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I know that in the episode "The Impossible Astronaut" it's explicitly said that Time Lords are vulnerable during their regeneration, even Melody/River Song saying "Whatever that was, it killed him in the middle of his regeneration cycle. His body was already dead. He didn't make it to the next one."

However in the episode "Let's Kill Hitler" you see Melody/River Song regenerating after being shot, jumping out of a window, and then getting shot at again. After which she says "Tip for you all. Never shoot a girl while she's regenerating." and she attacks. This leads me to believe that she's invulnerable during regeneration.

Is this something specific to Melody/River Song because she's not a traditional Time Lord? (To be honest I don't even know what to call her, a TARDIS/human hybrid?)

Or was the weapon used in "The Impossible Astronaut" something special that could harm a Time Lord during regeneration, where conventional weapons can't?

  • River had already gotten her new body by the moment she got shot at. I believe she doesn't count as "during regeneration". – Gallifreyan Jul 17 '17 at 12:05
  • I looked up a transcript of the episode and she literally says "Tip for you all. Never shoot a girl while she's regenerating." Added that to the question. – s1h4d0w Jul 17 '17 at 12:14
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    She was not invulnerable, she was in a state of regeneration, allowing her to heal wounds just as the 10th doctor was able to grow his hand back while still in the regeneration grace period. Presumably there's a level of damage that can be trivially handled by regeneration (bullets, loss of limbs) and levels that can't... I think they call the line between those levels "writer." – gowenfawr Jul 17 '17 at 12:25
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    Well, there's the active stage when they are actually transforming, and then there's the passive stage when all the rest is being handled. She was in the second stage, it seems. – Gallifreyan Jul 17 '17 at 12:26
  • But the 11th Doctor's regeneration in "The Impossible Astronaut" was a fake because that wasn't the Doctor. The Doctor had staged it to make the Universe think he was dead. – Wallnut Oct 8 '18 at 8:19
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As usual, Doctor Who always plays fast and loose with the rules, but there is a bit of consistency here over how this regeneration works.

The general idea appears to be, if you can kill a Time Lord while they are regenerating, then their body won't be able to recover. It appears that the body needs to have some amount of life in it for the regeneration process to kick in, and it can be short circuited. Besides Lake Silencio, we've seen other examples of this:

  • The Eighth Doctor "died" in a crash and would not have regenerated without the Sisterhood of Karn intervening.
  • The Seventh Doctor's regeneration was delayed because he was put in cryostorage, slowing his bodily functions
  • Missy has claimed that 8 snipers using conventional Earth weapons could kill her (though she could be lying)
  • The Eleventh Doctor was dying from Judas Tree poison, which blocked his regeneration, until River intervened.
  • Missy died because The Master "overloaded" her body worse than her regeneration energy could repair it.

On the other hand, we have also seen how a Time Lord mid-regeneration has remarkable healing powers: the Tenth Doctor regrew and entire hand that had been lopped off while he was still regenerating from being the Ninth Doctor.

If we follow that pattern, than the difference between the Eleventh Doctor and River is that the gunshots River took didn't kill her, so her body was able to repair itself. The weapon River used on The Doctor as Lake Silencio, on the other hand, appeared to kill him very quickly, giving his body no time to heal between "deaths" and thus, killing him permanently.


Of course, we now know that the whole scene was staged. For example, we know that The Doctor would not have regenerated had he really been shot, since he had used his regenerations all up by that point. So we still don't have a clear picture of what happens when you kill a Time Lord mid-regeneration.

It's possible that River was just wrong, or just guessing about how he died. River seems fairly knowledgeable about Time Lords, but she has also been known to lie.

  • Sounds like the Avatar. – Arthur Dent Jul 17 '17 at 15:03
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According to "The Impossible Astronaut", if you kill a Time Lord at the right point in the Regeneration process, the Time Lord will be actually killed.

There are quite a number of things that could go wrong with a regeneration, but the list is too long

Source (and extra info): Tardis Databank Regeneration

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