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Doctor's Dilemma

By Jon Preddle

Tim Hill has asked about the Doctor's first regeneration. In The Power of the Daleks Episode One, when the new Doctor looks in the mirror, he sees the image of his old face. Tim notes that this 'flashback' does not happen following the Doctor's later regenerations, and asks - why?

One of my earliest recollections of Doctor Who on TV in New Zealand is seeing the first regeneration, and I vividly recall this scene. Ben holds up the mirror for the Doctor, and his new face is reflected. This briefly cross-fades into that of Hartnell's features before dissolving back to Troughton.

As Tim points out, the Doctor has at some point studied his new face in a mirror with every subsequent change:

Third Doctor: Oh, no. That's not me at all. No wonder you didn't recognise me. That face, that hair. Oh, I don't know; I think it's rather distinctive actually.

Fourth Doctor: As for the physiognomy; well, nothing's perfect. Have to take the rough with the smooth. Mind you, I think the nose is a definite improvement.

Fifth Doctor: That's the trouble with regeneration - you never quite know what you're going to get ... Well I suppose I'll get used to it in time.

Sixth Doctor: Ah! A noble brow! Clear gaze - at least it will be, given a few hour's sleep. A firm mouth; a face beaming with a vast intelligence!

Seventh Doctor: Arggh! Who's that?

Of course, we don't actually see the image that is cast in the mirror during the third and sixth Doctor's scenes, so perhaps they saw previous faces in those cases.

To explain the scene in The Power of the Daleks, I have four possible solutions:

i) this 'effect' occurs only after a Time Lord's first regeneration;

ii) it does happen with every regeneration, but we just don't see it;

iii) the mirror itself is in some way responsible - possibly a magic mirror the Doctor acquired on his travels?

iv) it could just be the Doctor recalling his earlier face in his mind and the image in the mirror is merely a dramatic interpretation of his thoughts.

Indeed, the camera script for episode one of The Power of the Daleks describes the moment thus: THE DOCTOR STARES INTO IT. SUPERIMPOSE ... PHOTOGRAPH OF OLD DOCTOR WHO AS IF THE NEW DOCTOR IS REMEMBERING WHAT HE USED TO LOOK LIKE.


And since this article was written (in 1993) the Doctor has regenerated three more times, and each time he has glanced at his new reflection:

Eighth Doctor: Who am I? WHO AM I?!!!!
Ninth Doctor: Oh, I don't know. Could have been worse. Look at the ears!
Tenth Doctor: Yep.

This item appeared in TSV 35 (September 1993).

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