A quick intro: Of course, Mr. Moffat beat everyone to this punch in The Curse of Fatal Death. It’s still a fun idea to play with. The real fun comes later, when The Doctor works out that women are often not taken seriously by patriachal societies. How would that play out, when The Doctor isn’t deferred to as a natural authority figure ?
The Doctor picked himself up off the floor and fixed his stare on the timer.
“You’ve all got ninety seconds to get to minimum safe distance” he said “so if I were you I’d start running.”
They ran, and he let out a breath. They’d never make it unless he did something about the rapidly building overload, but of course the only way to do that was to isolate the charge to a relatively small area. This room, for example. He sighed.
“Can’t have anyone else hurt by a madman’s ambition” he said.
He flipped the switch, an act so simple it was barely worth mentioning, and tried to remember the things he’d learned about being caught in explosions. Go limp, that was a good one. Try to protect your head, that was another one. Don’t be there when the thing goes off. That one was excellent.
“Oh well,” he said “it was bound to happen sooner or later.”
The room exploded.
Annie skidded to a halt, grabbing the Guard Sergeant by the cloak and hauling him to a halt too.
“That wasn’t anywhere near the size of explosion the Doctor promised.”
The Sergeant looked back at the rising pall of smoke.
“Big enough, I think, if you were caught in it.” Annie saw the worry lines and treated him to a smile,. A big one, full of the confidence she wanted to feel.
“He’s got out of worse. The last minute is when he’s at his best. Come on. We need to find him.”
They turned, the Sergeant after a moment’s hesitation, and ran back the way they had come.
The Doctor drifted back to consciousness and discovered that everything that hadn’t been hurting before was hurting now. Pretty much all of him hurt, and hurt badly enough that he knew what was coming next. He hoped it would happen soon, before the shock wore off and the pain really kicked in.
Ah. Annie. Excellent.
“Over here” he said, then he coughed and tried again with a little more energy. Her face appeared above him. She smiled, but couldn’t disguise the horror in her eyes. Ah. It was bad, then.
“Annie,” he said, straining to get his voice above a whisper “would you please get me to the TARDIS? This really isn’t as bad as it looks…”
It was worse. Every step was quite extraordinarily painful.
“I fell off a radio telescope once” he said, by way of conversation. The Guard Sergeant, who was carrying him, tried to look interested.
“Didn’t hurt as much as this” said the Doctor, and passed out. He woke up again as he crossed the threshold of the Tardis.
“Thank you, Sergeant,” he said, staggering to the console on legs that should not have supported him.
“What happens now, Doctor?” Annie was beside him, good old Annie. “Do we get you to a hospital? Is there a sickbay? What?”
The Doctor felt it start. Just a tingle, a warmth at first.
“No time” he said “stand back. This might be a bit…”
And with that, something swept over him like chili on eyeballs, like dipping a bare hand into molten metal. The Doctor closed his eyes as it washed him away and his last thought was that something was different.
“…explosive”. The incandescent energy faded and The Doctor leaned against the console. The hand that was doing the leaning seemed unfamiliar – which was in itself exactly as expected – but it was an awful lot slimmer than before. The fingers seemed…The Doctor struggled to find an appropriate word…delicate?
“Oh” said Annie. She seemed taller. She was wearing a look of complete confusion, which The Doctor recognised as the after effects of a human seeing regeneration for the first time.
“Don’t worry” said The Doctor, and then stopped talking. The voice changed along with the face, of course, but even with new teeth there were some constants. Not now, it appeared. The Doctor looked down at himself and then began to revise some opinions. She looked at Annie and smiled.
“I’m as surprised as you are” she said “but it’s still me. I’ve known this could happen, of course. When the trauma is bad enough. When…well, in other circumstances.” She flexed her fingers, reached up to play with her hair.
“Ooo. Quite short. I think I like it. Well? What do you think?”
Annie clearly wasn’t getting traction on this. She couldn’t remember if humans were always this slow.
“Female. Yes.” The Doctor paused. “You’re not finding that overwhelmingly attractive, are you? Because I should say that I’m still settling into the concept myself and I’m not sure I’m relationship material right now. Maybe in a decade or so. Oh, I’m babbling. I do hope that’s not a permanent feature.”
The Doctor turned back to the console and put the ship in flight.
“Three things. One, I need a change of clothes. I feel like I’ve been dragged through an explosion backwards. Two, I think I want something to eat. Something crunchy. Something I can bite. Three, what is it?”
“Doctor…why are you a woman now?”
The Doctor turned around and put her arms on Annie’s shoulders. They were face to face.
“Why are you a woman? ” asked The Doctor “why does what I look like play a part in what I do? I mean, have you ever really known me care about how I look to other people? As long as you aren’t breaking any local laws or taboos…and, well, sometimes even then, because getting arrested can be good. Do you see what I mean?”
“No” said Annie, who felt like someone had turned a firehose on her, “and yes.” The Doctor met her stare. The Doctor’s eyes were green, Annie noted. They’d been rather nice brown eyes before. She pulled back.
The Doctor looked crestfallen.
“It’s me, Annie. It’s always me. Stick with me, I’ll show you.”