for the better. That as we journey through life the things that cause us to regenerate do so for the right reasons. We all have the ability to use the negative things that happen to us in positive ways and to positive ends. That’s what the Doctor does. The Sixth Doctor got pretty paranoid on regeneration and flew into a vicious rage almost murdering his companion, but he didn’t. He eventually turned things around. We all regenerate. The ability to change. The ability to be whoever it is that you want to be. It’s what makes life worth living. Energy is merley the intermediary of oblivion’s smithereens. Write every story as if it was your last, whether suicide note or proof of life.