Monday, 13 May 2013

Review: Doctor Who 4.1: Partners In Crime

Doctor Who - Season 30, Episode One - Partners In Crime
Written between 16th and 17th March 2013

Of the three central companions of RTD's era, the one with the most developed characterisation is certainly Donna, with Martha (as you can probably tell from the ten weeks of gushing I did about her) is a very close second. Her introduction in 2006's Christmas special allows Partners In Crime a great deal of leeway, meaning that it doesn't have to do a lot of the legwork that character introductions usually do. Instead, it takes a developed Donna and puts her into a series with a new-found sense of humour that is at times both strange and wonderful.
Cute little bastards.
     Both Donna and The Doctor research into Adipose Industries, a popular weight-loss company who have been treating the problem with a "miracle pill" that they intend to roll out nationwide. Despite several near-run-ins, they both miss one another. Both independently discover that the pills bind the fat into tiny alien creatures that go walking away, and when they both stake out at the building the next day, they run into each other just as the villain Ms. Foster (Sarah Lancashire) is explaining her plan. The Doctor manages to foil Foster's plan to accelerate the production of the creatures (which would kill 1 million people) and watches as the Adipose parents take their children and drop Foster to her doom. As Donna readies to go away with the Doctor (making it clear that she's not going to be doing any of that romance nonsense) it's revealed that Rose has somehow returned.
     A lot of the press at the time focussed heavily on Billie Piper's last minute cameo, and at the time - when, I'll admit, I had a bit of a crush on her - I was amazed. However, taking a more critical view (yeah, ten NuWho reviews without much Rose bashing, must be a record), it stinks of sensationalism. Sometimes it's what people remember the episode for, when there was so much there to love besides that appearance. As I said back in my Doomsday review, Rose would become more and more bigged up by the show throughout the time she wasn't in it, and this is really the beginning of that final push towards her return and the royal mess that it created.
     Although, as I said, we've already met Donna, the episode does cue us in on her more domestic life. The mother-daughter relationship is interesting, similar to the Disappointed Father routine but with switched genders. We also get to see that Wilfred Mott from Voyage of the Damned is her grandfather, and it's great to have Bernard Cribbins in the show. Most importantly though, it's clear the Donna's characterisation has had an overhaul from when we first saw her - almost gone is the obnoxiously loud woman from the early parts of The Runaway Bride, and here we have a much more mature woman whose positive qualities (like constant inquisitiveness and unending compassion) are on clear display.
The Doctor and Donna's clearly platonic dynamic is a winner.
     Sarah Lancashire plays the villain with a suitable level of hamminess to make her enjoyable - especially when she's playing on the whole "crazy foster mother" thing. The Adipose threat isn't really all that huge on its own - the rate of production of the creatures actually allows the adipose to perhaps form a symbiotic relationship with humanity - we get to eat as much as we want and stay thin, while they get a billion new babies every evening. I suppose what Rusty was trying to do was to make some kind of commentary on modern obesity epidemics, but it led more to fat people being played for laughs rather than as a concept of aliens being able to capitalise the Western obsession with our weight.
     Playing things for laughs was noticeably more prominent in general, as we'll see across Donna's time on the show. It probably stems from Catherine Tate's comedic pedigree, but arguably her standard gawping routine has had to be toned down to make most of it work. It's that balance that creates a show that manages to provide the same level of well-written characterisations and interesting concepts while still being a great deal funnier and ultimately more irreverent. Partners In Crime is a great start to the new series and it feels, more than ever, that we're going to have a lot of fun.


NEXT WEEK: Karen Gillan, already? Oh wait, she's just a Roman woman. We look at timey-wimey Roman fun with The Fires of Pompeii.

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