Doctor Who: Partners In Crime, BBC1

by | Apr 6, 2008 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?
One of the weakest episodes since the revival largely caused not by Catherine Tate’s Donna, but more in which the way instead of Donna entering the Doctor’s world, he instead was thrust into the caricatured version of her brash environment hopelessly skewing the script towards lame slapstick.

What was good about it?
• Sarah Lancashire as the icy Miss Foster, an alien wet nurse who had implanted millions of alien entities, the Adipose, into the population of Greater London through slimming pills who would gestate by forming their bodies from the flab of the host. She possessed a blithe insouciance suggesting she might have made a worthier adversary for the Doctor in a better story.
• In the scenes when Catherine Tate wasn’t called upon to act up with grotesque theatrics, the character of Donna showed potential. In fact, Tate’s performance was perhaps perversely more impressive as she switched from brazen Donna (less, please) to a more thoughtful rounded person such as when she was at home with her granddad (Bernard Cribbins) or in a store cupboard thwarting the nefarious plans of Miss Foster – a talent you would expect from a sketch show comic/actress. The problem, as we’ll detail later, was in the way Donna was inserted into the show.
• While rubbish themselves, the way in which the Adipose popped into existence was a pre-watershed homage to Alien.
• The reappearance from Rose, which, if nothing else gives you the chance to speculate about how and why she has returned. Our first (and almost certainly incorrect) guess is that the Daleks have invaded her reality, led by Davros, and she has been sent back through to lure the Doctor so they can have their vengeance. She, of course, complies but only because she thinks the Doctor can defeat them and liberate her world from their caustic grip.
• Now that Donna has been introduced, however hamfistedly, the next episode set in the last days of Pompeii looks promising, and we still have copious faith in the writers that this series will be as good as the last one.
• The cunning way in which, to give us a notion of the unbearable agony of having an Adipose rip itself free from our torso, the scene in the pub as the friend of Donna’s mother squirmed on the ground was overlaid with Take That’s Could It Be Magic, a faithful anthem of painful damnation.

What was bad about it?
• The whole tone of this episode was warped by the clumsy introduction of Donna; the tortuous, tiresome prologue that saw the Doctor and Donna break into Adipose industries and then unintentionally evade one another in the office and later when chasing the Adipose van round the London streets.
• It was made worse in the scene when their eyes finally locked as they both spied on Miss Foster giving the necessary villains’ exposition to Penny the captured journalist as they mouthed missives to one another. It was simply dull.
• As Donna’s better scenes exhibited, there was no need to make her such a vibrant character. Yes, she needed to be introduced but she did not need to stamp all over the script at the cost of a plausible (in the Doctor Who sense) and gripping narrative.
• Part of the narrative that suffered was the reason for the Adipose invasion, some nonsense about their birth planet being destroyed. It just wasn’t a convincing or engaging plot, and was senselessly absurd.
• And the fact that the Adipose were awful aliens didn’t aid the credibility, resembling a cross between something out of the Night Garden and Star Trek’s the Tribbles they were cute in a corporate marketing campaign aimed at children kind of way, i.e. a cynical vulgarity.
• This was perhaps the figurehead of a more juvenile script, of which the melodramatic turns from Tate and Tennant was another symptom. And while Doctor Who has always been for kids, it has never shirked from scaring them (Blink, The Daemons) or including plots only decipherable by adults (Logopolis, The Empty Child, Blink). Relatively, Partners In Crime was the TV equivalent of Radiohead doing an album of S Club Junior cover versions.
• The sonic screwdriver becoming a universal cure all; even Harry Potter gets out of scrapes using something else other than his wand. Need to open a window: sonic screwdriver. Need to create an ear-splitting distraction: sonic screwdriver. Need to control a window cleaning platform: sonic screwdriver. It’s now getting to the point for another sin-off show: Sonic the Screwdriver, with Jimmy Carr starring as the sarcastic voice of the Doctor’s trusty companion.
• The way in which Adipose supplied pills to exactly one million customers to instil a faux sense of drama. And while we’re on this, Miss Foster claimed that there were “one million birthdays”, presumably one Adipose from each customer, but as the first victim split up into about 10 of them, shouldn’t there have been 10 million births?
• And, in what is becoming a enervating trend on Doctor Who, a huge number of people were imperilled in order to make the viewer care more about what happened to them, as if it were fewer than that it wouldn’t be worth the Doctor’s, Donna’s or even your own time to bother with. This stretches back to all the Christmas Specials and many other episodes – if the only people in danger had been the woman who died and the toff the Doctor called on that would be enough to make us care about this story.
• The Doctor and Donna continually ramming home the point that they would only ever be “mates”; this almost doubled up as an apology for ruining the character of Martha with her fruitless pursuit of the Doctor, while at the same time being so awkward they may as well have confessed their mutual non-attraction to the fourth wall and got it out of the way as soon as they were reunited on the staircase in the Adipose offices. Or alternatively they could just have made the Doctor’s new companion a heterosexual bloke.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

06/04/2008

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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