As the iconic time-traveling show, Doctor Who, celebrates its impressive 60-year journey through time and space, fans are rejoicing with the return of some familiar faces and the promise of exciting new adventures. The Star Beast, the wackadoodle comic-inspired first episode in a trio of anniversary specials, sets the stage for this celebratory journey, and if the reviews are any indication, the future of the Whoniverse is looking brighter than ever.
Back to the Future of Who
The excitement is palpable as the BBC proudly announces, “Doctor Who is back!” It’s not just the Doctor making a return; showrunner extraordinaire Russell T Davies is back in the driver’s seat, steering the TARDIS through a nostalgic and imaginative celebration. And let’s not forget the dynamic duo that stole our hearts, David Tennant and Catherine Tate, reprising their roles as the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble. But beyond the return of beloved characters and creators, what truly makes ‘The Star Beast’ a triumph is the feeling it brings back – a sense of child-like imagination and wonder.
In true Doctor Who fashion, Russell T Davies wastes no time plunging us into the time-traveling escapades we’ve come to love. With a playful, fourth-wall-breaking introduction, viewers are quickly brought up to speed on the Doctor and Donna’s complicated history. There’s no tedious exposition to bog down diehard Whovians, and newcomers won’t feel left out. The episode, like the TARDIS itself, seamlessly navigates through time, delivering a story that is both nostalgic and welcoming to all.
The episode kicks off with an explosive start, as a space-ship crashes through the London skyline, reuniting the Doctor and Donna in a way only Doctor Who can. The chemistry between David Tennant and Catherine Tate is electric, reminding us why this pairing is a fan favorite. Tennant’s melancholy-dappled over-exuberance perfectly complements Tate’s mile-a-minute chatter and wounding one-liners, creating a delightful blend of humor and heart.
Adding a new layer to the narrative, we are introduced to Donna’s daughter, Rose, portrayed by the talented Yasmin Finney. What makes this introduction even more significant is that Rose is Doctor Who’s first trans character. Russell T Davies skillfully weaves Rose’s story into the larger narrative, showcasing his peerless brand of character-driven storytelling. Finney’s understated and sensitive performance adds depth to the storyline, affirming that this new era of Doctor Who will continue to shine a light on both the fantastical and the real, reflecting the diverse world we live in.
With a new Disney+ streaming deal, Doctor Who enjoys enhanced production values that are immediately evident. Explosions are more spectacular, streets bustle with extras, and the sets and props are nothing short of wondrous. Series veteran director Rachel Talalay is clearly having the time of her life, capturing every moment kinetically in-camera amid a hail of bleep-bloops and electronic lights. The increased budget not only allows for a slick and visually impressive production but also introduces us to new aliens that add to the show’s rich tapestry.
Speaking of new aliens, ‘The Star Beast’ introduces us to The Meep, a character voiced by the mischievous Miriam Margolyes. The Meep is a revelation in design, a delightful blend of cute and terrifying. It’s a cross between a Mogwai, Brain from ‘Pinky and The Brain,’ and something a four-year-old might dream up for Santa. The brilliance of its design shines through, making it one of the standout animatronic creations in Doctor Who’s history. And yes, it’s the kind of alien that will have you contemplating a half-decent cosplay with light bulbs and a generous amount of cotton wool.
Despite the show now sitting atop fat stacks of Mouse-branded Benjamins, its roots remain firmly in the kind of DIY design-work that made Daleks iconic. The Meep and the Wrarth Warriors are a testament to this ethos. While the latter are standard-issue crab-handed insectoids, The Meep stands out as a brilliantly crafted piece of DIY design. Doctor Who pays homage to its past while embracing the benefits of modern production values.
Watching The Star Beast is akin to being a child again. The narrative is full of playful hand-waving, goofy dialogue, and telegraphed twists that might bemuse the more po-faced viewer. But, if you let your imagination roam free, embracing the cacophonously cosmic new title sequence and enjoying the breathless, madcap adventure, you’ll come out the other side with your enthusiasm for unapologetically dorky science-fiction and Saturday-evening spectacle well and truly regenerated. And the best part? It genuinely feels like the best is yet to come.