Movie Reviews

‘Doctor Who: The Star Beast’ Review: The Doctor & Donna Return for a Delightful Adventure

The Big Picture

  • “The Star Beast” is a celebration of Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary, filled with satisfying payoffs and the return of fan favorites Tennant and Tate.
  • The episode strikes a balance between heartfelt emotions and campy fun, featuring vibrant and silly aliens and stunning set pieces.
  • Tennant and Tate shine in their roles, delivering a wonderful mix of traits and showcasing their chemistry as the Doctor and Donna.

The longest-running sci-fi television series in history, Doctor Who, is set to celebrate its 60th anniversary this weekend with the first of three specials. The specials bring back several fan favorites: David Tennant‘s fourteenth Doctor and Catherine Tate‘s beloved companion Donna Noble, along with writer and showrunner Russell T. Davies to helm it. Davies will go on to usher in Ncuti Gatwa as the fifteenth Doctor, who’ll lead this year’s Christmas special next month. But first, the Doctor must address some unfinished business with his best friend.

“The Star Beast” is the first of three specials celebrating the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who, and it lives up to that name. The episode truly is a celebration, with a satisfying payoff to long-awaited stories and the highly anticipated return of Tennant as the Doctor. While it’s not exactly the smoothest starting place for new viewers, the episode does provide a unique little “previously on” segment that will give viewers the basics of what they ought to know before diving into this point in the Doctor and Donna’s story.

Image via BBC

Doctor Who

The show follows the adventures of a Time Lord “The Doctor” who is able to regenerate, and the Doctor’s human friend (s). The Doctor and companion’s journey through time and space in the TARDIS – a time-traveling ship shaped like a police box – saving the universe with a combination of wit, bravery, and kindness. Orbiting around them is the wider Whoniverse – infinite galaxies and countless civilizations filled with incredible friends and dangerous foes. 

Release Date
March 17, 2006

Jodie Whittaker, Peter Capaldi, pearl mackie, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Ncuti Gatwa, Jenna Coleman, Alex Kingston, Karen Gillan

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi



BBC America

Streaming Service(s)

‘Doctor Who’ Celebrates a Wild and Magical Universe With 60th Anniversary Special

The biggest constant in Doctor Who is change, as the Doctor is ever-evolving and going on new adventures with new companions, but the heart of everything fans love about the series is alive and well at the center of “The Star Beast.” Davies is back in full force with an episode that is aggressively welcoming and heart-poundingly triumphant. This first episode carries a tone of joy, tenderness, and emotionality that is true to the best parts of this series.

Don’t worry, though; among all of those genuine and sometimes very serious emotions, “The Star Beast” is still full of campy fun too. The aliens featured in the first special are vibrant and a little bit silly like they’ve just walked out of a fairytale. And while it’s clear that the series has received an upgraded budget under the Disney banner, that comes through in a way that still feels very Doctor Who, with upgraded effects keeping a touch of whimsy and stunning set pieces that honor the series’ lengthy sci-fi history.

“The Star Beast” sees a number of new and returning characters introduced to Doctor Who, with Donna Noble and her family once again at the center of the universe. Jacqueline King returns as Donna’s mother, Sylvia, and while she was never the most likable Noble in the original series, she’s softened with time and the number one priority of keeping Donna safe. Karl Collins also returns as Donna’s husband Shaun Temple. He is appropriately devoted to her and has big himbo energy, making him a solid partner to the powerhouse that is Donna.

Heartstopper star Yasmin Finney also makes her Doctor Who debut in this episode as Donna and Shaun’s daughter, Rose Noble. While we won’t be giving away any of the delightful surprises in Rose’s story, she plays a crucial role in this episode and is a beautiful addition to the Noble family. Last year, Finney confirmed that her character is transgender, and that part of her identity is addressed beautifully in “The Star Beast.” Through poignant conversations and breathtaking metaphors, Davies has written a story that makes a clear statement in support of the LGBTQ+ community. “The Star Beast” also introduces Ruth Madeley as Shirley Anne Bingham, and while we can’t say much about her character yet, you’re certainly going to want to see more of her. Miriam Margolyes, a British staple, is also a thrilling stand-out as the adorable voice of The Meep.

‘Doctor Who: The Star Beast’ Is a Wonderful Follow-up to ‘Journey’s End’

David Tennant as the Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble in Doctor Who's 60th anniversary specials coming out of the TARDIS surrounded by a pink and blue nebula
Image via BBC

With 60 years of stories, it can be somewhat daunting to figure out where you should start with Doctor Who, and while you could start with this episode, it is very much a continuation of an existing arc. If you’re new to the series and hoping to jump in right ahead of Gatwa’s introduction with these specials, I would strongly recommend checking out Donna’s episodes (“The Runaway Bride,” Series 4, and “The End of Time”) first. “The Star Beast” very much serves as a follow-up to the Series 4 finale, “Journey’s End,” which saw Donna become The Doctor Donna — half-human, half-Time Lord — just long enough to save the universe before the doctor had to wipe her memory to save her life.

Without giving too much away, “The Star Beast” sets the Doctor and Donna on a collision course with destiny and delivers a satisfying and emotional new chapter to their story. There are plenty of Easter eggs and references to the past that play out very organically and fans will enjoy attempting to spot them throughout the episode and on each rewatch. While there are a couple of action sequences that appear to go on just a bit too long, along with a rogue side plot that doesn’t contribute all that much to the overall story, “The Star Beast” is a solid episode and a genuine treat for fans of Donna and the Doctor.

The Doctor and the Most Important Woman in the Universe

It should come as no surprise that David Tennant and Catherine Tate are far and away the best thing about this episode — which is already good on its own merits. Seeing these two share the screen again is like being welcomed home with a warm hug and a cup of tea. Though the Doctor and Donna have not seen each other in 15 years, the lovely chemistry between Tennant and Tate is still just as strong as ever, and they are in perfect lock-step throughout the episode, picking up these characters right where they left them.

It’s abundantly clear that Tennant has studied the Doctors who came after him, imbuing Fourteen with a lovely mix of traits that he picked up from Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen. Taking those elements from his predecessors does keep Fourteen a little more humble than Ten ever was, and it enriches the best parts of him, with his two massive hearts that just can’t help but care. Fresh off of Thirteen’s run, he’s a little more likely to share those emotions than he might once have been, and there’s an intensity to those feelings that is inherently Tennant.

Meanwhile, Tate delivers some of her best work in the Doctor Who franchise. She’s a phenomenal emotive actress, showing off a vast range in “The Star Beast” from the tragic to the hilarious with a delicate nuance that few are capable of. We all know that Tate is an expert at comedy, but the moments where Donna always soars — the moments in which she proves why Donna is so many people’s favorite companion — are those scenes where she shows genuine vulnerability and softness. Donna is a mother now, and a damn good one to boot, and she’s every bit still the companion we all fell in love with, with her good heart, curious spirit, and tenacious attitude.

“The Star Beast” is both campy and compelling, featuring moments of intense sentiment, high stakes, and classic Doctor Who. The return of Tennant and Tate is certainly worth the wait, and fans of the franchise, both old and new, are in for a delightful sci-fi romp with a heart of gold.

Rating: A-

Disney+ is the new home of Doctor Who in the U.S. with “The Star Beast” set to air on Saturday, November 25, followed by “Wild Blue Yonder” on December 2, and “The Giggle” on December 9. Previous episodes of the current era of Doctor Who are available to stream on Max in the U.S.

Watch on Max

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