Ever since Doctor Who premiered 50 years ago, the role of the Doctor has been cleverly recast by means of regeneration until Christopher Eccleston inexplicably appeared as Ninth Doctor in the 2005 reboot. Fans finally get to witness the Eighth Doctor regeneration as Paul McGann reprises his role in “The Night of the Doctor,” a mini-episode for the 50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor.”
The term mini-episode doesn’t do it justice. Like the TARDIS, it’s bigger on the inside. Writer Steven Moffat takes us on an emotional roller coaster that makes us simultaneously mourn and celebrate the regeneration of the Doctor.
The Doctor attempts to save a spaceship pilot named Cass (Emma Campbell-Jones) from the crossfire of the Time War but she refuses his help upon learning that he’s a Time Lord, which are just as bad as the Daleks in her mind.
“Go back to your battlefield,” she tells him. “You aren’t finished yet. Some of the universe is still standing.”
They both die in a crash landing; however, he is temporarily resurrected by the Sisterhood of Karn, exiled Gallifreyans who can see the future. They literally change his mind about getting involved in the Time War.
“Our elixir can trigger your regeneration, bring you back,” explains their leader, Ohila (Clare Higgins). “Time Lord science is elevated here. On Karn, the change doesn’t have to be random. Fat or thin. Young or Old. Man or Woman.”
Ohila continues to rattle off potions that not only affect appearance but personality as well.
“Fast or strong. Wise or angry,” she asks. “What do you need now?”
The Doctor picks up Cass’ weapon and chooses to become a warrior, who is listed in the credits as the War Doctor (John Hurt). It’s noteworthy that the reflection we see of the War Doctor appears significantly younger than he does in The Day of the Doctor trailer. Assuming he doesn’t get aged by the Master’s laser screwdriver, Hurt will likely have many adventures prior to the upcoming special. In fact, we can count on it according to Moffat.
“I’m always telling the Doctors and companions, as they come through the show, that they’ll never be quite done with it – Big Finish is expecting them,” he told the BBC.
The Hurt isn’t the only one who may get some extra time in the series Moffat hinted.
“The completist in me… the ‘box set man’ in me wants every box ticked and I wanted every regeneration scene!” he said in regards to Eighth Doctor but that still leaves the War Doctor regeneration into the Ninth Doctor.
Eccleston has stated that he will not appear in the anniversary special but we all know the Doctor lies, and there’s a second mini-episode titled “The Last Day,” which sounds an awful lot like another regeneration story.