Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 4x01: "Partners In Crime"

Written by Russell T. Davies’
Directed by James Strong

Donna: “You don’t want me.”
The Doctor: “I’m not saying that.”
Donna: “But you asked me. Would you rather be on your own?”

Fresh from seeing poor Owen and Toshiko getting killed in the Torchwood finale “Exit Wounds”, I was looking for something a little on the frothy side of things. For the most part that is exactly what the opening episode to Season Four offers.

In the last two months, we’ve been bombarded with trailers, consistent press coverage and thanks to Radio Times, we know the basics of every episode and we’ve even gotten close to knowing to who the big threat in the finale is. Of course instead of looking forward, I really should concentrate on the present.

Donna Noble – of the all the potential would be companions to bring back, I will openly admit that she wouldn’t have been on my list at all. Although I had softened to her halfway through “The Runaway Bride”, I just didn’t feel the need to see anymore of her.

The great thing about nine months since it was announced that Catherine Tate would be back full time is that I’ve had a chance to get used to idea of Donna around for a full season. In fact judging by the adamant promises from everyone that Donna would harbour no romantic designs on The Doctor, I’ve come to the decision that she could be a lot of fun to have around. Oh and this episode just goes to confirm my good feelings about her as a companion.

Since her encounter with The Doctor, Donna made the vow to go off and enjoy her life. Like many things, it was easier said than done as she’s unemployed and living with her mother. Plus there’s also the fact that she has to deal with both Lance and her father’s deaths, it’s fair to say that Donna has had a bit of bad time lately.

The only thing that is worse than drifting and feeling down is then having people state the obvious and bombards you with unhelpful advice. I know Donna didn’t exactly tell her family what really happened on her not a wedding day but Sylvia’s lack of sympathy did suck. At least Jackie and Francine (as super critical as they were) showed just concern for Rose and Martha. Sylvia just basically treats Donna as an imposition.

But then again, it’s not like Donna is actually useless either. She admits later on in the episode that her eyes have been opened and she also seems to be actively seeking The Doctor. If there weren’t later scenes to suggest otherwise, you could believe that Donna did have a romantic interest in The Doctor. The reality is that she just wants to go travelling again.

Better than that is her conversation with her granddad Wilf. He was the vendor from “Voyage Of The Damned” and I personally think it’s great that the writers have found a way to use him in the series. With Geoff dead, it’s nice that Donna has one male figure in her life that has a good influence on her.

Wilfred not only provides welcome relief from the nagging that is Sylvia but his belief in UFOs make him the best candidate for Donna to tell someone about The Doctor. There’s something rather touching in the way these two do interact with each other and you can only hope for some of that during the season.

Another good point about Donna is that not only does she believe in the bizarre but she’s actively seeking it out. Okay it’s in a bid to get to The Doctor but points for assertiveness no less. It’s also because of this that Donna gets caught up in the big nasty of the episode.

In every season premiere, we’ve had something relatively different. We’ve had the Autons for “Rose”, Cassandra and cat nun nurses in “New Earth” and in “Smith And Jones”, there was brilliance of the Judoon and the Plasmavore. Here is no exception as the company Adipose Industries is up to no good and it’s not just Donna and The Doctor who can sense that.

Nope thanks to the rather shrill and calculating owner Miss Foster, a journalist called Penny also seems to be interested in what really is going on with this place. Okay so you’ve Miss Foster bragging about the fat walking away because her special pill is the best thing someone with obesity can use but I’ve always been suspicious of diet pills, so I’m with Penny on this one.

Seeing both The Doctor and Donna trying to investigate Adipose but missing each other continuously for the first half of the episode was silly. However I wanted light hearted and this was where the episode delivered. Pretty inventive how they managed to miss each other when they were in the same building and neighbourhood doing the same thing.

Donna’s turned into a bit of a Sarah Jane with the investigation lark. She was able to pose as a Health and Safety worker (she had actually quit two days prior) to get a client list and even managed to get talking to one of Adipose Industries victims Stacy. Okay, The Doctor did the same thing and talked to a guy named Roger but he’s got way more experience so it looks clever with Donna doing it instead.

As for Stacy, this show could’ve gone for a grisly outcome with the consequences of her taking those pills but settled on something more differently with the fat from Stacy’s body morphing into an Adipose creature. Worse still things got so bad that her entire body ended up becoming loads of them. Certainly not a good way to die.

The Adipose themselves however are the cutest little things this show has ever done. I mean seriously you want to pick one of those things up and keep it as a pet but given that they come from fat and are under the care of ice queen Foster, the odds of them being entirely benevolent aren’t that high.

With both The Doctor and Donna then heading back to Adipose Industries, the episode does begin to progressively speed up some more. Donna’s more than happy to put herself in mortal danger than having to deal with her mother and hiding in the bathroom at Adipose Industries is an okay enough plan to try and get some more information.

However I did think for a second that she was screwed when Miss Foster rounded her guards and invaded the bathroom. The thing with Penny was a little bit of a cop out but given how cynical Penny was about the diet pills, it makes sense that she would in turn go snooping.

The funniest sequence of this episode however is how The Doctor and Donna end up reunited so to speak. With Miss Foster basically telling Penny every part of her plot, both our heroes spend time trying to communicate with each other via separate glass windows. It’s moments like that show why Catherine Tate has done so well for herself in the comedy field.

Even funnier is Miss Foster interrupted their exchange when the evil bint cops on that she’s being spied. After then waiting a good deal of time, it’s nice then to have Donna interact with The Doctor. If he was hoping that she would’ve calmed down since he last saw, he can think again.

Donna’s first reaction to see him is a rather cheeky one but she doesn’t hold back on being glad to see him. She might not have enjoyed adventure two years ago but now she’s game for it. That doesn’t stop her blaming The Doctor when Miss Foster nearly has them killed on the outside lift but the camaraderie these two have is brilliant.

Even Miss Foster is a brilliant villain. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Sarah Lancashire but she’s pitch perfect for this role and oozes enough nastiness without going into panto mode. It’s also interesting that the motives for the Adipose are for once not quite as ambitious.

Miss Foster has no real interest in killing humans or destroying earth, she’s basically just a glorified nanny who’s been paid to produce as many of the Adipose kiddies as she can muster. Naturally she doesn’t take too kindly for The Doctor trying to stop so there’s some predictability in her trying to kill have him and Donna killed.

As for the invasion of the Adipose kids – that’s something that has to be seen to be believed. Okay it is frightening to see a few people die in order to become these things but their little march is hilarious and on the cute side of things as well. Plus while The Doctor and Donna actually stop Miss Foster from producing more, he doesn’t have any intentions of killing them. Even Donna takes notice of that.

Miss Foster on the other hand isn’t so lucky. She might not get to see a jail cell or The Doctor’s wrath up close and personal but thanks to her contractors; she does get to be dropped from a great big height. Perhaps every now and then, maybe a villain on this show should listen to The Doctor, if only to avoid getting killed.

Donna meanwhile has her own decision to make. Instead of being asked by The Doctor whether or not she can travel with him, she insists on it. When The Doctor does show some reservation, I have to admit I did feel bad for Donna. Her excitement over the idea of travelling in the TARDIS is contagious.

Given his previously bad experiences with companions, it is good that The Doctor is being wary. He points out to Donna that he did treat Martha rather badly and there’s some genuine remorse in his voice too. He also points out that Rose is still gone as well but when Donna does challenge him about being alone he accepts her onboard.

It’s a good thing for him to do and it’s even better to see Donna and The Doctor wave at Wilf at the end of the episode. I liked that while Wilf wasn’t envious of Donna, he did applaud her for doing exactly what she wanted to do. Donna found her Time Lord but it wasn’t the only thing found on this episode.

For months, it’s been well documented that Rose Tyler was returning to the series for the last three episodes but to see Donna pass Rose by and tell the girl to pass on a message to Sylvia was a big case of “WTF”? It doesn’t help also that a large chunk of this season will have to pass by before we get any continuity on Rose, nor it is explained how she also faded at the end. But it’s an amazing way to reintroduce the character.

Also in “Partners In Crime”

The new credits look a little better than in the previous episode. It’s Catherine Tate who’s added back in as well.

Miss Foster: “Oh Penny. If cynicism burned up calories, we’d all be thin as rakes.”

Anyone else the introduction of this episode was a reverse of “Smith And Jones”? Given that Donna is supposed to be nothing like her predecessors it does make sense.

The Doctor: “What’s that?”
Claire: “My telephone number.”
The Doctor: “What for?”
Claire: “Health and safety. You be health and I’ll be safety.”

The Doctor: “The thing about cat flaps is they don’t just let things in, they let things out as well.”
Roger: “Like what?”
The Doctor: “The fat just walks away.”

Although it isn’t subtle, it did take me a while to realise that Miss Foster was dressed like Supernanny in the episode.

Wilf (re Venus): “That’s the only planet in the solar system named after a woman.”
Donna: “Good for her.”

Wilf: “You seem to be drifting sweetheart.”
Donna: “I’m not drifting, I’m waiting.”
Wilf: “What for?”
Donna: “The right man.”

Donna ran away when she was six after Sylvia refused to take her on holiday. I wonder how Sylvia will react when she realises that Donna’s further away now.

Sylvia: “It’s my turn for the car. What do you need it for?”
Donna: “A quick getaway.”

Sylvia: “Why are you whispering?”
Donna: “I’m in church.”
Sylvia: “What are you doing in church?”
Donna: “Praying.”
Sylvia: “Bit late for you madam.”

I think this is the first episode in which we’ve seen that tracking device of The Doctor’s.

Penny: “You can’t tie me up. What sort of country do you think this is?”
Miss Foster: “Oh it’s a beautifully fat country and believe me I’ve travelled a long way to find obesity on this scale.”

Miss Foster (to Penny): “I’m surprised you never asked me about my name. I chose it well. Foster as in ‘foster mother’. And these are my children.”

Originally instead of Donna, we were supposed to get a companion named Penny with a lot of Donna’s characteristics but instead we just got a character called Penny.

Donna: “This is all your fault. I should’ve just stayed at home.”
The Doctor: “I won’t be a minute.”

Penny: “Is anyone going to tell me what is going on?”
The Doctor: “What are you, a journalist?”
Penny: “Yes.”
The Doctor: “Make it up.”

Yet another bondage theme this week. First Torchwood are anti-bondage (well just Jack) and now Doctor Who are pro-bondage (given how much Penny is tied up in this episode). And I thought this was a family show?

Miss Foster (to her guards): “Tie her up.”
Penny: “Oh you are kidding me.”

The Doctor: “I had this friend, Martha Jones. She was brilliant and I destroyed half her life. But she’s fine now. She’s gone.”

Donna cracked me up when she dubbed Martha “mad”, “blind” and “charity”. I’m really looking forward to seeing how these two interact in the next three weeks.

Donna (re Adipose family): “What are you going to do? Blow them up?”
The Doctor: “They’re just children. They can’t help where they come from.”
Donna: “Well you’ve changed since we last met. That Martha must have done you good.”
The Doctor: “Yeah, she did. She fancied me, you know.”

Donna (re alien stuff): “Some people just can’t take it.”
The Doctor: “No.”
Donna: “And some people can. TARDIS. Come on.”

All the bags that Donna packs definitely showed a practical side. It also means that there’s no excuse for Catherine Tate to wear the same outfit for the first half of the season as well.

The Doctor: “I just want a mate.”
Donna: “You want to mate?”
The Doctor: “I want a mate. A mate.”
Donna: “Well you’re not mating with me sunshine.”

There’s no specific chronology, so I don’t know the distance between this and “Voyage Of The Damned”. On the music front, there was the “Doomsday” score when we saw Rose and the Donna theme is quite lovely.

I won’t lie. Anyone who knows me knows that this is my now favourite show and thanks to “Partners In Crime”, I’m now totally convinced that The Doctor/Donna team is gonna be every bit as brilliant as the ones with Rose and Martha. The humour was fantastic, the Adipose were cute, Rose’s brief appearance made me jump for joy and overall, I’m ecstatically thrilled that this series is back. Not too sure about the early timeslot though.

Rating: 9 out of 10.


Anonymous said...

Once the frame of the cat door is installed in a wall or door, leave the "flap" off at first. Have someone stay inside with your cat while you go outside. Call your cat through the "hole" (cat door frame without the flap). When he goes through and comes to you, praise him lavishly and give him a food treat. Now have the person inside the house call him through the "hole." When he gets to them, they should praise lavishly and offer a food treat as well. Do this at least 3 times and no more than a dozen. After this, your cat will know there is a hole in the wall or the door especially for him. A Cat Door or Cat Flap gives you and your cat the freedom they deserve.

shawnlunn2002 said...

Just saw the comment about cat flaps, very interesting. Reminders of the story Survival as well.

Personally I'm more of a dog person than a cat person.