CLARA: Who's coming?
DOCTOR: The Doctor.
CLARA: But you, you are the Doctor.
DOCTOR: Yep, and I always will be.
(His hands are glowing.)
DOCTOR: But times change, and so must I.
(The Doctor sees a young Amy Pond run up the stairs, laughing.)
CLARA: Who's Amelia?
DOCTOR: The first face this face saw. 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 got to keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.
Not to be petty, but then there's this:
DOCTOR: Oh, she's smiling. As if today wasn't bad enough. Anyway, don't go thinking this is goodbye, Wilf. I'll see you again, one more time.
WILF: What do you mean? When's that?
DOCTOR: Just keep looking. I'll be there.
WILF: Where are you going?
DOCTOR: To get my reward [INSERT GIANT MONTAGE OF COMPANIONS BEING GIVEN RTD'S VISION OF A HAPPY ENDING AS THE DOCTOR POPS ROUND ONE MORE TIME]...
SIGMA: We will sing to you, Doctor. The universe will sing you to your sleep. This song is ending, but the story never ends.
(Golden energy streams from his hand. He sets the Tardis going.)
DOCTOR: I don't want to go.
I always say that Moffat seems to write in response to RTD, and this regeneration scene is absolutely an answer to Ten's. Nine's was so sweet and gentle and affirming (it's really not fair to compare Nine's to Ten's, but I HAVE A BIAS), but Ten wanted his "reward" and so went on a giant time-traveling vacation to see all his companions one more time and then protested once again that he wasn't ready. To Ten's credit (look, I can be fair!), he angrily protests at first that he doesn't deserve to die, that death isn't a fair reward, but once he hears himself, he steps up, saves Wilf, and takes it on himself. Then he makes his own reward before that final protest, and boom- we have Eleven.
These two scenes are intensely different in a lot of ways, but one that strikes me now (as it struck me then) is that Ten wants to cling to being Ten, so he wants desperately to stay alive and not to regenerate. Eleven has a very different perspective, because he knows that this is it- no more regenerations. He takes the slow path for centuries, giving up everything he's loved (companions and the TARDIS and adventures in time and space) because he has to protect this one, tiny, innocent village and his own people, and he can't sacrifice either of them. So he spends his days growing older, helping people, protecting them all, until he knows he has nothing left up his sleeve. Seeing Clara again is a gift that he is given- it's not what he willfully chose for himself. He only wanted to know she was safe, while Tasha loved the Doctor enough to make sure he wasn't alone. The Doctor goes to his death that night on Trenzilore, and he's ready for it, knowing he's done every possible thing he can, saved every life he could for hundreds and hundreds of years, and ready for the end. It's Clara who, once again, acts of her own free will. She, once again, does the impossible- she convinces the Time Lords to help the Doctor, to shoot him up with enough regeneration energy to keep going and to save the village, and to give up on the crack and hope to find another way back into the universe.
Eleven's regeneration is a gift that he didn't expect to receive, and the universe gives him more- it gives him reminders of all the village children he's saved over the centuries, covering the TARDIS in their pictures for him, but more than that, it gives him one last glimpse of Amy Pond. He is so grateful, and so utterly at peace; he doesn't resent his next self at all, and goes so far as to ask Clara to help him, if she can.
I was so cranky at the time over Ten's regeneration tour through time and space for a multitude of reasons, most of which I've already discussed ad nauseum over the years. I hated how he clung to himself and that particular regeneration when he had let go with joy the last time he sacrificed himself for someone else (the way that Ten's sulkiness seemed to make Nine's beautiful arc of redemption pointless is what set me on my Ten-resenting ways, after all). I hated the self-indulgence of RTD as a writer in that moment, determined to wallow in his own creations and make sure YOU LOVED HIM AND WHAT HE GAVE YOU. And I shouted back at Tennant that if he really wasn't ready to go, HE DIDN'T HAVE TO END HIS CONTRACT. YOU WANT TO STAY, THEY WILL LET YOU, I PROMISE.
Luckily, I didn't have to write the next regeneration, because it would have involved a lot more ranting. Instead, Moffat gives us a real reward for all that the Doctor sacrificed- the Doctor gets more time, and he is so, so grateful for it. He is thankful for all the lives he has had, and thankful for this one in particular- incredibly powerful, considering how self-loathing this Doctor has been. I feel content myself (even when the scene always makes me cry), that instead of an actor proclaiming he's not ready to leave his show, I have an actor telling me that he'll always remember and treasure his time as the Doctor.
It's a scene written in response to Ten. There are parallels (seeing his old companion), but it's a scene that's very poignant for all that it doesn't do. This Doctor is ready to go, and to become his next self; it won't be easy, but the actual leaving is bearable when it's worth it.
Well done, Eleven. You have so very much to be proud of, and I'm so grateful that you knew it, and knew you were loved.