As a huge science fiction fan, I often found myself daydreaming about being able to go back in time and re-experience events as my younger self — most often my university years. I spent a lot of time missing those years and missing who I was back then. I looked at old photographs and thought about all the different hair colours and hair lengths I had, the clothes I wore, the clubs I went to.
We can probably all, at one time or another, be guilty of this wish to turn back the clock and recapture a time in the past. Maybe we’re looking at it with rose-tinted glasses and comparing it to now, which may seem drab and dull in comparison.
Then one day I was thinking about the Doctor and had an epiphany.
We are all different people throughout our lives. It isn’t usually as dramatic as the Doctor regenerating, but if we look back at our lives, we can see a constant, gradual shifting from one version of ourselves to another. Indeed, if you want to be scientific about it, our cells are constantly renewing, and every seven years we are in a sense a completely different person.
The Doctor does sometimes miss old versions of himself. Or he might want to stay as his current incarnation and resist change (Tenth Doctor, I’m looking at you). In the same way, we can miss old versions of ourselves or try to hang on to who we were rather than moving forwards.
On the whole, the Doctor embraces regeneration and explores who he is now and what has changed or stayed the same. And apart from very special circumstances, he can’t very often cross his own timeline and meet other incarnations of himself — when he does, he’s usually less than complimentary about his other incarnations, whether older or younger.
We all change, when you think about it, we’re all different people; all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you’ve gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.
So now, whenever I feel nostalgia threatening to become a wish to turn the clock back, I remind myself that that was a different version of me. I have regenerated and moved on. And I will continue to change and regenerate throughout my life.
I look forward to finding out who I will become. I will keep moving, and I will remember all the people I used to be, without trying to be them again.