Fiction Reviews

Doctor Who: The Star Beast

(2023) Gary Russell, Target – BBC Books,
£9.99 / Can$19.99 / US$13.99, pbk, 220pp, ISBN 978-1-785-94845-9


A life-changing encounter. A fugitive from the stars. Wrathful warriors in pursuit.

Landing on Earth, the Doctor finds a stranded alien in need of protection – and is dragged headlong into the life of his old friend Donna Noble, knowing that if she ever remembers their time together, she will die…

This is actually not the first time that the story of 'The Star Beast' has been told. It originally appeared in Doctor Who Weekly in 1980, featuring the Fourth Doctor, and then in 2019 as a Big Finish audio adventure, with Tom Baker reprising his role as the Fourth Doctor, and here it is again as the book version of a broadcasted story. That’s one way to recycle old stories.

This is the novelisation of the first of three special 60th anniversary Doctor Who episodes, but what’s this? This isn’t the newly promised Doctor. Jodie Whittaker has regenerated into…David Tennant! What the? Why’s he back, and not only is he back, he’s about to meet up with his old friend and companion Donna Noble. Except they can never meet because if Donna regained her memories of their previous time together that will be too much for her poor Earthly brain, which will probably melt, along with her head exploding. Her family have done their best to protect her from the weird and wonderful stuff going on in the world in case it revives her memories, but Donna is incomplete, with losing her memories she has also lost her drive and determination and is a bit aimless in life.

The story is told 7 chapters, but with added “extracts” in between, which include documents like a communication from the Ministry of Defence, a memo from UNIT's Scientific Adviser's Office, an email to Donna’s daughter Rose from a satisfied customer, an article from 'The Shadow Proclamation', another article from Galaxipedia about the Galactic Council Massacre and some text messages. To be honest these feel unnecessary and a way to pad out the novel a bit – of the three books based on the 60th anniversary specials this is the shortest, and we get a lot of reminders about the Doctor and Donna’s past and the jeopardy she is in should she regain her memories. There is also a recurring character, one Stewart Ferguson, who crops up several times in the action. The first time, almost right at the start of the story where the Doctor has a calming influence on him, which was a power or ability I didn’t remember the Doctor ever exhibiting. I also didn’t remember Stewart, and had to re-watch the episode again to make sure I hadn’t missed him, and I hadn’t. Who knows if he was ever in the original script or in some deleted scenes, but he does feature more in the story than some of the regular supporting cast.

However, there’s also a nice bit of foreshadowing near the end of the story when the alien, Meep mentions that “the Boss” will be interested to know that the Doctor has two hearts. No doubt the 15th Doctor will encounter this “Boss” at some point during his adventures.

Finally, after the story finishes there is an announcement by cover artist Anthony Dry telling us that his artistic contributions have come to an end. Over the years he has done a perfect job in not only capturing the spirit of each individual story, but also the spirit of the old Target book covers. He will be missed, and it will be interesting to see who takes his place.

To sum up, this is an okay adaptation of the televised story, but it won’t set the heather on fire. Probably one for devoted Whovians to complete their Target collection, but I can’t really see anyone else going out of their way to purchase this.

Ian Hunter


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