Some lucky so-and-so’s have already seen The Star Beast, the first episode of a trilogy of episodes celebrating Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary, and the review embargo has been passed — which means we can get teases for the story.
Minor spoilers follow.
First, here’s the synopsis for the episode:
“The Doctor is caught in a fight to the death as a spaceship crash-lands in London. But as the battle wreaks havoc, destiny is converging on the Doctor’s old friend, Donna.”
The Star Beast features David Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor, with Catherine Tate returning as Donna Noble, and GamesRadar says that it “does get off to a strange start, with both the Doctor and Donna addressing the camera directly, breaking the fourth wall to speak to the audience. Whilst certainly unusual, the pair briefly recapping previous events works well, giving newcomers everything they need to know going into this special episode.”
And anyone worried that a Disney+-propped budget would mean Doctor Who might leave its unique charm behind need not fret: the site highlights:
“The Star Beast never once forgets the humble beginnings it came from. The love the filmmakers have for Doctor Who is ever present, especially with the numerous Easter eggs and nods to previous stories that are scattered throughout, celebrating the show’s long history. It’s a shame then that the ending does feel rushed, almost like they were racing to the finish line, which ultimately does take away from the emotional impact of the tender conclusion.”
Nonetheless, CoveredGeekly assures is that “you can see the money on the screen… [T]he set design was incredible and the practical work on the monsters for this episode was amazing. The cinematography was also unmatched and fitted celebrating 60 years of Doctor Who.”
So with Tennant back, does he play it differently to how he portrayed the Tenth Doctor?
“From within the first 20-30 minutes of the episode, you’re able to see him as a distinctive incarnation of the Doctor and not just replaying the Tenth. There are also still hints of the Thirteenth Doctor’s behaviour within him and it makes it all the better to help distinguish which Doctor David is playing.”
Meanwhile, The Streamr highlights two other highlight performances:
“A delightful reunion we see in this episode is Sylvia Noble meeting with the Doctor to her absolute delight. The delivery of her line, paired with the shift in tone and Jacqueline King’s facial expressions are wonderful. Seeing the pair interact after so long, and considering the circumstances of Donna’s impending doom when possibly reuniting with the Doctor, is just hilarious.
“A new addition to the Noble clan is Rose, played by Heartstopper star Yasmin Finney. Finney is a wonderful addition to the episode’s ensemble and the overall Whoniverse, and is the one who first interacts with the extra-terrestrial Meep.”
We learn more about another important addition to the cast too, via the BBC:
“A promising new character, Shirley Ann Bingham, played by Ruth Madeley, is introduced – she’s scientific adviser number 56 to the Doctor’s one-time employer, military organisation UNIT. “I was scientific adviser number one,” says the Doctor.”
Rather surprisingly, the BBC itself criticises its own show, summing The Star Beast up:
“Although the show has always been progressive – look at the number of stories over the decades about, for example, threats to the environment – this special is preachy, and by the end, little more than a delivery system for The Message.”
Something many of us feared, but let’s keep an open mind, as MovieWeb enthuses that it “deserves much praise for its action. Full of explosions, gunfire, and extraterrestrial carnage, the combination of well-shot, well-directed action with a blood-pumping score to boot creates thrilling action scenes the likes of which Doctor Who has been missing for a while.”
But perhaps we should leave the last word to the Sixth Doctor himself, Colin Baker, who says:
“I was at the screening of the first episode of a couple of days ago and it’s phenomenal. It’s got all the values of Doctor Who, plus all of the technology of today. Russell has done it perfectly and, if it carries on like that, the show will last forever.”
Sounds good to us!
The Star Beast airs on BBC1 on 25th November 2023 at 6:30pm and will also be available on Disney+.