Doctor Who: How Many Times Can A Time Lord Regenerate?

The mythology and continuity of a show as long running and varied as Doctor Who is a tangled affair. This would be the case of any show created now, but when we consider the fact that for the first twenty years of the show’s life there was no chance for viewers to see an episode again (apart from the occasional repeat), we can see that really there is no hope for a solid continuity. Writers wrote the story they wanted to write which may or may not have agreed with stories from years previously. Which is as it should be.

The concept of Regeneration – the ability of a Time Lord to change their form was introduced in 1966 but no rules were in place. Then, in 1976’s “The Deadly Assassin” by the extraordinary Robert Holmes, it was revealed that Time Lords would die after their twelfth regeneration. So there can be thirteen Doctors before he croaks for the final time.

Obviously, our heroic Time Lord (now the last of his kind… probably) is currently on his Eleventh life which doesn’t leave many before the BBC must drop the show completely, right? Well – obviously not. Writers will come up with a workaround or ret-con the whole issue.

I mean, even back in the 1983 anniversary story “The Five Doctors”, the Master (then having run out of regenerations and actively stolen someone else’s body to continue his existence) was offered: “Regeneration … A whole new life cycle” by the High Council of Time Lords if he agreed to help The Doctor.

In the show’s twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth series, there were hints that The Doctor was more than we knew (a decision by the production team to bring some mystery back to the character) and there’s a great line cut from Remembrance of the Daleks: “Oh no, Davros. I’m much more than ‘Just …. another … Time Lord.”

Why this ramble you ask? Well, apparantly this issue is going to be addressed in the forthcoming Sarah Jane Adventures story “Death of the Doctor” (episodes 5 and 6) which co-stars Matt Smith’s Doctor and former Who star Katy Manning who returns as Jo Grant, companion to Jon Pertwee’s Doctor prior to Sladen’s Sarah Jane.

According to Digital Spy’s 10 teaser list:

The Doctor doesn’t have to be white. And he can regenerate more than 12 times — a lot more!

It’ll be interesting to see how the “issue” is resolved in the story.

For more hints, check out Digital Spy (link below). I just wanted to have a little ramble about this one point.

Source: Digital Spy
GS Reporter: WedgeDoc

More from the world of Geek Syndicate


  1. Hey, Donald Glover, you heard that? 🙂

  2. Hey, if we’re getting technical, two points.

    1. The Master was given a new regenerative cycle when he was resurrected to build weapons during the Time War.
    2. The Valeyard (Trial of a Time Lord) declared that Time Lords can regenerate THIRTEEN TIMES but most Time Lords don’t survive the final regeneration. He said that he, the Valeyard, was the madness that resulted from the Doctor’s thirteenth… And he was trying to get more regenerations.

    • Good points both. Though wasn’t the Valeyard The Doctor’s dark side, formed somewhere between his twelfth and Final regenerations.

      I’m quite excited to see how they handle this in SJ:A, though sort of wish it was broached in the main series rather than a spin off.

%d bloggers like this: