After having lived through the name, night, and day of BBC’s iconic Doctor Who, we suppose it’s only fair that we also encounter “The Time of The Doctor,” too. Because it’s time for everyone's favorite madman in a magic blue box to regenerate — and what better time to deal with the crushing realization that Matt Smith is leaving than the happiest time of the year, also known as Christmas?
In six new images released by the British network on Wednesday, the tagline reads “a change is going to come.” Which refers to, on one level, the twelfth regeneration of the Doctor, ushering in Peter Capaldi as the thirteenth face of the time-traveling space alien. But it also seems to be a reference to the actual act of regeneration itself, which has up until now been a very ill defined process. In the recent mini-episode, "The Night of The Doctor," the Sisterhood of Khan were re-introduced to the modern audience: a line of pre-Timelord Gallifreyan women whose soul reason for living is to protect the power and the art of regeneration, allowing us to see how malleable and evolved the practice has become in the years since last we saw them.
You see, in the realm of Who, Timelords are allowed a total of twelve regenerations in order to escape the inevitability of death. We know this is a rule enforced by the High Council of Gallifrey (currently sitting around in a pocket universe, stuck in a moment of time the Doctor knows not where) that has been broken in the past when they bequeathed an additional regeneration onto the Doctor’s nemesis, the Master.
It remains to be seen, though, if they’re in total control of Timelord regenerative abilities, or merely enforcers of arbitrary rules. No doubt this whole quandary will be a large storyline if not in the Christmas Special, then in the upcoming eighth season.
Of course, the change itself has already been hinted at a little bit. Namely, with the introduction of The Curator (played by fourth Doctor Tom Baker) in the 50th anniversary and his playful repartee with Smith about lives borrowed and given.
The idea that the Doctor takes or gives life to those who found theirs cut short would no doubt be a helpful (and honestly, quite beautiful) way to explain the double-appearance of Capaldi who recently appeared in the fourth season episode, "The Fires of Pompeii." And when you look back at the themes of "The Rings of Akhaten,” Akhaten itself being a parasitic sentient planet that feeds off the souls and stories of other people, it's not hard to see what showrunner Steven Moffatt’s been hinting at this entire time.
Doctor Who's "The Time of The Doctor" airs December 25 at 8PM on BBC America.