Friday, April 25, 2008

Doctor Who, "Partners in Crime": Mime is money!

Spoilers for the proper fourth season premiere of "Doctor Who" coming up just as soon as I polish my telescope...

(And please note, "Battlestar Galactica" fans, that my review probably won't be done until sometime tomorrow.)

I'm sure it's tempting to spend the entirety of this evening discussing the unexpected appearance (and then disappearance) of Rose Tyler at episode's end -- even if you knew Billie Piper was coming back, I don't think anyone expected it to be this soon -- but that would be to shortchange the heart of "Partners in Crime," which was the reunion of The Doctor and Donna Noble.

(Also, as a new season begins, let's once again remind everybody that we're following the American broadcast schedule, so no spoilers, or hints, or any other cutesie stuff about episodes that have already aired in Britain. The fact that we're only a few weeks behind instead of several months is a big plus compared to last season, but I don't want anybody to get spoiled.)

As a sketch comedienne, Catherine Tate doesn't do a lot for me, and while her over-the-top shrieking in "The Runaway Bride" fit the storyline, I don't think anybody would have tolerated that version of Donna as The Doctor's ongoing companion -- least of all The Doctor himself. But time and the realization that she should have accepted The Doctor's travel offer has mellowed Donna somewhat, and by the end of "Partners In Crime," she stands as someone I'm going to enjoy having around for a while.

I think it would have gotten tiresome quickly if Martha's replacement were yet another pretty girl with a crush on The Doctor. The tradition of the original series had great companion diversity, and I'm glad to not have three in a row of the same type. Donna isn't worldly, and she can be a brat, but she's also mature enough to see The Doctor through unfiltered eyes, and to be able to call him on his bad behavior in a way that Rose never was, and that it took Martha forever to do. This should be a lot of fun -- as suggested by the hilarious pantomimed reunion scene through the two windows. (This was, I know some fans have suggested, a spoof of the much more dramatic scene from "42" where The Doctor and Martha were trapped on opposite sides of an airlock, but I didn't catch the parallel and still found it a scream.)

What I found especially interesting about the episode was how, with one exception, what the alien nanny was doing wasn't so terrible. Yes, that one woman died, but that was an accident -- and the result of Donna looking into the company in the first place. Perhaps things might have become more nefarious had the plan not been disrupted by The Doctor and Donna, but thus far it was pretty much a win-win: the fatties of Earth got to lose some weight, and the aliens got to breed more cute marshmallow-y babies. In my column last week, I noted that this story was similar to the alien cola plot from the "Sarah Jane Adventures" premiere, but there the aliens' intentions were completely evil; here, they were (for now) simply exploiting an unneeded Earth surplus.

Looking forward to how this season plays out, and how many times David Tennant is asked to give the same expression that one of the "Arrested Development" characters did whenever they declared they had just made a terrible mistake. Arrogant god that he is, he had forgotten altogether about inviting Donna along on the TARDIS party, and the princess luggage didn't exactly have him feeling he had made a wise choice by extending the invite a second time.

What did everybody else think? And are you happy that Rose is going to come back in some form?


Anonymous said...

I'd avoided new season spoilers (beyond ones available in episode titles), so the Rose appearance dislodged my jaw. For the most part, this episode didn't do much for me; it was several grades below, say, 'Smith & Jones.' (I think there were sonic screwdrivers/pens/deusexmachinas going for at least five solid minutes in this hour; wonder what happens when the Doctor wiggles his nose, he should try that.) But the Rose thing was a great example of how Davies, even when little else is working, can pull one thing off so perfectly it makes you eager to see more.

(On a side note, when did Blogger Word Verification quizzes get so unbearable?)

Michael said...

I'm curious as to how tied back to her old family Donna is going to be. On the one hand, both Rose's and Martha's families played important parts in the overall series arc and universe. But then, they were also young women who probably would be involved with their parents (especially Rose). Also, Donna's mother doesn't seem to appealing, so I'm not sure why she would. It would be fun though to see the Doctor interact with Donna's grandfather.

joy said...

I've been likening Catherine Tate to our Kathy Griffith, so when I saw she was the next companion, I was a little wary.

But, I think she might actually work out. It'll be great not to have to see yet another girl pining for the Tiny Doctor. And that scene through the windows? Rolling. I was rolling in the aisles. Brilliant.

I always forget that this is a kids show, until I see stuff like that Adipose. I love, love, love how kyoooooot and squishy they are, but as far as an alien threat? Yeah, nope. (But a stuffed Adipose might make me break my rule of no DW toys. I mean, action figures.)

And, WORD to the word verifications getting on my last nerve.

Trish said...

Rose's appearance was a very pleasant surprise, and I loved the music that began playing as soon as her face was revealed. Menacing and dramatic. A good end to an episode that otherwise left me a little bored.

Dani In NC said...

I think I am one of the few people who was glad that Catherine Tate was coming back to be a companion. Although I dislike most of the characters she does on her sketch show, the teenage girl she does ("Am I Bovvered?") is very funny. I'm hoping she brings a smidge of that character's attitude to her portrayal of Donna.

As for the Adipose, I'd sign up to create a few with my extra body fat!

Anna said...

the much more dramatic scene from "42" where The Doctor and Rose were trapped on opposite sides of an airlock

You mean Martha, Alan.

I have always loved Donna. She has all of Rose's spunk, and even after spending only a day with the Doctor, she understood him in a way it seems Martha never did. Though I'm disheartened by the lack of slappage. She couldn't have just slapped him once? Come on.

Nicole said...

Sure the Adipose were win-win in a way, but the whole failure to disclose that parts of your body are disappearing in a big invasion of privacy, and the nanny wasn't provoked to any great extent before she hit the kill switch. Not the worst baddie, but since that wasn't really the focus, there was still some evil in this episode.

If you noticed, Donna's grandpa was the same actor and character as the newspaper salesman in The Voyage of the Damned. It was nice continuity and also nice that they didn't replace the actor who had originally played Donna's father after he had passed away.

I recommend that you download the commentary for this episode because David Tennant and Catherine Tate provide comments and have many hilarious moments. You can tell that they do have chemistry of sorts in real life, and so far it has translated quite well.

I wasn't aware of Rose's appearance in this episode, but had heard she was coming back, so this was a bit of a shock. I can't say that I look forward to it that much, but will hope for the best.

Obviously the disappearance of the bees means something big to be resolved in the final few episodes, but it is odd that they used a real life occurrence.

I also second the comment regarding the increased difficulty of the word verification. Think of the people who comment while drunk? What shall they do?

Alan Sepinwall said...

You mean Martha, Alan.

Oh, you're right. I always confuse "42" (Doctor/Martha) with the Satan Pit two-parter (Doctor/Rose). Fixed.

And every time I turn the word verification off, I get slammed with comment spam. The 'bots are increasingly potent.

Christy said...

I'm ashamed to say that I caught the second showing at 11 and fell asleep. Donna doesn't interest me. Woke up in time for the end and was bemused to see Rose and rushed here to find out what it means.

Good to know this commentary amuses. I've found most (if they are the same as on the Dr. Who DVDs) to be a dead bore.

Anonymous said...

When I first heard that Billie Piper would be returning, I thought it was a huge mistake. Her departure was so beautifully played out that bringing her back barely two years later seemed anticlimactic at best.

But what was really wonderful about this, aside from the surprise of it, was the unexpected tone of it. Frankly, I found it creepy and unsettling, and that's not at all what I would have expected. Something's clearly wrong, and I think it's brilliant of Russell Davies to upend the expectation. She shouldn't be there, and the fact that she's there is bad news.

Anonymous said...

Catherine Tate definitely bovvers me.

What was it, Rose was stuck in an alternate reality, which is the one barrier the Tardis can't cross? Something like that? I remember thinking that was kind of an arbitrary way to kill her off without really killing her off.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Question: does Donna actually touch Rose when she's telling her about the car keys? If not, I suppose we could see a way where Rose is just a projection from the Age of Steel-verse. If Donna touched her, though, then either the barrier's not as impregnable as we were told, or that's not Rose.

Anonymous said...

Donna doesn't touch Rose in the sequence, at least as far as we can see on-camera.

The Doctor seems to have developed a lot of insight into his relationship with Martha now that his relationship with Martha is over. I guess that's how breakups go, but it's a bit of a shame some of this couldn't have come into play last season.

I'm agnostic on Donna for now, but coming on the heels of the Christmas episode it does make the Doctor seem a bit...choosy. After all, if Astrid had lived it seems pretty clear he would have offered her a companion position. But Mr. Copper isn't qualified (even though the Doctor's just looking for a mate) and Donna is only reluctantly hired. Maybe that reluctance will lead in an interesting direction.

Alan, do you intend to say any more about (or are you even still watching) "The Sarah Jane Adventures"? I found that the first proper two-parter was better than I expected, and it was only slightly hokier than Who. In fact it ended on an even darker note than the Who premiere, given what happened to the Slitheen child (vs. the Adipose kids). I've enjoyed the first episode and a half more than I expected.


Anonymous said...

I wish it'd been Sally Sparrow.

Chris Lawrence said...

We don't know how many of the Adipose Foster was planning to create before Donna and the Doctor and the meddling reporter showed up; it's possible she would have killed millions of people in the end to maximize the number of kiddies. (Given the side effects on the Adipose that aren't produced from body fat, it's not certain, but there's certainly a chance she would have been a mass-murderer in the footsteps of the Slitheen etc.)

Anonymous said...

I never liked Rose, and I find the show's ongoing obession with her extremely tiring.

Tennant was a little less Yelly McScreamy Face in this episode than in the Christmas special, which was nice, but overall, I'm also really bored with his version of the Doctor.

I'm finding The Sarah Jane Adventures to be much closer to the feel I got from the Doctor Who I loved so much as a child.

Anonymous said...

The show got off to a confusing start -- the Doctor and Donna were so much in sync that I assumed they were working together and thought I had missed an episode! But once it got going, it was a good episode. I like Donna more than I expected to -- really hated the Christmas episode she did. But I did like her maturity in this episode, contrasted with the younger companions he's had. I love the bit where the Doctor is freaking out about what he needs to do to save a million people, and Donna is the level-headed one: just tell me what you need. And of course, she has exactly what he needs! And yes, I loved the lip-reading across the room bit. And I find myself wondering if they're going to do anything with that poor journalist who was tied to the chair!

Regarding the word verification: It's quite a pain for me, because I have some color vision impairment, but I am in total sympathy. I also have a blogspot blog, and I was innundated with blogspam until I turned that on. "Love your blog. Come see my site! (link to commercial website with no connection whatsoever to my content)" bleh. In fact, I deleted one blogspam and had the exact same spam reappear in less than a minute. I also turned on the verification to stop it.

Anonymous said...

And every time I turn the word verification off, I get slammed with comment spam.

Totally sympathize. I only mentioned it because the wise folks at Google have changed the image format to an unreadable pile of overlapped, funhouse mirror-twisted letters.

Probably just means the 'bots have gotten smarter. On another site, they've taken to covering the letters with images of kitties, and you have to choose the letters covered with kitties sitting in the proper position. Every time I leave a comment, I expect confirmation that I've joined Mensa.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the commentaries, is there anyplace I can get an archive? iTunes only has the most recent episode (as they air in the UK)

Anonymous said...

I also noticed that the commentaries on Itunes only have the latest one. One problem with watching this episode while watching on Scifi is they cut about 4 minutes since this one ran about 48 minutes in the UK. Two main parts that were cut were about 2 minutes of the conversation with Donna and her Granddad and a scene right after that where it showed the Doctor talking aloud in the Tardis while checking out the free necklace and then realizing that he was alone as the words echoed .

Anonymous said...

I know someone earlier commented on why the Martha Jones character left the series within the context of the narrative, but what was the behind the scenes reason? Was the actress not working out? Was the initial plan for the Martha character to appear for a single season?

dark tyler said...

Yes, Martha was always going to go for one season. After all, the complete seasons of the show are done before a single episode airs, so it never had to do with what the audience thought of her.

I was reading an interview of RTD where he said he was very sad for the potential headlines ("Freema axed!") when he decided that the character was supposed to go for a single season, but he couldn't let the Mirror dictate the story etc etc.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Sepinwall said...

No comments on episodes that haven't aired in the US yet.

Anonymous said...

oops sorry!