Doctor Who – The Star Beast

The Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant) in The Star Beast (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)
The Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant) in The Star Beast (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)

“The Star Beast” is the first 2023 special episode in the TV show “Doctor Who” that celebrates its 60th anniversary. It’s available in the UK and Ireland on BBC channels and in many other countries on the Disney+ platform.

Note. This article contains some spoilers about “The Star Beast”.

The Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant) is trying to understand why the regeneration reprised an old face when he arrives in London and the first person he runs into is Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), accompanied by her daughter Rose (Yasmin Finney). He doesn’t even have time to reflect on what seems like a really strange coincidence that a spaceship crashes into the Earth’s atmosphere carrying the very cute Meep, hunted by the horrid insectoid Wrarth Warriors.

The story of “The Star Beast” was originally published as a comic in 1980 with the Fourth Doctor and Beep the Meep being found and hidden by Sharon, a girl who becomes the Doctor’s companion, and her friend Fudge. Big Finish already adapted it into an audio adventure in 2019.

Russell T Davies adapted the story for the Fourteenth Doctor, starting his second run as the showrunner introducing the mystery of his new/old face and the fact that he runs into Donna Noble shortly after regenerating. There’s a mix of new and familiar elements and Davies’ choice is clearly to begin his second run by re-proposing a couple that was successful. At the same time, he included some references to the Doctors between the Tenth and Fourteenth, just to make it clear that he doesn’t intend to deny those eras.

As you might expect from a Russell T Davies script, this episode works because of the characters. It’s hardly a surprise that David Tennant and Catherine Tate work as well together today as they have in the past and the other actors with significant roles deliver good performances.

The plot can be defined as essential but then again, you can see Russell T Davies’ style. It fits the format of the new “Doctor Who” series with its fast pace and lack of time for in-depth developments. Problems that were thought to be unsolvable are solved with ease, using a little humor to distract the audience from realizing that too many things make little or no sense.

Chris Chibnall would have been crucified for proposing such heavy-handed plot parts. Perhaps, in the end, his main fault was that he was unable to build intensity in the Doctor and in the relationship with his/her companions comparable to those created by the other showrunners.

In his version of “The Star Beast”, Russell T Davies has the merit of having exploited the moments between the characters well. Certainly, the main ones are between the Doctor and Donna but the Doctor also has some with Shirley Anne Bingham (Ruth Madeley), UNIT’s new scientific advisor. Donna also has significant moments with Rose, her transgender daughter who is trying to find herself in a world where there’s little sensitivity.

Early comments indicate that “The Star Beast” was a success and that doesn’t surprise me. Only a minority among the show’s audience are science fiction fans, so few people negatively assess the inadequacy of certain parts. Despite the flaws in Russell T Davies’ scripts, overall, I enjoyed this special and the ending ties it into the next one.

Rose (Yasmin Finney) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) in The Star Beast (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)
Rose (Yasmin Finney) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) in The Star Beast (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)

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