With the recent regeneration of the Thirteenth Doctor, I ranked all of the regenerations from worst to best. This time, I thought it would be fun to rank the context of the regenerations – not the real world reason, like an actor leaving, but the event that mortally wounded the Doctor.
Quick disclaimer – I haven’t seen Classic Who, but I think I understand the context of the regenerations well enough to include them in this list.
Before we begin, you can check out some of my related blog posts below:
14 – Fell Onto The TARDIS Console … Maybe (Sixth Doctor)
Colin Baker had a bust-up with the showrunner, and as a result he didn’t even return to finish his regeneration scene. Even though the production team tried their best given the circumstances, it still comes across as amateurish and rushed.
We don’t actually see the injury, so we can only assume that the Doctor bumped his head on the TARDIS console … So yeah, that’s a pretty lame way to go.
13 – Fell Off A Radio Tower (Fourth Doctor)
The Fourth Doctor is easily one of the most revered incarnations of the famous Timelord, but his demise is nothing short of pathetic.
He falls off of a radio tower whilst chasing the Master, and that’s all it takes to begin the regeneration process. Talk about underwhelming.
12 – Old Age (War Doctor)
There have been a few instances of old age doing the Doctor in, but the War Doctor’s regeneration is the least climactic.
It’s not as if he’s been around for that long (as far as I know, anyway), and he didn’t sustain any injuries leading up to it.
11 – Lasered By The Master (Thirteenth Doctor)
As “The Power of the Doctor” started to come to a close, I wondered how they were going to fit a sensible reason for regeneration into the runtime. As it turned out, they didn’t.
The Master lasering the Doctor out of nowhere is such a cheap shot, and it feels like a last-minute change on the day of filming. Still, “Lasered By The Master” is a pretty badass way to go on paper.
10 – Old Age (First Doctor)
With William Hartnell’s worsening condition in real life, the producers needed to come up with a reason for an actor changeover. The rest, as they say, is history.
“Old Age” is a bit of an odd way to kick things off, but the First Doctor had been alive for centuries by that point so I’ll let them off.
9 – Shot By A Gang / Surgery (Seventh Doctor)
It’s a little unclear as to whether the gang shooting or the surgery were what caused the Seventh Doctor to regenerate, but neither of them are particularly Doctor Who-y.
It’s a bit dark and too realistic for my liking, and it’s odd that they imply the Doctor would have survived the barrage of bullets had the doctors not operated on him afterwards.
8 – Old Age After Defending Trenzalor (Eleventh Doctor)
Out of all of the “Old Age” excuses, the Eleventh Doctor’s time on Trenzalor felt the most justified.
He had been defending that planet for centuries, and the various battles and run-ins with monsters would surely have done a number on his body.
7 – Forced Regeneration By Timelords (Second Doctor)
Whilst it’s pretty metal that the Doctor’s own race of Timelords forced him to regenerate, it’s a little sad that it couldn’t have been one of his enemies.
It’s a plotline that certainly packs a lot of drama, but it feels bittersweet when the Doctor doesn’t get a fully-formed conclusion to an incarnation.
6 – Shot By A Cyberman (Twelfth Doctor)
If the Twelfth Doctor had been shot by a cyberman (after a badass battle) and regenerated there and then, this could have made the top three.
It was a little frustrating, therefore, when the regeneration was prolonged for another full episode. By the time that change begins, you’ve completely forgotten what caused it in the first place.
5 – Radiation Poisoned From Spider Cave (Third Doctor)
Poisoning is one of my favourite ways for a Doctor to go, and the “least good” of these is the Third Doctor.
He gets radiation poisoned in a spider cave, but just makes it back in time to reunite with Sarah Jane and the Brigadier.
4 – Absorbed The Heart Of The TARDIS (Ninth Doctor)
The Bad Wolf twist was teased brilliantly across Season 1, but once Rose fully embraced the power of the time vortex you could tell it was burning her up. Luckily, she had a Doctor at hand to save her.
The Ninth Doctor sacrificing himself for Rose’s sake is the most romantic regeneration of the lot, which makes him seem even more heroic.
3 – Drank Regeneration Elixir (Eighth Doctor)
I didn’t expect much from the “Night of the Doctor” short story, but the writing and melodrama turn it up to eleven.
This is the most Shakespearian of all the regenerations, and Paul McGann’s acting is superb. A regeneration fit for the Time War.
2 – Radiation Poisoned From Saving Wilf (Tenth Doctor)
The best regenerations, I think, are the ones where the Doctor sacrifices themselves for someone else’s sake, and these top two are the most dramatic of the bunch.
The scene where the Tenth Doctor saves Wilf from radiation poisoning is tragic and superbly acted by David Tennant, and his indecisiveness made his ultimate choice all the more heroic.
1 – Poisoned Whilst Saving Peri (Fifth Doctor)
The Fifth Doctor’s regeneration was remarkably similar to the Tenth’s – he saved a friend from a fatal poisoning, trading his life for theirs.
What makes the Fifth Doctor’s the best, I think, is the enduring image of carrying Peri in his arms back to the TARDIS, and the fact he actively neglected the antidote for her sake. What a guy.
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