Doctor Who: The Star Beast – the first 60th anniversary special is a ‘whimsical’ affair

As the long-running UK science-fiction show about the eponymous Doctor, a Time Lord who travels through space and time, celebrates its 60th anniversary, it is effectively the third new beginning for the show. Writer Russell T Davies has returned for another stint in charge. A huge fan of the original series, he was largely responsible for its revival in 2005, presiding over the Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant eras. His comeback has been greeted with jubilation by those fans who felt that recent seasons had not been among the best.

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The Power of the Doctor, the final episode of Chris Chibnall’s stint as the latest showrunner, pulled off something of a coup de théâtre at the very end of the episode by having the latest (and 13th) incarnation of the doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker, regenerate as the 10th doctor, played by David Tennant, rather than as the newly-announced Doctor Ncuti Gatwa (the Rwandan-Scottish actor who broke out with his role as Eric Effiong in Sex Education).

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So now we have Tennant, one of the most popular incarnations of the Time Lord, back in the saddle for three 60th-anniversary specials before Gatwa gets the keys to the celebrated space-and-time machine, the Tardis.

The Star Beast, the first of those three specials, is loosely based on a comic strip that appeared in Doctor Who Weekly magazine in 1980.

In it, the Doctor is as much in the dark as we are as to why he’s back to his old self (Tennant bowed out of the role in 2009). And he’s not the only returning veteran. One of his companions, his “best friend” Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), is back too.

For complicated reasons, when they were last hanging out together 15 years ago, the Doctor had to wipe Donna’s memory to save her life. If she ever remembers him, she will die.

The story that Donna has accepted is that she had a bit of a breakdown that caused her to forget everything. But she still has the vague sense that “something’s missing”, as she puts it. “Like I had something lovely and it’s gone… some nights I lie in bed thinking ‘what have I lost?'” She is happily married, with a teenage daughter, Rose (Yasmin Finney) – but this domestic peace is now firmly disrupted…

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As for the Doctor, soon after arriving in London, he is distracted by a spaceship crashing, and races to the scene. One of the escapees is the Meep (voiced by Miriam Margolyes), a cute, furry, big-eyed alien. The Meep says it is being pursued by “monsters” who want to kill it… and plot-wise, that’s about all we’re allowed to tell you.