Donna’s years of waiting for her favourite genocidal maniac finally come to an end, and half of us rejoice.
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We’ve finally arrived at the point where the views of this podcast’s hosts on the Doctor’s current companion may drastically diverge from one another. That’s right, herewith, Donna Noble, whom he and we last encountered in The Runaway Bride, is a series regular. Cue either standing ovations or deep sighs, depending on whether you hold her in high esteem.
(So momentous an occasion was it when we sat down to discuss ‘Partners in Crime’, in fact, that somehow we totes malotes forgot to mention on the record which episode we were reviewing.)
Fresh off the boat, so to speak, The Doctor is back in London — that’s London, England, UK, Earth, around about the present day. This time, he’s investigating the potentially alien shenanigans of Adipose Industries, a fat-burning conglomerate promising to transform Britain’s waistlines.
Unbeknownst to him, Donna Noble is doing the exact same thing, in-between getting lectured by her mum and spilling her guts to her kindly granddad, who in turn happens to be none other than Wilfred Mott, played by Whovian legend, Bernard Cribbins.
Listen to our review of this controversial Doctor Who episode now!
PS: Here are the photos of Drew doing a Donna Noble / Catherine Tate impression that Ponken took mid-episode:
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Ok, not gonna lie, this episode really skeeved me out. Squealing gray one-toothed baby-things that go splat when squashed? And what is it with Doctor Who and traumatic/forced births? Because that’s what all these people taking pills went through. New life was forced from them without their consent. Fast forward to later on (spoilers) we have Amy giving birth under traumatic non-consensual circumstances, and even Clara allowing the moon to hatch against the wishes of THE ENTIRE PLANET EARTH. My god am I the only one seeing these parallels? Whatever, rant over, moving on! (end of spoilers)
I found it deeply unsatisfying the way Doc and Donna kept missing each other during the first half of the episode. Buuuut, I suppose it makes the payoff better when they do eventually meet up. And the pantomime across the room scene was absolute perfection.
Character stuff: It’s nice to see Donna taking so much initiative. For the first few minutes of the episode, my thought was that the Doctor had inspired Donna to be this total badass detective, like Sarah Jane of the Sarah Jane Adventures. It would have been so much cooler if they didn’t play up the looking-for-the-Doctor aspect so much. Does this have to be the primary reason Donna is doing it?
Lastly, OMG is this preview, prophetic ;) ? There’s both Peter Capaldi AND Karen Gillan.
Rating: vanilla ice cream with a ladybug
Hi Ponken, jD, Nikolele, Drew Back When et al!
Partners in Crime is in a lot of ways a pretty typical “meeting a new Companion” episode, very much in the vein of “Rose” and “Smith and Jones”, and it may in fact be one of the better examples of this particular episode type that New Who has to offer.
I recall being horrified to hear that Catherine Tait was set to become a full time Companion after seeing her play Donna as a shrill collection of unfunny stereotypes in the previous year’s Christmas episode, but luckily the Donna revealed by this episode (and expounded upon in the rest of this series) is a much more interesting proposition. She’s a temp verging on middle age and is terrified that she has let only chance for a larger life outside a stifled and undervalued one slide, so she’s chasing random reports of weird things across Britain all on her own in the hope of crossing the Doctor’s path again. Which, of course, she does, leading to the beginning of a fantastic double act between Tate and Tennant. Unlike the somewhat childish Rose or needy Martha, she isn’t pining after the Doctor; instead they have a warm, blunt siblingesque relationship that turns hilariously awkward any time there is any hint of sexuality brought up. It’s lovely to see a male-female relationship on TV without a hint of “will-they-won’t-they?” about it. The Doctor and Donna are best mates; they love each other, but not like that, and Donna is far more likely to tell the Doctor he’s being a mopey twat and hold him to account when he does something morally dubious than worship or indulge him. It’s something that the Doctor will come to realise the value of as time goes on.
As for this episode – there are quite a number of things to enjoy. The idea of creatures who incubate their young in the bodies of other sentient beings is one with a long and honourable history in science fiction, from Octavia Butler to Alien, and this episode does an interesting interpretation of this with the super-cute baby Adipose who are far too adorable for the Doctor to think about visiting retribution for the sins of their (sociopathically pragmatic) parents on. It is, however, a bit of a shame that this episode does not really explore the body horror of completely innocent people being deceived into being utterly consumed for the birth of alien creatures, though this will be touched upon near the end of the season in Turn Left.
There is also a sharply observed satire here of a contemporary culture where the aesthetics of “being thin” are promoted to the detriment genuinely healthy lifestyles, and where consumers are regularly tempted by a multiplicity of products that promise effortless weight loss without anyone really believing them. Finally, In Ms Foster, we are given an interestingly ambiguous villain who is presumed to be acting for personal profit, but actually seems to have developed some strangely maternal feelings for the alien infants she is bringing into the world – one that, sadly for her, is clearly not reciprocated by their biological parents!
On the other hand, there are some distinctly problematic elements. Despite the sharp satire of the pressure for effortless weight loss, there are several points where this episode falls unfortunately falls straight into that same culture of fat-shaming, with fart jokes straight before an innocent woman dies a horrifying death, consumed by the birth of alien beings, and an incongruously light tone that it is hard to imagine any TV show taking for the mass death of thinner, more conventionally attractive people. It also seems a little incongruous that the Doctor, who once fought to the death to prevent the human race being consumed for the birth of a new generation of Wirral (back in The Ark in Space) never seems keen to hold the adult Adipose to account for their plan to consume vast numbers of the same race for the creation of their next generation.
Overall, I would give this episode a 3.2 out of 5.