After 13 long months, Doctor Who is finally back! Tonight’s the night and the Doctor Who: 60th Anniversary Specials have begun. This first special is Doctor Who: The Star Beast, written by Showrunner Russell T Davies, and based on a comic story by Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons. It features the proper full-episode debut of the Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant). Through destiny, he’ll again cross paths with his old friend Donna (Catherine Tate).
As an adaptation, we’ve known the basic plot of this for quite a while. However, hopefully, there’ll be enough twists and turns to keep this seasoned Whovian on their heels! I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, so I hope this is the big return for the show we all want. So what does destiny have in store for Donna Noble and her family? How will her life turn upside down as the Doctor comes barging in? And are we all, in fact, Beep’s friend after all? All this and more in this review of the first Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special!
WARNING – This is a full review of The Star Beast. As such, there will be spoilers below for the full episode. This is a highly anticipated special, so if you’ve not seen the episode, you should probably turn away now!
Watch our Video Review below via our dedicated Doctor Who YouTube channel, TARDIS Central!
The Fourteenth Doctor
The Doctor really is back. This episode actually opens with a recap of Series 4. So in case you’re new to the Whovian family or just need a bit of a refresher course, this episode’s got you sorted! I think the opening works super well for both old and new viewers, creating a great jumping on point. If this is your first time with Doctor Who, you’re set up for a great one. If this is a return for you, even better.
The Doctor and Donna actually meet pretty quickly into the new episode. The two actors slot back into their roles as if no time has passed. The whole scene is genuinely funny, with Donna missing the crashing spaceship in true Donna fashion. I love that the story begins really quickly, and it never really comes up for air. It’s just a full hour of nonstop Doctor Who fun.
Because of Donna’s memories, most of this episode is the Doctor going solo, or at least trying to. Tennant’s able to hold his own really well. From the way he bluffs through his conversation with Shaun (Karl Collins), to him walking around the steel mill, he’s just great. Even better, the episode’s filled with old friends that destiny has pushed him back together with.
The scenes within the Noble house were a big highlight of Series 4, being consistently really funny. Scenes in tonight’s episode were no exception. I’m so glad that this special brought everyone back. Sylvia (Jacqueline King) was nothing short of fantastic throughout. I found her scenes particularly good due to the tragic desperation in her trying to prevent Donna from seeing and remembering the Doctor.
The rest of the family seem to be doing okay as well. Rose (Yasmin Finney) has her own small business making plus toys. Her gender identity is actually quite significant to the episode, and is handled with great sensitivity. The love that Donna has for her feels very genuine, and it makes the episode so much better. Having some proper trans representation in Doctor Who is so powerful, and I only hope that this continues.
Now for the bit that we’ve probably all been a little worried about, Wilf (Bernard Cribbins). It’s highly likely that Wilf will be in the 60th Specials, as he was spotted on set before he passed away last July. He’s not seen, but is said to be living in assisted accomodation being overseen by Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave). This makes an appearance in the third special much more likely. The Doctor’s bit where he thought Wilf had died is heart shattering though, somehow the best scene in the special.
The Most High Meep
Our monster of the week is Beep the Meep. While the Meep seems cute and cuddly, and is originally protected by the Nobles, the Meep is actually a very dangerous criminal. The Meep is hellbent on powering up their ship and wreaking havoc across the universe. The cuter Meep, as it pretends to be friendly, is honestly among the best creature designs the show has ever seen. It’s so well recreated from the comic strip, such a cool adaptation.
The action spectacle as the UNIT soldiers, under the control of the Meep, do battle with the Wrarth Warriors is where the show’s new budget really becomes clear. The whole thing looks great, so much firing and explosions everywhere. The chase through the houses, where the new sonic functionalities become clear, is gorgeous. The Wrarth look amazing, and the sonic’s got a brand new upgrade. Given the sonic has basically been used as a “get out of jail free” card, I’m glad they’ve gone all out with the new budget.
The second that the Meep shows its true nature, it really flips the script. I’ve never seen something go from that cute to that terrifying so quickly before. I’m a little disappointed that the Wrarth squadron were disposed of so quickly, marking a pretty big divergence from the comic. With the Wrarth dead, the Doctor and the Nobles captured, the world’s chances really don’t look good. For a villain as silly looking as Beep the Meep, the episode really feels like it has some serious stakes!
There’s only one thing that can save the Doctor now, and that’s Shirley Anne Bingham (Ruth Madeley)! She’s absolutely fantastic through this special, just as she was as Hebe on Big Finish. This worked well as an introduction, as it feels like there’s so much more to be seen with her character. As the scientific advisor, she’s able to talk to the Doctor almost as an equal, making her quite the powerful character. She also fires rockets out of her wheelchair, and what could possibly be more badass than that?
Climbing up into the Meep’s ship to put a stop to it destroying the whole of London, it’s the DoctorDonna. The way that Donna’s memories start leaking through, like when she refers to him as “Doctor” is absolutely chilling. Watching them run around, flicking switches and darting around is when it really clicked that they’re back. Their chemistry is to die for, and watching Donna as her memories all come flooding back is just great.
The episode’s resolution of the Metacrisis, with it passing on to Rose is bound to be a little divisive. I think the scene plays out okay, and it doesn’t feel like it totally ruins the end of “Journey’s End” either. It was a great way to bring Donna back for a while longer. Donna Noble really is properly back in the TARDIS, and Rose is set to be a great recurring character. Yasmin Finney owns absolutely every scene she’s in, and I hope that this is only the beginning of a long time in the Whoniverse.
After enough bickering, the Doctor convinces the Nobles to let him take Donna to visit Wilf. If this meeting does happen, I may become an emotional wreck. But this is Doctor Who, and the episode’s got to end on a cliffhanger, so it’s not happening today.
Our team entered the new TARDIS, which has one of the most gorgeous interiors I’ve ever seen. It’s like a mix of all the old ones but refreshingly different simultaneously. It’s lit gorgeously, being a real feat of set design. Seeing the Doctor run around the TARDIS in such long shots really gave the set some life. I hope these long paths come into use later with some more TARDIS action going forward.
The TARDIS even has a coffee machine, presumably replacing the old custard cream dispenser. Now it’s my kind of ship! I spent the whole scene waiting for Donna to spill the coffee, with the setup and payoff being a little obvious. However, their dialogue as they take in their new surroundings is heartfelt, and where they’re going next looks just as exciting as this great special.
Conclusion – Off We Go Into The Wild Blue Yonder
So, that was “The Star Beast”. Honestly, this was just the energy the show so desperately needed. For the first special for the 60th anniversary, it was good fun. It was a lovely reintroduction the show, and a great start for the new era. The dynamic between the Doctor and Donna is just as good as it was back in 2008, cementing them as one of the all-time greatest TARDIS teams.
But now the TARDIS is spiralling out of control thanks to a mishap with the coffee machine! Everything’s on fire, and just where they’ll land in all of time and space is a total mystery. The second special, “Wild Blue Yonder” remains a total mystery, even after that Next Time trailer. However, this first special set a very high bar. Writer Russell T Davies has very much still got it, this was great fun. Just the the hit of nostalgia an anniversary special needs, while reintroducing viewers to the show.
Doctor Who will return on November 25th 2023, with “The Star Beast“, the first in three special episodes as the show’s 60th Anniversary headliner event. David Tennant returns as the 14th Doctor alongside Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. Ncuti Gatwa’s first episode as the Fifteenth Doctor will air over the festive period, while his series 14 will debut in 2024 with Millie Gibson. Disney+ will be the exclusive home for new Doctor Who seasons outside the UK and Ireland.