At the end of The Star Beast, David Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor is faced with an impossible decision: save millions or save Donna Noble. With the Meep – all hail! – set to launch its master plan, it appeared that the Time Lord would have to make a major sacrifice.
But that’s not quite how it all went down. Instead, The Star Beast signed off with several twists and turns, plus a cryptic teaser for what might come next. Below, we’ll run through all of your burning questions from the end of the first 60th Anniversary Special, including how you-know-who seemingly returned from the dead. Caution: Donna Noble is descending.
MAJOR spoilers for The Star Beast follow…
How is Donna still alive?
First, a history lesson. Back in 2009’s episode Journey’s End, Donna comes into contact with some of the Doctor’s regeneration energy, essentially making her half-Time Lord. However, the Doctor decides she will not be able to survive with having that much power, so wipes her memories. He warns that if Donna were to ever remember the Doctor, she would die.
Despite that ultimatum, Catherine Tate’s formidable companion managed to get out of The Star Beast (relatively) unscathed.
How so? After Donna leaves her family behind to help the Doctor stop the Meep’s dagger drive from destroying London, Fourteen realizes that he needs the power – and mind – of Donna’s dormant Time Lord energy to help save the day.
By recounting their past adventures, the Doctor ‘activates’ Doctor-Donna – who immediately remembers and leaps into action, stopping the launch by vindicating the cyberline (among other technobabble) and reversing the ignition.
After the best 55 seconds of her life, Donna seemingly collapses and dies. But it’s revealed that some of her power transferred to her child, Rose.
“The meta-crisis passed down, a shared inheritance,” the Doctor explains.
How did Rose save the day?
When Donna transformed into Doctor-Donna once more, half – give or take, the show doesn’t exactly quantify it – of the Time Lord power ends up with Rose. If Donna is ‘binary’, Rose is ‘non-binary’ – and is able to contain the remaining power.
Using that ability, Rose works her magic on the outside, shutting down the Meep’s control over the UNIT soldiers.
It’s also revealed that Rose has always had that “light” (i.e. the Time Lord’s powers) shining out of her. It’s manifested in multiple ways: the shed where she creates her figures resembles the TARDIS, and the figures themselves are all connected to Donna and the Doctor’s adventures – including the Ood. As Fourteen and Donna explain, the Doctor is male and female, but Rose is neither. In her words, she’s “more”.
To solve the meta-crisis, Donna and Rose (hilariously) just “let it go”.
“It’s a shame you’re not a woman anymore, ‘cos she would have understood,” Donna jokes.
Who is the Meep’s boss?
Upon its defeat, the Meep (Miriam Margoyles) is set to be imprisoned for its crimes. But it leaves the Doctor with a parting warning: that the “boss” would be keen to hear about a creature with two hearts.
In the Doctor Who comics, the Meep doesn’t have a direct superior. Logic would dictate, then, that Neil Patrick Harris’ Toymaker (set to appear in a future special) will be linked to the Meep in some way. If not, it could serve as merely breadcrumbs for a future foe of Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor to face. Either way, Russell T Davies has dropped a hint that will be poured over endlessly by the Whoniverse. Fourteen may hate it, but it’s cryptic for a reason.
What happened to the TARDIS?
The TARDIS has a new look, complete with a pristine, clean white interior that pretty closely resembles the medical ship the Tsuranga. David Tennant’s Doctor is overjoyed by the change, racing up and down the platforms with childish delight (there’s now a coffee machine so we understand the excitement).
Out of universe, the TARDIS has been re-designed to launch a new era with Ncuti Gatwa, as well as the show getting a bump up in budget thanks to its worldwide streaming rights being snapped up by Disney Plus.
While it’s never been fully explained in-universe, it’s largely accepted that the TARDIS changes itself and molds itself on each new regeneration.
Why is the Doctor David Tennant again?
Donna has her own theory: that the Doctor’s face has returned to say goodbye to his loved ones. For now, however, the jury is still out on why Fourteen has Ten’s face again. Given the 60th anniversary teasers, it’s likely something to do with the Toymaker – especially as Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor is seemingly trapped somewhere. Expect that question to be on the Doctor’s mind a lot more in the coming specials.
What next for Donna and The Doctor?
Donna and the Doctor will return in two more specials: Wild Blue Yonder and The Giggle. Not a great deal is known about the two episodes, but the 60th anniversary trailer offers up some clues.
Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and the Toymaker are appearing in at least one of the next two specials, while the Doctor and Donna encounter something that causes the TARDIS to “run away”.
We imagine Donna and the Doctor’s initial destination – the retirement cottage for Bernard Cribbins’ Wilf – will be saved for the third special in December. Cribbins, who died in 2022 aged 93, filmed scenes for the 60th anniversary before his passing.
Then we’ve got the Fifteen-shaped elephant in the room: Ncuti Gatwa is coming, but we don’t know how or when the new Doctor will show up, only that he has his own Christmas special next month.