This afternoon I hunted down my very dusty copy of The Iron Legion and refamiliarised myself with the story of Beep the Meep, as originally told in 1980. Reaction on social media ranged from “That’s an impressive artistic team” to “I spent 12p out of my 50p pocket money on that”.
It a great story, with the first ever non-white companion becoming part of the Doctor’s adventures. I was not living in the UK when it was first published in the spring of 1980, but I must have caught up with it pretty soon, at the latest when it was republished in 1984. So I’ve been wondering how Beep the Meep could be put on screen for almost forty years. I was glad to see about 60% of it transferred to tonight’s story.
Stunned to see just how much you would need to pay for a second-hand copy of The Iron Legion, but you can try and get one here.
I also had a listen while out at the shops a bit later to the 2002 Big Finish audio The Ratings War, by Steve Lyons, which brings back Beep the Meep as a sinister broadcasting magnate and has a lot of sly references to the state of Doctor Who at the time, delivered pointedly by Colin Baker. The central theme was used for a couple of TV Ninth Doctor stories a couple of years later, but it’s still worth a listen to get a sense of where things were at the time, and it’s actually available for free from Big Finish here.
So, wasn’t tonight’s episode brilliant? Tennant and Tate back on form, resolving some of the dangling plot points from 2010, incorporating almost all of the good bits from the 1980 comic strip, and with some suitable reflections on who the Doctor is, and what it means to be human in all our forms. (The coffee bit at the end was just a bit silly, but I forgive it, just because). I’m really hopeful for a new surge of consistent quality for the next two weeks, and beyond. The music was good too. But yeah, I loved it.
Edited to add: Just watched the behind the scenes video. Real lump in the throat to see Dave Gibbons and Pat Mills reacting to a 40-year-old story hitting the screen.