TV Tonight I caught myself up with the Doctor Who on my shelf. After nearly twelve months I've seen everything currently released on dvd in the UK, fifty years of Doctor Who part from series seven with the strange and inevitable weirdness of waking up tomorrow and not having anything "canonical" with a TARDIS, a timelord and sometimes a companion in to watch. But throughout the final three episodes, I was pre-occupied and not just with wondering if Ruby had won the Great British Bake-Off as I predicted after not watching any of it (she didn't but she did write this rather amazing column for The Guardian about the atrocity of a Twitter reaction).
Nope, as is so often the case it's with a comment from Steven Moffat, specifically about the Doctor's regenerations at the Cheltenham Literature Festival a few weeks ago, in which he said:
“He can only regenerate 12 times [...] I think you should go back to your DVDs and count correctly this time [...] "there’s something you’ve all missed.”
Right then. Having watched all of Doctor Who relatively quickly, I'm counting. Ignoring The Brain of Morbius with its many members of the production team in silly hats and beards because that's just messy and anything implied by the spin-offs and whatever the Doctor says in Sarah Jane Adventures, let's have a count shall we?
1 Hartnell into Troughton
2 Troughton into Pertwee
3 Pertwee into Baker-T
4 Baker-T into Davison
5 Davison into Baker-C
6 Baker-C into McCoy
7 McCoy into McGann
8 McGann into Hurt (we think)
9 Hurt into Eccleston (possibly)
10 Eccleston into Tennant
11 Metacrisis - uses up a regeneration
12 Tennant into Smith
13 Smith into Jayston presumably
14 Jayston into Capaldi
Oh bugger. Unless Capaldi is playing the Valeyard or, well hum. This is messy and even messier if you don't ignore The Brain of Morbius. Well hum, again.
I've read a theory elsewhere, I forget where, that what Moffat's magpie, tricksy brain is chucking out is all the different occasions when the Doctor hasn't specifically said he's regeneration or the regenerative process hasn't been the same as the others. So Troughton or Pertwee doesn't count. Or Baker to Davison because of The Watcher.
The other suggestion is that somewhere in the Time War, the Doctor's been given a whole new regenerative cycle by the Time Lords, as per their offer to the Master in The Five Doctors.
But Steven suggests we look at our dvd collection "and count correctly this time".
Except, oh except. What about River Song? What about Let's Kill Hitler?
In Let's Kill Hitler, River, or Melody as I suppose she was then, gave up her remaining regenerations so that the Doctor could live, he absorbed the regenerative energy. What if, like Mawdryn and his cohorts, the Doctor literally absorbed her remaining regenerations? In which case, having used to up herself, she's given him enough energy to power ten extra regenerations. Presumably this doesn't necessarily mean her actual potential future incarnations, he's not going to be a woman for the next ten incarnations however brilliant that might be (starting with Romola) (followed by Zawe) (then Michelle Terry), but is does mean that he's essentially back to having only used up two.