A new trailer for Doctor Who’s eagerly-anticipated tenth series arrived today and while that’s always cause for celebration, in this case it’s also raised all sorts of questions about departing lead actor Peter Capaldi.

Specifically, fans are wondering if the Scottish actor’s announced Dwexit this Christmas could be coming sooner than anyone expected, with the new footage appearing to show Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor begin the healing process of regeneration that sees the alien character gain a new body (played by a new actor).

The telltale golden energy that signals such a change can be seen at the end of the trailer (above), where the Doctor is slumping and grabbing his chest, and overall things aren’t looking great for the Time Lord. But could this really be true? Could it be that we’ve all been bamboozled, and Capaldi will be handing in his Tardis keys in the coming weeks instead of this December?

Well, probably not. It seems most likely that the full version of the scene we’ve just glimpsed will see Capaldi’s Doctor start to regenerate (or choose to) and then find some way to put off the change or cancel it altogether, with its inclusion in this trailer intended to stoke up excitement for the new series.

After all, we’ve seen this sort of thing before. Back in 2008 when it had already been announced that lead David Tennant was leaving Doctor Who, penultimate series 4 episode The Stolen Earth ended on a cliffhanger regeneration scene, which led to a feverish audience response (and huge publicity for the series) only for Tennant to stay in the role for his full term anyway.

Plus, we know that Capaldi is currently still filming for series 10 and will be working on the final Christmas special this summer, so overall it’s not looking like this is a genuine regeneration.

David Tennant regenerates into David Tennant in Doctor Who series 4

However.

Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat is known for pulling the rug out from under viewers, and he recently expressed disappointment that he was unable to keep Capaldi’s regeneration a secret from viewers.

“In this world where you can’t keep secrets, where it is absolutely impossible to keep secrets, there was no point in trying,” he told SFX magazine. “I’d far rather nobody knew until the regeneration. That would be so exciting. But we just can’t do it.

“My idea would have been to announce it halfway through the broadcast of the series and get a ratings spike as a result of everyone talking about Doctor Who, just at the time when it’s difficult to get people talking about Doctor Who.

“You just can’t. You just can’t hold anything anymore, which makes me despair, but that’s the way it is!”

Could it be that, knowing he couldn’t surprise people with the fact that the regeneration was HAPPENING, Moffat realised he could still surprise them with WHEN it happened? If you told everyone a regeneration was coming at Christmas only to have it crop up in an earlier episode, it’d be almost as shocking as not knowing it was happening at all, with people’s certainty at the Doctor’s survival torn away at the last minute.

Yes, that’d be extremely exciting television. It’s also incredibly unlikely given the reasonably public nature of Doctor Who production, the fact that Moffat would need to introduce a Doctor who’s going to be chosen by another showrunner and that, you know, this great epoch-shattering twist was put into a trailer just to give the audience a fair chance at guessing it.

Still, it’s fun to kick round the idea, and it could be that the truth is somewhere in the middle between “massive TV conspiracy” and “shameless watchbait” – for example, maybe the shot is genuinely from the regeneration at Christmas and it’s been filmed early, or maybe (as some fans have suggested) the regeneration will be an ongoing process throughout the series.

Whatever the truth, one thing’s for sure – Peter Capaldi will be leaving Doctor Who at some point in the future, and it’ll be sad to see him go. We can only hope his real regeneration can match the hype.

Doctor Who will return to BBC1 on Saturday 15th April