The 60th anniversary of Doctor Who is officially upon us, the first of three specials has recently aired: “The Star Beast” to mark the occasion in brilliant fashion. The specials have been a long time coming, since the last new episode aired over a year ago that left us fans wondering how the revisited incarnation of David Tennant’s Doctor would play out.
First things first – I have to take a moment to applaud the new title sequence, which played after a recapped introduction featuring both Donna and The Doctor, that reminded us where things left off between the two. The visually stunning sequence featuring The TARDIS surfing the time vortex and shooting through cosmic clouds most definitely gave me goosebumps with excitement.
Without giving too much away (no spoilers), the episode starts off with The Doctor arriving in present-day London in The TARDIS, not showing any ill effects or weaknesses from the regeneration. He takes a stroll with a smile brimming from ear to ear; Tennant’s giddy glow shines brightly as The Doctor as he is walking around and immersing himself back on Earth. He then bumps into a familiar face, Donna Noble. Since Donna is not supposed to remember The Doctor plus her adventures in Time and Space, out of her own safety, The Doctor does his best to avoid interacting with her. However, the cosmos has other plans, a spaceship streaks across the sky that sets The Doctor on a mission to find out what is going on. In the meantime, an unassuming and adorable alien, known as The Meep, hides in an alleyway and befriends Donna’s daughter. The lovably adorable alien is hiding from capture and this starts off a wild chain of events to protect the citizens of London.
It is always great to see old characters return after a few seasons, and this special brought the Noble family back with a new addition. It was no secret that Catherine Tate was returning as Donna Nobel and sneaky set pictures also revealed the late Bernard Cribbins will also be making an appearance. The newest addition, Rose (Yasmin Finney), plays an unassuming and central part of the story but also plays a role in the underlying message of tolerance and accountability woven brilliantly into the script. Without giving too much away, she shows compassion and wide-eyed sense of wonder which makes her a wonderful addition to the Whoniverse. Tate’s Donna reminds us of her toughness and compassion when she tells her daughter that if she is troubled, or given a difficult time that “she would descend” to protect her.
The story of The Star Beast originated in a comic strip a number of years ago and was featured as an audio adventure with Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor. It was a great idea to take the story and give it a full episode feature in the series. I found the new special to play to all of the strengths and attributes we look for in fantastic episodes of Doctor Who, including some fiery explosions, unique aliens, and the appearance of UNIT. As with any Doctor Who episode, nothing is as it appears so there are a few twists and surprises which take away any aspect of predictability.
Doctor Who’s longevity is due mainly to the expansive imagination of the writers followed by memorable performances by the actors who breathe life from the scripts written. I recall the wise words in Peter Capaldi’s final monologue – “Hate is always foolish and Love is always wise.”
The cauldron in which a story brews from is virtually limitless has led to some of the more wondrous and imaginative monsters, stories, and settings throughout time and space. One of the most genius ideas for the series was that of regeneration, which allowed The Doctor a backdoor to survive a mortal wound and live without limit. This was tweaked a little bit in recent years with “The Timeless Child” backstory and hinted at during the 50th anniversary special, “Day of The Doctor”, with the appearance of Tom Baker as The Curator. The Doctor’s regeneration to the 14th Doctor is a welcome treat for many, including myself, as it is something interesting and different.
Each episode of Doctor Who always reaches deep into the cauldron of fascination and imagination to find the right recipe to create something new, refreshing, and exciting. “The Star Beast” had a few tricks up its sleeve with the new Sonic Screwdriver and a new TARDIS, which must be seen for yourself due to both being great to see in action. Overall, the production design team has certainly outdone themselves once again.
The 60th Anniversary Specials are off to a fantastic start and we are very happy there are two more around the corner with Wild Blue Yonder up next on December 2nd and The Giggle on December 9th before the reins are officially handed over to Ncuti Gatwa this Christmas. Yes, it is confirmed that we will not have to wait too long for Gatwa’s debut.
The magical doors of The TARDIS have reopened and we are once again asked to join The Doctor for the trip of a lifetime.