When the BBC dropped our first big look at the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials over Christmas, there were plenty of surprises—more looks at David Tennant’s new-old Doctor, teases for just how Donna Noble re-enters the Time Lord’s orbit, Neil Patrick Harris’ mysterious showman. But perhaps the biggest of all? Just how deep down the rabbit hole Russell T. Davies is going.
That’s because the trailer gives us two glimpses at strange alien forces playing a role in the upcoming celebrations. At first glance, the two sets of beings—a furry, mouselike creature with massive eyes, and insectoid aliens shown fighting soldiers in the streets—look like they could be new among Doctor Who’s cavalcade of creatures and monsters. And to most Doctor Who fans, they might as well be. But, as befitting a celebration of 60 years adventuring in time and space, they aren’t actually new at all: and they have a very strange, very specific Doctor Who history.
Let’s deal with this furry little fella first: this cute critter isn’t actually very cute at all once you know who he is. And who that is is Beep the Meep, the hilariously named antagonist of a comic story in Doctor Who Weekly that ran in 1980, Doctor Who and the Star Beast. It’s a tale famous for other reasons beyond Beep, as it also introduced a new companion for Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor, Sharon Davies—the first comics-original companion to the Doctor, and the first person of color to be a long-term companion in any medium in Doctor Who history.
Criminal mastermind and leader of the Meeps—small spherical furry creatures with large eyes and mouselike ears—Beep hails from the Wrarth galaxy, where his people were once a peaceful civilization. After their planet crossed orbits with a Black Sun expelling dangerous, corruptive radiation, the Meeps were suddenly transformed into a rage-filled, hateful race, and began a campaign of intergalactic conquest. World after world fell to the Meeps, who harvested Black Sun radiation to use in their warships—and as a tool that could mentally enthrall their foes into violent rages, as they were before them. Eventually, the Star Council of other races in the Wrarth galaxy came together to establish a new police force to fight back against the Meeps, defeating them in a grand battle.
But Beep himself fled the war, and escaped to 1980s Earth. Using his cute appearance to ingratiate himself to Sharon and her best friend, Beep also managed to trick the Doctor into thinking he was an innocent being hunted without reason. When the Doctor discovered the Meeps’ history, however, he helped save Sharon and her hometown from Beep’s thrall, using Black Sun radiation to brainwash them into repairing his ship, and helped capture Beep. Beep would escape imprisonment several times over the years in future Doctor Who comics, attempting to get vengeance on Earth and the Doctor for his detainment—a regular in-joke for the Doctor’s comic adventures.
The insectoid Wrarth Warriors are named as such because they are the police force that the Star Council created to fight the Meeps. Created as an amalgam of the five strongest species in the Wrarth Galaxy, the warriors pushed back the Meeps until the battle of Yarras, where the Wrarth wiped out the Meep armada for good, save for Beep’s personal starship. Two Wrarth agents, Zogroth and Zreeg, pursued Beep to Earth, and although initially opposed by the Doctor, believing Beep to be as innocent as he looked, eventually the duo worked together with the Time Lord to detain Beep. The Wrarths never had quite the comic staying power as Beep himself did though, and although they would receive the occasional mention in other Doctor Who stories, the Wrarth languished in an even more relative obscurity.
Well, aside from the fact that it’s clear that the BBC are willing to let Russell T. Davies do literally anything with his return to Doctor Who’s stewardship if “Live action Beep the Meep” is a thing that is happening, it’s hard to say right now. What little we’ve seen of the 60th anniversary specials doesn’t really tell us much of what to expect. Are Beep and the Wrarth connected to the mysterious villain played by Neil Patrick Harris? Will Doctor Who giving these two comics obscurities a place on the small screen be a chance to re-imagine them for a major audience, or will the history of a 1980s comic strip be vital to Doctor Who’s big anniversary celebrations? What is Rose, the similarly mysterious character played by Heartstopper’s Yasmin Finney, going to have to do with this, considering it looks like she’s the one who first encounters Beep?
We’ve got nearly a whole year to speculate—Doctor Who will return for a trio of specials celebrating its 60th anniversary in November 2023.
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