A 1997 film, directed by Gillies Mackinnon. This is a film about the first World War, and the consequences of a British poet's criticism of the war after having been awarded a medal for bravery including his commitment to a mental hospital. The film also illustrates with the various techniques doctors used to "cure" shell shock during the war.

Pseudo Intellectual adds: "you might want to mention that Jonathan Pryce's in it, or that it involves Wilfred Owen and Sigfried Sassoon - real historimacal personnages".

The film Regeneration is based on the book Regeneration by Pat Barker. Both are good, although I recommend you read the book before you see the film. Both deal largely with the lives of several people in a First World War army hospital dealing largely with shell shock, with the main character being Dr. Rivers, one of the heads of the hospital, a converted country house. Other important characters include the war poets Sigfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Wilfred Owen, as well as several other officers and staff.

The most major difference between the film and the book of Regeneration is the length of the film: several parts of the film have been edited to a length that is more suited to cinema, and the shorter concentration spans of cinema audiences. The section of the book where Rivers visits Burns and Burns relapses is cut, as is much of the dialogue between Sassoon and Graves, and most of Priors romance. Several major characters in the book, are hardly seen in the film.

The nature of the medium of film does enhance much of the story, particularly the flashbacks to the trenches. The music in the film is used to good effect, with the slow booming of artillery often used, however the flashbacks do not do as much to reflect the horror of the trenches as the book, and some of the books other themes, such as class division, are hardly covered at all in the film, and the cutting of the plot leaves it oddly disjointed at times. The film is a fairly accurate representation of the book, and the plot had not been greatly changed, but it is too short to really do the book justice.

Regeneration is a term from the TV series Doctor Who. It is the name of a process that lets Time Lords revitalize their bodies and survive what would kill normal beings - and also let the TV series survive when the lead actor gets tired of the role.

Real Life

When Doctor Who was first created it was established early on that the Doctor was not human. This added to the mystery of the character, and also allowed the writers a certain amount of laissez faire to create attributes that help the Doctor out in certain situations - he has a dramatically longer lifespan, is able to outfox mind probe devices, can survive more radiation than normal beings, is less affected by time distortions.... and that's just in the first few years. In fact as time went on these "alien qualities" began to cover up bad planning on the part of writers.

On the other hand regeneration was a necessity. William Hartnell suffered from arteriosclerosis, which made it hard for him to memorize lines, not to mention that the effort the Doctor Who schedule required was killing him. These problems made him unbearable to work with, but eventually he came to the conclusion that he had to quit - though he made quite a big deal about who his replacement would be, as Hartnell almost viewed the show as a responsibility rather than a job.

Explaining the change came down to the fact that as an alien the Doctor can have amazing alien powers (moreso than the previously seen ones, I suppose) and that when his body wore out he could rejuvinate himself, leaving him with a drastically different body - and personality. That's it. No fancy scientific explanation, no pseudoscience, no technobabble. Quite easy on the viewer but frustratingly vague for people wanting it pinned down - over time this was changed and added to and it all got really weird.

As for who thought the idea up, there's no one person claiming responsibility, they all say other people had a hand in it. The speculation that it was a group decision is probably correct. Here's a list of people who are supposed to have been, or were likely to be, involved:

  • Gerry Davis
  • Innes Lloyd
  • Dennis Spooner
  • Dr. Christopher Pedler (Kit Pedler to just about everyone in the universe, and happy with that)
The one big failing with the initial regeneration was that the Doctor's clothes regenerated with him. Ooops.

The personality of the new Doctor is always made to be quite different to the previous one to get a distinct break from the previous Doctor. For the first regeneration Patrick Troughton was to play the Doctor very differently to William Hartnell's irascible and domineering character, but the final decision ended up being decided by the actor - the process of sitting down with a group of people pitching ideas for rigid personalities was too much for Troughton, and so he was given a fairly broad scope, and ended up modelling the character after himself - the tendancy of the Doctor to use disguises was included to give him some scope for the character acting he enjoyed (and probably to stop him geting bored), but the most significant was to play it silly sometimes and be much more underhanded and devious.

Subsequently when Jon Pertwee was asked to do subtle humour he insisted instead on playing the role as straight as possible, and Tom Baker reportedly has much the same sense of humour as his Doctor (in fact he ended up overriding the show a lot in later years). Later Doctors were managed much more by the producer of the show, Colin Baker in particular has always been dissapointed he didn't get to play the Doctor the way he wanted - but either way it was still a big break from the previous portrayal. Ultimately the shift in the portrayal of the Doctor makes a clean break so people get a chance to start over - the actors can make their mark on the role their way, the writers get to try new things, and the audience don't feel like they're watching a poor copy of the previous actor.

The interesting thing about a regeneration was originally showing the Doctor's companions trying to deal with it - they were very suspicious of the second Doctor, and the third Doctor had an even tougher time - none of the people he knew that he met post-regeneration had heard of the process. These gave good scripting options, but with the fourth regeneration the story following it was about the regeneration, which meant there was a lot of rubbish made up. It's not quite that bad though, and it made sense to have a story focus on the concept for once. However the Doctor's companions dealt with the change quite easily, and the opportunity for inserting fresh mistrust of the main character that the first regeneration allowed hasn't been taken up again, apart from the attempt with the sixth Doctor - but people couldn't handle the idea of the main character being so unstable. Mysterious and edgy is okay with viewers, attempting to strangle the other lead character less so.


So, how he hell does it work? Well.... Starting from the basic idea that when you get a minor scrape your body fixes itself you can just take that to an idiotic extreme. John Peel theorised in his book The Gallifrey Chronicles that it's a nanomolecular virus that rebuilds the body from the original. Mmmmm okay, that actually sounds good. This explains why the Doctor is often in a bad way after regenerating (at least for one episode) - you try having your body rebuilt from the cells up. He also tends to hang on to his body for far too long, and when he regenerates it's usually after some particularly traumatic experience.

Known post-regenerative problems include seeing the previous face in a mirror, extreme incoordination, flashbacks and psychosis. Poor dress sense, exhibited frequently by the Doctor after regenerating, is a personality trait that gets amplified rather than a widespread problem. Note that these are normal for a trauma induced regeneration (Romana has no trouble when changing her body into something more interesting). Unusual is a steady mental breakdown, as happened to the fifth Doctor, but most TARDISes have a Zero Room built into them - an environment which somehow stabilises the regeneration. Initially it's implied the TARDIS aids regenerations (or even causes it), so maybe, uh, well.... Lets break out Occam's Razor and take the simplest explanation:

Basically the second Doctor tended to hide the facts from everyone (an ongoing character trait) - He was lying. The TARDIS does not aid regeneration. It's not a feature of the ship. Time Lords regenerate on their own. The Zero Room/metamorphic symbiosis regenerator are only needed for mental or physical problems, respectively.

Oh yes, according to a later story Time Lords can regenerate 12 times. This will no doubt be ignored if the Doctor ever needs a 13th regeneration - initially there was never a set limit. It was established so that they could explain the emaciated, wasted Master in The Deadly Assassin. The limit was used in a couple of stories as a plot device.

So what can't it do? Well, the famous rumour that did the rounds every few years since the late 70's was "The next Doctor will be a woman"1 - though interesting2, the idea that a Time Lord's body is rebuilt means it's hard to get a drastic change. This is also why you don't find Time Lords with tentacles, gills or mandibles. If you break a flowerpot you can't glue it back together into a vase3.

  1. It's a stupid rumour. Why? A similar rumour was made about James Bond in the leadup to Die Another Day, when the working title was Beyond the Ice. They were talking about Catherine Zeta-Jones being Bond. It turned out that she was on the shortlist for a female spy (Halle Berry's character). So what relation does this have to Doctor Who? The "Next Doctor will be a woman" rumour came along when the Doctor was to be travelling with a female Time Lord. In both cases wires got crossed - radical rumours about franchises like these are often wrong.

    The Doctor Who team did consider a woman playing the Doctor at one point, but it came down to the fact that people might not cope with it. It's never clear if this was a joke at a meeting or a serious idea, but given that it was the 70's.... people might not have liked the idea of a man turning into a woman, and it would have killed the show - or hammered it firmly into the "childish" basket in the minds of the casual viewer. Fans would have gone apeshit.

    No, The Curse of Fatal Death does not count as a legitimate Doctor Who story - no matter how hot you think Joanna Lumley is as the Doctor.

  2. It would offer some interesting ideas and opportunities for discussion of issues, but it would work better in a book, which would allow us to see the thoughts of the character. I doubt the BBC would accept such a proposal.

  3. "Doctor Who is racist because he was never played by a black person" was said on the BBC message boards (the same poster claimed James Bond was also racist for the same reason - I wonder if they've read Fleming's books). Doctor Who is fucking shocking for seldom having anyone other than caucasian actors in it, but it's not so much the show as the institution at the time - Most shows were like this. Doctor Who doesn't seem to be consciously excluding, it's just got extreme tunnel vision.

    If you can find a way to explain in story terms the Doctor regenerating into another ethnic group that doesn't belittle said group then that's all good - but the BBC would still probably ignore the option. Again, there's some possibilities for some thoughtful works to come out of it, which would even work on television. Unfortunately the show may now be so firmly mired in "tradition" and considered "an institution" that this change could never be considered.

    Oh, and one suggestion for the second Doctor was apparently to have Patrick Troughton in blackface and wearing a turban. I have a feeling this wouldn't have been anything more than a stereotyped performance.

Regeneration Stories

The Doctor
Story with cause/Story with resolution

Other Time Lords
Other Time Lords cope with this much better than the Doctor,
there is seldom trauma or mental problems


  • The Gallifrey Chronicles by John Peel
  • The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping
  • Doctor Who Programme Guide by Jean-Marc Lofficier
  • BBC site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/doctorwho/
  • A Brief History of Time Travel: http://www.physics.mun.ca/~sps/drwho.html
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide: http://www.drwhoguide.com/who.htm
    (specifically The Curse of Fatal Death: http://www.drwhoguide.com/fatal.htm)

Morwen's excellent writeup gives a detailed description of regeneration from classic Doctor Who; however, it was written before the start of the revived series of Doctor Who (which began in 2005). In the new series, the concept of regeneration, while retaining the same purpose of allowing new actors to take over the role of the Doctor, has been extended in various different ways.

One change is consistency to the regeneration effect. In the classic series, a variety of different effects were used to transition from one Doctor to the next. The production team for the new series instead decided that there should be a common regeneration effect. The effect takes the form of a fire that engulfs the Time Lord's body, consuming the old body and transforming them into their new form. In The End of Time, the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant)'s regeneration is shown to be particularly violent, with this "fire" from his regeneration process causing the TARDIS control room itself to catch on fire.

The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)'s regeneration broke with this trend by being much briefer than the others, although the general effect was the same. The aged Eleventh Doctor is shown to regress back to his (normal) younger age before changing, after having been given a new set of regenerations; it is suggested that this process is the reason for these differences.

There are recurring mentions of "regeneration energy" throughout the series; the Doctor is observed to exhale a yellow cloud of this energy after regenerating into his Tenth and Eleventh incarnations (Seen in the Children in Need special, The Christmas Invasion and The Eleventh Hour). In The Christmas Invasion, the Doctor, recovering from his regeneration, comes under attack from alien "pilot fish" who have detected his regeneration energy and want to use him as a power source.

Regeneration continues to be a traumatic process for the Doctor to undergo. In the Children in Need special, he is observed to behave erratically, commenting that "the regeneration is going wrong" and that he "can't stop himself". He subsequently spends much of The Christmas Invasion in bed, eventually being revived by a cup of tea that spills into the TARDIS. In The Eleventh Hour he is also shown to experience occasional moments of physical pain, expressing annoyance at having to fend off an alien invasion as he is "not done yet".

The Eleventh Doctor story The Impossible Astronaut shows that a Time Lord can be killed (properly) when he is in the process of regenerating. The Doctor is shot, causing his regeneration process to start, and then shot once more, which kills him. (Though this is later revealed to be the Teselecta, a time ship impersonating the Doctor, and not actually the Doctor).

More has been revealed about regeneration through the character River Song (specifically in the episode Let's Kill Hitler), who has at least a partial Time Lord-style physiology as a result of being conceived inside the TARDIS. The ability of Time Lords to regenerate is explained as resulting from their exposure to the Time Vortex. River kisses the Doctor with a lipstick containing a poison extracted from the Judas tree that prevents regeneration.

Time Lords are able to voluntarily give up their regeneration energy to heal others. The most notable example of this is in Let's Kill Hitler where River Song gives up her remaining regenerations to save the Doctor from dying. The Doctor later partially reciprocates in The Angels take Manhattan by giving up some of his own regeneration energy to heal River's wrist, an action for which she chides him as being a waste.

It has also been established that a Time Lord can change gender when regenerating, as the character The Corsair is described as having been both male and female (The Doctor's Wife), the Master regenerates into the female "Missy" (first appearing in Deep Breath), and a Time Lord general regenerates on-screen from a white man into a black woman in Hell Bent (demonstrating that Time Lords can change race as well as gender).

In the classic series it was established that a Time Lord can regenerate only twelve times. This limit remains in the new series, although for some time it was ambiguous as to whether it was still the case. With the War Doctor, and the Tenth Doctor regenerating twice (Journey's End), Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor actually counts as the thirteenth incarnation; this limit was resolved in his swan song episode Time Of the Doctor where the Time Lords give The Doctor a new set of regenerations (how many is unclear).

It has been established that certain things can "fully" kill a Time Lord and prevent regeneration. In Turn Left, the Doctor is seen to have been killed in an alternate timeline, with speculation that things happened "too quickly" for him to regenerate. In The Doctor Falls, The Master kills his future incarnation (Missy) with his Laser Screwdriver, commenting "don't bother trying to regenerate, you got the full blast".


It remains unclear what degree of control Time Lords have over their regeneration. In Utopia the Master states that he will become "young and strong" like the Doctor, before regenerating into a new incarnation played by John Simm. However, in the 2005 Children in Need special, the Doctor specifically states that he cannot "change back" into his previous incarnation, and all four of his new incarnations have shown unfamiliarity with their new appearance after regenerating.

In Let's Kill Hitler, River Song claims to be trying to "focus on a dress size" before regenerating, implying that some degree of control might be possible. Night of the Doctor shows that the Sisters of Karn have "elevated Time Lord science" that allows them to control regeneration with elixirs. In Day of the Doctor the Doctor encounters The Curator, who is strongly implied to be a future, retired version of the Doctor (played by Tom Baker) and claims to be "revisiting old faces".

At the very least, there appears to be an unconscious element to how new bodies are "chosen": in The Girl Who Dies it is established that the Twelfth Doctor unconsciously chose the face of Caecilius from the Tenth Doctor story The Fires of Pompeii as a reminder to himself that although he cannot change historical events, he can still help people.

It also remains ambiguous whether the regeneration process requires conscious effort on the part of the Time Lord to initiate, or if it happens automatically. In The End of Time, the Tenth Doctor absorbs a lethal dose of radiation, and the regeneration process appears to initiate immediately afterwards, as he is able to simply "wipe away" a cut from his forehead using his hand. After saying goodbye to his former companions, he comments, "I don't want to go", before being overcome by the full regeneration process.

Time Lords appear to be able to consciously "hold back" from regenerating, or to temporarily delay the process if they choose. The Tenth Doctor does this before regenerating, as does the Twelfth Doctor in The Doctor Falls, thrusting his hands into a snow bank and announcing he will not change. In The Last of the Time Lords, the Master, mortally wounded, refuses to regenerate in order to spite the Doctor.

Another comment by the Doctor in Nightmare in Silver suggests that he is at least capable of intentionally triggering the process: "I could regenerate now. Big blast of regeneration energy; burn out any cyber widgets in my brain". However, as the Eleventh Doctor was (at the time) the last possible incarnation, it is likely that he was bluffing about having been able to do this.

Plot devices

The regeneration concept has been used for numerous plot devices. In The Christmas Invasion, the Doctor loses his hand in a sword fight with the Sycorax leader, but miraculously grows a replacement hand, explaining that he is able to use the remaining energy from his regeneration to do this, as he is still within the first 36 hours of his regeneration cycle.

The Doctor's hand becomes a recurring plot device in its own right, being used by Captain Jack to detect the presence of the Doctor, among other things. In Journey's End, the Doctor is able to avoid regenerating (after being shot by a Dalek), by diverting his regeneration energy into the hand. There follows an extra plot twist as the hand is then able to grow into a half-human clone of the Doctor with the help of Donna Noble, an event referred to as a "meta-crisis".

Similarly, in Let's Kill Hitler, River Song is shot by a group of Nazi soldiers, but survives due to having recently regenerated. She produces a wave of regeneration energy that not only heals her, but also knocks out the guards. The Eleventh Doctor repeats this in Time of the Doctor, where he destroys various Dalek attack ships using long beams of regeneration energy that extend from his arms.

Forced regeneration

At the end of the Second Doctor's tenure, The Doctor was forced to regenerate by the Time Lords. This concept of forced regeneration is later explored in the 2022 story "The Power of the Doctor" where The Master mentions that it was the ultimate sanction for breaking Time Lord laws. In the same story, The Master constructs a device that he uses to force The Doctor to regenerate into him, The Doctor effectively "becoming" The Master. This is ultimately undone through a "forced degeneration" that restores The Doctor before the end of the episode.

Regeneration Stories

The Doctor The Master Others
  • Day of the Moon (2011) - Young Girl (River Song)
    Cause: Shot by Amy Pond. It is later revealed (in Let's Kill Hitler) that the girl was River Song, and that she regenerated into a toddler on the streets of New York.
  • Let's Kill Hitler (2011) - River Song
    Cause: Shot by Hitler. Also a notable episode for introducing several other regeneration concepts: the Judas tree, the ability of Time Lords to willingly give up regenerations, and the ability to wield regeneration energy as a weapon.
  • Hell Bent (2015) - Time Lord general
    Cause: Shot by The Doctor. Also notable for being the first on-screen depiction of a Time Lord changing both gender and race, as the general's new incarnation is a black woman.


  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/s4/faq/plot_continuity.shtml - BBC Series 4 FAQ
  • http://www.sfx.co.uk/2010/10/26/interview-russell-t-davies-talks-about-that-sarah-jane-adventures-line/ - Russell T Davies interview with comment about regeneration limit.

Re*gen`er*a"tion (-?"sh?n), n. [L. regeneratio: cf. F. r'eg'eneration.]


The act of regenerating, or the state of being regenerated.

2. Theol.

The entering into a new spiritual life; the act of becoming, or of being made, Christian; that change by which holy affectations and purposes are substituted for the opposite motives in the heart.

He saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Chost. Tit. iii. 5.

3. Biol.

The reproduction of a part which has been removed or destroyed; re-formation; -- a process especially characteristic of a many of the lower animals; as, the regeneration of lost feelers, limbs, and claws by spiders and crabs.

4. Physiol. (a)

The reproduction or renewal of tissues, cells, etc., which have been used up and destroyed by the ordinary processes of life; as, the continual regeneration of the epithelial cells of the body, or the regeneration of the contractile substance of muscle.


The union of parts which have been severed, so that they become anatomically perfect; as, the regeneration of a nerve.


© Webster 1913.

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