Doctor Who 2023 Reviews | “The Star Beast” and “Wild Blue Yonder”
Okay, folks, hang on to your chairs and cover your ears if you don’t want spoilers because I have way too many feels about both of these episodes to do a non-spoiler review.
Okay, first, this applying to both and really all the specials we are getting this year, one of my favorite new Doctors is back! Who would have thought that a Doctor would come back in an actual regeneration? In crossover form, sure, that’s been done many times, starting way back with the older doctors with The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors specials. That’s nothing new. But to actually have a Doctor regenerate essentially backwards, now that is awesome. Especially when it’s a Doctor as wildly popular as David Tennant’s 10th Doctor.
The first episode, The Star Beast, premiered on Doctor Who’s new home (apart from the BBC), Disney Plus, on Saturday November 25th. And despite our having a scant three specials last year, it seems like forever since we have had a good long run of episodes – the last being 10 episodes in Series 12 in 2020 and a 6-episode series arc subtitled Flux appearing in 2021.
So enough of the history lesson of the past few years. On to our review.
The Star Beast
Few things are as amusing as being at a science fiction convention when something of this scale premieres. This time it was locally at the science fiction literary convention Loscon in Los Angeles. The last time of note was the premiere of the Star Wars Disney + series Obi-Wan Kenobi during Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim California. When it was announced that the first episode would premiere at 6:00 p.m. during that 2022 convention, there was a mad rush for everyone to get back to their rooms to grab their devices to stream the premiere that was described as being as instantaneous as a, “scattering of roaches disappearing from the hallways as if someone had turned on a light!”. Gratefully this one for Doctor Who was with more notice, but no less furor to see it.
The Star Beast opens with the 14th Doctor as his Tardis materializes in London. He runs into Donna Noble, reprised by Catherine Tate. His former companion fails to recognize him and there’s an amusing moment where she is calling out to find “Rose”, who turns out not to be his other, older companion, but in fact Donna’s human daughter. After a tense moment where the Doctor is afraid Donna might remember him and end up dying as a result of the metacrisis, he catches up with Donna’s husband, Sean, who fills him in on what has been going on in the years in his absence, including the peculiar fact that after buying a home, Donna gave away all of the lottery money she won as a result of the Doctor slipping her a winning lottery ticket as a wedding gift.
As with many prior Tennant/Tate episodes, there are some truly hilarious moments with Donna’s mother Sylvia clobbering the Doctor with a right hook, Donna managing to miss the crashing of a spaceship in London despite everyone around her witnessing it, ranting and blaming the Doctor for her giving away her money during a countdown to London’s destruction that only she can prevent, and her chastising the 10th/14th Doctor for not understanding how she can avert the metacrisis because, “it’s a shame you’re no longer a woman, then you’d understand”.
There are also some other wonderful nods to Doctor Who’s long history — a U.N.I.T. advisor named Shirley who assists in the investigation of the crash, and a long-standing villain from multiple comic and audio dramas called The Meep. Even the showrunner for this newest season and story writer is a blast from the past, Russell T. Davies. Davies is as welcome a return to Who as Tennant, taking care to update the series in this era of heightened disability awareness (Shirley is confined to a wheelchair), and gender diversity awareness by having the Doctor question which pronouns The Meep prefers and high school kids engaging in a very typical and cruel game of mocking Rose’s gender and appearance.
The episode is an absolute joy, especially for Tate/Tennant fans who miss the wonderful chemistry and hilarity between these two powerful characters. The story is also a wonderful, oft-used mix of aliens on Earth, fate of the world hanging in the balance and the Doctor and his human companion working towards its salvation. Another fun thing to note about this episode is that the mannerisms of The Meep and the voice were so reminiscent of Dobby from Harry Potter, it was no surprise to discover that it was voiced by Miriam Margolis, who also voiced Professor Pomona Sprout in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
And overall can I just say that I am absolutely loving the new look of the TARDIS interior, but I’m not loving the amount of hair gel they needed to get the older Tennant’s hair to stand on end, seriously, they must have used half of England’s supply to get it to stand that much at attention.
As for Catherine Tate, incredibly, she has somehow weathered the years so much better than David Tennant, barely looking a day older than her last appearance as the Doctor’s companion.
Wild Blue Yonder
Weirdly enough now, the Tardis sings the title song of the episode as it crash lands into the interior of a spaceship at the very edge of the known universe. This is new, this is strange, but what isn’t in the life of a Doctor and we’ll go with it because we know somewhere along the line they will probably explain this.
Also now, the Tardis appears to run away at the first sign of trouble, something again strange, but this time I’m not really liking the potential implications of this or why it’s a thing the Tardis hasn’t done before now, even though the Doctor explains it away by saying he’d turned it off years ago. We all know the Tardis has a mind of its own and will do what it wants, whether the Doctor likes it or not.
There is a wonderful air of creepiness and tension about this episode, mixed in with a fascinating mystery and all this reminds me of a cross between the episodes Midnight and Silence in the Library. This is Doctor Who at its best, creeping us out while abandoning the Doctor and his companion in the middle of galactic nowhere without a Tardis or a sonic, which also happened in the premiere episode of Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor.
And can I just say that when Donna verbalizes that there is something so awful on this starship that the Tardis ran away, and she says, “then we go and kick its arse!”, I was laughing and cheering because that is so Donna Noble!
Final thoughts? Murray Gold is back as the composer for this season, which is wonderful as the music is as powerful as ever.
Kristine Cherry is a lifelong geek who comes by it honestly on her father’s side of the gene pool. She costumes, writes fanfiction, was the TimeSiren of SciFi Radio’s Corsair’s Closet Doctor Who podcast. She is currently writing her own series of fantasy death goddess eBooks via https://whocate.info
Kristine Cherry is a lifelong geek who comes by it honestly on her father's side of the gene pool. She costumes, writes fanfiction, was the TimeSiren of SciFi Radio's Corsair's Closet Doctor Who podcast. She is currently writing her own series of fantasy death goddess eBooks via https://whocate.info