Doctor Who is ‘epic, action-packed fun’

There are flaws, inevitably. The denouement’s attempt to connect Rose’s trans identity to Donna’s psychic predicament lands clunkily. Murray Gold’s music remains blunderingly obvious, to the detriment of many scenes. But what makes the whole experience truly satisfying is the undertow of melancholy behind Tennant’s slapstick, Tate’s affronted bewilderment – she gets some truly great lines, not least furiously denouncing The Meep as “Mad Paddington” – Davies’s repartee and Talalay’s sturm-und-drang. Tennant’s Doctor ended his previous stint alone, having ruined everything around him.  Now, trapped behind an old face that evokes old memories, he no longer knows who he is. In an exquisite little moment Donna is handed the Sonic Screwdriver and glances at it in puzzlement, as if she half-remembers what it means. “Sometimes I feel like there’s something missing,” she tells her mother. “Like I had something lovely, and it’s gone.” Don’t we all?

Nostalgia is the phantom limb ache for what is lost, the desire to return to a home that no longer exists. And Doctor Who represents the best of childhood in all its vivid possibilities, its curiosity and guileless idealism. Unique among TV shows, it endlessly refreshes itself, always different, always the same. In The Star Beast Davies weaves the nostalgic aches of his characters and his audience into something genuinely moving, something that could only happen on this particular show. 

Doctor Who always prospers when it is a show watched by all the family, and withers when it retreats to the comfort of the nerdy bedroom and the continuity-obsessed sci-fi forum. If you are a child of the 2005 reinvention, then The Star Beast is Doctor Who as you remember it from your childhood: warm, inclusive, funny, busy and dramatic, with a rich and relatable human supporting cast. If you’re older it’s a return to the show you might have watched with your own kids, when you saw their eyes light up like yours did at their age. Flaws and all, it’s Who the way it used to be. It turns out you can go home again after all.  

★★★★☆

Doctor Who: The Star Beast is available to watch in the US and internationally on Disney+, while the second and third 60th anniversary specials will launch on the platform on 2 and 9 December

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