New teeth, new kidneys, and soon to be whole new gender! When it comes to a little reinvention, the Doctor is the expert.
When the Doctor changes from body to body, the regenerations are pretty remarkable affairs. Shoots of yellow energy spark from the fingers and the Doctor collapses with a great shout. As we watch, the fandom, too, gives a collective agonized sob! That is, at least, until we see the new Doctor emerge, and we cock a collective eyebrow with tears still wet on our faces.
Regeneration is itself a pretty amazing invention. It may have started as a convenient device for continuing the show after the lead actor moves on, but now it serves as a sort of Spring-like renewal for the series. New faces, new perspectives, new storylines that fit the times – it’s one of the reasons the show is so great.
But regeneration also speaks to us personally. We, too, regenerate, even if we don’t have two hearts. Part of that comes simply from aging. I’ve morphed from child to teen, from college student to young professional, from newlywed to mother–unfortunately without sparks coming from my fingers.
And just like I still yearn for some David Tennant charisma or Matt Smith whimsy sometimes, I miss those versions of me. Tennant’s pre-Regeneration “I don’t want to go,” might has well have been what I said when I found myself growing up, out of the phase of playing and into a big complicated real world.
Or I could just picture Christopher Eccleston being me at the end of college, summing up my adventures with friends and professors: “Before I go, I just want to say you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And you know what? So was I!”
And then there’s Matt Smith’s “I’ll always remember when the Doctor was me,” he said with dramatic dropping of the bow tie – which might as well be me as well, remembering myself as a new mom with babies, dropping my nursing shawl.
As I approach my 40th birthday, I’m a bit more resigned, like Peter Capaldi. When it’s his time, after his beautiful, useful advice like be kind and don’t eat pears, he says, “Doctor, I let you go.” And that is what we too have to do as we get older with our friends and family. The younger identity has to drop away to make way for the new.
That said, as much as we change, as much the Doctor trades one trenchcoat for another and adjusts the blue paint of the TARDIS, there is still the muchness — that core part of a person that gives them spark and sparkle. For the Doctor, it’s probably marked by wonder, curiosity, bravery, and cleverness, as Craig Ferguson said, “intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.”
I think we retain our muchness too, to various degrees. As we regenerate through our identities, swapping out clothes and hair and styles of speech, we still are the same. In photos of my children as babies, as toddlers, older kids and beyond, I can still see something in their faces that betrays the same individual spark, just translated.
It’s that spark that we embrace and honor in yoga class, I think. Our teacher says that when we say “Namaste,” we are honoring who we truly are as well as who the others around us truly are.
That’s easier in yoga because we don’t have many of the strappings of our current regenerations. If the Doctor were there, she wouldn’t have any of her cool trenchcoats or screwdrivers. We’re all in t-shirts or tanks, leggings, and ponytails – and we all are doing basically the same things without much pretense. After all, you only can have so much dignity while you are huffing and puffing and twisting about.
Out in the non-yoga world, it’s harder. We have titles, we have status, we have status updates; all of which only superficially show who we are. But the trappings of our current regenerations are not our muchness – and it’s easy to get confused on that point.
The Doctor is more than the bow tie, than the scarf, than the glorious Capaldi buffant. He has had those things, and she will now have suspenders and stripes, but those just reflect the regeneration of the moment. The Doctor is also more than the current companions, more than the current relationship with the Master. He/she is all of that but also none of it.
In the same way, I’m always the child, the student, the newlywed, the mom – but also none of them. Those who look at me and see my mom jeans or my fandom bag might think they know me, but they only see the current regeneration – and only part of it at that. Even those who have known me a long time have only seen bits of my regenerations. That includes the regenerations I’ve purposefully taken on, roles I have crafted, that may be “wearing a bit thin,” as the First Doctor said.
There is much more of my muchness yet to come.
I want to be open to my new regenerations – and I also want to be open to accepting the new regenerations of those around me. I think about that in the yoga poses known as “heart openers,” where your chest is stretched, and in particular when hands are outstretched.
My favorite pose for regeneration might be what could be considered a quarter Camel. You are in a high kneel with hands outstretched, leaning a bit back. Eventually you could go into a full camel and hold your ankles with your hands – but until then, hold your hands high and just picture the regeneration energy streaming out.
You might as well be ready to regenerate yourself, crying out for the old but also embracing the new. As the Fourth Doctor says, “it’s the end…but the moment has been prepared for.”