Parents live in a constant state of worry. And one of the biggest things good parents worry about is our kids getting bullied or othered. Whether your kid is neurodivergent, non-binary, trans, quirky, or just likes to wear pajama pants to school when other kids are wearing jeans, parents always have to stick up for the specific way our kids simply exist. This job doesn’t end when kids become teenagers either. And as Donna Noble — a character imbued with Time Lord powers knows — sticking up for our kids is just as important as figuring out what to do with wibbly-wobbly temporal energy. In the latest and newest Doctor Who special, “The Star Beast,” Donna (Catherine Tate) gives parents everywhere words to live by. Mild spoilers ahead.
In the context of the somewhat complex Doctor Who mythos, “The Star Beast” is a soft reboot to new Doctor Who adventures, but also a direct sequel to the 2008 and 2010 episodes in which David Tennant’s titular Time Lord — the Doctor — had to erase Donna’s memories of traveling in space and time to protect her mind from burning up.
In “The Star Beast,” we rejoin Donna and her husband Shaun Temple (Karl Collins), who now have a 15-year-old daughter named Rose (Yasmin Finney). Rose is trans, which is discussed matter-of-factly in the episode, including in a very sweet moment in which Donna’s mother (Rose’s grandmother) wonders if she’s addressing Rose correctly. Donna acknowledges the clumsy mistakes the adults sometimes make — but the most powerful message in the new special is the way Doctor Who centers parental love as the thing that can save the universe.
Early in the episode, Donna tells her daughter Rose: “I would burn down the world for you darling. If anyone has a go, I will be there and I will descend.”
This is cool on several levels. First, this is just a moment all parents can connect to. If your kid is getting bullied, or not being understood by their teachers or peers, or whoever, all parents live by this motto.
The second reason this is awesome is that later, when Donna regains her memories and her Time Lord powers, she declares triumphantly in the face of alien adversity, “Donna Noble is descending!!”
Returning showrunner Russell T Davies has centered Doctor Who in family narratives since 2005. It’s not just the Doctor and a companion running away in the TARDIS, but often the entire family gets swept up in the action. In “The Star Beast,” we learn that the secret to Donna’s mind being able to handle the powerful Time Lord energy is simple: she became a parent. This too is a nice narrative for parents everywhere. Having a child doesn’t take away your old life, but in a sense, can turn you into your best, most powerful, and most capable self.
Doctor Who turn sixty this year, and began its life as a family show designed to teach kids about history through quirky time travel narratives. Today, it's an action-adventure show that doesn’t focus on “Chosen One” style heroes, but instead, lionizes the actions of quirky wanderers, and best of all, determined parents.
Is Doctor Who okay for kids?
“The Star Beast” is actually pretty family-friendly. However, there are some instances of soldiers being possessed by an alien force, and shooting rifles at the Noble-Temple family. The Doctor protects everyone, but that’s certainly something to note for younger kids watching. Also, the adorable furry creature, The Meep, is actually... SPOILER ALERT... very evil. So, if little kids think the Meep is cute, they may be freaked out when it reveals its true nature. Other than that, Doctor Who’s “The Star Beast” is probably fine for kids 7 and up, or younger kids who can handle Marvel or Star Wars movies. The Doctor is traditionally a non-violent hero, so, in a way, Doctor Who is automatically more family-friendly than most Marvel or Star Wars fare by default.