Doctor Doctor Who Guide

As I write this there is much discussion on the new character of the ninth Doctor. My mind goes back, however, to my reaction to the first regeneration. Others have asked the question as to what the appearance of the second Doctor would have had on them had they seen it at the time, rather than with hindsight. In a word my reaction at the time was one of complete confusion.

The Tenth Planet led us to believe the Doctor was not well, but what was the change that we saw? How could a man change? I had nothing to suggest that the Doctor was not human - he was simply an old man with a time machine who knew a great deal. Today we look back on elements in the first Doctor's era and try to identify those that identify him as alien, but nothing had made me think so at the time of the regeneration. 

Ben's doubts spoke for me. Polly's acceptance of the change seemed irrational. However, if what I was watching was not the Doctor, then what the hell was I watching? The new Doctor's behaviour did not endear (though now the second Doctor remains my favourite). The Doctor simply does not behave as he did. Where was the gravitas?

My confusion remained. However, the appearance of the Daleks soon kept me hooked. Along with Ben and Polly it was the recognition of the Doctor by the Daleks themselves that confirmed for me that this must be the Doctor.

Looking back now the regeneration was genius. I do not simply mean the idea - but also its portrayal. We were not given an explanation. To have the Doctor change without any real justification was risky and, at the time, left me with questions I wanted answers to and these were denied to me. Getting a new body for one that was wearing out was not an explanation. Did my confusion detract from the story? At first, possibly, but Daleks put most things into the shade. In hindsight the lack of information increased the mystery and led us slowly on the path that led us to the War Games and the slow drip of information after that.

At this distance my memories of the Troughton era vary. However, the striking effect of the regeneration was so strong that it remains as clear as any. If the way that the regeneration was handled was meant to make an impression, it certainly worked. Who knows, if we had been given an explanation, maybe I would have accepted it easily and allowed the memories to fade. Thank goodness we weren't and they haven't!

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