If you look at the doings in “The Rings of Akhaten,” the hazy picture all a tiny bit clearer. Clara defeated the planet-sized god/monster by feeding it the infinitesimal leaf, holding onto all the potential life her mother never had. This energy looked an awful lot like regeneration energy — to say nothing of the parallels between this old god, Grandfather, and the Doctor — leading us to assume that perhaps the transitive nature of Clara’s gift was a way to not only explain the god-monster, but in turn allude to the machinations behind Timelord regeneration.

Which was also bandied about in “The Night of The Doctor” when the Sisterhood of Karn explain the pinpointed accuracy with which the regenerative process can take place: gender, brawn, brains — all of it able to be hand-selected by the Timelord as he so chooses it.

So taking those two aspects in mind — that one’s life can be extended via the transference of potential, and that regeneration has evolved in a self-directed fashion — a clearer picture of the process is painted for the audience in a way that explains the existence of the Doctor outside of being The Doctor.

“If I were you, oh if I were you,” the Curator mused, “Perhaps I was you, of course. Or perhaps you are me… or perhaps it doesn’t matter either way. Who knows? Who knows.” This line is purposefully ambiguous, leaving plenty of headway for a Capaldi lead-in. Because while it might be easy to assume that the “old favorites” are old Doctors (especially considering that it is an old Doctor saying it), it might actually mean something else entirely: namely, a way to explain the recurrence of Capaldi even though we’ve seen his face before. Perhaps the Doctor's regenerative abilities come from his ability to live on borrowed time so to speak. To — much like the god-monster planet in "The Rings of Ahkaten" — gobble up the infinite potential these old favorites had in their memory, and from that transference, survive and thrive. In that way, being the Doctor is yet another way to fix the wrong that's inherent in his regenerative right to life upon life upon life.

Of course there’s still that pesky limit that needs to be taken care of, since it is canon that there are only twelve regenerative cycles. But with Gallifrey stuck in a pocket universe, lost in a moment of time, can the rule really be enforced? And what are the implications of further regenerations? There have been exceptions to the rule played out on screen (often via The Master), but the biologic and hierarchical ramifications of such a to-do are as-yet untold. Of course with current companion Clara at the helm — the Impossible Girl has always been the key to the Doctor escaping with his life in tact, throughout all of his history — one doesn’t have to look too far into the pool of hypotheticals to see the myriad of ways in which she may yet again change his future. Some might even call it a Christmas miracle.

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