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Doctor Who: Is the big comeback story based on a comic book drawn by Watchmen's Dave Gibbons?

Could "The Star Beast" be an adaptation of the 1979 comic strip "Doctor Who and the Star Beast"?

Doctor Who

This weekend, to the delight of fans who’ve been eagerly anticipating any information about the new era of Doctor Who, the BBC released a new trailer for the three special episodes coming at the end of the year, bringing back writer/producer Russell T. Davies and stars David Tennant and Catherine Tate. This trailer didn’t just feature teasing clips of the episodes themselves, but also introduced the titles of each episode.

Those episode titles are, in reverse order: The Giggle, Wild Blue Yonder, and The Star Beast.

Accompanying the title reveals, Davies — newly reinstalled as the showrunner of the Doctor Who — released a statement saying, “The titles are just the beginning of the Doctor’s biggest adventure yet. Autumn is coming, with three hours of danger, Donna and disaster about to be unleashed!”

What he didn’t say is that one of those titles has a particular significance for Doctor Who fans and comic book fans alike.

Back in 1979, the UK division of Marvel Comics launched Doctor Who Weekly, a new title aimed squarely at fans of the British science fiction institution. It wasn’t the first time the character had appeared in comics — he’d been a mainstay in anthologies from other publishers for more than a decade by this point — but this was his own title, and it launched with a creative team that had a lot of clout: the lead Doctor Who strip would be co-written by Judge Dredd co-creator John Wagner and 2000 AD co-creator Pat Mills, with art by Dave Gibbons, just a handful of years ahead of his career-defining Watchmen work.

Mills and Wagner alternated storylines, with each reportedly working off pitches they’d tried to sell to the BBC as scripts for the television show itself. Wagner’s stories were “City of the Damned,” and “The Dogs of War,” the latter of which mixed Daleks and werewolves (because Wagner’s always been good at high concepts). Mills, meanwhile, offered up “The Iron Legion” and… well, let’s look at the splash page for his second offering, shall we…?

Doctor Who Weekly

As someone who loves this particular era of Doctor Who comics — I’m a massive fan of the Mills and Wagner stories for 2000 AD of this period, and Gibbons’ art has always been top-notch — the name of the first of Davies’ three comeback specials caught my attention immediately. “I wonder if it’s a coincidence or if it’s meant to be a reference to the old comic?” I thought to myself, and then I saw this image in the trailer:

Doctor Who

The reason this caught my attention was… well… this is from Mills and Gibbons’ comic book “Star Beast”:

Doctor Who Weekly

…It really, genuinely, looks like the first episode of the new era of Doctor Who — the 60th anniversary special for the entire franchise — might be an adaptation of a black and white comic book story from 1979. Which is genuinely mindboggling… all the more so when I tell you that the “Star Beast” comic is, honestly, a very silly story in which an alien that looks like a cute giant space cat-thing plays on everyone’s sympathies while simultaneously thinking things like, “You stupid Earth creatures! It was easy for a superior intelligence to follow you!” That he claims he belongs to an alien race called the “Meeps” doesn’t help matters; the whole thing is very camp, very fun, and entirely unserious romp… and hardly the kind of thing that TV audiences are going to be expecting if it’s adapted faithfully for the screen.

It’s worth pointing out that the story would have fitted easily into the previous era of Russell T. Davies showrunning Doctor Who — an era that included sentient (and adorable!) aliens made out of human fat, let’s never forget — and that Davies’ last time in charge of the franchise saw two of the era’s most popular episodes, “Blink” and “Human Nature,” adapted from a prose story from a Doctor Who annual and a 1990s spin-off novel, respectively. It only makes sense that the television “Star Beast” will, in fact, be a version of the 1979 comic book story.

More will be revealed as the November debut of the new episodes draws closer, no doubt. But for now…? Maybe it’s time for Who fans to revisit the 1970s comics, just in case. Hit those back issue bins...!

Doctor Who is set to return to screens in November 2023. In the UK, it will be available as always on the BBC; internationally, it'll be part of Disney+.

Wondering how to get into Doctor Who? We have a guide to help you with that.

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About the Author
Graeme McMillan avatar

Graeme McMillan

Staff Writer

Popverse staff writer Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.

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