I’ve started watching the 2005 version of Doctor Who, and I’ve been loving it. It’s hilarious, and it’s poignant, and I adore David Tennant as the tenth Doctor. However, watching it has also gotten me thinking about a number of philosophical questions. In particular, the Doctor’s regenerations make me think about the problem of personal identity.
I started with Christopher Eccleston. The switch between his Doctor and David Tennant’s Doctor wasn’t too jarring for me – perhaps because Tennant’s amazing, perhaps because he was the Doctor I’d first heard of, perhaps because Rose was there as a constant, perhaps because the 9th Doctor didn’t have time to freak out about regenerating (and anyway, he was too worried about Rose at the time to care much about anything else).
But with Tennant’s Doctor, it was a whole different story. Part of it, absolutely, was the fact that Tennant had become one of the most beloved Doctors of the long list of them: for the passing of his Doctor, the writers of Doctor Who wanted it to be special. However, the 10th Doctor himself viewed regeneration as the end — “Even if I change, it feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away. And I’m dead.”
What makes us who we are? Our memories? By that line of thought, all of the Doctors are the same person. And they are, clearly, and yet . . . also not. Every single cell is changed and somehow, that also changes their personalities. Are they the same? How much will the 11th Doctor be like the 10th Doctor?
I feel as though the 9th and 10th had more in common; if nothing else, they had Rose, and their devotion to Rose gave them continuity. Having her in their lives, and interacting with people like Mickey and Jackie (people who’d known them in both forms), showed that they are the same person. Without anyone who knows both of them, will the 11th be like the 10th, or is that Doctor gone forever?