I have a very interesting history with Doctor Who. I had heard about the series for years via certain places and items, including seeing ads for certain seasons with Matt Smith and David Tennant. But because of my parents’ cable setup, I couldn’t watch it. Then, when Netflix got all of NuWho, and I found out I had access to BBC America, I became a Whovian after a massive binge! Fast forward a bit, and I liked (more or less) the Capaldi and Whittaker run, and now, I get to enjoy an old friend via this Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special Review! Allons-y!
So, to recap, at the end of Jodie Whittaker’s run, The Doctor regenerated and found themselves looking at an “old face.” The 14th Doctor was an older version of the 10th Doctor! But why? What would prompt the regeneration to do such a thing? We don’t know, and neither does The Doctor. But after some small adventures (you can find out about that on the official YouTube channel), he ends up in London and right smack-dab next to the person he swore he would never see again…Donna Noble.
As the intro reminded fans, Donna has a “problem” that will result in her death if she ever remembers The Doctor and their adventures. Things only get worse when he not only meets Donna’s whole family, including her daughter Rose, but an alien spaceship crashlands right near them! It’s a classic Doctor Who setup, which many fans will enjoy.
Things in “The Star Beast” only get wilder when Rose meets The Meep, who was on that ship, and other aliens show up to try and capture it. While that’s happening, Unit soldiers get brainwashed, and the Noble family (because, of course, Donna didn’t take her husband’s name, or even a hybrid of the two… For pun reasons) find themselves trying to figure out what’s going on, while The Doctor stays mum about most things until absolutely needed.
It is immediately clear that the show has gotten a budget increase thanks to its Disney partnership, bringing the show back to its 2008 Tennant era looks and production value. I watched the episode on Disney+, which I didn’t have on my bingo card when the platform debuted! Multiple things pop because of the new budget, including the looks of the aliens and the new things the Sonic Screwdriver can do (which I’m sure certain Doctors’ would’ve loved to have used in their adventures…), and even the new intro! We’ll see where things go from here visually, but it is a good standout so far.
Another thing that has to be praised is the performances of David Tennant and Catherine Tate. These two have worked together since the 10th Doctor’s departure via audio dramas, but this is the first time on screen together in 15 years… You’d never notice that given how easily they fall into older rhythms and patterns. They are SO GOOD together, and it reminded me of how much fun their adventures were together during Tennant’s original run.
Plus, seeing all the references to the other Doctor’s lives and past adventures was fun, and we KNOW that a certain return is coming soon enough.
Sadly, while it was a thrill to FINALLY have Doctor Who back and to have moments that fans have been asking for since Tennant’s run ended, I have to say that this Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special Review has to take a turn that even The Doctor might be mad at.
Here’s the thing: while it was a joy to see Tennant and Tate back at it like they never left, if you take away their performances, the rest of the episode was honestly forgettable. Plus, despite having Russel T. Davies back (who was the showrunner for NuWho up until Matt Smith’s run), some questionable story elements will make some feel like they rushed to a certain ending versus making it feel dramatic.
I’m talking about the Doctor-Donna problem. After The Meep is revealed to be evil (not a bad twist, but it became pointless quickly), The Doctor is forced to give Donna back her memories and Time Lord powers so that they can save the day. However, when she DID get her memories back, she didn’t do anything that “only Doctor-Donna” could do.
All she did was continue to flip switches and reverse what the ship was doing. Remember, Doctor-Donna had “all the memories of a Time Lord,” which means that she and The Doctor had the same line of thinking (more or less) and thus, he should’ve come up with something to NOT do that, or, as another person pointed out in an analysis of the episode, he could’ve just continued to guide Donna like he did before until the situation was solved. After all, this is The Doctor, who has performed complex equations in nanoseconds (shown in a recent Death Battle episode), and yet here, he was stumped…even though his “best friend” was on the line. It rang as odd.
Then, when she was “on death’s door,” she and Rose not only shared the Time Lord’s powers because of procreation (…ok), but they could just “let it go” and even blasted The Doctor for not thinking about that because “he’s a guy.” To which I say, “What?!” Not to mention, if it was as simple as having a “female mind,” why didn’t Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor realize it and go save Donna herself? It felt like the showrunner tried to wrap up the biggest plot thread with one of the weirdest deus ex machina style finishes… And this is Doctor Who, weird is meant to be the norm here!
It REALLY came out as a hasty way to solve a problem so they could have Donna back in full for these specials. And hey, I love Donna. She’s easily a top ten companion if not one of the top five! But after the LONG break to get Doctor Who back, this felt rushed, and Whovians deserved a little more than, “Nah! She’s not going to die because of this random reason!” Just saying.
Oh, and you can’t say that this was because of the “post-regeneration scrambled brains” because he clearly remembered EVERYTHING about Donna’s past with him, and his past lives, and more.
There were other oddities beyond this, such as how The Doctor randomly meets a (really cool) person from Unit and explains the ENTIRE Doctor-Donna storyline to her for…reasons.
Or how The Meep’s ship was literally seconds away from destroying London, and then because of the Doctor-Donna’s plan, it literally reversed ALL DAMAGE just by reversing polarity (even by Doctor Who standards, that’s a stretch) and made it seem as though nothing happened.
Even the start of the episode was odd, as the “Once Upon A Time Lord” opening felt like something a bad sci-fi movie would do to “set the mood.” Why was The Doctor narrating in that way? Who was Donna Noble talking to? And the thing is, all of what they discussed was SHOWN or talked about AGAIN in the very episode that they were about to be in! They could’ve totally cut that out or given a brief footage-filled recap and just cut out the middleman.
And then, there was the literal ending of the episode where some spilled coffee made the new Tardis go haywire. Yes, they could reveal that it “wasn’t actually the coffee that caused it,” but even if it wasn’t that, it was a really dumb way to finish the episode. Remember, the Tardis goes “where it’s needed,” and it didn’t need a coffee spill to take The Doctor and Donna to someplace weird and wild.
But while my Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special Review may seem like a downer, I did enjoy the episode for the most part. Again, Tennant and Tate shined in the best ways, and there is potential for things to get REALLY good before the 15th Doctor arrives. Plus, this episode has multiple very progressive moments that other series should take note of.
But even with those high points, the odd plot, forgettable creatures, and very clear plot holes will leave some Whovians scratching their heads…and trying to focus on the good points alone.
One down, two more to go…
Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special Review
The Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special, “The Star Beast,” will please many fans for various reasons, but it does hold itself back at times, and some bits will definitely get your eyes rolling. But if you’re just here to see Tennant and Tate back together? You’ll be in heaven.
- Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special Review