After 15 years, Russell T Davies is back at the helm of one of Britain’s longest running and most loved TV shows, Doctor Who! And boy are we glad to have him back for the first of three 60th anniversary specials, ‘The Star Beast’.
Davies stepped down from his role as showrunner in 2008, after successfully reinventing the classic series for a modern audience in 2005. During that time he employed the help of heavyweight talents such as Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, Catherine Tate, and countless other special guests. Sadly since Davies departed, the show has been haemorrhaging viewers as Stephen Moffatt and Chris Chibnall turned audiences off with overcomplicated story lines and poor direction, leaving many fans thinking that Doctor Who had had it’s time. That is until we saw the face of the 14th Doctor in the season 13 finale, David Tennant!… WHAT?!
David Tennant’s Doctor had a heart wrenching departure, every fan of the show has his final words “I don’t want to go” etched into their minds. His final season of specials between 2008 to 2010 focussed on his grief after losing his best friend and companion, Donna Noble, played by comedy legend Catherine Tate. To save her from death, Donna was forced to forget the Doctor, and all of their adventures, leaving her with a feeling of loss that she could not explain. This is where we pick up with the two characters in the new episode, ‘The Star Beast’.
We start the first 60th anniversary episode with a prologue briefly outlining the Doctor and Donna’s time together, showing us where the characters are now. From the opening shot we see the Doctor with a CGI backdrop, which is the first time we see the “updated” effects of this season. It is rumoured that the show could have a £100 million budget after Disney+ acquired streaming rights to future seasons internationally, and they are clearly pushing the budget with VFX. However, the large scale CGI spaceship later in the episode looks more out of place than when the Slitheen spacecraft crashed to earth in 2005 episode ‘Aliens of London’.
In the hopes that this will improve as the series goes on, at least there is one element of VFX that we can always depend on with Doctor Who, the aliens. The use of practical effects with the Meep, voiced by the fantastic Miriam Margolyes, are a triumph. The Meep, who’s race was originally introduced with Beep the Meep in the 1980s comic the Doctor Who Magazine, is incredibly detailed.
Music has always been at the forefront of the Doctor Who franchise, and along with the return of Russell T Davies, we are also treated to a dramatic score by the show’s previous composer, Murray Gold. The meticulous sound design and dramatic score enhance the experience of this anniversary episode, raising the stakes through to the ultimately climactic moment where Donna confronts her memories. A moment that the Doctor desperately feared as he believed this would kill his best friend. At this moment we see Tate and Tennant’s acting prowess, reminiscent of the final dramatic scene from the 2008 finale Journeys End, as we fear for a second time that Donna’s brevity will lead to her death… or will it?
As a long time super fan of Doctor Who, I couldn’t be more delighted to have this new generation of the show firmly back in the hands of Russell T Davies. Launching into a new era without losing sight of the show’s foundations and bringing back the dynamic talents of Davies, Gold and Tennant, this first instalment of the three special episodes brings hope back to this internationally loved show.
Author: Olivia, Cambridge Store