The Doctor Who 60th anniversary special, The Star Beast, marked a significant return for the series, featuring David Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor and Catherine Tate reprising her role as Donna Noble. The episode is based on the comic strip The Star Beast, which was originally published in Doctor Who Weekly in 1980.
In the special, the Doctor lands in Camden Market, London, where he reunites with Donna Noble, who still does not remember him after he wiped her memories of him in season four’s Journey’s End. Donna has since developed a life of her own with her husband, Shaun Temple, and transgender daughter, Rose.
The plot revolves around a spaceship crash-landing near Donna’s house, piloted by a creature known as the Meep. Rose befriends the creature, who claims to be chased by Wrarth soldiers dedicated to wiping out its kind. However, not everything is as it seems, and the episode plays with assumptions about which alien creatures appear threatening and which seem harmless.
UNIT and armed Wrarth Warriors and possessed UNIT soldiers show up at Donna’s house in pursuit of the Meep. Wackyness ensues as the Doctor tries to protect Donna and her family without triggering her memories. Eventually, Donna remembers everything, and we get the fake out as she is about to die. The twist is that some of the Time Lord energy she carried was shared with Rose during her pregnancy. So, Donna no longer holds the fatal dose that would have killed her.
Donna and Rose save the day and then let go of the energy. TaDa! Donna lives! I’m simplifying it, but yeah, the story provides emotional closure not just for Donna but for fans who didn’t like the idea of Donna not remembering all her fantastic adventures with the Doctor.
The episode also addresses transgender identity through Donna’s daughter, Rose, paralleling the Time Lords’ fluidity with gender and sex.
It focused on how characters have changed, maintaining the chemistry between the Doctor and Donna but adding new dimensions to their relationship.
Shirley Anne Bingham, played by Ruth Madeley, was introduced as UNIT’s scientific advisor in this special , adding some disability representation to the episode. She was a great character, and I look forward to seeing more of her.
I admit to being initially sceptical about Tennant’s return as the Doctor as I saw it as a marketing ploy to win back viewers who had quit the show after Jodie Whitaker’s tenure. I’m unsure now, as the anti-woke will certainly not embrace Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor when the time comes. I get that the 60th anniversary is a big thing to be celebrated, and who better to carry the specials but fan favourites, Tennant and Noble?
Overall, The Star Beast was not just a nostalgia trip but a fresh take on the beloved characters and the Doctor Who universe, marking an exciting new chapter for the series in its 60th year.