Doctor Who is back, y’all! The first of three 60th anniversary specials, “The Star Beast,” kicked off a set of adventures with Fourteen and Donna Noble. We had the pleasure of meeting Doctor Who comic and audio characters Beep the Meep and the Wrarth Warriors. And, here at Nerdist, we also had the fun challenge of searching for Doctor Who Easter eggs, callbacks, and references to previous events in this episode. While some are expressly pointed out, others are not quite so obvious. Let’s take a look at what we have spotted so far.
Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special “The Star Beast” Easter Eggs and References
Once Upon a Time Lord
“The Star Beast” starts with the Doctor and Donna Noble addressing us directly. The Doctor begins his story about traveling with Donna, saying “once upon a Time Lord.” It’s more than just a clever phrase. It is the name of a recent Doctor Who graphic novel by writer Dan Slott and artist Christopher Jones starring the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones. In this story, the Pyromeths capture Martha. She distracts them by telling epic tales of the Tenth Doctor facing off against foes like the Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors, and more.
The Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble’s Greatest Hits, Recapped
At this point, Donna can’t recall her travels with the Doctor. And, to be honest, some fans have forgotten them too. It has been 15 years, after all. (We can help you with remembering Donna’s ending.) Thankfully, Doctor Who uses her opening dialogue to take us down memory lane with plenty of flashbacks. We see several images from their journey, including the Empress (a.k.a. the arachnid lady) from when they first met in 2006’s “The Runaway Bride.”
We also get glimpses of a Sontaran from “The Sontaran Stratagem,” a skull in a spacesuit from “Silence in the Library,” the evil wasp from “The Unicorn and the Wasp,” the Pyrovile villain from “The Fires of Pompeii,” and the Adipose spaceship from “Partners in Crime.” But that’s not all! We see the eye of a Dalek from “The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End” and the planet Midnight from the episode of the same name. And of course we see a glimpse of the metacrisis event that led to the Tenth Doctor’s controversial decision to wipe Donna’s mind.
The Doctor lands in the Camden Town section of London and begins to wander the streets. We see a place called CyberDog in the background. It doesn’t draw the attention of the Doctor but some fans would assume its an in-universe reference to the Cybermen. In actuality, CyberDog is a real clothing store in that area. As far as Easter eggs go, there’s a Doctor Who short story involving this store called “Dummy Massacre.” In it, a blogger was inside CyberDog in March 2005 when the Autons attacked. This is the same event we witnessed through Rose and the Ninth Doctor in “Rose.” The mysterious blogger took over the conspiracy theory website, Who Is Doctor Who?, from Clive Davis (RIP) and wrote about his harrowing experience.
Every Era Begins with a Rose… Sort Of
Rose Noble’s name is an obvious nod to Rose Tyler, the first companion of the modern era. We learn a lot about Rose in this episode, including why she chose that name and her connection to the Doctor. But, there’s more to this reference. We now have three different eras of Doctor Who: classic, modern, and the new Russell T Davies era that we are calling Bad Wolf for now. And each of those eras begin with a Rose… sort of.
The show’s first companion went by Susan Foreman; however, her real first name is apparently Arkytior, which means Rose in Gallifreyan. This is established in the 1994 Doctor Who short story “Roses.” (No, it did not inspire Rose Tyler’s name. Davies got that from his TV drama Bob & Rose.) Is it totally canon? Not really, considering it hasn’t come up on the show yet. But it’s fun anyway. Now, Rose Noble is ushering in yet another chapter in Doctor Who’s story.
Donna Noble’s Theme Rises
As Donna and Rose leave the Doctor at the Camden Market, we can hear Donna’s theme music in the background. Remember when companions each had their own theme songs? It was truly an iconic time in Doctor Who history.
It’s been a long time since we’ve heard that catchphrase. The Doctor says it to Donna’s husband Shaun Temple as they prepare to drive off towards the spaceship crash landing site.
Who the Hell Is Nerys?
While in the car with Shaun, the Doctor says he’s a friend of Donna’s old frenemy Nerys. We met her during “The Runaway Bride” as the jealous friend who tried to make a move on Donna’s then-fiancé Lance. We never learn a lot about her, but Donna and Nerys remained friends despite Nerys being shady. She is in attendance at Donna’s wedding to Shaun, which we witness from afar. But apparently things have gone south with their relationship. Later in “The Star Beast,” Donna calls Nerys a viper who can’t keep her mouth shut. We never see her in this episode, but we get the feeling she’s still lurking in the grass nearby.
Donna and That Lottery Money
Despite Donna having her memories wiped by the Doctor, she ultimately ended up with a great life. In “The End of Time Part 2,” the Doctor left the Noble family a huge lottery ticket and she married the love of her life. However, we discover that Donna gave away all of her money because she was under the veil of memory suppression. Therefore, the “Doctory” parts of her pushed her to want to help the world versus helping herself. We appreciate the goodwill but girl, that was millions of pounds.
Additional Doctor Who Easter egg: Shaun mentions that the ticket was a “triple rollover,” which references what Donna notes about the ticket when she receives it.
UNIT’s First Scientific Advisor
During his investigation of the “crash” (technically landing) site, the Doctor encounters Shirley Anne Bingham. She certainly recognizes this version of him, even though he cleverly recalls when he was wearing a bowtie and, later on, a woman. The most interesting part of this is the Doctor saying he was UNIT’s first scientific advisor. This is a reference to the early days of the Third Doctor era when got into trouble with the Time Lords. They disabled his TARDIS and left him stuck on Earth. He took a job with UNIT and begrudgingly became their scientific advisor.
Shirley Anne Honors Shirley Coward
Speaking of the fantastic Shirley Anne, her name itself is a fun Doctor Who Easter egg. It’s a nod to Shirley Coward, a vision mixer on the show during its first lead actor transition. The term/concept of regeneration wasn’t used on the show quite yet, but that’s exactly what happened when William Hartnell passed the torch to Second Doctor actor Patrick Troughton. Shirley expertly laid shots of both actors on top of each other and created a distortion effect that made this transition seamless, eerie, and iconic.
Beep the Meep and the Wrarth Warriors
This episode’s monsters and big villain both come from ‘80s era Doctor Who comics. If you’d like to read up more on their history, check out this post. Basically, the show closely sticks to their origin story, honoring a part of Who that some fans didn’t know about until now.
The Shadow Proclamation Is Still Alive and Well, We Guess
Fourteen is completely over the shenanigans between Beep and the Wrarth Warriors. So he brings them together in a dingy garage, invoking a few sections of the Shadow Proclamation to stop the ongoing violence. He particularly calls out section 15, which Rose Tyler clumsily (and incorrectly) used in “The Christmas Invasion.” She was trying to take on the role of the Doctor while Ten was recovering from regeneration, but her words did not scare the Sycorax. Gotta love a fun Doctor Who callback, right? This rule means that murder is not a rule of war. And what does Beep do shortly after? Murder.
Binary. Binary. Binary.
With Donna’s permission, the Doctor unravels the failsafe and Donna regains her memories. She begins to say “binary” repeatedly, which was what she previously said when the Time Lord knowledge began to overwhelm her brain and cause her to stutter.
Rose Noble’s Workshed and Villain Creatures
We discover that the metacrisis split itself between Donna and her daughter Rose. It was housed within Rose’s DNA all along. This explains why Rose chose her name along with the specific types of furry toys she made. The teen’s workshop shed door resembles the door of the TARDIS. And each of her creatures loosely resemble monsters that Ten and Donna encountered in the past. We see a stuffed Dalek, Judoon, Adipose, Cyberman, and Ood. There is a furry, brown doglike creature that could represent Cybershade, which were animal-like versions of Cybermen. Interestingly, the latter creature is from a Doctor-only story, “The Next Doctor.” Rose is basically a walking Doctor Who Easter egg and we love her.
Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special “Wild Blue Yonder” Easter Eggs and References
The Doctor Meets Isaac Newton… Again
At the beginning of “Wild Blue Yonder,” the TARDIS materializes and spins into an apple tree. It just so happens to be the tree that Isaac Newton is sitting under. No, he does not have the title “Sir” quite yet. The Doctor and Donna humorously introduces him to the word gravity, which he mishears as “mavity.” This interaction changes the future and we hear Fourteen and Donna use the word mavity instead.
But this isn’t the first time that the Doctor has encountered Mr. Newton. In “The Pirate Planet,” the Fourth Doctor claimed that he dropped apples on Newton’s head and later explained gravity to him.
The TARDIS Plays Wild Blue Yonder
As the TARDIS arrives on that ill-fated spaceship, it plays a song called “Wild Blue Yonder.” This inspiration for the episode’s title is the colloquial title for the US Air Force’s theme song. As Donna notes in the episode, the song is actually a war cry, which means something wicked is coming their way. It’s a strange choice for a spaceship shaped like a British police box but the TARDIS is blue.
HADS Saves the TARDIS
The Fourteenth Doctor explains why the TARDIS made a quick exit with his sonic screwdriver. He references the ship’s defense mechanism, known as the Hostile Action Displacement System (HADS). It is not the first time the series has referred to this system. HADS has been around since the Second Doctor’s era, although it didn’t use that specific name. In “The Krotons” the TARDIS exterior was under attack, so it dematerialized and rematerialized in a different (but nearby) location to remain safe.
The HADS comes into play in “The Cold War” when the Eleventh Doctor enables it so the TARDIS can leave safely. It is supposed to land in a good spot at the North Pole but it goes to the South Pole instead. The Twelfth Doctor story “The Magician’s Apprentice” includes HADS activating to fool the Daleks into thinking the TARDIS was destroyed. Twelve rematerializes the ship with his sleek sonic shades. Interestingly, he calls it the Hostile Action Dispersal System, which is pretty much the same thing.
The Fourteenth Doctor deactivated HADS after apparently getting stuck in orbit for three years. But Donna’s coffee spill and the Doctor’s fix activated the system once again. It is both useful and a pain in the butt, basically.
Licking Random Things to Discover the Truth
The Doctor tastes some weird goo to discover what it could be. This is very similar to how the Tenth Doctor tasted the pool of liquid (that was actually) blood in “The Christmas Invasion.”
Venom and Mass
After being chased by the not-thing versions of themselves, the Doctor and Donna try to figure out what’s going on. When they begin talking about the entities impossible mass, Donna makes a reference to how her husband complained about Venom getting much bigger than his human counterpart. He would wonder where the extra mass was coming from, which is a legit question. Of course, this refers to Tom Hardy’s Venom films.
The Flux Events Are Bothering the Doctor
Russell T Davies previously said that he would not change events of the past despite setting up his new era. He stood on this in “Wild Blue Yonder,” by referencing the events of the Flux. (Ahh the destruction of half the universe.) The (not real) Donna said she saw what happened in the Doctor’s last few years. And this is all the very recent past. Fourteen gets visibly upset by all of this, even punching a wall and screaming in frustration. The Doctor often runs forward and doesn’t look back too much, so it is interesting to see this character reconciling with the past. It’s not clear how the Flux could factor into the Fourteenth Doctor’s last foray nor if it will affect Fifteen in any way.
Salt Blocks Demons and Evil Entities
The Doctor wasn’t just biding his time and trying to be funny when he said salt blocks demons, vamps, and other entities. Salt has been used to ward off evil spirits and negativity in many different religious practices for thousands of years. The episode suggests that it is all talk but many people swear by it.
We Meet Again, Wilf
After 15 years, we finally see the Doctor and Wilf come together again. Wilf never gave up hope that he (and maybe Donna) would see the Doctor again. Why was Wilf randomly at that market by himself? Who knows. But the world is in complete disarray and Wilf is now in the TARDIS. Sadly, this is Bernard Cribbins last time on the show. He died in 2022 at the age of 93.
Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special “The Giggle” Easter Eggs and References
John Logie Baird and Stooky Bill
The inclusion of John Logie Baird and the (very unsettling) Stooky Bill are more than just Doctor Who sci-fi shenanigans. Baird is a father of television and his real-life story with Stooky Bill is worth diving into. Check out our history post about the first-ever TV image.
Towing the TARDIS
The Doctor, Donna, and the TARDIS all get a lift to UNIT headquarters. This isn’t the first time we have seen the TARDIS towed via helicopter in the show’s history. In “The Day of the Doctor,” the Eleventh Doctor and Clara are inside the TARDIS when a helicopter picks it up and takes it to UNIT under Kate’s authority.
Hello Again, Mel Bush
What a lovely appearance! After briefly seeing Mel in a former companions’ support group in Thirteen’s swan song, she’s back and working with UNIT. She reunites with the Doctor and they dig into her past, which might be confusing for those who aren’t familiar with her Classic era story. Don’t worry, this post about Mel Bush’s Doctor Who history will totally get you up to speed.
The Giggle and Bach
The giggle that everyone recognizes is from Bach’s Prelude in C Major, which is used in quite a few recognizable tunes we all know.
The Return of the Toymaker
The return of the Toymaker wasn’t shocking at all. However, there are just enough references to the past that you’ll want to read up on him to understand the history between the Doctor and this manic antagonist. The Doctor even mentions to him that they can play across the cosmos and be “celestial” versus the Toymaker destroying Earth.
The Archangel Network
A huge crux of the Toymaker’s plan was the world being hyper-connected and online. Kate notes this while Shirley counters that their current connection system, KOSAT, is clean and is nothing like the older Archangel Network with things hiding in the signal. The Archangel Network was a series of satellites around Earth that the Master used to mind control with a signal that encouraged them to vote for Saxon. Of course, this took place during the Tenth Doctor’s era and led to the final storyline of Martha Jones traveling the Earth to save everyone.
A Hall of Horrors
The Toymaker sets up a game at his shop by turning one door into many doors. This is awfully reminiscent of “The God Complex,” where the Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory end up at an ‘80s hotel where the corridors change often and each room contains something sinister or frightening.
Villain Name Drop
Once again, we take a trip down Ten/Donna memory lane when Donna name drops a few villains from the past. Ood, Davros, the Adipose, and Daleks all get a mention. Oh, and that great big bomb mentioned about the latter is a reference to the reality bomb that Davros built for the Daleks to use and eliminate all non-Dalek matter in the universe. This was a major event in “Journey’s End.”
The Tragedy of Past Companions
The Toymaker decides to air the Doctor’s dirty laundry to Donna, one companion at a time. He goes through the sad and oft tragic ending that many of his traveling friends met. There are references to Amy Pond being touched by a Weeping Angel and dying (“The Angels Take Manhattan”), Clara being killed by a bird (“Face the Raven”), and Bill being turned into a Cyberwoman (“World Enough and Time/ “The Doctor Falls”). Ouch! The Toymaker pulled the Doctor’s card for sure. There’s also another mention of the Flux, of course, as a cherry on top.
Sidenote: This makes Martha Jones’ ending even better because she walked away without a mountain of trauma (or worse) happening to her.
Spice Up Your Life
“The Giggle” goes full musical with the Toymaker’s deadly yet wildly entertaining performance at UNIT. He whisks himself around the room while the Spice Girls’ “Spice Up Your Life” plays. It’s almost like he’s trying to trap Gen X and Millennials on purpose… and it is working.
All the Past Doctor Trauma and Loves
The Fifteenth Doctor mentions they haven’t stopped moving for thousands of years. He goes back through a lot of things, including the Doctor’s exile (from the Third Doctor era). There’s also the Key to Time, when the Fourth Doctor is tasked to find six segments to this key, and Logopolis, a planet where the Doctor regenerated into the Fifth Doctor.
The deaths of Adric and River Song are mentioned along with the death of Sarah Jane Smith, which reflects actress Elisabeth Sladen’s real-life demise in 2011. And yes, the Doctor mentions that he loved Sarah and Rose both, which might be a loose reference to “School Reunion” when those companions met, famously fought, and eventually found common ground.
That’s not all though. There’s the Time War (Ninth Doctor), Pandorica (Eleventh Doctor),the Gods of Ragnarok (Seventh Doctor antagonist) and Mavic Chen (a villain from the First Doctor era) mentions, too.
The Fifteenth Doctor’s console room is just like the Fourteenth Doctor’s room but it has a jukebox. This music device pops up a lot throughout Who history, from the one inside Clara’s TARDIS (disguised as a diner) to the one that Cassandra wheels out in “The End of Time.”
We loved all the Doctor Who Easter eggs, references, and callbacks will come up in these specials. Happy 60th Anniversary to the greatest sci-fi series of all-time.
Originally published on November 25, 2023.