“Partners in Crime” – Review: Redux

Donna “If you ever see a little blue box fly up there in the sky, you shout for me Gramps. Oh you just shout.”

Partners in Crime

Season premieres from year’s past have all been thematically similar.  Russell T Davies pens a tale that introduces the audience to the new dynamic of Doctor/Companion that serves to set the scene for what’s to come over the next 12 weekends with the story generally seeming of secondary importance to character.  In 2005, Rose kicked off the new era as the very first story (re)introducing us to the mythology of the show through the wide eyes of the eponymous, new TARDIS resident.  2006 gave us what is turning out to be the most atypical outing for an “episode 1″ in New Earth because The Christmas Invasion had already explored the formative relationship between the tenth Doctor and Rose.  As a result, the return to the year 5 billion and the body swapping shenanigans seemed more fitting for something other than the premiere episode.  Last year, Smith and Jones delivered a bolder introductory format for Martha’s arrival as the fears of casting a relatively unknown actor to fill Billie Piper’s boots were seen to be largely unfounded.

Diametrically opposed fears had gripped fandom since the announcement that the hugely well known actor/comedian, Catherine Tate was to be the new full time companion.  Having had a glimpse of what might have been in store thanks to her not quite one-off appearance in The Runaway Bride there were many who felt that a series of shouting, caricature and arguments was in the offing.  Clearly those who felt as such must have failed to realise that Ms Tate heralds from the RSC and probably switched off before the last 15 minutes of “TRB” revealed Donna to have depth and courage and a heart of gold.  Here in Partners in Crime, we have seen a wonderfully multi-dimensional character who can embrace life, keep her feet on the ground, have fun, and do a rather splendid job of telling the Doctor exactly what he needs to be told.

The script rattled merrily along in a way that is increasingly familiar to fans of Russell T with its vertical chase scenes, its knowing wit, and its unadulterated joie de vivre.  I guess those less happy with the penmanship of Who’s overseer would have had their own similar criticisms but I guess that is one argument that won’t be put to rest in a simple blog post.  James Strong’s direction was, well, strong.  There were a number of memorable scenes and visuals that I simply wasn’t expecting following the brief snippets that I had seen in the various clips and trailers that abounded in the fortnight leading up to the premiere.  Best of all was the (eventual) reunion of Doctor and Donna as they mimed their introductions before being interrupted by Miss Foster, which instigated the aforementioned chase.  I must confess though that I am getting a little bored of the Swiss Army Sonic Screwdriver.

More awkwardly but central to everything were the cute and innocent little Adipose.  Not nasty, not guilty of anything and not like any “monster” before that I can recall in Doctor Who.  The whole thing was a little too like something from The Sarah Jane Adventures and I didn’t quite buy into the concept.  Brought to us by the same guy who did the orc hordes in Lord of the Rings, the effects weren’t as effective but good fun nonetheless, and I guess you can’t ask for more at 6:20 on a Saturday evening.  It would seem that the early start did not impact the viewing figures as feared by many, or, if it did, the audience would have been even more impressive tham the 8,400,000 bums on seats that enjoyed this opener.

Two performances here would not have grabbed many headlines thanks to Ms Tate’s stealing of the limelight, which is a shame because Sarah Lancashire’s turn as “Super Nanny” Miss Foster and Bernard Cribbins return as Wilfred Mott were pretty bloody good.  The now former producer, Phil Collinson, was delighted with the episode’s closing scene and waxed lyrical about it on both Doctor Who Confidential and the commentary podcast and I can do nowt but agree.  The unbridled joy at seeing the Donna in her blue box and his recognition of the Doctor was a lovely touch and brilliantly performed by Cribbins.  As for Sarah Lancashire you could see the pleasure seeping out of her as she quietly camped up her part as Matron Cofelia of the Five-Straighten Classabindi Nursery Fleet, Intergalactic Class (there were a coupld of glasses single malt consumed before that name was dreamt up, I bet)

However, the final word has to go to Rose.  Omitted from all preview material, even the press screening, that single scene was a fanboy’s dream.  Without saying a word, she was launched back in the world of Who and at the centre of a mystery that we’ll see unfold over the next twelve nights.

Highlight: Billie Piper turning around

Lowlight: The slightly too cute Adipose.

Talking Point: What’s Billie Piper doing back in the show?

Demon’s Run Rating: 14 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 5th April 2008

Marathon Status: 43 down, 59 to go

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