Listen to the RadioTimes.com Doctor Who podcast: the rise of regeneration

Regeneration episodes are momentous pieces of Doctor Who history – but it wasn’t always that way…

Peter Capaldi regenerates in the Doctor Who 2017 Christmas special trailer

In most TV shows, if the lead actor left it’d be a catastrophe – but for Doctor Who it’s an opportunity.

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Ever since William Hartnell passed on the TARDIS keys to Patrick Troughton in 1966 this process of recasting and reinventing the show has been a central part of its success, ensuring it never gets stale and keeps things moving.

And in time, the episodes in which these regenerations take place have become mini-events in their own right, a glorious farewell to beloved actors as they take a final bow.

David Tennant’s extended series of specials was like a lap of honour as his Time Lord’s fate was gradually laid out. Matt Smith’s Doctor knew the location of his big exit long before he ended up there, while Peter Capaldi’s incarnation managed to keep the regeneration itself going for two whole episodes.

But this wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time, the episode in which a Doctor left the series was more or less like any other, the producers keen that the audience didn’t worry too much about the change. And today, it’s tempting to wonder what a modern version of this might look like.

In this week’s RadioTimes.com Doctor Who podcast (above) we try our best to picture a casual regeneration story, while also looking at the evolution of Doctor farewells over the years. Was it really always low-key when a classic Doctor departed – or does an unfilmed Jon Pertwee story hint at a more modern take on ending his era? And can we count Christopher Eccleston’s early bath as a classic series holdover?

Plus, we debate the logistics of surprise regenerations, the pros and cons of big or small deaths for Doctors (“he will knock four times…”), the downside of that famous yellow glowing effect and what we’d like to see in the future if and when current Time Lord Jodie Whittaker eventually departs the role.

Want more Doctor Who action? Check out last week’s podcast about the ever-growing list of Time Lord Victorious releases, or see the latest from Big Finish.

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Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks airs on BBC One in late 2020/early 2021. Want something to watch now? Check out our TV Guide