THIS EPISODE TAKES
RUSSELL T. DAVIES
'THE COMPLETE FOURTH
SERIES' HMV EXCLUSIVE
DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD
2609) RELEASED IN
Donna is determined
to find the Doctor
again - even if it
means braving the
Foster and her
hordes of sinister
5TH APRIL 2008
My brother lives hundreds of miles away from me and so I don’t get to see him and his two children as often as I’d like. However, this year it just so happened that his youngest son’s birthday fell on the weekend that the new season of Doctor Who began transmission. My parents decided to throw a party for him at theirs and so I found, for the first time since Rose was originally broadcast, I wasn’t watching Doctor Who sat on my own with a cup of a tea and an overweight cat doing its best to feign interest. Instead, I was watching the show with a group of people aged between eight and eighty-eight, and - irrespective of whether they consider themselves fans of the series or not - every single one of them loved this episode, and I did too.
My elder sister laughed more than I’ve seen her laugh
in years as the Doctor and Donna each carried out
their separate investigations into Adipose Industries,
apparently oblivious to each other’s presence. Russell
T Davies’ riotous script must have been a delight for
David Tennant and Catherine Tennant to play about
with, particularly in the early scenes. Their comic timing
Two Christmases ago, when we first met Donna Noble
in The Runaway Bride, her character came across
as being feisty and aggressive – and, to be fair, a bit
thick. In Partners in Crime, however, although Donna’s
more forthright qualities are still clearly evident, she doesn’t come across as being in the least bit stupid.
In fact, many of her cutting remarks to the Doctor are
well considered and even rather droll – “I’m waving at
fat”; “charity Martha”; and the comment about him not having changed his suit immediately spring to mind.
“I’m waving at fat.”
Nevertheless, the most palpable difference between the Donna of The Runaway Bride and the Donna of Partners in Crime is the character’s depth. Given thirteen episodes in which
to tell her story, Davies takes the time to properly introduce us to her family and her ordinary little life. I have always thought that one of Davies’ greatest strengths as a writer is his ability to imbue his characters with a great sense of realism, and in Partners in Crime this is more apparent than ever. The quirks of Donna’s family are so true to life; I love Donna’s mother’s snide comments to her like “no one’s unemployed except you”, and how her grandfather is “always up the hill”. In terms of screen time, Donna’s mother and grandfather probably only get a few minutes between them, yet by the end of the episode the audience feels like they know them both so very well.
Unfortunately for the Wolverson clan though, just as Donna went ‘up the hill’ to share a delightful scene with her grandfather, Wilfred Mott, the heavens opened, bombarding my parents’ satellite dish with hailstones and interrupting transmission. Thankfully I’d already seen the most important parts of the scene by way of the epic trailer that hit cinemas earlier this year and, as my nine-year old nephew pointed out, “it was only a pathos bit anyway”. I spy another pundit in the making…
Anyway, having now had a chance to watch the scene in full, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it; pathos and all. Bernard Cribbins, who first appeared as this character in Voyage of the Damned long before it was decided that he would turn out to be Donna’s grandfather, brings to life a remarkably good-natured and instantly likeable character – an old man with his daft ideas, his telescope, and his little book. An old man who scours the night skies for UFOs, yet misses them as they sail past just behind him! Through this affable old man, we learn how shitty a time Donna has had since her adventure with the Doctor; all those grand plans she made that have come to nought.
And then, in a real masterstroke, Davies immediately switches to the TARDIS console room where the Doctor is rattling off technobabble, showing off to his companion. Then he looks up, and he remembers. He doesn’t have a companion anymore. If anything, this is a more heart-rending scene than the one that preceded it.
“You want to mate? You’re not mating with me, sunshine! I’m not having any of that nonsense”.
It seems to take a long time for the Doctor and Donna to find each other in this episode,
but when they do, every other line is pure gold. The way that she shouts at him and drags
him around like a rag doll is absolutely hilarious to watch. It’s also incredibly refreshing to see the Doctor with somebody who is neither a bona fide love interest nor a young woman with a schoolgirl crush on him, but someone more mature. Someone who realises just how peculiar and how alien he is, who appreciates him simply for what he can offer her in terms of travel and adventure. On the strength of this episode, if this new season promises to be anything, it promises to be fun.
It’s not all laughing and joking though; the script is littered with some delicate, underplayed moments of genuine poignancy. And from what I gather from Tennant and Tate’s recent interview on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, as well as last night’s episode of Doctor Who Confidential, this new side to Donna will become more pronounced as the series progresses.
All the same, the scene where the Doctor and Donna see each other for the first time and furtively mime a conversation (whilst the villainous Miss Foster interrogates a meddlesome journalist) is perhaps the funniest scene in the history of the series! It’s uproarious; Nannan Wolverson nearly spat her teeth out she was laughing so hard. In a sense, Miss Foster’s school-mistressy line to the pair - “are we interrupting you?” - says a hell of the lot about this episode. Miss Foster is in fact interrupting the episode; her low-key galactic felony merely
a vehicle for Davies to reunite the Doctor and Donna.
The plot of this episode felt a bit like something you might find in an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures. It’s clever, entertaining, and certainly not without its unsettling moments, but it is hardly the most intricate Doctor Who story ever told. This, however, is by no means
a criticism – a hefty storyline would have probably burdened this episode far more than it would have benefited it. In fact, of all the revived series episodes that have had the duty of opening a season, Partners in Crime is my favourite by a significant margin; it’s just so damned enjoyable. That said, it does have a slight advantage over at least two of its fore-runners in that, thanks to The Runaway Bride, it didn’t have to explain all of the ‘Doctor Who basics’ again. This isn’t so much a new beginning; it’s more of a continuation. Even Murray Gold’s incidental music flows straight out of The Runaway Bride to underscore Donna’s more potent scenes.
And what’s more, the Adipose are just something else. Somewhat predictably, as soon as one of the little fellers appeared on the screen, every single woman in the room went “aah”. For my part, I was impressed with the incredibly high standard of the CGI – the Mill have sur-passed themselves once again. The crowd scenes are just gorgeous, as is the Adiposean saucer. But what impressed me most of all was the idea behind the Adipose; this notion that a pill could take somebody’s excess fat and turn it into a cute little life form. Brilliant.
However, at first I was a bit perplexed as to what the Doctor’s issue with Adipose Industries was. Miss Foster’s transgression seemed to be more one of omission than invasion; she had simply neglected to inform her customers what would happen to their fat once it had
left their bodies: whilst she did tell them that it would “just walk away”, she skipped over the rather key fact that it would be walking a way as a sentient being. Even so though, I reckon
at least half the fatties taking her pills would have consented to do so anyway even if they were aware of the consequences – where’s the harm? I thought. However, I was soon put right through poor old Stacey Campbell’s rather graphic demise. There’s the harm.
“It is a beautifully fat country. And believe me, I’ve travelled a long way to find obesity on this scale.”
All the same, there is remarkably little for the Doctor and Donna to do here save for sparring with Sarah Lancashire’s (Coronation Street) cool, calm and collected Miss Foster. Even the Adiposean First Family clean up after themselves, collecting their offspring from Earth and putting Miss Foster to the sword in the process.
And then we come to episode’s really quite staggering ending, which can be summed up simply by the word ‘Rose’. Now there was no chance in hell that the production team were going to be able to keep Billie Piper’s return to the series a secret, and so quite naturally they didn’t bother - they even hyped it to a certain degree. But even the most speculative internet rumours didn’t have Rose showing up until much later in the run. Yet here she is.
Day one. Rose Tyler. Able to walk between universes with apparent ease. David Tennant promised a “prickle up the spine” with this episode, and that’s exactly what we got. If I were Donna though, I’d have been peeved that Rose took off back from whence she came with-out passing the message on about the car keys.
Like Last of the Time Lords last year, Partners in Crime was allocated a slightly longer fifty-minute slot for transmission – and a controversially early slot at that – but even at that length the episode seemed to fly by in heartbeat. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to see past the overwhelmingly entertaining banter between Tennant and Tate, Partners in Crime is a wonderful reflection on the real life danger attached to faddy diets and miracle weight-loss treatments. And it has sonic pens against sonic screwdrivers; outstanding CGI fat blobs; not to mention sweeping, cinematic action sequences. Best of all though, Partners in Crime is
a family affair - there really is something for everybody in these fifty-minutes. Now how many television shows can say that?
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2008
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
When is now? This episode is set between Voyage of the Damned (Christmas 2007) and The Sontaran Stratagem two-parter (late April 2009). As Donna refers to the Doctor having recently “saved the world in
2008” in the subsequent episode, The Fires of Pompeii, we take the view that these events take place in
late December 2008. Either that, or Donna is one of those people who is still writing the previous year on letters in well into spring...
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