Saturday, 10 July 2010

Doctor Who: Partners in Crime

“You’re not mating with me, sunshine!”

Ooh, new theme music! And no pre-titles sequence; it seems we’re relaunching the show again, and once again we’re doing so by focusing on the new(ish) companion. It’s a tried and tested formula, and it works well here, but all the same its noticeable that RTD is repeating his tricks and tropes. This isn’t in any way a problem at this stage, and it’s an unavoidable consequence for any writer, even a great one such as RTD, who writes so many episodes of a series. For the first time we’re made to realise that this production team have been around a while and probably shouldn’t stick around for that much longer. None of which means that this episode, or indeed the series at this point, are anything other than great.

This is a textbook example of a “fluffy” RTD episode, I suppose- again, repetition of tricks and tropes- but such a perfectly crafted one. Compared to, say, New Earth, this is perfection. The parallel opening narratives, with both the Doctor and Donna investigating this week’s threat, are perfectly written and staged for comic effect. And the scene at the windows is the funniest thing in Doctor Who ever.

The baddies, Miss Foster and the Adipose, are quite rightly relegated to the background a little so that the episode can focus on Donna, but personally I love the little things. Susan Hampshire is quite deliciously villainous, too.

But this all about Donna. Happily, we’ve already been introduced to the character, so we need waste no time on establishing the character and we can get straight into some quite nuanced character stuff; I love the way the scene is shot where Sylvia is nagging Donna in the background (“No one’s gonna come along with a magic wand and make your life better”), and the way this is immediately followed by a contrasting scene with Wilf. Both Catherine Tate and Bernard Cribbins are superb, something which no doubt I’ll soon be taking for granted.

Donna’s character has had to change, of course. It’s subtle, but this is no longer the, er, abrasive Donna of The Runaway Bride. Instead we get a good look at a character who has been changed by her experiences with the Doctor- an ongoing theme of the series, of course- after several months have passed. It’s great to see her investigating Adipose Industries on her own initiative, and doing such a fine job of it too. I love the tense scene in the ladies’ loo. Dammit, there’s no way of putting that last sentence which doesn’t sound wrong.

The chat at the end between the Doctor and Donna is extremely revealing; the Doctor is full of guilt at how he mistreated Martha, refusing to acknowledge her feelings for him and doing a lot of damage to her family. But it’s made clear that his relationship with Donna is going to be different. And I’m looking forward to it. This is Donna Mark 2, retooled for permanent TARDISeer status. And she’s great.

Oh yes, and that scene at the end packs quite a punch. It’s a great statement of intent for the coming season. And what was that about the bees disappearing?

Yes, this is all pretty much done to a template which is very familiar by now. But it’s done superbly. There's one thing that dates it a bit, though, even though this was only two years ago. "It's not like the 1980s," says Sylvia. "No on's unemployed these days, except you!5/5.

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