David Tennant has reunited with his beloved TARDIS, Catherine Tate is back at her best with Donna Noble, and monsters are crash-landing on our screens on a Saturday night. You'd be forgiven for wondering if we've travelled back in time, but no, this is Doctor Who in 2023, and how sorely it's been missed.
Doctor Who hasn't been at its very best for a long while, plus we've had a 13-month wait for a new episode, so anticipation is at an all-time high. So does the first 60th anniversary special, The Star Beast, live up to it? Almost.
The Star Beast sees the Doctor bump into his old friend Donna – very disconcerting for him, as he left her 15 years ago and with the assumption that if she ever remembers him, she'd die. Soon, though, everyone's a bit distracted by the fact that there's a spaceship crashing into London. And an alien called the Meep knocking about.
As expected, Tennant and Tate create absolute magic. Their chemistry was palpable way back in 2008 and the pair have stayed best buds ever since, something that's all too clear as they burst onto screens in The Star Beast. We don't have to wait long for their reunion, and Tate absolutely steals the show when it happens, creating such a genuinely joyful moment that it feels like they've never been away.
During his career, Tennant has had plenty of on-screen partners and more often than not has brilliant chemistry with them. But the fact is, no one does it like Tennant and Tate. Throughout the episode, they manufacture moments of hilarity just as easily as they swirl up emotions you might not have seen coming. It's a testament to the pair of them, and to returning showrunner Russell T Davies, that their characters have developed seamlessly. Of course this is what Donna is like 15 years on. Of course that's how the Doctor would react when he met her again. Of course.
The Star Beast is based on a comic strip from Doctor Who Magazine, which introduced the world to the adorable Beep the Meep, gloriously brought to life in the new episode by none other than Miriam Margolyes. Bring in the towering Wrarth Warriors and we've got ourselves our Saturday night monsters, freshly brought from page to screen. It's a brilliant way to honour the legacy of Doctor Who while still bringing something new to the series, something RTD knows inside out.
The Star Beast makes sense as the first anniversary special. It's the type of episode that will have the whole family crowding round the TV, the type that will make kids want to run around with sonic screwdrivers fighting monsters and saving the world, and the type that makes you believe in the magic of Doctor Who again. It's a fun one, a caper, a bit of a frothy story.
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It's not without its flaws, certainly. Some moments are clumsily dealt with, and some crises are resolved very, very quickly. Although it's clear that the specials are standalone episodes, meant to be enjoyed by themselves, it does feel like The Star Beast will make more sense in a few weeks' time, when considered alongside Wild Blue Yonder and The Giggle, which Davies has said will be "darker and weirder".
So what about these brilliant newbies? Yasmin Finney is at her best when interacting with the Meep. She makes her Doctor Who debut as Donna's daughter Rose, and marks one of the show's first ever trans characters. Discussions about her identity are not glossed over and it's not hard to see how important that representation is going to be to generations of fans.
Rose is a badass (not that we ever would have expected anything else from Donna's daughter), with Finney and Tate getting to share some spectacular scenes. Just as important is Ruth Madeley's role as new character Shirley Anne Bingham. We won't spoil too much about her character but it's always a rush to see someone know how to put the Doctor in his place.
We could say so much more, particularly about the new TARDIS, which forms one of the best and most memorable parts of the episode but we'll leave that part of the magic for Saturday night. Get ready – there's a big adventure waiting for us.
Doctor Who's first 60th anniversary special The Star Beast airs at 6:30pm on Saturday 25th November on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Classic episodes are available on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.
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