TV Review: Doctor Who – The Star Beast

As if they’d never been away? Russell T Davies, David Tennant and Catherine Tate return to Doctor Who in the first 60th anniversary special The Star Beast

“Inculcate the plexidrones”

I might save most of my thoughts around Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary specials until all three have aired, presuming there will be some story arc within them that offers up a reason why the Fourteenth Doctor looks an awful lot like the Tenth. In the meantime though, it was hard not to get a little giddy with the first of them – The Star Beast – as its nostalgic rush was like an early Christmas present for all right-thinking people.

When we left the Doctor at the end of The Power of the Doctor with Jodie Whittaker regenerating into David Tennant, I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about what felt like a retrogressive move. But once established that 14 is not 10 and that Catherine Tate’s return as Donna Noble is also forward-looking, there’s the realisation that what Russell T Davies might actually be doing as his first act as returning showrunner is to rectify his most egregious plot move in the desecration of Donna.

Maybe it is actually the mark of great TV that it is still rankles so, the sensational way in which Donna’s character developed over Season 4 of nu-Who with an all-time best partnership with Tennant’s Doctor tragically undone at the last. And [spoiler alert] if there’s a little timey-wimeyness about the way it get resolved, the wider story within which it is housed more than makes up for it.

For Donna is a mother now, to transgender daughter Rose, who in time-honoured fashion sees something fall from the sky near their Camden home and heads towards it. It is a Gremlin-type character called the Meep who has crash-landed trying to escape from the scary Wrarth Warriors. The Doctor has also arrived though Donna’s memory wipe means she doesn’t – can’t – recognise him but as battle rages between the space invaders and UNIT pop up too, stakes are raised higher and a secret or three revealed.

Tate and Tennant have lost none of their chemistry and it is an undoubted thrill to see them back together like this. It is also fabulous to see the gay agenda™ so matter-of-factly front and centre with great work from Yasmin Finney as Rose whose hard-won identity comes to prove so integral. I hope to see more of Ruth Madeley’s Shirley Bingham, UNIT’s newest scientific adviser and Miriam Margolyes’ voice is so well-suited to the duplicitous Meep. Bring on Wild Blue Yonder!

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