BooksDoctor Who

Doctor Who: The Star Beast by Gary Russell (book review).

Having started life as a comic this reimagined ‘Doctor Who’  episode, ‘The Star Beast’, becomes a novel and so the printed word wins.

Unexpectedly, the new doctor has regenerated back into the 10th century, albeit with all the memories of his other lives. He’s a bit confused, and even more so as destiny seems to have pushed him to Earth and straight into Donna, who he’s not seen since he had to wipe her memories and leave a lottery ticket with her dad on his farewell tour.

Donna doesn’t know who he is. She is married with a grown-up daughter, Rose, and the two people who know the truth are Granddad Wilf and her mother, Sylvia. Donna gives the Doctor fashion advice about wearing skinny trousers after the age of 35. It reminds him and us that time moves on, whether we like it or not.

The story of the beast, who turns out to be the not-so-cute and cuddly Meep, introduces Doctor 10¾ back to Donna, her family, and us, or rather, the new consumers. The resolution to Donna’s cruel treatment at the end of her time in the TARDIS is welcome. Her daughter, Rose, has absorbed those stories through Donna, but despite this, she does not become the new doctor’s companion. Should a spin-off truly be in development,

In the end, this episode and novel are the most we see of Rose, so at least she gets this novelization to expand her character. This also portrays Donna’s life, where she feels like she’s missing a crucial piece of the puzzle, and her mother’s struggle to keep Donna at a distance, despite knowing the truth, in order to prevent her death. I love that this addresses why Sylvia hates the doctor, as she has battled for fifteen years to keep Donna safe. I’m glad that someone has finally addressed this tragic situation.

We meet some new characters and establish UNIT’s personnel for the foreseeable future. It also trades heavily on coincidence, normally a no-no in fiction, but this is leading up to the new approach for the fifteenth Doctor as we move into fantasy territory, a portent of the arrival of chaos in the form of the Toymaker.

It’s an action-packed story that brings back the Doctor with a bang. The story features aliens, mind control, a significant amount of emotion, and a unique sound capable of shattering concrete. That’s all fine, but it’s the life of Donna and the Doctor really having his eyes opened to the consequences of his rock and roll lifestyle that hits home here.

It’s hard to remember now that this mini-series was a celebration of 60 years of ‘Doctor Who’. It feels nothing like that, but much more like a reboot for a wealthy investor who holds the purse strings. I’m still quite sad that all the Doctors got put back in the box and didn’t get to play at all.

Sue Davies

April 2024

(pub: BBC Books/Penguin, 2024. 160 page paperback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN-13 : 978-1785948459

check out website: www.penguin.co.uk/books/457028/doctor-who-the-star-beast-target-collection-by-russell-gary/9781785948459

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