ByLegarè Price, writer at
Writer and true nerd and lover of all things comic, supernatural, fantasy, and just down right weird.
Legarè Price

With The Day of the Doctor fast approaching (November 23, 2013 to be exact), the debate about who John Hurt's "The Doctor" character actually is will be in full swing. One of the reason Hurt's character has been so hotly debated is because of the "12 Regeneration Rule" that has been surrounding Doctor Who lore since it originated in the 1976 Doctor Who episode "The Deadly Assassin". If you do the math correctly (which many people seem to be unable to do despite having a mandated education), The Doctor's 12 regenerations would give him a total of 13 incarnations.

This rule has long since been a debate between fans, especially due to the mysterious nature of certain regenerations and The Doctor's use of regeneration energy for other purposes (i.e. David Tennant's 10th Doctor using the energy from his cut off hand to heal himself). Because of this confusion, there has been little in the way of a definitive answer to an extremely important question: How many incarnations does The Doctor have left?

Steven Moffat, the show's lead writer and executive producer, has done something this week that has both aided and elevated some of this confusion. While speaking at a Radio-Times sponsored event, Moffat confirmed the "12 Regeneration Rule" by stating about The Doctor:

"He can only regenerate 12 times."

While this should be news that astounds most fans, Moffat also threw out another piece of information regarding the number of regenerations The Doctor has currently been through. Moffat stated,

“I think you should go back to your DVDs and count correctly this time, there’s something you’ve all missed.”

WHAT? How can this be? I am pretty sure most of us nerds watching Doctor Who for the majority of our lives wouldn't have missed such a substantial detail. While John Hurt may be a missing incarnation of The Doctor (review 1000 previous articles on numerous websites to update yourselves on this if your confused), this means that The Doctor should be ending his regenerative cycles with the upcoming Peter Capaldi incarnation next year.

However, I would like to throw out a few other possible scenarios that could explain how our beloved Doctor Who could be effected by Moffat's comments.

1. John Hurt's Doctor represents a break in The Doctor's regeneration cycle.

We all know that John Hurt is playing "The Doctor" and that he is most likely playing a dark or evil version of our favorite hero. However, we have yet to see actual proof of the regeneration between the 8th and 9th incarnations of The Doctor. Therefore, Hurt's character could be the "true" 9th Doctor, with the rest being one higher than previously thought.

All of this to say, if that is the case, we have two missing regenerations. Because of this, we have no real answers as to how they happened or why. It could be as simple as The Doctor chose to forget Hurt's Doctor and there is nothing funny going on. However, it could also mean there is a larger story.

What if there was not as clean a transition between Hurt's Doctor and Eccleston's Doctor? What if the Doctor somehow "split" rather than actually regenerating? This could mean that there is a new regeneration cycle that began at Eccleston. While this is an irritating explanation, it could explain why Moffat chose to ask the audience how many regenerations we have actually seen.

2. River Song (Melody) giving her regenerations to The Doctor

The popular theory behind how many regenerations The Doctor has lies in the half human, half time-lord River Song. In the episode "Let's Kill Hitler", River used her remaining 10 regenerations to revive The Doctor. While Moffat has stated that River did not "give" her remaining incarnations to The Doctor, there is still the possibility for this to be the case.

However, I don't think this is the case. Healing with regeneration energy is different from regenerating, so that seems like a cop out. Plus, the BBC has stated that The Doctor gained more regenerations after the Time War.

What do you think? Do you think The Doctor, starting at Eccleston, could be a "new" Doctor or somehow changed biologically based on Hurt's Doctor's decisions? Place your theories about Moffat's statement in the comments below.


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