Reviewed by Cliff Homewood

I own a Tom Baker scarf.  Am old enough to have read The Star Beast on it’s first release.  Although good enough to remember, I don’t think it’s that memorable.  I would have chosen Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer as the best of the comics. Not a ‘Doctor’ story, but hopefully we will get a good adaptation with Disney’s penchant for spin offs.  It’s a simple enough tale, one of love and vengeance, however emotions we can all understand so resonant. ‘The Star Beast’ should be commended for retaining the original’s visuals and inviting the creators onto set (Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons.)

I didn’t approve of Russell T Davies’ (RTD) return, it felt regressive.  I would have chosen J Michael Straczynski.  However Davies has proven he’s a great writer time after time and having the writer of Years and Years in charge of Doctor Who?  Yes please.

So onto the latest offering and return of a favoured Doctor.

The new title credits are great and we are off!

Starts nice and peppy, with the Doctor constantly bumping into past references.  A sense of mystery building.  Camden Market makes a pleasant change as the Jubilee was using the usual locations.  Ruth Madeley, as new semi-regular Scientific Adviser Shirley Bingham, is good casting and what the series needed, not picking on Davros (poor old Davros!).  I like her blinged up wheelchair, a Hero is born!  Been too long when you think the last wheelchair-bound hero from Doctor Who was way back in ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ (1964).

The Meep is so cute.  I liked the ET reference.  Miriam Margoyles was excellent as the Meep, and nice to have her in our Who family now, hopefully she might be persuaded to go to the Weekender one day!  If only we’d had Miriam Margoyles as the Doctor.  The programme would have to been x-rated though. ‘Did I tell you about the time I wanked off a Dalek? I realised the problem is their casings have no sexual organs and that’s why they are so pent up.’

I enjoyed it very much for the first 30 mins, with a nice light touch and the story building.

I don’t like when the Doctor can suddenly do something he’s never done before and never does again (Vulcan mind-meld in ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ for example) which would be so useful elsewhere.  Time will tell if his arsenal of tricks has improved.  Russell T Davies never seems that concerned about logical consistency.  The new budget can be seen on screen and nice to have the Shadow Proclamation referenced.

Some great acting from David Tennant and Catherine Tate in this episode, I warn you, they make you cry. How Russell T Davies gets out of the ‘If Donna remembers the Doctor she dies’ issue may give a clue to how well he’ll escape the ‘Tennant’s face has returned’ conundrum – properly explained away or just a bit of technobabble?  I needn’t have worried, a fairly satisfactory reason is provided.

It’s a good romp but not perfect. There’s quite a lot of wokeness for one episode. When it comes to integrating that agenda there’s a right way and a wrong way. And Davies pulls off both! A conversation with a trans character telling the Doctor not to just assume gender?  In character.  Fine (although I didn’t realise that the character was transgender hence my confusion at certain scenes!)  But an alien newly arrived to the planet stating, ‘My chosen pronoun is the definite article. I am always the Meep.’  That’s clunky, it doesn’t sound natural.  How is the Meep meant to have picked up such intricacies of modern social phrasing in the little time they were here? The TARDIS provides translations, does it also provide correct social conditioning?  That would be wrong. Shame later there is a display of sexism in an episode that tries so hard to be right.

The story doesn’t seem to make much sense, too OTT, but is emotional.  I forgot that RTD writes like that, in serious drama he makes things feel realistic but on Who he doesn’t care.  RTD is known for his indulgences. I think Tennant’s Doctor is still saying goodbye somewhere as RTD believed he had time to knock at the door of everyone he had ever known before he died.  Later scenes feel rushed with situations occurring without full explanation.  I wasn’t impressed with the Doctor being so blasé with Donna’s life.  He knows if she remembers him she’ll die, but waggle an electronic screwdriver in front of her?  She’ll be fine.  In fact, get her to hold it.  Just don’t call yourself the Doctor.  You could say it’s for comic effect, I don’t agree when it undermines character.

An enjoyable episode, showing Russell T Davies’ strengths and weaknesses as a writer.  For the 60th Anniversary episode there were a disappointing lack of other Doctor cameos.  Hopefully they are coming.  A touch of Ncuti would be nice.  It’s good that Doctor Who’s being progressive, SF should be forward thinking, but these elements should feel as if they occurred naturally and not wedged in.