Dec 27 2013 1:00pm

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

Doctor Who, Eleven, Amy

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.

Dr. Cox
1. Dr. Cox
Good article!
Five is The Doctor to me, because I started watching the show at the last twenty minutes of the "Logopolis" episode, and even tho' I knew there were Doctors before Five, all the others seemed like interpretations lol, but I've had some "I don't want Matt Smith to go!" moments . . . still, we'll just have to wait and see . . . maybe less overweening story arcs for Twelve? Tho' there were some for Five and the others . . . but maybe more "Doctor dealing w/ the trouble the TARDIS lands him in," which is the way I saw the show at first: a traveller dealing w/ all the trouble his ship lands him in" :). And if Twelve is having some post-regeneration trouble remembering how to fly it . . . .
Dr. Cox
2. Mak
So very true. I am old enough that My Doctor comes from the Classic years, and I still miss him. But I have learned that every Doctor has something special about him. I may not love them all, but I have come to like and enjoy them all. Some are just more special than others. I shall dearly miss Matt. I miss David terribly. I have a Fifth Doctor size hole in my Whovian hearts that will never be filled. But I look forward to Peter Capaldi, and growing to appreciate this new Doctor. We laugh, we love, we grieve, and we move on, because that's what the Doctor does. Raggedy Man, good-bye, indeed. And onward to new adventures.
Beth Meacham
3. bam
So very true, and well said. Your Doctor will always be your Doctor. I burst into tears when I heard Tom Baker's voice in the 50th. My Doctor. But I came to love Matt Smith's brilliant characterization.
Dr. Cox
4. FreakNation
Thank you!
It was, it is, a really moving and comforting article.
Thank you for this:

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.

Matt Smith was MY doctor. The way he looked at the world - with the wonder of a baby- has been inspiring to me from the very first scene, his flaws a funny reflection of mine, and his ability to overcome them again a great inspiration.
And then, with tears in his eyes and a smile on his lips, he was gone.
That "Raggedy man, goodbye" made it so real, I found out i was actually crying.
It's good to know that somebody undestand.

It is also good to have time to prepare ourselves to Twelve, to deal with the fact that next time we see- we hear- the TARDIS landing, it won't be Matt wainting for us, ready to show us the universe.
Angela Korra'ti
5. annathepiper
Awww, beautiful.

Ten was my Doctor--with a side helping of Nine, since Nine was actually the Doctor that made me start paying attention, but Ten was really the one who seized my imagination. I still miss both of them immensely!
Jenny Thrash
6. Sihaya
Be prepared for a visceral negative reaction to the new guy. Hold off on your criticism until you can at least articulate *which* difference you dislike in a civil way, and realize this may take at least a year, possibly more. You may find that your only gripe is that you miss your old guy. You may not. But wait.
Brian MacDonald
7. bmacdonald
Like #1 and #2 above, the Fifth Doctor was my Doctor, and I was only 13 when he passed the baton. I know that there's an adjustment period with every new Doctor, and that while there's an initial distaste for the new guy, you can eventually come to an acceptance.

But when your first exposure to the new guy is "The Twin Dilemma," followed by a season break? Dang, that stings.
Beccy Higman
8. Jazzlet
Indeed, give the new guy time.

Mine is the third, but I have come to love many others, though not all and if you don't love this new guy you may love the next one.
Lonnie Rivenbark
9. fuddster
I'm old enough that Tom Baker would have been my Doctor had I watched at the time, but surprisingly, I did not get hooked until 2012's Christmas special, "The Snowmen." After that, I caught up with all the new episodes and surprisingly did not latch on to one Doctor as "mine." There are things I like and dislike about each Doctor, but when push comes to shove will probably name Nine as my favorite. Or Ten.

Regardless of my favorite Doctor, I look forward to each regeneration as a way to keep the series fresh and surprising. I suppose if I had to got to know Nine, Ten, and Eleven over the course of years rather than over the last 12 months, I would probably feel much stronger about each regeneration.
Dr. Cox
10. Fuzzy_Dunlop
The Eleventh Doctor was my introduction to Doctor Who so he will always be my Doctor. If I had found it earlier in life I would definetly be a 4 but I never did so I will always be an 11. I honestly have no idea what to do now... screw it I'm just going eat some fish custard.
11. rogerothornhill
For decades, I loved 5--and defended him against absolutist 4 lovers for years--but 11 spoke so much to where I am right now that he's taken first place in my geek heart. Truthfully, I love them all (except 6) and I cannot wait to see what Eyebrows will do. The Doctor has regenerated. Long live The Doctor!
Dr. Cox
12. TomT
I miss Tom Baker he was my Doctor. But I've learned to adapt and embrace the new Doctor when he comes. But all the advice above is good. The new Doctor won't be the old Doctor but he is still The Doctor.
Dr. Cox
13. Sean Bircher
Peter Davison should be my Doctor. He was my first and I eagerly followed the classic series along to its cancellation.

Tennant came along and really grabbed me, and he became my Doctor. I really couldn't imagine the series without him.

But then I saw "The Eleventh Hour" and Matt Smith became my favorite ever.

Maybe I'll get lucky and embrace Capaldi just as much.
Dr. Cox
14. yetidad
Tom Baker was mine, and I was so happy when he showed up in "The Day of the Doctor" that I teared up a little. I loved Matt Smith, too, and I'm sure I'll love Capaldi. He's a terrific actor and I have a feeling the character will be undergoing some very interesting adjustments given the strange circumstances of his regeneration.
Dr. Cox
15. ShellyS
I'm old enough for one of the classic Doctors to have been my first, but I didn't start watching the show -- on the insistence of 2 Whovian friends -- until near the end of Tennant's run. I had trouble following what was going on and didn't really warm up to 10. So 11 became my Doctor. Through the amazing acting of Matt Smith, I became a Whovian. I watched the DVDs of 8, 9, and 10 and came to appreciate all four of them as the Doctor. I watched the anniversary specials for the first seven Doctors and came to love them, too. I'm a fan of Capaldi from "Torchwood: Children of Earth" and "The Hour," and I'm looking forward to seeing him play the Doctor. I love that he's a complete Whovian, himself. But Matt Smith will always be my Doctor because he was the one who made me a fan.
Dr. Cox
16. NormanM

You never know, maybe you haven't met your Doctor yet. Maybe Twelve really is your Doctor. Maybe it's Thirteen!

I knew about the show, and had seen bits here and there, but didn't really get into it until Matt Smith, so in some ways he's my Doctor. On the other hand, I've long had an undeniable affinity for Paul McGann's Doctor (despite really disliking the TV movie), and I practically imprinted on him like a duckling when I saw him in Night of the Doctor. These things can be quite timey-wimey.
Dr. Cox
17. Eugene R.
bam (@3): I had the same jolt o' joy when Tom Baker ("the Curator") popped into the coda with Matt Smith. I cannot think of any in-universe reason to justify it, so it is probably just fan service. But, thank you, BBC Wales, from this well-served fan.

Actually, the more I think about it, the better I like the pairing of Tom Baker and Matt Smith. In fact, if I were pairing "old" and "new" Doctors, I would likely put Patrick Troughton up with Christopher Eccleston, and Jon Pertwee would "team up" nicely with David Tennant. Which makes Peter Capaldi the "new" Peter Davison. Hmm. I wonder how he feels about celery ...
Dr. Cox
18. Megpie71
I find I'm a bit thing-y about this, because on the one hand, Tom Baker is definitely "my Doctor", but then, so is Jon Pertwee. I'm Australian, I grew up watching the series on weeknights on the ABC here, and they repeated the Pertwee and early Baker years ad infinitum. I saw "Planet of the Spiders" (the show which gives us the regeneration from Pertwee to Baker) about three times over the years, and each time I saw it, I teared up. But I don't remember seeing "Robot" (the first of the Tom Baker stories) more than about twice, and frankly, if that had been my whole introduction to the Doctor, I would have given up then. It was crap. Ratty script (and a script written for Pertwee-as-Doctor) and Tom Baker hadn't quite figured out who the Doctor was. Actually, in my opinion, Tom Baker didn't quite "click" as the Doctor until about "Genesis of the Daleks" - which means it took him most of a season to figure out the role.

I had a lot of trouble with accepting Peter Davison as the Doctor, mostly because I'd grown up watching "All Creatures Great And Small" on Sunday nights, wherein Mr Davison played the drunken younger brother, Tristan Farnon. So I was watching the Doctor, and seeing Tristan, and the cognitive dissonance was just too great. I pretty much gave up watching the Doctor in the Davison years, because I just couldn't reconcile the two characters in my head (and I suspect there may be people who suffer a similar problem with Peter Capaldi - from what little I've seen of the character he's currently most famous for playing, the role of the Doctor is going to be almost a complete 180 degree turn. A brilliant demonstration of his acting flexibility, but probably something of an emotional whiplash for people who are used to seeing him as that character). I didn't really pick the series up again until the Sylvester McCoy years.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is this: firstly, if the new Doctor doesn't seem to "get things right" as the Doctor, give him time; secondly, if you're expecting the Doctor to resemble Peter Capaldi's current roles, you may well be hideously disappointed; and thirdly, if you really can't stick with the series after the latest regeneration... it's not the end of the world. There are a lot of other fandoms out there.
Dr. Cox
19. Dr. Cox
@18. Megpie71, your comments brought back memories of seeing "All Creatures Great and Small" for the first time and thinking "Oh, the actor who plays the Doctor!" :)
And when I saw the announcement that Peter Capaldi was going to play the next Doctor, I inevitably thought of the role I'd first seen him in: as the female impersonator "Vera" in an episode of "Prime Suspect," which would've been in the early 'Nineties, if I remember correctly.
One cool thing about British actors is you never know what sort of role you'll see them in!!!
David OBrien
20. claes
My favorite is 9, and though he was only with us for a short time, he had an amazing impact on me - especially when touching back on the past. His rage at the Dalek's never seemed feigned or acted. He played the part of the regeneration of a classic character with depth and aplomb, although 10's range was a little greater he never played the scenes with the Dalek's as well in my opinion. Imagine what he did, and then imagine what it does to you. 9 did it well. It's a very interesting character study, and I wish he had more time to play some more of Moffat's writing like in 'The Doctor Dances', one of my favorite episodes so far. I just started season 5 and I must say that I am less impressed with 11. He does look at the world with so much wonder, but the pain and loneliness that the Time Lord feels is as much a hallmark of The Doctor as the sense of wonder, and he doesn't touch upon it as well, though I am told that he may grow on me like 10 did.
Alan Brown
21. AlanBrown
I started watching Doctor Who in syndication on BBC America a few years ago (not having had the opportunity to see him on TV in my youth). After a couple of the specials with 10 in them, I started in with 9, but a single British season passes pretty quickly when you are watching five episodes a week. And then, before I had seen all of 10's episodes, I started watching 11's episodes in real time.
Being exposed to multiple doctors in a short period did well to prepare me for regenerations, and the fact that he would not always be the same. So, while I miss the old Doctors when they regenerate, I do not feel the angst that some people experience. Instead, I feel a bit fatalistic about it, "The King is dead, long live the King."
At this point, however, I wouldn't mind seeing the show runner 'regenerate.' Moffat has done some good stuff, but I am ready for a new approach behind the scenes, as well as a new actor...
Dr. Cox
22. Tim1701
I don't really have a favorite Doctor, they have all been good to great that I have seen, but Nine was my first. Well not exactly. I had seen The Five Doctors with my Dad on an old Vhs tape but I didn't really get it. Then PBS showed the first episode of the new series and Nine said "Run for your life!" And I've been running ever since. Long live Doctor Who!
Dr. Cox
23. DresdenRose
My Doctor is David Tennant, though in truth Tom Baker is the first doctor I really remember watching. Peter Davidson was whimsical and fun, but David Tennant will always be The Doctor. I grew very fond of Matt Smith, and I will mourn him, too.

We'll see about #12. I don't know if he'll ever be "my" Doctor.
Dr. Cox
24. Lesley Arrowsmith
"Splendid chap, all of them!"
Dr. Cox
25. emmyloo03
Regardless of how I feel about certain aspects of the show and yada yada yada, The Doctor is and always will be such a magical character. To have 13 wildly varied interpretations of one alien man accepted as all the same alien man is so unique, James Bond aside ;), and that's what I love about this show. You can love each incarnation of the Doctor, but as you said, only one is going to really sing for you. For me that was 10, but I also loved 9 as he was my first, and the Pond era of 11 was so wonderful. I was so happy to see Amy again, even for just a moment. Ugh, I sobbed like a baby and proud of it!
Dr. Cox
26. Ashcom
For most people, "their" Doctor is the first one they saw. Actually, I remember first seeing Doctor Who during the Patrick Troughton years. I know that the first episode I saw was during the Abominable Snowmen story, but I remember little about it except thinking that Jamie was the main character. I was four at the time.

When I started watching regularly was with Jon Pertwee. It must have been either his first season or the start of his second, because I remember the enemy were the Autons, and they scared the living bejeezus out of me more than anything ever had before. I was hooked, and so to this day I still think of Three as being "THE" Doctor, and everyone else since as "another" Doctor.
Dr. Cox
27. Dankeioskie
I started watching back with Peter Davison but prior to the new series, the only doctor I saw from start to finish was McCoy. He holds a special place in my heart but I always maingain that my favourite doctor is the one I am watching at that point in time. I'll miss Matt but when Series 8 starts, I am sure Peter will be my favourite.
Dr. Cox
28. Eric Saveau
Dankeioske, Doctor McCoy holds a special place in my heart, too; DeForest Kelley was a marvelous actor who imbued the character with a great deal of warmth and...

... why are you all looking at me that way?

Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
29. Lisamarie
I just shared this with my sister, she's grieving right now...
Delos Rifenburgh
30. KaijuGamer
Wonderful article!

I started watching when Tom Baker was around, but I had the very great fortune to start watching when a local PBS station, WMHT-TV out of Schenectady/Albany/Troy, New York was running the complete serials as one- to two- or three-hour movies every Saturday (or Tuesday) night. So, I got to watch the first five doctors all in a row. So, I don't have a 'my Doctor' to claim, though if I did, it would be a toss-up between three and four.

As such, I loved them all, and loved watching them in all their adventures (including the silly or down-right awful ones). I have regretted the loss of each one in turn, and looked forward to the new Doctor(s) eagerly; and I know I always will, for so long as they care to regenerate him.
Dr. Cox
31. Eugene R.
Lesley Arrowsmith (@24): Thank you, Brigadier!
Dr. Cox
32. Tod R
I havent been able to "get into" the old doctors but each regen (9, 10, 11) has broke my heart. I will be in complete denial about losing Smith (not to mention Amy and Rory) for some time. I am disappointed with the new regen for several reasons. First thing; I WANTED A GINGER or even a woman, or a female ginger would have been awesome. I think they struck out finding someone with the same charm and electricity of Smith and chucked it in grabbing someone safe. I dont want an old angry Doctor. Eccleston (my first) was a little harsh (but still great) and Tennant got angrier towards the end but it was all in context. All i can say now is the 12th doctor better be ready to pull something from his bum or the extremely closeknit and protective Dr Who fans will burn him in effigy.
Dr. Cox
33. Bill P
Been a fan for a while (just like everyone elso on this blog) my doctor was #4 (Baker) loved the cameo in the 50th, I yelled at the TV when he came on, my wife thought something broke and came running in when I yelled. Then she looked at the tv and said "oh" and walked out.
Change is good, embrace # 12 (or 13 however you want to count it). Give him a chance. Besides this is scifi, no one really dies in scifi. He will show up somewhere, bowties and fezes will be referenced at some point in time. How many characters have died and come back? All of them, references to the Brigadeer have gone on over the past year of the show. That is the beauty of it all. You can even bring back a Doctor from the seventies and eighties for a 5 minute stint in a gallery conversation with Matt Smith. So enjoy and embrace, then go back and watch the repeats of the other doctors!
Dr. Cox
34. Matthew Kodsi
That was a great article you wrote, the 11th being my favorate doctor was really hard when I saw him turn into the 12th but when I read the part that said: There will be a sudden pressing need to rewatch every Eleventh Doctor episode in marathon form because thats exactly what I had done and that I hope I will like the 12th also.
Dr. Cox
35. Anglophile
Eleven was definitely my Doctor, even after looking back at every Doctor, classic and new. Nothing bad about those older (or younger, depending on your time-stream) Doctors, but it's just that I would have to have a heart made of stone to resist 11's boyish charm, and utter silliness. He made me smile, and when he finally took off his bowtie, that made it an invitation for me to keep on mine for the next two weeks.

It feels weird, knowing that whenever the number 11 comes up in something Doctor Who, that he's done. That all of his adventure's are over, and I'll never see anything but repeats on Netflix. I even feel kind of betrayed; 11 said that he'd never forget himself, and then he regenerates and 12 had forgotten everything!

I mean, yeah, I'm hardly going to stop watching, but I'm American and don't know much about Peter Calpadi, so that also makes me rather nervous. Of course, I'm sure I'll grow fond of 12, but now I'm just trying to get over my tiny nerd feelings being crushed. D':
Dr. Cox
36. rfresa
Not sure if Ten or Eleven was "my" doctor. I have enjoyed them both more than Nine, and have only seen a few Classic Who series, of which I enjoyed Four the most. I can't pick between 10 and 11, so maybe "my" doctor is yet to come.
Dr. Cox
37. Julius Simon
Eleven was My Doctor. I started Who with him, and he certainly did help me through many rough patches. I have a place in my heart dedicated specifically to him, but I've also made room for Twelve. To me, no Doctor will quite come to par with wonderful, jovial, child-like Eleven, who was exactly the guardian angel I needed.
Dr. Cox
38. Harry Draper
Ah, this article has definitely soothed the pain of the Eleventh Doctor's regeneration. I'm immensly excited about Capaldi but Matt Smith will always have a special place in my heart(s) and I vow that cobwebs won't fall upon my TARDIS blue bow tie and tweed jacket. Eternally grateful to the words on this page.

Talia T
39. TaliaG
@claes: Exactly. Nine was the first one I saw, and yes, my favorite. I know he only had a year, but what a year! And I think he laid so much groundwork for the revival.....
"The Doctor Dances" is my favorite of Nine's, because I watched the series skipping a round, a bit of each season, then finally sat down and watched season one straight through. After all that had just happened in the episodes right before, and Nine dealing with his own reactions in "Dalek", it was so nice to see him HAPPY, and having just watched some darker episode, it was such a range of emotion.

I was only sorry he didn;t stay longer!
Dr. Cox
40. TENnat
10 was my doctor and I've just started on 11 and he has alot of similar characteristics as ten. So my grieving is a bet,well, different. The instant ten started to regenerate i really cried. But then He came into my mind and calmed me down. He reminded me of what the Sigma Ood said"your song is ending, but the story will continue. And i prepared for eleven full of hope and he hasn't let me down. Just like ten never let me down has shown above.

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