Over the years, we have seen many different faces from all the various Time Lords we’ve encountered, including The Doctor, Romana, The Master, and even Rassillon.
But what happens when a Time Lord ‘borrows’ a face from someone they’ve previously encountered? Is it ethical? Are there reasons, or do they do it for fun?
The first time we saw this was when Romana regeneratred, and much to the Fourth Doctor’s surprise, used the face of Princess Astra – who they had just left behind on Atrios. Despite the Doctor’s protestations and arguments to the contrary, and despite trying on other looks, Romana was insistent.
The next time it happened, it was The Fifth Doctor who, forgetting his Fourth incarnations words of wisdom, borrowed the face of the Gallifreyen soldier Commander Maxil, who nearly had him executed on his return to Gallifrey in Arc of Infinity. He used Maxil’s likeness for his next regeneration into Doctor number Six.
The Doctor likes fresh faces though, and it was another 30 years before we next saw him borrow a face. This time, when Eleven regenerated into Twelve, he looked back into his recent past, and used a face his Tenth self had encountered – Caecilius, from Pompeii.
Why did they borrow faces? Well, for Romana, it was just a bit of fun. For the Twelfth Doctor, it was a reminder – to always try to save people, no matter what the consequences, just as he did in The Fires of Pompeii.
For the Fifth Doctor, though, the reason why he chose Commander Maxil’s face has never been explained in-universe. Did he do it as an act of defiance of sorts? I doubt we’ll ever know.
Could it happen again? Could we see The Master/Missy regenerate using a familiar face? Could The Doctor go for the hat-trick? He meets a lot of people. It’s not inplausible! Or would you prefer a new face every time, going forward?
With a new Doctor on the horizon, and a new showrunner in Chris Chibnall, we don’t know what the future has planned. But either way, does it really matter that much? After all, what’s in a face?