Doctor Who takes audiences back in time with The Star Beast, a charming new story that marks a clear return to form for the iconic show.
Ever since David Tennant made his shocking return in the finale of Doctor Who’s thirteenth season last year, long-time fans of the beloved sci-fi show have been waiting to see what’s in store for this new version of the character that’s been absent from screens for almost fifteen years. ‘The Star Beast’ finally brings The Doctor and his best friend Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) back together after he was forced to erase her memory nine whole seasons ago – but in typical Doctor Who fashion, destiny has something else planned for the fan-favourite pair. The episode is the first in a series of three specials to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the show, and with Tennant and Tate (plus showrunner Russell T. Davies) all involved again, ‘The Star Beast’ transports audiences back in time with a heartfelt story and hilariously creative aliens.
‘The Star Beast’ finds The Doctor and Donna brought together by apparent coincidence as they’re forced to save London from being destroyed by an intergalactic conflict centering around a fluffy white alien named The Meep. It’s the kind of lighthearted, nostalgic territory where Doctor Who always thrives, and with the story, Davies immediately proves why he’s so highly regarded by fans of the show. Through his sharp writing and fundamental understanding of these characters, the writer perfectly balances the line between comedy and drama, with The Doctor’s new personality allowing for plenty of hilarious scenes while the looming danger of London’s destruction and Donna’s returning memories keep the stakes high from start to finish.
One of the biggest dangers about ‘The Star Beast’ was obviously that Tennant and Tate’s returns could’ve easily felt forced and unnecessary, but the episode does a great job of explaining why they’re needed for the story and it clearly lays down some hints about a greater importance that’s sure to be explained in the further specials. They’re not just used for nostalgia (though Doctor Who really takes advantage of their return with easter eggs and references to their original time on the show), but rather they’re written to serve a greater purpose and enhance the wider story. The new additions of Yasmin Finney as Rose Noble and Ruth Madeley as Shirley Bingham bring a new dynamic that keeps things fresh and exciting for new audiences too.
With the return of Davies as showrunner, Doctor Who has also been given an enormously larger budget and more expansive filming possibilities that are immediately clear from this special. Everything feels bigger and bolder, with the sharper visuals and special effects making ‘The Star Beast’ truly feel like the beginning of a new era. This increased budget could’ve easily removed much of Doctor Who’s charm, but so far, the stories and characters are just as captivating as they’ve always been. ‘The Star Beast’ admittedly won’t go down as the show’s most inventive or memorable story, but it does everything necessary to serve as a worthwhile backdrop for Tennant and Tate to work their magic and bring these characters back to life.
It’s hard to imagine that anybody who grew up with these characters could possibly find anything other than enjoyment and nostalgia from ‘The Star Beast’ – it might not be the plot-heavy and high-stakes kind of story that you’d expect from the show’s 60th anniversary celebrations, but it dives straight into the lighthearted side of Doctor Who with unapologetic confidence. Another Tennant/Tate adventure is something that long-time fans of the show never would’ve anticipated getting to watch, so the fact that it even exists is something to be grateful for – the fact that it’s so much fun is just a huge bonus. The episode did a great job of sending audiences fifteen years into the past and revelling in this show’s rich history, setting the stage for the other two specials to maybe get a little heavier and deal with the consequences of these characters’ returns.
Doctor Who: The Star Beast is now available to watch on the BBC iPlayer and on Disney Plus. The other 60th Anniversary Specials will be released on December 2 and December 9, 2023.