Doctor Who: The Star Beast kicked off a three-episode "mini-season" of Doctor Who in celebration of the show's 60th anniversary, reuniting former stars David Tennant and Catherine Tate as they once again foiled an alien threat against Earth — and set up some intriguing story arcs for the next two weeks in the process.
We began with the newly-regenerated Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant) recapping his adventures with former companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), reminding us that she once saved the world by taking the power of the Time Lords into her mind — but doing so took such a terrible toll on her human body that the Doctor had to wipe all her memories of their time together in order to save her life, and that if she ever remembered him, it would kill her. In between this, we also got a few shots of Donna telling us that she sometimes dreams of creatures and adventures — that she has a nice life now, but something is missing. The Doctor ended this reflection by pointing out that he's got an old face back, and he doesn't know why — but he suspects it's because this particular story isn't over yet.
The Doctor then touched down in London's Camden Market where he spots a woman struggling with a pile of boxes so high it covered her face, so the Doctor rushed over to help — only to realize that this woman was in fact Donna, so he immediately put the boxes back, much to her annoyance. Fortunately, it was clear that Donna didn't recognize or remember the Doctor, but he was confused when she started calling out for Rose, thinking she was addressing another of his former companions (played by Billie Piper) — but in fact, she was calling out for her daughter, Rose Noble (Heartstopper's Yasmin Finney), who she was carrying the boxes for, because Rose has an online business making stuffed toys and had been shopping for supplies.
At that moment, a spaceship flew overhead to the amazement of everyone — except Donna, who missed it because she was too busy rearranging the boxes. The Doctor then heard someone else shouting out for Rose — and this time it was Shaun Temple (Karl Collins), Donna's husband, Rose's father and a London cabbie. The Doctor promptly hopped into Shaun's cab and directed him to the site of the spaceship's landing — an old steelworks. During the journey, the Doctor pretended that he knew Donna via a friend of a friend — Nerys — and found out that Donna and Shaun had won £166m on the lottery, but that after they'd bought their house, Donna had given the rest away to charity. Arriving at the steelworks, the Doctor overheard UNIT scientist Shirley Anne Bingham (Years And Years star Ruth Madeley) observing that the ship seems to have parked rather than crash-landed.
On their way home, Rose received transphobic abuse from some local kids, but Donna told her in no uncertain terms that she would do anything to protect her. Back at Donna's house, her mum Sylvia (Jacqueline King) was preparing dinner, and was very quick to shut down any of Rose's talk of spaceships because, unlike Rose, she knows all about Donna's adventures with the Doctor and how remembering any of it could kill her. Meanwhile outside, Rose's friend and neighbour Fudge (Dara Lall) told her that a part of the spaceship had broken off — what looked like an escape pod. In an alleyway behind their house, Rose discovered an alien creature called The Meep (voiced by Miriam Margolyes), a sweet, furry creature with enormous eyes, who told her that it was not safe because monsters were in pursuit and hunting the Meep. Sure enough, we then saw the fearsome Wrarth Warriors descending to Earth in search of the Meep.
Finally meeting the Doctor, Shirley asked him why he was hiding, and the Doctor admitted that he doesn't know who he is any more — he has an old face, but feels like a different person. He also felt deeply concerned that whatever was going on, it was all heading for Donna — but he didn't want to get involved, because he didn't want to be responsible for her death. Returning to her troops, Shirley sent them up to gain entry to the ship — but as the door opened, a swirling energy force shot out of the ship and into the soldiers, making their eyes glow, something they quickly concealed by flipping their visors down.
Rose took the Meep to the shed in the back garden where she makes her toys, and the two of them bonded briefly over feeling lost and alienated. When Donna came in to fetch Rose, the Meep hid in Rose's stash of toys, but Donna was so impressed with how realistic this one was that she went in for a closer look — and saw it blinking. Cue chaos as the Meep screamed, Donna screamed, and Sylvia came rushing out of the house frantically trying to convince Donna that absolutely none of this was real. The Doctor chose this moment to knock on the front door, only to be told in no uncertain terms to go away by Sylvia. When he used the sonic screwdriver to let himself in, she walloped him — but wasn't quick enough to stop Donna from seeing him.
Donna questioned the Doctor about why he kept showing up everywhere, and he tried to keep to his cover story of being a friend of "Nerys". He asked after Wilf (Donna's grandfather, played by the late Bernard Cribbins), and was told by Donna that "he's not with us any more" — but after the Doctor took this to mean he was dead, Donna and Shaun clarified that he'd moved into sheltered accommodation, which a lovely woman called Kate (clearly a reference to UNIT's Kate Stewart, played by Jemma Redgrave) had arranged for him for next to nothing in light of him being an old soldier.
The Meep explained that the Wrarth Warriors were pursuing it because they hunt Meepkind for their beautiful fur, despite this having been intergalactically outlawed. At this point, the Wrarth Warriors arrived in the back garden, just as the Doctor realised that the UNIT soldiers out the front were possessed — and both sides opened fire on the house. The Doctor used his sonic screwdriver to create a set of forcefields across the hallway allowing Donna, Shaun, Rose, Sylvia and the Meep to escape up into the attic, where they could make their way to the house five doors down (again with a bit of help from the sonic screwdriver to move some bricks) next to where Shaun had parked his taxi — but unfortunately Donna's house was pretty much a write-off by the time they got away.
As the Doctor drove Donna, Shaun, Rose, Sylvia and the Meep away in Shaun's taxi, one of the soldiers was shot behind them and fell to the ground, and the Doctor made an observation: "Either we've escaped, or we've got things very wrong." He drove them to a car park where he pulled a judge's wig out of his coat and proceeded to invoke protocols 15, P and 6 of the Shadow Proclamation, summoning the two main Wrarth Warriors while he attempted to get to the bottom of things. The Doctor had noticed that the taxi showed no signs of damage, despite being shot several times, and that the UNIT soldier was merely unconscious, and not dead — so the Wrarth Warriors' weapons were merely stun guns. The Meep protested that they were clearly there to kill the Meep — but the Doctor pointed out that the only people there who were looking to kill were the soldiers with the swirling eyes, so were they coming to kill the Meep... or to save it?
While the Meep continued protesting, the Wrarth Warriors took over the story, explaining that the Meep's home planet basked in the light of a living sun — but one day that sun turned psychedelic, and the radiation it emitted caused all of Meepkind to mutate, turning them all into "cruel beasts who live for conquest". The Meeps proceeded to behead and eat the Galactic Council, and the Wrarth Warriors were summoned to get them under control, but the Meeps chose to die rather than surrender, and the only one who survived was their leader — the cruellest of all. At this point the Meep's eyes changed colour and it revealed a sinister set of sharp teeth — as well as a very real, very lethal gun which it used to kill the two Wrath Warriors!
The Meep, along with its hypnotised soldiers, captured the Doctor, Donna, Rose, Shaun and Sylvia and bundled them into a truck. While they were travelling, Donna wanted to know who the Doctor really was, and why Sylvia was acting like she knew him. The Doctor continued to be evasive, and Donna revealed that the reason she had given away her lottery win was because she knew there were people out there in danger, pain and fear, and she knew she could help — "it felt like the sort of thing he would do." The truck then took them all back to the steelworks, where the Meep revealed its evil plan: it had come to Earth for the ship to be mended, and in order for the ship to take off again, it would need to activate its double-bladed dagger drive — which extracts power by stabbing down, which would result in the entirety of London being destroyed and the certain death of the nine million people who live there (and presumably also any visitors who had the misfortune of being there at that specific moment).
The Meep intended for the Doctor and Donna and her family to be taken aboard the spaceship to become an in-flight meal, but Shirley intercepted the possessed soldiers who were escorting them and took them out with some rather nifty stun darts that she had hidden in her wheelchair. She told Donna and her family how they could escape, and informed the Doctor that his help was needed in the spaceship's engine control room to stop it from taking off. While Donna went with her family to the exit, she had a change of heart and told Shaun to get Rose to safety while she went back to help because "if the Doctor can't save the city, we'll all die" — and Sylvia realised with horror that Donna had called him "the Doctor".
Just as the Doctor activated the deadlock to the Meep ship's control room, Donna jumped inside and said she wanted to help. The Meep then activated a glass barrier that split the control room in two with Donna on one side and the Doctor on the other. As the Meep and its enslaved minions activated the ships' engines, the streets of London started to crack open, and Donna insisted that she wanted to help. The Doctor told her that the two of them could stop the ship together, but that it would result in Donna's death — but when Donna remained resolute, the Doctor began reciting the code words that would cause her to become the DoctorDonna again. As she started to recognise them, they began chanting the words together until Donna finished the final three words by herself: "binary, binary, binary", completing the restoration of her Time Lord powers.
Hilariously, DoctorDonna's initial reaction to the restoration of her memories was fury at the realisation she'd given away her lottery win: "I gave away all my money! And do you know why, Doctor? I gave it away to be like you - so I could be kind, so I could be nice, so I could be helpful. I had a subconscious, infracutaneous retrofold memory loop making me act as soft as you and give away £166million!" Nonetheless, once she'd got over that particular piece of trauma, she leapt into action and the two of them began the extremely complicated process of shutting down the Meep's ship, including this rather heartbreaking exchange:
DOCTORDONNA: "How long have I got to live?"
THE DOCTOR: "55 seconds."
DOCTORDONNA: "Best 55 seconds of my life, because I get to do this!"
Sure enough, the two of them managed to deactivate the dagger drive and the streets of London returned to normal, much to the Meep's fury — but it seemed like a hollow victory as the DoctorDonna collapsed in the Doctor's arms. The Meep sent in soldiers to capture them, but just as the Meep called for the Doctor's destruction, the swirling lights disappeared from the soldiers eyes, much to everyone's confusion — including a suddenly awake Donna. It turned out that this was the handiwork of Rose, who had taken over the control panel on the ground, broken the Meep's hypnosis and generally rendered any Earthbound threat to be null and void.
As the Doctor and Donna came down to ground level where Donna rejoined her family, the Doctor had a realisation: the Time Lord knowledge was too much power for one person, but in having a child, Donna had passed down the metacrisis and it had become a shared inheritance. Donna realised that it had always been there — in Rose choosing her own name, in the shed that represented Rose's memories of the TARDIS, in the toys she created that resembled all the aliens Donna had met on her travels. The Doctor pointed out that while Donna was binary, Rose was not — because the Doctor is male and female, and neither, and more. The Meep threatened to activate the ship's engine again — and the Doctor responded by triggering the ship's ejector pod, parachuting the Meep back down to Earth.
For the attempted destruction of London as well as the murder of two Wrarth Warriors, the Meep was sentenced to 10,000 years in prison, but it had this parting shot for the Doctor: "A creature with two hearts is a rare thing. Just wait till I tell... The Boss!" (The Doctor's response? "Cryptic! I hate that.") The Doctor remained concerned that the metacrisis energy would still be too much for both Donna and Rose to contend with — but Rose and Donna had already come up with a solution by themselves, one that "a male-presenting Time Lord will never understand", and they simply chose to let go of it, allowing it to dissipate out of their bodies, with Rose remarking that she finally felt like herself.
Returning to Camden, the Doctor informed Donna that UNIT's excellent insurance would take care of the damage to her house, and offered her a trip in the TARDIS while the work was being done. Donna initially declined, stating her family responsibilities (while also telling Rose she wasn't allowed to step inside the TARDIS because "you'll end up on Mars with Chaucer and a robot shark"), but the Doctor suggested he and Donna could take one very quick trip to visit Wilf, who would be delighted to know they were together again. Despite Sylvia's reluctance, Donna couldn't resist the temptation of one very last, very tiny trip together.
Stepping inside, the Doctor was delighted to discover the TARDIS had changed again to a cavernous, white interior full of walkways — it even had a coffee machine, which Donna took advantage of, remarking that she lost her most recent job when she spilled coffee on a computer. Donna suggested to the Doctor that even if this was their last trip together, it didn't have to be the end, that he could pop by and visit her and the family from time to time, that they could be friends — what could go wrong? And at that precise moment, Donna spilt her coffee on the TARDIS console, causing it to go absolutely haywire and transport the two of them to an unknown destination, that the Doctor admitted could be absolutely "anywhere in time and space"!
What happens next? Where will the Doctor and Donna end up? Who is the boss that the Meep was referring to? Why does the Doctor have an old face back? Does the TARDIS's coffee machine do hot chocolate as well? We'll hopefully find out the answers to at least some of these questions in the next episode, Wild Blue Yonder...