In a recent interview reported at Digital Spy (http://t.co/AsBlte5zpH) Steven Moffat apparently confirmed he accepts the convention the Doctor only has twelve regenerations.
So, somewhere down the line, depending how long Peter Capaldi remains in the role, this aspect of the show will have to be addressed.
But does the Doctor really only have twelve regenerations?
It was in the story The Deadly Assassin where it was stated that Time Lords could go through twelve regenerations and live thirteen incarnations; at the end of their thirteenth life, they die a final death.
When I watched The Trial of a Time Lord (which I have not seen again since its original broadcast), I was convinced that The Valeyard was the Doctor’s thirteenth and final incarnation.
When I mentioned on Twitter that this would have to be resolved earlier than the number of regenerations, I was told that the Valeyard came between the 12th and 13th Doctors, a bit like the Watcher came between the 4th and 5th.
So I decided to do a little research – mainly at Tardis Data Core.
TDC offers the following quote from The Ultimate Foe (eps 13/14 of Trial):
“The Valeyard, Doctor, is your penultimate reincarnation…Somewhere between your twelfth and final regeneration.”
IMO, the important word here is ‘regeneration’; it does not say ‘incarnation’. This would seem to suggest that the Doctor will have more than twelve regenerations. But can this be true?
The thirteen incarnations limit has been used as a plot devise in several TV stories since The Deadly Assassin and there have been appearances by Time Lords who have been on their 13th and final incarnation.
So what conclusions do we reach?
None really. Even within the classic series, the evidence is contradictory. It is not surprising the writers guide for the Virgin New Adventures specified that the Valeyard should not be used and there should be no reference to The Trial of a Time Lord as it is a ‘continuity nightmare’.
My view? Moffat will use the Time War and the death of the Time Lords as a way to remove the regenerations limit and the Valeyard will be left as something that happens in the Doctor’s far future.
As for John Hurt’s Doctor… I’m not even going there until after I’ve seen the 50th anniversary special.
Update: What if…McGann regenerated into Hurt before or early in the Time War? And then Hurt regenerated into Eccleston at the end of the Time War?
And why is he the forgotten Doctor? Because he committed genocide when wiping out the Daleks.
That would then make Capaldi the 13th Doctor.
Just, what if…