New 'Doctor Who' Christmas Special Images Are All About Change... We're Not Ready!

So, The Night of The Doctor has come and gone. So has The Day of The Doctor . Heck, so has The Name of The Doctor (though the jury's still out on what that actually is.) Now it’s time for, well: The Time of The Doctor and “a change is going to come,” according to the new images released by the BBC today in preparation for their annual Doctor Who Christmas Special. Only this time, change really IS going to come: namely with the arrival of thirteenth Doctor, Peter Capaldi. That means the twelfth regeneration (a Timelord's last) is here, and we must say goodbye to the Doctor's current iteration, the gangliest raggedy man that ever is or was: Matt Smith.

And... we’re not ready! We're not ready to let go of Matt Smith. He's been the Doctor for three years and really embodied the mysterious time-traveling space alien we've all come to know and love. As any fan of Who will tell you, every so often the Doctor regenerates as a way of escaping the inevitability of death. It's timey-wimey, Timelord stuff. And each time it happens, it's emotional because the madman with a blue box you've come to know and love will be no more, and in his place a new face with a new personality and take on the long-running television hero.

That's not the only change that's a-coming, though: the whole concept of regeneration itself is about to be revamped — or in the very least, a bit more well-defined. In terms of Who mythology, Timelords are given a total of twelve regenerations resulting in thirteen "lives." With the introduction of John Hurt's War Doctor we now know that the final regeneration is here, turning Smith into Capaldi.

But what that means for the Doctor remains to be seen. Setting the rules and parameters for this is the High Council of Gallifrey, the Doctor's home planet, which we now know is out floating around in a pocket universe somewhere, stuck in an second of time. Though we know additional regenerations can be granted — case in point, the Doctor's nemesis the Master — it has yet to be made clear whether the council is in total control of Timelord regenerative abilities, or merely enforcers of arbitrary rules. Could a Timelord regenerate more than twelve times without the approval of the High Council? Clearly, there are more questions to be answered, and with all of Gallifrey lost in time at the end of the 50th Anniversary special, it feels safe to assume that this big grey area will become a major plotpoint during the series' upcoming eighth season.

We got hints of showrunner Steven Moffatt's plans during The Day of The Doctor, with the introduction of The Curator (played by fourth Doctor Tom Baker) and his playful repartee with Smith about lives borrowed and given. The idea that the Doctor takes or gives life to those who were cut short would no doubt be a helpful (and honestly, quite beautiful) way to explain the double-appearance of Peter Capaldi who had recently appeared in the fourth season episode, "The Fires of Pompeii." And when you look back at the idea of the red leaf and Clara's mother in "The Rings of Akhaten," it's not hard to see that maybe that's exactly what they've been leading up to this whole... time.

Images: Ray Burmiston and Lee Binding/BBC Worldwide