We watched the last David Tennant episode of Doctor Who a couple of nights ago. As with the previous regeneration episode (where Eccleston bowed out and Tennant took over), I am once again puzzled.
I understand why viewers are sad to see a given Doctor go, and also why his friends are sad about it. I even get why the actor playing the role might be sad. But it feels as if the doctor’s whole conflict around the regeneration episodes ties into trying to speak to that sadness, which comes from outside the doctor’s emotional experience.
I really don’t understand why, within the story, the Doctor is so conflicted. Assuming everything goes well, post-regeneration he appears to remember everything from before and it’s his same body that transforms. I know the character says something about dying, but for me dying has to do with there being some break in memories, in essential self or in something deep and fundamental. Concepts of rebirth or any sort of afterlife to me involve becoming something else, not just having the same body change form and superficial quirks, while retaining all memories and competencies as before.
To put it another way: if I got fatally injured and the cure for it was to transform my physical form, while retaining all aspects of my essential self, my memories and my acquired skills, this strikes me as a pretty good deal, frankly.