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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.

Indeed, to give an example of something that is considered banal within the context of a created world, I have deeper questions/issues with the idea of the transporter beam as I understand it, in Star Trek. Are you really the same person, given that the molecules that used to be you have been dissipated and another set of molecules have been assembled into “you” somewhere else? Or do you essentially die, while a clone that is exactly like you is created? This seems so much more extreme and disturbing, but is just treated as a given of modern life in that world.

But back to the Doctor. Ultimately, while I’m sad to see David Tennant go–and I can understand why David Tennant the actor would be sad, I don’t fully understand why the Doctor as a character kept railing about it. A new, healthy, fit body sounds rather good, and would seem to me to present an appealing opportunity for a new beginning, especially given that the tenth doctor felt so weary and abandoned and alone by the end.

Insights? Comments?

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