Reviewed: Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary — The Star Beast

A big part of me wants to skip over the remaining specials. Alas, I’m too curious — how bad can things get?

3 min readNov 27, 2023
David Tenant and Catherine Tate (2023)

I read an old review I wrote for an episode in 2012. It starts like this: “Doctor Who is really quite naff, flooded with plot holes, inconsistencies, and convenient moments that eliminate any feeling of genuine threat.”

Little did I know Peter Capaldi’s era was right around the corner — he helmed a version of the show I’d been waiting for all along. His 12th Doctor carried foreboding darkness (not unlike Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal of the 9th Doctor).

But until then I endured Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, wiggling his hands, running through nondescript corridors, and yelling “Geronimo” at every conceivable opportunity. And as if that wasn’t insufferable enough, James Corden kept showing up. I couldn’t hack it.

I stopped watching… until The Day Of The Doctor, which brought Tenant — 10th Doctor — back into the fold. A safe pair of hands and widely accepted as the most popular incarnation.

Here we go again.

The damage has been done

The 50th anniversary got me reinterested — I was duly rewarded with three seasons of stellar sci-fi, including the best episode ever: Heaven Sent — and at that stage, the show hadn’t fallen so catastrophically off the cultural radar.

Now in 2023, the BBC is trying to win over dwindling audiences, since Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor waved them off into the sunset — mouth agape, breathing heavily — standing as a goofy monument to the show’s destruction.

It’s clear that, despite all his nostalgia fodder, returning showrunner Russel T Davies can’t save this series by simply resurrecting season four’s “Doctor-Donna”. Doctor Who was completely upended by his predecessor’s “Timeless Child” story, which saw the Doctor reimagined as a potentially billion-year-old God from another dimension (rather than Capaldi’s “idiot with a box”) by way of a droning voiceover. The show needs tighter, more compelling storytelling.


A big part of me wants to skip over the remaining specials and look forward to Ncuti’s fresh start at Christmas. Alas, I’m too curious — how bad can things get?

It’s not looking good

As a warning sign of narrative shortcuts to come, The Star Beast reboots the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver as an everything machine, capable of generating 3D diagrams and blastproof forcefields, willy-nilly. It’s odd he’d even need such a tool, as every disaster is averted with various plot contrivances. The crash-landed Meepy thing (voiced by gay icon and lovable weirdo, Miriam Margolyes) poses no real threat; every bit of destruction it wreaks is magically reversed with the flick of a switch.

At the same time, the tragedy of Donna Noble’s exit as a companion in 2008 is undone (the Doctor had to wipe her memory to save her life), retroactively rendering the season four finale a bit of a damp squib.

We were told repeatedly that it was deadly for her to remember the TARDIS, aliens, or anything much to do with her adventures. But rather than fucking explode when faced with the Doctor (who makes no effort to avoid this from happening), she’s saved by her daughter, Rose (formerly Jason), who inherited those hidden memories and, therefore, splits the burden of remembering.

The show — perhaps accidentally — implies that she’s a trans person because of this whacky alien intervention, which doesn’t feel like the right takeaway. And just as clumsily, Donna tells the Doctor, “It’s a shame you’re not a woman anymore,” which seems insensitive considering her daughter evidently transitioned as well.

All told, the writing is criminally lazy. RTD depends entirely on nostalgia. Luckily, however, I laughed out loud at the final gag. So — I’ll tune in next week, hoping that the trailer’s scary, serious tone carries through.