A strong start to the trio of Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials.


Doctor Who is celebrating its 60th Anniversary with a series of specials that see the return of the series’ important figures from its early revival years.

The Doctor has regenerated and landed in Camden. There are two complications: the Doctor has regenerated back into the Tenth Doctor’s body, and a spaceship has crashed in London. The Doctor also meets his old companion, Donna Noble, who will die if she remembers who the Doctor is, yet the adventure with a stranded alien ends up involving Donna and her family.

Under Chris Chibnall’s tenure, Doctor Who was heavily criticized. Some critics were reactionaries who were using controversy to gain clicks, but there were genuine issues with the show. The show’s writing was suffered during this era due to “tell don’t show” storytelling, unsubtle political commentary, bland characters, and massive retcons. The series reached its lowest point since its revival. The BBC had to bring back the big guns for the Doctor’s Platinum Anniversary.
Russell T. Davies was instrumental in the show’s revival, and since leaving Doctor Who, he written a lot of well-received TV shows like A Very English ScandalYears and Years, and It’s a Sin. He brings back some faith to fans who didn’t enjoy the Chibnall era.

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“The Star Beast” had to do two jobs: it needed to follow on from the events of Series Four, and be accessible to a broad audience. To achieve this, “The Star Beast” had a simple story where an alien spaceship comes to London. This was done in “Aliens of London” and “The Christmas Invasion,” episodes made during Davies’ previous run on the show. The first half of the episode was the Doctor Who version of E.T., since the story revolved around Donna’s daughter, Rose (Yasmin Finney), finding and protecting The Meep, the alien that crash-landed. The references were blatant with the use of a back garden and a shed, and The Meep hiding amongst a bunch of stuffed toys.
At the same time, “The Star Beast” continued a story from 15 years ago. This was the hook for long-time fans, especially fans who stopped viewing during the Chibnall era. There was a risk that revisiting the Doctor/Donna relationship could undermine the bittersweet conclusion back in Series 4. Yet this needed to be done because the specials needed a selling point of nostalgia. There was also a risk that bringing back David Tennant would be seen as desperate, but the Specials are setting up a mystery on why the Fourteenth Doctor regenerated with the Tenth Doctor’s face.

The tone of “The Star Beast” was light and broad to ensure it could appeal to a wide audience. The first half was like a kids’ show due to the humor and The Meep being a cute creature with a high-pitched voice. The special was a throwback to Nu-Who’s heyday with its style of humor, and setting up a mystery box for the upcoming episodes. There was a sense of scale to this Special. London was in jeopardy and the city was shown to be in peril. The Special also brought back the Shadow Proclamation and showed a three-way battle between UNIT, mind-controlled soldiers, and insect aliens who looked like the Federation troops in Rick and Morty.
Another issue some audiences had with Chibnall was his political messaging and how ham-fisted it could be. “Orphan 55” was a prime example of this since it forced a message about Climate Change when it didn’t fit the story. Those commenters who declared the show as being “woke” under Chibnall are still going to hate it under Davies. Davies is an openly gay man, and LGBTQ+ themes have been a presence in his shows. Years and Years and It’s a Sin were politically charged mini-series, and with “The Star Beast” he incorporated trans themes. Rose and her trans identity became an important plot point. There was also some grounded drama involving Rose since she was bullied because she recently came out as trans and even her family was still adjusting. It added a little bit of reliability to the Special, and it felt natural to the story.

“The Star Beast” was a fun, back-to-basic start for the new Davies era. It managed to be a continuation of Davies’ own plot points and be an entertaining standalone adventure for the Doctor and Donna Noble.

Kieran Freemantle
Kieran Freemantle
I am a film critic/writer based in the UK, writing for Entertainment Fuse, Rock n Reel Reviews, UK Film Review and Meniscus Sunrise. I have worked on film shoots. I support West Ham and Bath Rugby. Follow me on Twitter @FreemantleUK.
A strong start to the trio of Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials.Review: DOCTOR WHO: THE STAR BEAST