Time to Regenerate: An essay on Doctor Who and real-life “regeneration”

In Doctor Who, there comes a point in the Doctor’s life (usually found in the last episode of every season), when he has to regenerate. And with a newly regenerated Doctor comes all sorts of new things – new face, new attitude, new sonic screwdriver, new TARDIS, new TARDIS key, new companion… It’s still him. Just a new version of him.

Same software, different case.

The idea of a Gallifreyan Time Lord travelling through time and space might be fictional, but there comes a time in our life when we have to “regenerate”.

There will come a time in our lives – our very own “season finale” – where we’ll realize that friends just come and go, goodbyes are inevitable, and even you would change even if you didn’t want to. You will feel like your friend’s on the other side of the universe, so completely out of your reach, like the 10th Doctor and Rose. You will feel like you’re better off without him, like Martha Jones did. You might not even have the luxury to say goodbye, like the countless could-have-been companions scattered all over the Doctor’s timeline.

At that point, you will feel as if every single cell in your body had its own grenade, and it all exploded at once. You will feel as if you had a heart big enough for the two of you, and they’re both dying and keeping each other alive at the same time. You will feel like screaming to the heavens, like how the Doctor always does when he’s regenerating, except you can’t because you do not have the luxury to die in a secluded TARDIS, away from prying ears.

You will think – as the Doctor did as he lost his companions, as he was dying inside his malfunctioning TARDIS, as he limply held his broken sonic screwdriver – that it is unfair. Why can’t there be a limit to pain and loss? Why can’t I just lose a maximum of two things a week? Why do I have to lose everything all at once?

It happens in a few minutes, but for you, it seems eternal. Every single memory flashes across your mind and all you can think of is “make it stop make it stop makeitstop makeitstopmAKEITSTOP-”

And then. There’s a roaring silence deafening your ears. You feel numb all over, and you begin to wonder where all the pain went.

And then. You start glowing. Every inch of your body will shine with milky white light. Swirling colors will surround your body, crackling electricity will run through your veins. You are renewed.

And new cells will start growing like buds in damp soil. Your bruised skin with your history tattooed all over it will shed like a snake’s, revealing the beauty you’ve always had deep inside, the beauty that you hid after years of being covered in dirt and pretenses.

It all goes uphill from there. It will be like climbing up a mountain – you will feel a dull pain under your feet but you will be thrilled to witness the beautiful view. Maybe you’ll see the new things and be reminded of what it was before. Maybe their laughter will echo around your ear. Maybe the phantom faces of your past won’t go away. Maybe.

But one thing is for sure. One day, they will make you smile.

Regeneration will be hard. It will break you from the bottom up. It will crush your soul and destroy you into a million pieces. It will be hard to breathe, and you’ll wish you didn’t have to breathe at all. You may feel like you’re going to die, but you won’t.

It’s hard, but it’s not impossible.


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