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Why Doctor Who's Post-Regeneration Episodes Are So Important To Fans

Change is built into the DNA of Doctor Who, but even though it's a given, change isn't always easy to accept. That's one of the reasons why Doctor Who's post-regeneration episodes are so important to fans. Not only do these outings introduce the latest actor stepping into the Doctor's TARDIS, they set the tone for the era ahead.

A bad first impression can leave viewers feeling cold toward a new Doctor, while a strong regeneration episode generally eases the transition between actors. In a recent Reddit post, fans discussed the post-regeneration episodes that they loved, as well as the ones they could only appreciate after the latest version of the Time Lord had been around for a while. The common theme among the comments was that a Doctor's first impression heavily influences how viewers feel about the start of each new era.

For example, Reddit user WhatsWhoWithYou shared their initially negative experience with "Deep Breath," the first full episode of Peter Capaldi's run as the Doctor. "Deep Breath didn't do much for me on first watch and actually contributed to me taking a break until Series 10 aired. It was generally underwhelming to me and managed to be quite full of what, at the time, I found to be dull moments," they wrote.

Appropriately enough for a show that's all about timey-wimey twists, a little distance from a post-regeneration episode can actually make fans gain appreciation for an actor's first appearance as the Doctor. That's what happened for WhatsWhoWithYou, who noted that they later revisited "Deep Breath," and found it to be "a densely rich character piece, deftly setting the stage for what was to come between Clara and Twelve."

The best post-regeneration episode of Doctor Who may have been the trickiest one to pull off

In terms of the new Who era that began in 2005, David Tennant's 10th Doctor remains a fan favorite, routinely topping the list of best Doctors in polls voted on by viewers. However, his first post-regeneration episode, "The Christmas Invasion," was hampered by the fact that the Doctor sleeps through most of the action. As a result, fans were left unsure about what to expect going into the second season.

By contrast, season 5's "The Eleventh Hour," which introduced viewers to the 11th Doctor played by Matt Smith is considered to be one of the show's best episodes period — it comes in at the #31 spot on IMDb's complete ranking of Doctor Who episodes from the reboot. This is particularly impressive when you remember that prior to his first full episode, some fans were apprehensive about Smith taking on the role.

There was some fear that the actor, who was 26 at the time, wouldn't have the gravitas necessary to play the centuries old Time Lord. However, Smith immediately made the role his own by mixing childlike wonder with an ability to tap into the darker side of the Doctor. Reddit user CRz_gangster revealed that "The Eleventh Hour" is their favorite because it "does everything brilliantly and shows that the doctor can be the most clever but childlike person in the room and sets up Matt's time as the Dr perfectly."

Ultimately, post-regeneration episodes serve as a soft reboot for Doctor Who, and fans rely on wondrous scenes like Eleven dipping fish fingers into custard to give them a hint about what lies ahead for the Time Lord (and the show).