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Doctor Who: The Star Beast Review

Out comes the sonic again, and this time its use is more contentious. Being able to magic up force fields feels pretty overpowered, frankly. Yes, it took him a bit of time to make them and we saw one of them shatter after a while, but letting the Doctor throw down portable shields like he’s mates with Master Chief feels pretty wild, even for a tool that’s summoned its fair share of deus ex machina over the years.

What is worth praising in this sequence, because it’s especially evident as we transition from a long shot of UNIT besieging Donna’s street to a top-down view of the Doctor and company sneaking away, is Rachel Talalay’s confident direction throughout the episode. These larger locations and sets give the camera room to roam free and roam it does, tracking the full length of Donna’s house as Sylvia charges around, gracefully changing elevation in the steelworks and lending a genuinely cinematic feel to proceedings.

Also worth mentioning is the clever story beat that comes as they escape. I was halfway through writing future-me a note, reminding myself to comment that the Wrarth are such stereotypically bad shots, they couldn’t even manage to dent Shaun’s taxi. Before I could finish, the Doctor promptly rug-pulled me by making the exact same observation to advance the plot, turning an age-old Doctor Who trope into a plot twist that reveals the malevolent nature of the Meep – not that we didn’t see that coming a mile away.

With the Meep’s spaceship threatening to burn a good chunk of London, there’s now a ticking clock and Donna chooses to stay with the Doctor and try to save the day. This results in the duo separated by a sheet of glass and Tennant screaming at the heavens (a very “The End of Time” moment) and soon there’s only one choice left: restoring Donna’s memories so that she has the knowledge she needs to help, even though that knowledge will kill her.

Donna, of course, will do whatever it takes to protect Rose and her family. The pair succeed in saving London before Donna collapses in the Doctor’s arms and seemingly dies, though it rings a bit hollow when we know that Catherine Tate will be in upcoming episodes. Personally, I was still grimacing at how the streets of London miraculously glued themselves back together – had there been a less catastrophic level of damage caused, there’d have been no need to hit the undo button, and seeing a genuine aftermath would have put a bit more weight behind the threat of the Meep’s revenge.

That threat, however, is ended by Rose, who comes out of nowhere to flip switches and spout technobabble at a rate of three hundred milli-Pertwees. Thanks to her, our heroes escape the ship, the Meep is taken into custody after delivering this series’ Ominous Portent of a Returning Villain, and the world is saved.

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