Review: ‘Doctor Who Special 2’ is the scariest ‘Doctor Who’ in a while

Doctor Who always could turn the ordinary into terrifying: shadows, water, gas masks, even blinking. Though it is still considered a children’s program, it has never shied away from taking the chance to scare its viewers. Doctor Who Special 2: Wild Blue Yonder is no exception when it comes to this risk-taking. Now, the world has taken a big concept and turned it on its head: the edge of the universe. There, by accident, the Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) must work together to solve the mystery behind the gigantic spaceship they are on, the mysterious countdown, and the alien creatures dubbed the Not-Things.

The story of Doctor Who Special 2: Wild Blue Yonder

The story picks up at an unexpected but interesting point in time: 1666, when Sir Isaac Newton (Nathaniel Curtis) discovers “mavity” (since the Doctor and Donna accidentally influenced him to change the name from “gravity”). After that quick stop, the TARDIS takes them to a mysterious, gigantic spaceship and then vanishes during its regeneration. As they begin investigating and trying to repair the ship, they encounter the Not-Things, aliens that morph into doppelgangers of the Doctor and Donna. After that, it’s a race between the Doctor/Donna and the Not-Things to discover the mystery of the spaceship.

The Pros and Cons

The thing that makes this episode so effective, aside from the concept, is the visual effects. They are, without a doubt, some of the best Doctor Who has used in an episode. The Not-Things have no concept of space and size, which allows them to play with making them gigantic to animalistic. REALTIME, the VFX company behind the visual effects, did an incredible job, and I hope they continue to collaborate with Doctor Who in the future. Design studio Painting Time also deserves a special mention for their work in visualizing the sets. 

Aside from the beginning and end of the episode, most of the runtime in the 54-minute episode is spent with the Doctor, Donna, and the Not-Things (who look like the Doctor and Donna). This required David Tennant and Catherine Tate to play two different characters in one episode, which isn’t easy for anyone. (Just ask Tony Hale from The Mysterious Benedict Society for confirmation of how hard this is.)

 You’re fooled right away in Doctor Who Special 2; my wife, son, and I were incredibly confused when the Doctor and Donna talked to each other in two separate rooms. That’s what makes the Not-Things so terrifying: they not only duplicate you physically but mentally as well. They mention things like Wilf, Galifrey, and the Flux to each other, which makes you believe the Doctor and Donna are talking.

David Tennant as The Doctor in Doctor Who Special 2: Wild Blue Yonder. Image courtesy of Disney+.
David Tennant as The Doctor in Doctor Who Special 2: Wild Blue Yonder. Image courtesy of Disney+.

Skilled and terrifying visuals thanks to talented the Doctor’s talented acting doubles

While David Tennant and Catherine Tate portray themselves and the Not-Things visually in the episode, I have to acknowledge the following four individuals for helping to bring the Not-Things to life:

  • Daniel Tuite – The Doctor’s Not-Thing Acting Double
  • Ophir Raray – The Doctor’s Not-Thing Beast Double
  • Tommaso Di Vincenzo – The Doctor’s Not-Thing Contortionist Double
  • Helen Cripps – Donna’s Not-Thing Acting Double

These four are crucial to bringing the Not-Things to life and provide some terrifying visuals during the episode. Ophir Raray makes the Doctor animalistic as the Not-Thing runs on all fours, while Tommaso Di Vincenzo contorts the Doctor’s body backward and through his legs, terrifying Donna.

Catherine Tate as Donna Noble in Doctor Who Special 2: Wild Blue Yonder. Image courtesy of Disney+.
Catherine Tate as Donna Noble in Doctor Who Special 2: Wild Blue Yonder. Image courtesy of Disney+.

Once the Not-Things have been defeated and the Doctor and Donna arrive back in London, we get the most beautiful scene of the episode: the final appearance of Wilfred Mott, played by the late Bernard CribbensCribbens unfortunately passed away in July 2022, and this scene is the last thing he will ever appear in. That makes his reaction to seeing David Tennant as the Doctor again all the more heartbreaking. 

The Doctor and Wilf had an extraordinary bond, and you can feel their love for each other as they embrace after all these years. Unfortunately, London quickly turns to chaos as people begin fighting each other on the street, and a plane crashes, causing the Doctor, Donna, and Wilf to quickly take shelter thanks to U.N.I.T.

Final Thoughts on Doctor Who Special 2: Wild Blue Yonder

Overall, Wild Blue Yonder is a perfect spiritual successor to episodes like The Empty Child and Blink, taking what seems like an ordinary idea and morphing it into something terrifying. David Tennant and Catherine Tate delivered fantastic performances, along with Bernard Cribbins giving a beautiful final appearance. The special ends on a major cliffhanger (just like The Star Beast), so I can’t wait to see how it all comes together in the final 60th anniversary special – The Giggle. 

Doctor Who Special 2: Wild Blue Yonder is now streaming

Doctor Who Special 2: Wild Blue Yonder is now streaming on Disney+. Check it out if you haven’t already.

If you’re not caught up yet on the 60th anniversary celebrations, start with Elliott’s review of Doctor Who Special 1: The Star Beast. 

The third special, Doctor Who Special 3: The Giggle premieres on December 9th.

Are you excited for Disney’s expansion of the Whoniverse? Have you watched the Doctor Who Special 2 yet? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below or by connecting with us on X @MoviesWeTexted.

If you’re still looking for something to watch on Disney+, check out all of our Disney+ reviews.