New Doctor Who Monsters Are Such Deep Cuts That You Can't Even Watch Their Original Episodes
Both Beep the Meep and the Celestial Toymaker are Who creatures from the very edge of the show's distant past.
Starting on November 25, and continuing all the way through Christmas Day, Doctor Who is celebrating six decades of being the longest-running science fiction series on the planet. Three of these special episodes star David Tennant, returning to the role of the Doctor after having played the character from 2005 to 2010. He’ll soon hand over the TARDIS key to Ncuti Gatwa before Christmas, but before that happens, this rebooted Tennant Time Lord will face at least two classic Doctor Who monsters from the show’s rich history.
It makes sense for the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who we would get some old-school aliens. But, the most hilarious thing about two of the prominent guest characters in the upcoming episodes is you can’t even watch the original episodes with their first appearances — at all. Here’s what to know about Beep the Meep and the Celestial Toymaker, and why these deep cuts are deeper cuts from before the dawn of Easter eggs.
Beep the Meep has never been seen on TV — until now
Without getting into spoilers for the first Doctor Who 2023 special, “The Star Beast,” the episode does feature a cuddly, furry creature called “the Meep.” As has been widely reported in the press, the Meep is voiced by Miriam Margolyes. For longtime Doctor Who fans, Beep the Meep is a known character, just not one who has appeared in a single filmed TV episode, ever. And that’s because the Meep derives from a 1980 comic-strip story (also titled “The Star Beast”) first published and serialized in the magazine Doctor Who: Weekly, the original story of the Meep ran for eight issues. It featured the 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) landing on Earth, and with the help of new companions Sharon and Fudge, dealing with the Wrarth Warriors, and the mysterious, and seemingly adorable ... the Meep.
Beep the Meep was only a black-and-white creation in the comic strip until 1984, when, at that time, some Doctor Who comic strips were reprinted in color by Marvel Comics in the U.S. The legacy of this comic lives on, because recent promotional art for the new “Star Beast” echoes the cover art of the Tom Baker comic book Meep. Interestingly by 1984, Tom Baker was no longer the incumbent Doctor on TV; in fact, both Peter Davison and Colin Baker played the Doctor that year, though Tom Baker was a long-time fan favorite. So, the fact that a previous Doctor was “debuting” in the U.S. Marvel comics in 1984 (with the Meep) has a weird sideways parallel to the new David Tennant throwbacks of today.
Outside of comic book/comic strip form, perhaps the best way to experience “classic” Beep the Meep is in the 2019 audio version “Doctor Who and the Star Beast,” which features Tom Baker as the voice of the 4th Doctor, in an updated adaptation of the comic story. The original version of “The Star Beast” was conceived as a possible TV episode by writers Pat Mills and John Wagner, and so, for the audio version, writer Alan Barnes basically adapted the story to play out like a 4th Doctor-era TV serial. The result is hilarious and brilliant, and if you’re looking for a Tom Baker adventure you’ve never experienced, this one is not the worst place to start.
As of this writing, it’s not been revealed how much “The Star Beast” in 2023 borrows from “The Star Beast” in 1980 (or 1984. Or 2019!) but one thing is for sure; the Meep will finally appear in all of its furry glory, giving longtime Who fans at least one quirky present for the 60th anniversary.
The Vanishing Celestial Toymaker
And the old-school references keep coming! In at least one of the new specials, Neil Patrick Harris has been confirmed as a new version of a very old Who nemesis named The Celestial Toymaker. This character comes from an April 1966 Doctor Who serial — “The Celestial Toymaker” — which aired toward the end of the William Hartnell 1st Doctor era. The Toymaker himself is someone the Doctor already knows in this very first black-and-white adventure and warns his companions — Steven and Dodo — to beware of the Toymaker’s power saying: “He’s a power for evil, he manipulates people and makes them into his playthings.”
At the beginning of the original story, the Doctor is briefly rendered both intangible and invisible, which was the real-life result of William Hartnell not being able to film in person at the time. Eventually, the Doctor and his allies defeat the Toymaker at a “Trilogic Game,” and other challenges. It’s a bit like a slower version of the Deep Space Nine episode “Move Along Home,” fused with something the Joker might throw at Adam West in a 1960s Batman episode, but considerably slower-paced.
However, if you wanted to hit up Tubi or Britbox and watch “The Celestial Toymaker” from 1966, you can’t. This is one of several early Doctor Who episodes that were lost because of the fact that the BBC simply didn’t save all the old film reels back in the day. Much of 2nd Doctor’s Patrick Troughton era is missing, and like Hartnell’s, many have been recreated with animation combined with recovered audio tracks. Today, “The Celestial Toymaker” can only be experienced two ways: As a novelized version by Gerry Davis and Alison Bingeman, or as a pretty well-constructed audio version.
The audio version (which you can find on Audible and more recently on a newly reissued vinyl record) is also narrated by Peter Purves, who also plays Steven. This narration is 100 percent necessary, too, since we can’t see the action happening on the screen, because like the Doctor getting turned invisible, the complete episode isn’t available in its entirety. You can find clips of the episode on YouTube, but if you’re looking for a true, complete version of this tale to prime you for the Toymaker’s return in this year’s Doctor Who specials, the audio version is the way to go.
Because we never learned about how the Doctor knew the Toymaker back in 1966, or the true nature of this villain, it’s possible that the upcoming episodes “Wild Blue Yonder” and “The Giggle,” could answer longtime Who mysteries, 57 years in the making.