Doctor Who Review: “The Star Beast” is Who at its Finest

The Fourteenth Doctor, Donna Noble, Rose Noble and Beep the Meep are pictured. They're approached by two armoured green alien foes.
Doctor Who – The Star Beast (Image: BBC Studios/Bad Wolf/Disney)

David Tennant and Catherine Tate are back and better than ever in the 60th anniversary episode of Doctor Who.

I have been a lifelong Doctor Who fan. From the age of 9 seeing it on PBS, to the buying of “New Adventure” books during the Great Hiatus, to attending Gallifrey One multiple times now, the show is such a part of my personality that I don’t really know who I am without it.

Being such a fan, I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve defended the telemovie, and have debated whether to keep watching. But the show keeps calling me back. When it was announced that Russell T. Davies was returning as showrunner, I was of a mixed mind. While I loved his run, at the same time, I was really hoping we could branch into somewhere new. (Preferably a woman and/or a person of color as showrunner, for example.)

I was also concerned about the partnership with Disney. While I am a House of Mouse fan, at the same time I do believe they are way too big at the moment. Additionally, one of the things that make Doctor Who is the fact that because of the low budgets, they had to really focus on good stories. How would that Disney cash change the show?

Bringing back David Tennant and Catherine Tate for the 60th anniversary, however, was a smart move. And Davies takes everything and manages to make the show fresh again.

‘The Star Beast’ has Tennant’s Doctor still somewhat reeling from the regeneration from Jodie Whittaker (although the Children in Need special did the obligatory ‘a moment ago, I was someone else’). He lands on Earth only to coincidentally run into Donna (Tate). Knowing full well she can’t remember him or die (thanks, one of the saddest scenes in NewWho), he tries to avoid her – only for a spaceship to crash land.

The Meep hidden amongst other stuffed animals
The Meep hides. Image credit: BBC.

We meet up with Rose Noble (Yasmin Finney of Heartstopper fame), Donna’s daughter, who finds an alien from the shop – an adorable creature called The Meep. We have UNIT and a nod to the rest of the Noble family, and the plot only goes from there. While technically all of London is in danger, the focus is on Donna’s character and family – a smaller set of stakes that plays well when everything else out there has the entire universe in peril.

I won’t go much more into the plot because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but let’s just say that Finney’s casting was as intentional as Tennant’s and Tate’s. Rose Noble is a vital character that tells us where the showrunner stands on diversity and gender, and Davies thumbs his nose at anyone who felt Whittaker’s run as the first female-presenting Doctor was ‘too woke’.

Tate and Tennant’s chemistry is better than ever, and Tate’s acting is (like her last episode) on fire. I missed these two. Tate’s run is probably my favorite era of NewWho. It was like seeing old friends. Rachel Talalay does an excellent job with directing, as usual. And Davies does a great job of catching up the audience on who everyone is without making it overly filled with exposition.

The upped production values were not wasted: it only added to the vision of Doctor Who without being overly obvious. We get a new opening sequence, and that Disney cash does some good with a brand new TARDIS interior that is BEYOND ‘bigger on the inside than it is on the outside’. And we finally have a non-humanoid alien creature that looks real.

We’ve got two more specials with Tate and Tennant, and I know I’m going to be devastated when they leave again. But if ‘The Star Beast’ is any indication, it’s going to be a bittersweet devastation.

I loved every moment of it, and there was more than one time I cheered at Davies’ handling of the plot and characters. My faith in his showrunner skill has been restored.

Doctor Who‘s ‘The Star Beast’ is available on Disney+ for American viewers, and on the BBC iPlayer for those of you in the UK.

The next special, ‘Wild Blue Yonder’, will be available on December 2, 2023.

Author: Angie Fiedler Sutton

Angie Fiedler Sutton is a writer, podcaster, and all-round fangirl geek. She has been published in Den of Geek, Stage Directions, LA Weekly, The Mary Sue, and others.

She also produces her own podcast, Contents May Vary, where she interviews geeky people about geeky things. You can see all her work (and social media channels) at angiefsutton.com.


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