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Doctor Who Review: “The Name of the Doctor” (SPOILERS)

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Wait, so this WASN’T the 50th Anniversary special? It’s an episode in which every single incarnation of the Doctor we know (and also…) is featured, and in a way that makes sense and isn’t stupid. It’s full of past characters and references and mystery and intrigue and loss and sadness and endings and beginnings and…. Man, “The Name of the Doctor” had everything. It was even about what it said on the tin, and we didn’t have to hear it. So, let’s dive in, I guess.

Vastra calls a meeting of all the awesome people who help the Doctor and are still available to be shown onscreen. That means herself, Jenny, Strax, Clara, and River, whom we haven’t seen since she left the Doctor crying and alone at the end of “The Angels Take Manhattan.” Apparently, with the proper fragrance, people can lucid-dream their way into a Matrix construct. I did not know that. It’s a good way of getting people in the same room at once without having to mess around with pesky science or technology. They are gathered because some crazy murderer knows information regarding the fields of Trenzalore. We know this, of course, as the site of the Fall of the Eleventh, as told to the Doctor by Dorium at the end of “The Wedding of River Song.” This is bad news.

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The Great Intelligence, again played by the iconic Richard E. Grant, sends the Whisper Men, another in a long string of Moffat’s terrifying henchmen, to take/kill the members of the pentagon whilst they’re asleep. Clara wakes up and tells the Doctor what happened, causing him to cry. He knows where he must go, but he daren’t. If you could travel anywhere in time and space, obviously the one place you’d avoid is the place where you breathe your very last. We see terrible things on Trenzalore, not least of which being the remains of the TARDIS, its dimensions broken down so that the outside matches the inside. River is also here — not real River, mind, but the River that’s mentally linked to Clara.

I don’t actually understand what River is doing there and why the Doctor, we eventually learn, can see her. I get that she’s supposed to be the “saved” version of River from “Forest of the Dead,” but why wouldn’t they just pick a River who’s alive? I mean, she’s out of sequence with the Doctor; does that mean the very next thing she did after Amy and Rory got sent back to the ’40s was go to the library? Either way, I think we’re led to believe that she’s not going to be in the show anymore. I’ll miss her, I think, but I can live with it.

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The Great Intelligence’s plan is downright horrific, to jump into the Doctor’s time stream and un-right all the un-wronging he’s done throughout eternity. What a dick. Planets, galaxies, people, begin to disappear from existence, including Jenny and evil-again Strax. There is but one thing left to do – for Clara to jump in herself, completely forsake her own life, and get split into a billion pieces to save the Doctor and ensure things happen the way they should. She’s the one who tells him which TARDIS to take, for heaven’s sake (although, didn’t Idris-TARDIS say it was she who chose him?… maybe they were in league together).

Since “Asylum of the Daleks,” back when we were surprised to see Jenna-Louise Coleman on our screens, we’ve been wondering who exactly she is, and what exactly she’s doing in multiple places in history. Now we know; she’s not a trick, or a trap, or some weird alien, or a robot, or anything like that. She’s a young lady who essentially allowed herself to be fragmented throughout time and space to save the Doctor time and time again. We see her “interact” with the Doctor throughout his whole life. I don’t care if it does look fake, seeing Clara and William Hartnell share the same frame is magical. And Tom Baker and Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton and everybody. It’s awesome. I love it.

Once things are righted, the Doctor does something even more insane that what Clara did: jump into his own time stream to save her. She eventually ends up in some horrible, bleak place and, miraculously (or not), the Doctor finds her, the real her. Except there’s another guy standing there… We do not know this guy; who’s this guy? Evidently, he’s the man who had forsaken the name of the Doctor. There have only been 11, but this one’s a mistake or something. Is he the Valeyard, is he a future Doctor, is he… a third thing? I guess we’ll have to wait and see once the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors team up.

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I’m sure there’s a lot of nitpicking to be done about this episode, but none of it really bothered me in the least. I thought everything paid off what was promised, and River’s ghost being able to open the tomb’s doors aside, the episode wasn’t a cop out. It WAS about the name of the Doctor, it WAS about finding out who and what Clara is, it WAS about something that completely changed what we knew about the show, but it doesn’t besmirch or negate any of it. It’s an episode about the past, present, and future of the character, which is something everybody can enjoy.

I adored this entire series, from “Asylum” to now. It really only had a few missteps for me, but I almost don’t care at this point. This is the show that I love to watch every week and the one I’ll be excited to watch for the next six months until the special. So, to sum it up, I loved “The Name of the Doctor,” and if you didn’t, that’s cool.

I’ll be back at some point this summer with a more thorough postmortem of Series 7 in its entirety, but right now I’m gonna go to sleep. No 50th trailer yet, but there is this very nice little bit of interview with Matt Smith and David Tennant. Excite!


  • She’s the one who tells him which TARDIS to take, for heaven’s sake (although, didn’t Idris-TARDIS say it was she who chose him?… maybe they were in league together).

    Mmm yes. I guess one resolution for that would be that Idris-TARDIS chose him, then the GI turned up and somehow made him pick a different one, and then finally Clara came and put it back to how it should be.

    For my mind, the biggest dangling end is the one Rusty left in The Sound of Drums. The setup is the Master going to the end of the Universe, capturing the last remnants of humanity and then sending them back in time (as the Toclafane) to destroy humanity. The Doctor resolves the paradox and saves humanity’s past (our present) – but as things stand our ultimate fate is still to reach the end of the Universe and then get converted into shiny childlike balls of hate. Surely they can’t leave that as our destiny?

  • It’s entirely possible Clara didn’t hear River say his name since she wasn’t that near the door and was also having her heart stopped at the time (which can be a bit distracting).

    Very nicely done I thought, answers most of the questions that needed answering and in some style (we don’t need to, never should and likely never will know his name in my opinion – to those disappointed that we weren’t told, I’m curious, what name could he *possibly* have that wouldn’t be an anti-climax after 50 years of not knowing ? Some mysteries are better left unsolved).

    Also ? Best. “And introducing…”. Ever. Cool and hilarious at the same time.

  • This was by far the best episode of Dr Who. It was just brilliant. I can’t wait for the next. I’m not even going to say anything, it was really really great!

  • Thinking about it though, they could have had “And introducing…” John Hurt as a Doctor, not The Doctor. That would ram home the message that this is one of the reincarnations, but not one that has taken the role of Doctor.

  • SPOILER ALERT – I reckon John Hurt is the Doctor that was forsaken and denied his name – and became THE MASTER. It totally makes sense – the only way the Time War could be ended was by the DOCTOR becoming THE MASTER – HIS REAL NAME !! In humility the DOCTOR has never spoken his real name – THE MASTER is the version of the DOCTOR that is evil and roams around space and time This is why the Doctor still loves the Master and cannot kill him – he would be killing part of himself. It explains a lot and is Canon in my view too

  • For those saying we don’t know his name we do. Closest Human analog is Theta Sigma and has been since the 4th regeneration. In Galifrayan it’s unpronounceable to the human tongue. I’m glad they handled it this way because last thing we want is a Never Ending Story moment. I know people aren’t happy we didn’t hear it but there needs to be something and the reality is his name is The Doctor because that’s the one he chose and that is who he strives to be and that’s what should matter.

  • @Bortman that is entirely invalidated by the fact that they were children together and their experience at the schism led one to hear the drums where the other could not. If they made The Doctor in to The Master I think a lot of people would walk away also it’s entirely illogical.

  • A wee bit of history (real life) combined with some Whovian history to stir the pot. The Valeyard is an incarnation of The Doctor ripped out of space/time by The Master between his 12th and 13th regeneration. This was a manifestation of the worst of The Doctor and was used by The Master in an attempt to steal The Doctor’s regenerations.

    At one point The Valeyard fled but was “destroyed” in the process but in fact was turned in to a disembodied intelligence and assumed the identity of Jack The Ripper in Victorian London. He used The Ripper murders as a tool to fuel the Matrix in an attempt to reach the Doctor’s various incarnations and corrupt them to align them to his spirit. Jack The Ripper is considered to have killed up to 14 women in London (the 11 Whitechapel Murders plus three others). DiMarco had “the blood of 14 women on his hands” and is the right period for to be Jack The Ripper.

    Essentially The Valeyard controlled his victim (my contention is Clarence DiMarco) as a puppet in his attempt. Let’s say you’re a disembodied intelligence with an axe to grind, who better to go to for your ideas than the disembodied intelligence of your enemy’s darkest impulses from near the end of his life. That would give him ALL of the Doctor’s secrets up until then to play with (and DiMarco was simply a vessel). Goodness knows The Valeyard had no love lost for The Doctor, this I think is the setup, yes The Valeyard is here but in the beginning, not the end. Hurt is either an aged version of the McGann Doctor towards the end of the Time War when he’s seen his grand daughter and former companion lain to waste during the Time War and gone that one step to end it once and for all or he is a regeneration spanning the period between McGann and Eccleston who has shrugged off the Mantle of The Doctor in his attempt to end the Time War possibly assuming the role of President. Further, remember, The Doctor is a member of the Lungburrow House a member of the Prydonian Chapter which owes it’s allegiance to Rassilon of whom he is a direct descendant and who he defeated as Omega AND during the battle when The Master summoned Gallifrey back from it’s Time Lock.

  • Well, a lot of people loved it. I really did not like the way it ended with JOHN HURT=DOCTOR. The point of fantasy is to suspend disbelief and slip into the world of make belief. Ending it like it did drew attention to the fact that this man is a famous actor, not a character in the show. Cameo’s are fine as long as they are not drawn attention to, unless it done so comedic-ally. Imagine if the show had ended with: INTRODUCING TOM CRUISE AS THE DOCTOR.

  • I think they wanted us to know though that John Hurt was “The Doctor” I think it was meant more as a teaser. I mean it’s the last thing you see before the credits roll. I mean I’m sure John Hurt is to much of a professional to want to take away from the story line.

  • I was completely satisfied. I thought it brought together all that we’ve been raising our eyebrows about wondering where this is going- it went and it was a good place to go!

    As for the John Hurt, what number Doctor is he question I definitely heard he was going to be renumbering 9-11.which my daughter is frustrated on several levels about, A) WHY?! So I am glad to see in the comments there is a reasonable reason for an aberration between 8 and 9; I look forward to looking into it further, and 2) we will be at the final regen- so wtf are they going to end the show or have some doofy take-back…. I found this article and have no idea how I feel about it yet, or how my very anti-moffat daughter will feel about it..

  • Agreed, it was more like a “To be continued”, more or less as the credits rolled. So a credit but with a certain ballsy panache and sense of humour.

    “For those saying we don’t know his name we do. Closest Human analog is Theta Sigma and has been since the 4th regeneration. In Galifrayan it’s unpronounceable to the human tongue.”

    Theta Sigma, as the Doctor says himself in The Happiness Patrol”, was his *nickname* at college/university, not some analogue of his real name. Added to that, as far as I remember the “unpronounceable by humans” idea never appears onscreen (it’s from the books/audio plays) and so is of dubious canonicity at best. The same goes for the most explicit mention of his name, from the 1st issue of the Marvel comic imprint, where it’s something like delta cubed epsilon chi squared (sorry, tablet keyboard can’t recreate the actual Greek letters/superscripts) – also not onscreen so also non-canonical.

    So no, we don’t know his real name by most estimations.

  • “I found this article and have no idea how I feel about it yet, or how my very anti-moffat daughter will feel about it..

    If you actually watch the Sarah Jane Adventures episode in question (it’s from the fourth series a couple of years ago) when asked by one of the young characters how many times he can regenerate he says 507 *but* in a clearly off-hand, semi-jocular “don’t freak the kids out by talking about death” sort of manner. RTD (who wrote it BTW, it’s nothing to do with Moffat) said afterwards he meant it as a joke or throwawy line. Nothing to get too worked up about in other words.

  • Enjoyed this episode quit a bit. It really changes everythhing you know about the doctor and history. I thought Moffat wouldn’t have a good explanation about Clara but he did it. Bravo.

  • I think that the other not Doctor guy there was the regeneration of the Doctor that decided to end the time war by killing all the Time Lords and Daleks, thats why he is not a Doctor because the Doctor is about saving people but by ending the time war he wasnt saving anyone.

  • “Perhaps it’s The Guardian that needs to watch the episode, then.”

    Presumably they wouldn’t publish that same article now, 2.5 years after it aired but yeah, agreed, you could certainly argue that they shouldn’t have written about something happening in a TV programme they hadn’t even seen yet (as you can see at the top of it, the article itself is from 12th October 2010 I.e. 2 weeks or so before the episodes were broadcast but even given that it’s factually incorrect since the Doctor never indicates “that there is no limit” – 507 may be much higher than 12 but it’s still a limit, even ignoring the flippancy).

    • Regarding the number of regenerations left remember River gave him all his regenerations some of which he burnt but it’s unknown how much he has left. There’s now a built in variable that they can stretch this out for at least several possible new Doctors. How soon we forget that only happened a couple of seasons ago. He has at most 10 of hers (he may have fewer since he did burn some of the energy).

  • The Master was granted additional regenerations and we know that the Time Lord life energy can be transferred, so I am guessing that either The Doctor will be granted additional regenerations along the way (or may have already from River?) or he absorbed the energy of a whole planet of Time Lords at the end of the Time War – thus extending his regenerations essentially forever. Could that be what the Doctor “X” did?

  • Okay so I’m watching last night’s episode of “The Nerdist” where Matt and Jonah go to London and there’s a statue of Winston Churchill (I think) and he’s got a big baldhead in a very short neck. I’m thinking “Oh my God! Winston Churchill was Sontaran! He looks just like Strax!”

  • Re: Clara telling the Doctor which TARDIS to take – I read it as Great Intelligence made him chose the wrong one, so Clara was putting that right, but the TARDIS did choose him originally! (Just time has been re-written – wobbly wobbly timey wimey and all that!)

  • Wrt Clara telling the Doctor which TARDIS to take – I read it as Great Intelligence made him chose the wrong one, so Clara was putting that right, but the TARDIS did choose him originally! (Just time has been re-written – wobbly wobbly timey wimey and all that!)

  • I am looking right at it on the screen right now, it clearly says “INTRODUCING JOHN HURT AS THE DOCTOR”, it does not say “12th.” You are entitled to your own opinions and theories, but not your own facts.

  • John Hurt Theory number 1: He is a previously unknown regeneration during the Time War, between the 8th Doctor (McGann) and the 9th Doctor (Eccelston)

    Theory number 2: He is the 12th or 13th Doctor. Remember classic Who lore is that Time Lords have 12 regenerations so that means 13 potential Doctors. If this is correct he is probably is the 13th Doctor because in Trial of the Timelord (6th Doctor Series) The bad guy ,the Valeyard is said to be the last regeneration of the Doctor.

    Wild Guess: The 50th anniversary will be about Doctors 10 and 11 trying to undo what John Hurt Doctor did in Time War. Eventually resulting in the restoration of the Time Lords and redemption for the John Hurt Doctor. This is based on my own hunch and on nothing that I have heard.

  • The way I’ve been seeing the Regeneration theories, I’ve always felt like the 12 regeneration limit was law, set up by/in the Matrix, and not biology. That’s why the High Council was able to offer The Master another 12 regeneration in The Five Doctors, for helping the Doctor in the Dead Zone. In turn, the 12 regeneration limit was obliterated when Gallifrey and the Timelords were Time Locked.

    Just my thoughts.

  • Does anyone still call Kramer “Cosmo?” We’d still call him the Doctor even if we knew his name. And people saying, “Doctor who?” in episodes is incredibly awful. He’s The Doctor, not Doctor Bob or anything, why do they keep ramming that into episodes?

    The Great Intelligence had to go back and undo everything the Doctor had done, presumably having the adventures along the way. Can he just do anything he wants, any time he wants? Just because the Doctor did it means he can automatically do the opposite? Without the Doctor doing the things he did they wouldn’t even have been in postion to have this adventure. But it’s a time-travel show. They can justify anything they want by just putting it in the script.

    • The reason “Doctor who?” is in a lot of episodes is tradition. It’s popped up at least once in almost every one of the old serials and given this last stretch has been very much a lead up to the 50th anniversary that’s probably why it’s been doubly obvious.

  • “Without the Doctor doing the things he did they wouldn’t even have been in postion to have this adventure. But it’s a time-travel show.”

    Sure, the GI shouldn’t have been able to go back because in doing so he would be changing everything that lead up to him going back – it’s a paradox. Except, certainly in NuWho, we see time and again that paradoxes are entirely possible, they’re just somewhere on a scale from “a bit naughty” to “destruction of the universe bad”. My favourite is from “The Big Bang” when the Doctor pops back to give Rory the sonic to release him so that the Doctor can pop back to give Rory the sonic to release him – it’s a closed loop with no logical entry point and so shouldn’t be possible BUT as soon as you allow time-travel with paradoxes to actually occur it makes perfect sense, in fact it’s how it would *have* to happen in that sort of universe.

    “We’d still call him the Doctor even if we knew his name.”

    Likely true, so why bother with one ? As you say it’d be pointless and i’d add inevitably anti-climactic – no name, no matter how exotic sounding to our ear or how many Greek letters you stick in there could possibly live up to the 50 year question. Worse than that, him having a name would be *mundane* and that’s possibly the worst criticism you could level at ‘Doctor Who”.

  • WRT the regeneration limit, as others have pointed out, you could definitely make a case that it’s more of a Timelord law than a natural one and even if it’s a natural law it’s definitely a biological one. As we see with Jack physics trumps biology on Who and the Master has been granted more lives previously so there’re numerous possibilities and relatively easy, non-reachy ways to write more lives for him into it before we even consider things like River’s regenerations being passed on etc.

    I’d be surprised if they don’t address it at all though, in fact I wonder if John Hurt has been introduced as a (presumably) earlier “missing” regeneration in order to bump Matt Smith up to 12 so that his death will be the last conventional regeneration i.e. it’s potentially just around the corner and something Moffat can deal with on his watch ?

  • ” (Clara)’s the one who tells him which TARDIS to take, for heaven’s sake (although, didn’t Idris-TARDIS say it was she who chose him?… maybe they were in league together). ”
    This is now my canon! I think they WERE in cahoots! :D

  • Clara & the TARDIS were in league, of course. How else would Clara know which TARDIS was the correct one? They all looked alike. Remember, in this very episode she was linked up telepathically to the TARDIS in order for the Doctor to find out the coordinates he needed to get to… the TARDIS knew what Clara was gonna do, and so planted the correct info in the corner of her mind that wound up on Gallifrey all those years ago.

    • All Tardis are sentient, it’s in their nature and is even touched on in the spin off material that predate the show. It’s how they are designed to be living things.

  • I guess I don’t exactly understand how we’re led to believe that river song won’t be on the show anymore. But I did very much enjoy this episode and I think they explained the whole Clara thing very cleverly.

  • It did feel quite final with River, like a properly emotional goodbye, so I can understand people seeing it that way *but* I think myself that we’re going to see their last (chronological) moment together onscreen i.e. i’d be surprised if we don’t see him hand her the doctored (heh ;-) screwdriver before she heads off to the library.

    Hints, however poignant, in short mini-sodes that AFAIK only appeared as DVD extras just doesn’t seem enough of a resolution for such a big story thread.

  • I loved this episode as well and, yes, it could have functioned perfectly well as a 50th anniversary special. It reminded me of why I love the series as a whole. Clara, in my view, became the embodiment of fandom when she stepped into the Doctor’s time stream. After all, haven’t we witnessed the depth and breadth of his life and always cheered him on? That really resonated with me, along with the atmosphere and the suggestion of a long-dead battle on Trenzalore.

    I’ve posted my own review on this episode here on my blog:

  • There was a mini episode in Season 6 where the Doctor bumps into a future version of himself on the night that Future Doctor and River are going to the Singing Fountains…the last place before River goes to the Library…

    I suppose this is canon and that’s all we’re going to see of that event?

  • Clara didn’t know she had met the Doctor before at the Dalek asylum or in Victorian London, so she would not have known that when she appeared to the First Doctor. She was just someone working in a TARDIS repair shop, so doubtless knew what was wrong with each TARDIS, and felt she had to help the Doctor, so she just told him to take one that just had a navigation issue. The TARDIS choosing the Doctor could have been by the TARDIS screwing up its navigation system so it would be in the right place when the Doctor was looking for a TARDIS; since it exists outside space and time it could have planned meeting the Doctor for a long time.

  • Here’s my theory for what it’s worth:

    For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to call John Hurt’s character Hurty since the Doctor is quite emphatic that he is NOT the Doctor.

    OK, so…he cannot be any of the Doctors 1-11 because they are all accounted for by Clara. This suggests that he is a regeneration that either was not the Doctor or was stripped of the name of the Doctor.

    Point 1. Why can Clara not see Hurty in the Doctor’s timestream? I think this is linked to the Time War because with all of the stuff that Clara does to help the Doctor when she jumps into the timestream, we never see anything to suggest that she entered the Time War. This would suggest that Hurty was only present during the Time War.

    Point 2. The Doctor has repeatedly owned the fact that he himself ended the war by committing double genocide as both the Time Lords and the Daleks were planning to annihilate all existence. He doesn’t feel great about it, but he doesn’t deny what he did. This would argue against Hurty being the one who threw the switch since it’s been repeatedly stated that the Doctor did it and Hurty isn’t the Doctor.

    Conclusion? If Hurty didn’t end the Time War, then it would follow that his offense is that he was the one who started it. Why he would start it is another question, but that I leave to Moffat’s wisdom, assuming I am correct. Thoughts?

    • Because of the temporal complications this caused, which probably echoed through Clara’s whole life. You saw how the TARDIS fought going to Trenzalore, and how sick the Doctor got from the paradox even before Simeon stepped into his timeline.

  • I think it’s pretty clear, after a lot of thought, that this Doctor that John Hurt plays will be the Doctor who ended the Time War and ended up destroying the Time Lords. Why?

    Because he says that what he did was in the name of peace and sanity.

    And because he is obviously from earlier in the Doctor’s time stream, since he is present with all the earlier incarnations, and because Matt Smith’s Doctor speaks of Hurt’s Doctor’s actions in the past tense.

    Now, while it could be argued that it was a way of addressing that they were standing in the Doctor’s tomb, it did not come across that way. Especially when the Doctor says that the actions Hurt’s Doctor took were “not in my name.”

    So, I think we are going to see either a mini-series kind of event that will finally detail the Time War, what the Doctor did there, and the pain that the Doctor now lives. It would be the perfect 50th.

    As to David Tennant’s return, I believe that he will come back as the “partial” Doctor that Rose is living with. That would also explain Rose’s return.

    And expect, at the end of that run with Hurt, that you will use up a lot of hankies, and probably will see the death of Rose and the “partial” Doctor, and possibly the regeneration into a new Doctor at the end of it all.

    As to the number of regenerations, come on, people. As long as Dr. Who continues to be a hit, we are not going to see him die off. In fact, even if it starts to fail, we’ll more likely see some sort of ending that allows for future Doctors, and probably a movie or two.

    Just as long as they avoid Showtime, we’ll all be fine in the end.

  • I read a few comments that stated that there are 13 potential doctors. I disagree because in season 6 river gave the doctor her remaining 10 incarnations, which means that the Doctor has 23 total bodies. I really hope no one from Doctor Who, when making the episodes, forgets this.

    • Well, it isn’t clearly spelled out in the episode, though it makes sense since she did die in the Library without regenerating. I am sure that no matter what they will come to some conclusion that extends the Doctor’s lives as the Master had done.

  • Just as a reminder to everyone, who keeps claiming River Song gave The Doctor her last ten regenerations, She was only part time lord. Human mother, and exposure to well being around the Tardis too much, I don’t remember but I think it’s even mentioned at one point that she even just has one heart. So who’s to even say that she had Ten regenerations to give, or that she even had Ten regenerations in the first place, I am not doubting she had some because as we all know she gave The Doctor the rest of her Regeneration energy but it was never stated as 10 lifes worth, and it was never described how much she had in the first place. Although we do know that she had used at least two. One into Melody Ameila’s Childhood friend and another into River Song as she appears now. But we don’t know if it was only two either, because as we know when shot as Melody she said she had regenerated before, not that she had regenerated once before or anything to limit the amount of regeneration that she had previously executed. Also it was not explained if her focusing to change her appearance used more or less energy.

    Although I will go with the twelve regenerations as being more of a Galifiraen law then a matter of Biology because we did have David Tennants Doctor heal using Regeneration Energy without fully regeneratining and yet with John Hurt now interjected that would put Matt Smith as the 12th use of Regeneration Energy which since they have now announced Peter Capaldi as the Next Doctor or the 13th Doctor would either be impossible or would mean that that Regeneration would already be draining into River Song’s Energy