43 Years Ago, The Most Over-the-Top Sci-Fi Villain Was Created — Now, He’s Back
Let's talk about Beep the Meep.
The most absurd sci-fi villain of all time looks adorable at first. And now, this particular creature is back after over four decades. If you’ve never heard of “The Star Beast” in 1980, that’s okay. This Doctor Who villain only existed in comic-strip form in the ‘80s and has never appeared in live-action. That is, until now.
On May 14, the latest trailer for Doctor Who in 2023 revealed the official titles of each of the three new specials: “The Star Beast,” “Wild Blue Yonder,” and “The Giggle.” The first of these titles comes from a comic strip of the same name, which first appeared in Doctor Who Magazine, issue #19, back in February, 1980. And now, in the first of the new David Tennant and Catherine Tate specials, Beep the Meep, the titular Star Beast is back, and for the very first time on screen.
What is the Star Beast?
In Who canon, “The Star Beast” refers to the furry and seemingly adorable “Beep the Meep.” Cleverly, the first half of the story convinces the audience that two innocent teenage kids in Yorkshire are harboring an innocent, cute alien (“Meep”) on the run from more ruthless aliens called Wrarth Warriors. Hapless teens Fudge and Sharon believe this cutesy creature needs protecting from both humans and the more formidable, and outwardly menacing Warriors who are tracking it down.
But, Beep the Meep is not friendly. It’s a treacherous and evil creature that feigns an inability to understand human language, and sows confusion so it can escape. It’s tough to say this is the scariest Doctor Who baddie ever, but, thematically, it’s up there. So, despite its overt goofiness, the premise of “The Star Beast” contains one of the best twists of all of Doctor Who: the cute alien is the horrible villain and the “scary” aliens are, at least nominally, in the right. The moral: not everything that is cute and cuddly is good, especially not when it comes to the unwieldy universe of Doctor Who.
How Doctor Who 2023 Could Reboot Beep the Meep
Right now, it’s unclear if this new live-action introduction of Beep the Meep will incorporate the previous comic strip and audiobook canon, or will introduce the Meep as a new alien race from the perspective of the 14th Doctor (David Tennant). In 1980, the story began with Fudge and Sharon, who assume that Beep the Meep is a victim, and even when the 4th Doctor arrives, he’s not outwardly sure if Beep the Meep is legit. Because the new episode shares the title “The Star Beast” with the original comic strip version, it’s possible this is a reboot — an outright retelling of the Beep the Meep story, in which nobody is sure who is good and who isn’t.
On the other hand, if the 14th Doctor remembers this event, then he’ll know that Beep the Meep is a villain right away. If things go that direction, the twist could still work if Donna Noble encounters the Meep first. Which, based on the trailers, seems possible.
Interestingly, the David Tennant-led Doctor Who has a tradition of adapting a previous non-screen story for another Doctor into an on-screen story. The beloved 2007 two-part Season 3 episode, “Human Nature,” was originally a novel written by Paul Cornell in 1995, which, featured the 7th Doctor. So, it seems possible new special “The Star Beast,” is the same: It could take the basic story beats from the comic, and translate those into a new story featuring the 14th Doctor instead of the 4th.
So, either the Doctor will remember to Beep the Meep from the 1980s or, he won’t. If he does, then it would seem some of the ‘80s comic strips are canon.
Where to Get The Orignal Beep the Meep
Notably, in 1980, Tom Baker was one year away from leaving Doctor Who, meaning, only his likeness appeared in “The Star Beast” comic strip, and later, colorized versions for Marvel Comics. But, in 2019, Tom Baker did an audio version of “The Star Beast” for Big Finish, which convincingly plays out like an unseen episode from 1980. In this version, Fudge even makes jokes about the interior of the Wrarth craft looking like an X-wing from Star Wars.
You can read “The Star Beast” by tracking down old issues of Doctor Who Magazine from the 1980s, or finding the collected Who graphic novel called “The Iron Legion.” The magazine strips were also collected and put into color by Marvel in issue #1 of Doctor Who in 1984. However, those issues range in price! But, overall, if you want the full Beep the Meep experience prior to the 2023 version, the relatively new 2019 audio version is probably the easiest to get quickly and feels the most in line with what fans would expect from a 1980s Who story.
Bottom line: When Beep the Meep appears in the 2023 Doctor Who special “The Star Beast,” this will be roughly the third version of this creature yet, and that means he’ll be at his most cuddly and most deadly, ever.
Doctor Who — “The Star Beast” — hits Disney+ sometime in Fall 2023.
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