Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Return Of Donna Noble: "Partners In Crime"

The Good: Fun tone, Amazingly cute adversaries, Fun direction, Decent character development
The Bad: Pretty standard plot
The Basics: Donna Noble returns to Doctor Who where she reunites with The Doctor, who is investigating one of the weirdest alien invasions yet!

As Doctor Who progressed, one of the challenges the show faced was how to keep the series interesting through different Doctors and Companions. Perhaps the most incredible arc of the contemporary Doctor Who was that of Donna Noble. Donna Noble appeared in "The Runaway Bride" (reviewed here!) where she was quickly established as one of the least-likable, least-interesting guest stars to accompany The Doctor on one of his missions. The incredible thing about Donna Noble's character arc is that she evolves into one of the best, most important Companions The Doctor has! That arc continues with the return of Donna Noble in "Partners In Crime."

"Partners In Crime" begins as a screwball comedy, with a caper-style soundtrack. That tone carries through most of the episode and gets the tenure of Donna Noble off to an energetic start. In fact, the tone is so different from most other Doctor Who episodes that it is easy to overlook just how mundane the plot is!

Independent of one another, Donna Noble and The Doctor find themselves in London, investigating Adipose Industries, a diet pill company that advertises with the slogan "The fat just walks away." After getting customer records (and a buyer's incentive) from Adipose Industries, Donna visits Stacey Harris and The Doctor meets with Roger Davies. Roger informs The Doctor that his pound a day has been disappearing precisely by 1:10 A.M. each day and Donna inadvertently triggers the Adipose in Stacey, causing her entire body to be transformed into tiny creatures - the Adipose.

Donna returns home to visit her sky-watching Grandfather, Wilfred, while The Doctor returns to the TARDIS, where he studies the Adipose technology and finds himself talking to himself. Both The Doctor and Donna re-infiltrate the Adipose Industries headquarters, where Donna evades capture when Penny (a reporter) uses the same tactic as she does to try to avoid Miss Foster. Foster reveals to Penny (as Donna and The Doctor spy upon them) the nature of the Adipose and her presence on Earth. Pursued by Foster, The Doctor and Donna reunite and the pair works together to stop Foster from using the human race as incubators for the Adipose race.

"Partners In Crime" is a fun episode and it manages to do something that very few episode of Doctor Who does: it explores the effects of The Doctor on a secondary character. In the prior season, characters like Donna Noble and Sally Sparrow were affected by The Doctor and after the episodes in which they appear, they essentially disappear. "Partners In Crime" picks Donna Noble back up and it illustrates that after "The Runaway Bride" Donna Noble became obsessed with extraordinary events on Earth - rumors of alien invasions, bees disappearing, etc.

Similarly, The Doctor has a chance to reflect upon the idea that his last two Companions - Rose and Martha Jones - have left him abandoned and alone. He even has a moment in "Partners In Crime" where he is able to reflect on how meeting him might not have been the best thing for either Martha or Rose. Donna, however, is able to point out how Martha rubbed off on The Doctor and it is a pretty insightful observation.

Still, in true Doctor Who fashion, the humor is mixed with horror and the reflective moments fall away to plot. Threatened by The Doctor realizing who she is and what she is doing on Earth, Miss Foster begins to transform all the Adipose users into the cute little fat-based Adipose. With millions of lives in the balance, The Doctor and Donna struggle to stop the signal that is liquidating the Londoners. The emergency parthenogenesis that Foster induces is horrific.

"Partners In Crime" is well-acted and well-directed, even if the special effect of the Adipose is pretty ridiculous. The episode foreshadows the two big continuity aspects of the fourth season. Foster mentions how the Adipose nursery planet disappeared and that sets up the encounters Donna and the Doctor will have as they discover there are multiple planets missing. As well, "Partners In Crime" marks the first mysterious reappearance of Rose Tyler. This is Rose's first time back to our universe since she was condemned to a parallel universe at the climax of "Doomsday" (reviewed here!).

The result is a fresh-feeling start to the fourth season of Doctor Who and an episode that, in rare fashion, replays better than it initially seems!

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the final season of David Tennant as The Doctor here!

For other science fiction comedies, please check out my reviews of:
"Our Man Bashir" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Men In Black
"Blue Harvest" - Family Guy


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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