So I've gone through some of the old (pre-2005) Doctor Who, and I realized that in the older Doctor Who, the Doctor didn't seem to mind if his companions were right beside him during regeneration (specifically thinking of the 3rd and 5th Doctor's regeneration scenes), but in the new (2005 - present) Doctor Who, it seems that the Doctor tries to keep everyone away from him when the process is occurring. (Also note the Doctor keeping Amy and Rory away from River during her regeneration).

Thus my question is -- is it addressed in Doctor Who canon (book or tv) as to why this behavior seemed to start with the 9th Doctor's regeneration? Or did I miss something when watching the regeneration scenes?

  • 1
    That depends on how much he needs to get rid of whoever's next to him. It's very convenient.
    – CHEESE
    Aug 27, 2015 at 22:44

4 Answers 4


1 -> 2, he's unconscious, no explosive.

2 -> 3, forced by the Time Lord council to regenerate, the sound effects are explosive sounds.

3 -> 4, radiation poisoning but He spent 10 years lost in the Time Vortex. he's unconscious, no explosive.

4 -> 5, he FELL. No explosions.

5 -> 6, poisoned. No explosives.

6 -> 7, unknown, likely blunt force trauma, no explosives.

7 -> 8, shot by a bullet, then really killed by an inept surgeon, a very mundane way to go. Unconscious, No explosive regeneration.

8 -> War, reluctant suicide by poison and forced manipulation of the regeneration by non Time Lord science.

War -> 9, old age. Can't explain why it looked like the new regenerations, likely due to the time stream being out of sync.

9 -> 10, he just absorbed the essence of the TARDIS from Rose, which had made her a physical god.

10 -> 10, he was shot by a Dalek beam, and recovered by channelling the regeneration energy into his conveniently located severed hand.

10 -> 11, he had just absorbed an absurd amount of powerful radiation from the master's machine. And he was fighting it.

River had no experience or training with safe regenerating.

Note 11 into 12 actual transformation, Clara was at the Doctor's finger tips, and the transformation was literally just a flash of light. It was only when he was infused with an entire new set of regeneration energy that he was dangerous, an hour before.

And remember, the Doctor isn't that skilled of a Time Lord. Many others could choose what they wanted to look like, like Romana and the Master. Even then, the Doctor and River easily pass regeneration energy between them without issue.

So in universe it can be explained as a consequence of how the regeneration gets triggered. If there is any competing energy in his body, it makes the regeneration more explosive.

Out of universe explanation is simple, people are now used to things going boom.

  • I think the transformation of the War Doctor into #9 discounts your theory that "energetic" regenerations are a consequence of absorbing a large amount of energy beforehand. Seems simpler to suggest that regenerations just change with age, getting more energetic over time (also note the transformation from 7 to 8 had bolts of lightning flying around him and might have been dangerous to anyone too near), and that the quick and painless regeneration of 11 into 12 had something to do with the fresh regeneration cycle given by the Time Lords.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jul 15, 2015 at 12:42
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    Also, I missed your comment about River on first read--the out-of-universe explanation is just that they used the same regeneration effect for River as for every other regeneration seen on the new series, it seems a little contrived to explain this by saying "River had no experience or training with safe regenerating", given that there has never been anything on the show to suggest that Time Lords must learn to regenerate safely, as opposed to it being automatic (it also contradicts your theory that when lots of energy is unleashed in regens, it's because energy was absorbed earlier).
    – Hypnosifl
    Jul 15, 2015 at 16:37
  • Finally, although we don't see the regeneration of 8 to the War Doctor full-on in The Night of the Doctor, we do see light begin to stream out of 8's body in exactly the same way as in 9 and 10's regenerations, and then they cut to a shot of one of the sisters who is suddenly illuminated by a bright flash. So that's consistent with the idea that his regeneration was probably about as energetic as 9 and 10's, even though he hadn't absorbed any large amounts of energy recently.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jul 15, 2015 at 16:41
  • @Hypnosifl sure its not 100% plot hole free, but neither is the show :P As for 8, I did say he reluctantly poisoned himself, forcing a regeneration.
    – user16696
    Jul 16, 2015 at 0:18
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    But given that there's no evidence the creators are thinking in terms of this explanation, and that there are up to 4 cases that don't really seem to fit it (some more clearly don't fit than others), what good reason is there to treat this as "the" answer to the question (as opposed to just your own personal headcanon)? And 8 didn't actually poison himself, he was killed in the crash but brought back...either way, it doesn't explain how his seemingly "flashy" regeneration fits your explanation that explosive regenerations only happen when the Doctor has absorbed a bunch of energy beforehand.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jul 16, 2015 at 2:03

I think it's to do with how his current incarnation is being killed. When 10 absorbs the radiation, his body needs to get rid of it as quickly as possible in order to heal him, so the subsequent regeneration is explosive. As mentioned before, a lot of the old Doctor's incarnations were unconscious or very sick when regenerating. Not to mention you don't need to make things go boom when you've been poisoned since it'd be flushed out. 11's regeneration wasn't as explosive as 10's because he was dying of old age, and as such his current body was burnt away quickly. Think of it like a phoenix, except the phoenix's current body is like a shell or another skin, and in order to heal, it has to remove the previous layer. The more serious the wound, the more violently it's shed.


Well the 11th doctor was so explosive because he was just granted a new set of regenerations. He healed himself, than later in the tardis he completed the change from 11-12.

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    Is this just your theory? I don't remember anything in the show implying this. In addition it started with the Ninth Doctor, not the Eleventh.
    – Obsidia
    Aug 20, 2017 at 18:22
  • 1
    As Bellatrix said. If you have any evidence for this theory, you should edit it into your answer.
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 20, 2017 at 18:23

My current theory is that the manipulation of his regeneration permanently damaged his regeneration making it painful and explosive rather than the peaceful transition it used to be. I based this on the fact that 8-> war wasn’t shown but was messed with artificially and since then they have been consistent. Some people may argue that melody pond to river song is proof that it has to be wrong but I’m not sure that’s the case Infact id go so far as to say it proves it, as she was raised and experimented on for a very long time, where does regeneration come into this you might ask? Well she knows how to heal the doctor using her regeneration energy, so surely she didn’t figure it out on the spot right?


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