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Doctor Who The Star Beast ending explained: how does Donna survive?

Now that the first 60th anniversary special has arrived, let's unpack The Star Beast ending to ask how Doctor Who's Donna Noble survived.

Doctor Who The Star Beast ending explained: Doctor and Meep

Warning: spoilers ahead! The Star Beast is, for the most part, a very straightforward, classic Doctor Who story. An alien crashes down to earth, and chaos ensues. But, because it features the return of both David Tennant as The Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, it’s also much more than that, and the The Star Beast ending requires some explanation.

Of course, Doctor Who: The Star Beast can’t just be a story about The Doctor and Donna saving the day because when we last saw the beloved Doctor Who companion she had her memory of her adventures wiped, and the return of those memories would kill her. So, here’s a full recount of everything that happened, unpacking the ending.

Doctor Who The Star Beast ending explained summary

  • The Star Beast sees The Doctor reunite with Donna Noble, who now has a family while a mysterious alien crashes to Earth, pursued by the Wrath Warriors.
  • Donna’s memories are restored by The Doctor in order to save London, putting her life at risk.
  • His former companion survives after the Time Lord energy passed onto her daughter, Rose Noble. The mother and daughter shared the energy, and let it go, saving Donna’s life.

The arrival of the Meep

So, now that we’ve all seen the conclusion of the episode, what exactly went on? As a brief overview, the 14th Doctor arrives in London and immediately bumps into Donna Noble. Curious. An alien spaceship then streaks across the evening sky in a blaze of fire and light, before crashing to the surface. Even curious-er.

That alien is Beep the Meep, who survives the crash and meets Donna Noble’s daughter, Rose. Rose takes Meep to the Noble house, where it’s soon discovered by Donna. But Meep isn’t the only alien who arrived on earth: the insectoid Wrath Warriors are pursuing Meep too, equipped with powerful weapons.

Doctor Who The Star Beast ending explained: Meep's starship

This all comes to a head on Donna’s street, with the Wrath Warriors, UNIT, another mind-controlled UNIT squad, and The Doctor all battling to either protect or attack the Meep. Except, the Wrath Warriors’ attacks aren’t very powerful: they’re using stun guns.

The Doctor surmises that not all is as it seems and that the angrily named Wrath Warriors don’t intend to do any harm. He takes The Meep and two of its pursuers into a parking lot to investigate and uncovers that the sweet, innocent-looking Meep is an intergalactic warlord capable of mind control. The Wrath Warriors are peacekeepers, looking to apprehend the villain. A twist!

Doctor Who The Star Beast ending explained: The Doctor and Rose

The needs of the many

Meep ends the facade of the investigation by murdering the Wrath Warriors and takes The Doctor, Donna, and her family hostage. This is where the conclusion really begins.

The Meep has repaired its crashed starship with the help of its UNIT squad and intends to catapult it back into space using a type of engine that destroys everything in a ten-mile radius, putting 9 million lives at risk.

Doctor Who The Star Beast ending explained: Catherine Tate as Donna Noble

Naturally, The Doctor attempts to save the day by getting into the ship’s engine, and Donna (who seems to be beginning to recall glimpses of the past) sneaks in with him. He gets close to deactivating the ship before a barrier descends between them, forcing him to rely on Donna to finish the job. But, in order to give her the ability to finish the shutdown, he’d have to restore her memory, and if he does that, she’ll die (with the Time Lord energy in her mind unlocking and burning her brain). Phew, what a conundrum.

The solution is an easy one, ultimately, because Donna’s fine with that tradeoff. Her sacrifice will save her family and the lives of millions. So, The Doctor says a string of words that opens up her memory, and she regains the knowledge of the meta-crisis Time Lord (and her experience as DoctorDonna) and completes the shutdown. London is saved, and Beep the Meep is defeated, but at the expense of Donna.

She seems to die in The Doctor’s arms before springing back into life. The Time Lord energy didn’t kill her! But how?!

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Rose and Donna

Well, when Donna had her daughter Rose, some of that Time Lord energy dispersed to her. Donna was, therefore, able to handle the energy temporarily. As The Doctor says, “The meta-crisis passed down, a shared inheritance.”

But, with the energy now unlocked in both Donna and Rose, what next? As it turns out, Donna and Rose were able to just… let it go. No, seriously, they just let it go. By opening themselves up, they were able to allow the Time Lord meta-crisis energy to disperse out of them, freeing themselves from any short or long-term danger.

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So, the tragic end of Donna’s tale, as seen in Journey’s End, has been undone, and it wasn’t that hard after all. All it needed was for Donna to have a daughter to share the energy with.

With London saved, Beep the Meep captured, and Donna and Rose both safe, things look back to normal. The Doctor offers to take Donna on one more trip to see Wilf, but a split coffee on the TARDIS console sends the time machine spinning out of control into the galaxy and toward another adventure.

For more time-traveling magic, check out our full The Star Beast review, and see our picks for the best David Tennant Doctor Who episodes. Or, check out what else is new on Disney Plus this month before seeing our list of the best TV series of all time.