Well Whovians, we’ve nearly made it. We’re at just under a week until Doctor Who has returned to our screens with the first of three-anniversary specials, celebrating 60 years of sci-fi glory. If that wasn’t monumental enough to tune in, the specials also feature the return of David Tennant as The Doctor and Catherine Tate of Donna Noble. For fans of Classic NuWho, the friendship, and dynamics between The Doctor and Donna were fantastic (pun intended), however, their story ended in tragedy. So how exactly do they end up in each other’s lives again? Why has the Doctor returned to this face? And more importantly, what happens to Donna Noble if she sees him again and remembers? All these questions percolate through “The Star Beast”.
With the 60th anniversary specials, Russell T. Davies returns as showrunner, continuing into Ncuti Gatwa’s tenure as the 15th Doctor, which begins with the upcoming Christmas episode. While every showrunner has brought something unique to Doctor Who, there is something special about having the man who revived the series in 2005 back at the helm of the ship. So with so much pressure to get this right, does “The Star Beast” stick the landing? Continue on for my impressions on the first 60th anniversary special!
[Warning: possible light spoilers from Doctor Who: The Star Beast are below!]
Fantastic duo The Doctor and Donna Noble together again
After the events of “The Power of the Doctor”, which was Jodie Whittaker’s final episode as the Gallifreyan, the Doctor isn’t quite himself. The forced regeneration at the hands of the Master (Sacha Dhawan) has made the Doctor unstable. This was seen in the utter force behind the regeneration from Whittaker’s 13th Doctor to Tennant’s face as the 14th Doctor. However, a new question arises with Tennant’s return as a new Doctor. Why this face? Why now? And why is the universe pushing him towards Donna Noble?
These questions are threaded throughout “The Star Beast”, which was written by RTD with a story from Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons. A story that begins with The Doctor arriving on Earth in the present day, searching for answers but not knowing what they are or what direction to start looking. He’s a bit more unsure of himself when we meet him at the beginning of this first 60th anniversary special, especially when destiny forces him and Donna together once more. A situation he has tried to avoid for years, and yet the universe has something else in store for these two.
He’s fearful of the consequences if Donna remembers who he is because the idea of losing his best friend is too much to handle. And yet, when a starship crash lands in London, with a cute little Meep (Miriam Margolyes) on board, the Doctor and Donna are swept up into a greater galactic conspiracy between the hairy alien and the Wrarth Warriors. Can the Doctor save the day, and get to the bottom of the war raging between these two alien races, without hurting Donna in the process? You’ll have to tune in to “The Star Beast” to find out!
Doctor Who: The Star Beast is a return to form with some exciting upgrades
This first 60th-anniversary special is truly a return to form in every sense of the word. I want it stated on the record that I have loved every season of NuWho. That being said when I watched “The Star Beast”, it felt like something magical had returned to my screen. This first special is quintessential Doctor Who, encapsulating everything from RTD’s era that made it great. The adventure is epic, the alien’s scary, and the Doctor runs around like a madman in a blue box, solving the problem before the credits roll.
However, the episode also captures the heart that RTD is so fantastic at weaving into his stories. There’s a ton of heartbreak in this episode, something I wasn’t necessarily expecting, but again is essential for a great Doctor Who story. The dynamics and care between these characters, both new and old, seal the deal as one of the best hours of Doctor Who to date. I cannot stress how back we are, because for everyone who fell off Doctor Who during Moffat’s era or later, this is exactly the time for you to jump back on. Doctor Who has never felt so fresh and invigorated as it has with the return of RTD, Tennant, and Tate.
There are so many changes in quality for this special. You can easily tell that Doctor Who has that new influx of money thanks to the deal with Disney, as many of the CGI and VFX shots are leagues above where they once were. I’m not kidding, it’s night and day compared to past seasons. So much so, that it’s both awe-inspiring and almost off-putting when you first initially observe it. There are things the new sonic screwdriver can do that I never would have thought possible, at least in the quality in which we see it now.
Ultimately, I think the deal with Disney will be good, as the show still feels just like Classic NuWho, but with a bit of a facelift. It couldn’t come at any better of a time, as Doctor Who needed a bit of a reinvention for its 60th year.
I cried when I saw David Tennant once again as the Doctor. I’m not ashamed to admit that. Part of me knew that I would see Tennant again in Doctor Who, but I always assumed it would be as the 10th Doctor as a one-off, similar to his role in the 50th anniversary. But to have three entire specials dedicated to one of the greatest Doctors, albeit technically a new Doctor and fan-favorite companion Donna feels like a dream.
Both Tennant and Tate are exceptional once again as the Doctor and Donna. Truly, it feels like they easily slipped back into their shoes, without missing a beat. Can you believe it’s been over a decade since they’ve been in these roles together? However, you would never know, as this episode plays like just another chapter in their journey together. If there was ever a way to celebrate this huge occasion, this was it. I couldn’t think of a better way.
Joining them in his episode is Donna’s family, with Jacqueline King and Karl Collins returning as Sylvia Noble and her husband Shaun. While it was great to see both of them return to Doctor Who, their parts were overshadowed by the main event of the Doctor and Donna, as well as by Yasmin Finney. Those who have been following along know that I love Heartstopper practically more than breathing, so it shouldn’t be a shock that I loved Finney as Rose, Donna’s daughter.
Finney is an excellent addition to the cast, however, Rose feels a bit stiff initially among the other already-established characters. I know for a fact that Yasmin Finney is a top-notch actress, so that is more from direction than anything. That being said, after her initial introduction, Rose begins to warm up, part of which is due to the role she plays in the story. However, I think/hope she’ll continue to be a huge part of the 60th anniversary specials, and hopefully beyond.
The Doctor Who 6oth anniversary specials coming soon to BBC and Disney+
My only complaint is that one episode a week for three weeks doesn’t feel like enough after such a long wait. Seriously, “The Star Beast” is the perfect episode to kick off a new era of Doctor Who, clearly setting itself apart from that which came before. It’s a strong story, with an even stronger cast, bringing in long-forgotten monsters and familiar faces.
This is exactly what everyone has been waiting for, which for Disney+ could be bigger than any Marvel or Star Wars series to date. This feels incredibly epic from start to finish, like a movie we needed. I know I’ll be watching it over and over for the foreseeable future, but I can simply not get enough.
Doctor Who arrives on Disney+ this week globally, and on BBC in the U.K.! Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on watching it when it drops! While you’re here, check out our ranking of the Doctor Who Anniversary specials that came before this one, or see our other coverage linked below!