Doctor Who: Where Do The Doctor’s Faces Come From?


Doctor Who is such a unique show due to many factors, one of which is the mystery surrounding his actual name, hence the show’s title Doctor Who? Another mystery, which the character of The Doctor and the audience don’t have a total understanding of is regeneration. Where do the faces that a Time Lord, particularly the Doctor chooses originate? That’s something that I find very fascinating and will attempt to answer!

Now we know that whenever a Time Lord is injured, mortally wounded (or in the case of The War Doctor and The Eleventh Doctor) dies of old age they regenerate as a way to keep on living. As a result, a Time Lord changes his face (in the case of the Doctor, this is the explanation used to justify hiring a new actor, when the actor currently portraying the Doctor decides to leave). Furthermore it’s not just the Time Lord’s face that changes, but their personality, their sense of style, and their idiosyncrasies. So far the Doctor has shown to regenerate into an old body and a young body, it seems to be a numbers game. However given the fact that The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is aware that the face he chose is one he saw before as The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) in Pompeii, what insight can this give us in terms of how the regeneration process works?

Steven Moffat the current show-runner of Doctor Who has told reporters and fans that he will be addressing the fact that Peter Capaldi’s face has appeared in Doctor Who, namely as the merchant Caecilius and as a civil servant, John Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth. In the words of Twelve “Question is why did the Doctor choose this particular face and will the answer also answer how the Doctor chooses all of his faces, past present and maybe future?”

The way I see it there are a few possible theories as to how the Doctor chooses his faces:



One theory that I think has a lot of merit is the idea that the Doctor subconsciously chooses his faces. For example when The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) regenerates on Trenzalore he hallucinates seeing his late companion Amy Pond, which would explain why when The Eleventh Doctor regenerates into The Twelfth Doctor he becomes Scottish! Also maybe during the regeneration, Eleven was thinking about Caecilius from his encounter when he was The Tenth Doctor. Now I think the Doctor has more control over the regeneration process then he is even aware and I suspect we are about to find out when The Twelfth Doctor digs into why he has his current face. Also events that happen to the Doctor seem to affect how his next regeneration will turn out. For example when The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) regenerates he has been through so much, he has stopped the Time Lord High Council from destroying the universe and exposes himself to radiation in order to save his companion, Wilfred Mott. So when The Tenth Doctor regenerates, he seems to be running from the fact that he is closer to death, and as a result regenerates into a younger body, because he is in denial that he is getting older and wanted to stay young.



In the Classic Who episode “The War Games,” The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) is punished by the Time Lords and forced to regenerate! Now at first they offer him a variety of faces to choose from, but when he refuses, they choose for him and he becomes The Third Doctor (John Pertwee). So from this knowledge we know that The Time Lords at least can choose what faces they want to regenerate into! Now this begs the question, is this something that all Time Lords can do or is this just something the Time Lords in charge of handing out regeneration cycles are able to do?

Now I heard a theory online, that I actually think sounds pretty likely, which is that The TARDIS controls the Doctor’s regenerations and depending on the situation will influence which face the Doctor will regenerate into! I like this theory quite a lot because we know The Doctor and The TARDIS have this very close and almost symbiotic relationship, so why wouldn’t the TARDIS choose the Doctor’s faces or at least influence which ones he chooses!

This could explain what The Curator meant when he told The Eleventh Doctor “I know you don’t. And in years to come you might find yourself revisiting a few, but just the old favorites.” Could this mean that the Doctor at some point will get all nostalgic and possibly regenerate into The Fourth Doctor, The Tenth Doctor or The Eleventh Doctor again?!

We have seen in “The Night of the Doctor,” that The Sisterhood of Karn is able to influence the regeneration process with potions they have created, which made The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) turn into The War Doctor (John Hurt) so he was able to fight in The Time War!

I am not too sure about the cryptic message The Curator gives The Eleventh Doctor, but this one intrigues me and could have a huge impact on future regenerations of the Doctor!



In the first episode of Series 8, the newly regenerated Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) questions where his new face came from:

“…It’s funny because I’m sure that I have. You know, I never know where the faces come from. They just pop up.

Why this one? Why did I choose this face? It’s like I’m trying to tell myself something. Like I’m trying to make a point. But what is so important that I can’t just tell myself what I’m thinking?”

This was one of my favorite scenes in Series 8 and the idea really fascinates me because what if the Doctor is right, and choosing this particular face is a way of relaying some sort of message to himself! Now this could just be conjecture on his part, but this sounds like a distinct possibility and if he is trying to relay a message to himself, what is it, is it a warning, a reminder perhaps?



Now this theory seems a little bit of a cop out, but what if it’s just Time Lord science that controls the regeneration process? Maybe each regeneration cycle can be tweeked or tampered with, maybe this could explain why The Valeyard showed up in The Doctor’s timeline! This could also explain how The Sisterhood of Karn was able to manipulate/influence The Eighth Doctor’s regeneration! If regeneration is just a mathematical formula, maybe they know how to crack it, to manipulate and influence it!

Well those are my theories! What say you? Do you think there is an explanation for where the Doctor’s faces originate? Where do you think the Doctor’s faces come from? Whatever your thoughts let me know!


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