Regenerations – A Doctor Who Charity Anthology – Book Review

““A man is the sum of his memories,” he hissed at her. “A Time Lord even more so.””

Doctor Who and charity causes have had a fairly lengthy history together. One of the earliest – and perhaps most prominent – examples was the 20th anniversary episode, ‘The Five Doctors’, being held back for two days, so that it could be shown as the centrepiece of 1983’s Children In Need, rather than it being transmitted on November 23rd to mark two decades to the day since it began.

Since then, the programme has produced a number of special mini-episodes and exclusive scenes for Children In Need, all in aid of its fundraising efforts. 1993 saw a special two-part 30th anniversary tale, ‘Dimensions In Time’, in which the Doctor crossed paths with characters from EastEnders. David Tennant had his first full scene as the Doctor back in 2005 for that year’s Children In Need, and two years later he met Peter Davison’s incarnation.

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Everybody’s favourite Time Lord has also supported Comic Relief over the years, with then-future showrunner Steven Moffat doing a star-filled spoof story for 1999’s Red Nose Day, ‘The Curse Of Fatal Death’. Spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures did its bit in 2009, with a special adventure guest starring Ronnie Corbett. Matt Smith appeared in 2011 for a two-part Red Nose Day tale, ‘Space’ and ‘Time’, and he also turned up in person that same night, as well as in 2013.

In addition to many other TV appearances on both shows too numerous to be listed here, the good Doctor has also made many charitable endeavours in print for good causes, from short story collections to full novels. One such tome – Seasons Of War – was first published as an e-book back in 2015, with limited edition paperback runs being put out by Chinbeard Books in 2016 and 2017: all of the proceeds which were raised by that special short story compilation went to support Caudwell Children.

The man behind the chinbeard behind the publisher is one Barnaby Eaton-Jones, who is also involved with production company Spiteful Puppet, responsible for such multimedia endeavours as an audio revival of Up Pompeii!, plus brand new Robin Of Sherwood adventures featuring original cast members from the TV series, like the recent release Robin Of Sherwood: Fitzwarren’s Well. As if this wasn’t enough, Eaton-Jones was also behind the revival of The Goodies for Audible in 2019.

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Chinbeard Books has put out a series of charity anthologies since Seasons Of War, including other Doctor Who-related ones; however, their latest effort – Regenerations – could be considered a spiritual cousin and also successor to Seasons Of War. Although coming from different creative teams, it was discussions during the creation of Seasons Of War that gave rise to the notion behind Regenerations. Both of the works also dig into a part of Doctor Who mythology which is ripe for further exploration.

When Russell T. Davies brought the show back from limbo in 2005, he came up with a notion that during the terrible interregnum whilst the show had been off-air, the Doctor was involved in fighting as part of a great Time War, which had raged between his people and the Daleks. When Steven Moffat took over the series’ reins, he revisited the Time War for the 50th anniversary story, ‘The Day Of The Doctor’, in which the Doctor came face-to-face with himself, reliving the worst day of all his lives, and tried to make amends by setting right a grievous error.

Originally, the tale was to revolve around the actions of the Ninth Doctor on the last day of the Time War; however, as Christopher Eccleston had declined to reprise the role, out of sheer necessity Moffat cane up with the idea of there being an unseen incarnation – falling right between what we would count as Eight and Nine – who was the one that had fought in the Time War. In November 2013, we finally got to see Paul McGann’s regeneration –  but not the one we were expecting.

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Instead of transforming into Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth, we saw McGann becoming the War Doctor, in the form of Sir John Hurt. Despite having less than one hour of screen time in total, the War Doctor has been the subject of comic strips, books, and even a single season of audio adventures by Big Finish starring Hurt, with his passing in 2017 sadly preventing him reprising the role again. The War Doctor is still largely an unknown quantity, which is why there is so much scope to keep revisiting the character.

Regenerations has the War Doctor as its main focus, with the Time War still underway, but things are not quite right – the War Doctor is finding his memories of his past lives shifting, with new ones taking root and supplanting what he had once been through. With his own personal history unravelling, and things seemingly in flux, the War Doctor begins a desperate race to try and find out exactly what is going on, before it ends up being far too late, and his past gets irrevocably changed, ending his travels through time and space before they even began.

The huge appeal of Regenerations’ premise is that we get to see some rather different takes on some of the Doctor’s previous adventures, ones which fans will know very well indeed. The idea of changing someone’s personal timeline was explored in the TV series episode ‘Turn Left’, a sort of Sliding Doors-type tale, which showed us an alternative reality where Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) never met the Doctor, leading to his untimely demise, and things being an awful lot worse for everyone.

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Here, we get to see this applied to the Doctor, as bits of his past are tinkered around with, and suddenly his adventures which seemed firmly set in stone are now scarily fluid, and anything could now happen; as a result, there is no longer any guarantee that the Doctor will be able to save the day, let alone escape with his life. What we once thought we all knew as immutable has now been rendered anew, given a remix, all the familiar elements put into a bag and shaken vigorously, then – much like the reader’s nerves – utterly shredded.

Editor Kenton Hall – who provides all the linking material tying the short stories together – has done an impressive job in bringing the project to fruition. The choice of Doctor Who stories to be regenerated is wonderfully eclectic, with bona fide classics – ‘Genesis Of The Daleks’ and ‘The Tomb Of The Cybermen’ – rubbing shoulders here with, shall we say, less highly-regarded escapades, in the form of ‘Time-Flight’ and ‘Time And The Rani’. However, each tale gets a fresh new spin, and it guarantees to make sure the reader will never look at the originals in quite the same way again.

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Yes, there are continuity references aplenty, lots of clever nods and winks to the fans, but not to the exclusion of the casual reader – as long as you know the basics of Doctor Who, then there is nothing too onerous or inexplicable to be found here. The standout entries include Alan Ronald’s ‘Terminus Of The Daleks’, which looks deeply into exactly what it is that makes the Doctor who he is; Steven Horry’s ‘The Edge Of The War’, for giving a prematurely new twist to an old foe; and Eaton-Jones’ ‘The Flight Of The Doctor’, in delivering a genuinely laugh-out-loud moment.

With all of the money from Regenerations’ sales going to Invest In ME, that in itself should be more than enough to get behind this endeavour; however, the fact that you will be receiving a quality product for your cash is a wonderful bonus, and makes giving your support even more satisfying. If you have the money, then make the time – and space – for this superb collection of stories.

Regenerations is available to pre-order from Chinbeard Books, and a limited edition run will be published on 3rd August.

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