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When Your Doctor is No Longer the Doctor: How to Survive Regeneration

There’s a thing that happens in the Doctor Who fandom that plenty of people talk about, and no one can prepare you for. See, fans love each and every Doctor… but one of them is yours. That Doctor belongs to you very specifically—they helped define parts of you, they saw you through rough times, they encompassed a portion of your life. And for many Whovians, that Doctor will soon be gone.

It’s okay, Eleven fans. I’m here to help.

Having already dealt with 2010’s I Don’t Want to Go Farewell Tour, I have some tips. Or maybe they’re just stages of grief. Or things to expect as you brave the next year without bow ties.

To start this off, let’s talk regeneration: You might have noticed that Eleven’s passing felt a little more real to you than the average fictional character death. (Or not—a lot of them seem unfortunately real on my end.) So… you’re basically in mourning. You’re allowed. Don’t let anyone make you feel weird about it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not allowed to wear tweed and a fez every day for the next ten years. Or a black armband—hey, Gary Oldman did it for Sirius Black, so it’s totally a cool thing to do.

Doctor Who, Eleven

Speaking of that—support group time! Hugs all around! Unless you don’t like hugs, in which case, we’ve got a crate of Jammie Dodgers and probably TARDIS blankets. Actually, is that a real office somewhere? It sounds like a service that should be available to the general public regardless….

Of course, that’s what the internet and fandom friends are for. There will be a sudden pressing need to rewatch every Eleventh Doctor episode in marathon form, and long after that, you’ll have moments where nothing will comfort you so well as a viewing of “The Lodger” with a cup of tea. It’s especially useful for what’s coming—an era shift that will leave the show markedly different in ways that are often difficult to explain.

What’s odd about Who fandom is how its rhetoric consistently changes over time. It’s not like Star Trek where there are distinct, separate series, each with their own entity that are easy to define and keep apart in your mind. Doctor Who may shift in tone and execution, but it’s still ultimately the same show. The Doctor is still the same character. Except now, your Doctor is no longer the Doctor.

It’s a weird feeling.

Doctor Who, Eleven

And it will likely never pass. It’s entirely unique to the Whovian experience. Sure, it sort of happens with James Bond, but that’s a different can of dirt due to how long it takes for an actor’s Bond tenure to come due, and how staggeringly different each incarnation is. (Call me when Robert Downey, Jr. is no longer playing Tony Stark and we’ll talk again, I think.) The point is, it’s always going to be awkward knowing that your Doctor is now former. That someone else is ably holding up the mantle and carrying it off into the dark corners of the universe. It’s like a microcosm of aging, revved up to light speed: This was mine. It’s still mine. But now it belongs to someone else.

That doesn’t mean that the new Doctor won’t mean anything to you! Learning to love a new Doctor is part of the charm of the fandom. What you will have to be prepared for are the fans who find that their Doctor is Peter Capaldi. Those new kids who are just like you, only a few years removed. Respect their experience. Don’t get into “better Doctor” battles with them. This is not a fight that anyone can win, nor should they. It’s down to the individual, down to what you needed and when. In fact, it can be its own reward, watching those new fans revel in their experience with a Doctor who moves them the same way. To see the difference in the fanbase, to watch it shift and morph—to watch it regenerate. Whovian history is singular that way.

It’s exactly as the Eleventh Doctor put it: you will carry all these lives with you always, but you will always be especially glad for the time that the Doctor was the Eleventh Doctor. The same way I will always be especially glad that the Doctor was Ten. Give yourself time. Heal up from the loss and launch yourself back in. Never let go of the time that Doctor Who was specifically, unequivocally yours.

Doctor Who, Eleven, Amy

That’s what makes it special. That’s what makes it your show. You’re not supposed to let that go, you’re supposed to celebrate it. So do just that and never be sorry.

It’s hard to say goodbye to a friend… but you never really have to. Keep that Raggedy Man close and keep going. You never know when you might need him.

Emily Asher-Perrin wants all the Eleven fans out there to know that she’s so, so sorry, and she’s here for a shoulder to cry on. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.


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