Partners in Crime

Story No. 203 The Adipose
Production Code Series Four Episode One
Dates Apr 5 2008

With David Tennant, Catherine Tate
Written by Russell T Davies Directed by James Strong
Executive Producers: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner.

Synopsis: Donna Noble is investigating the mysterious Adipose industries when she chances upon an old friend.


A Change of Pace (for the Companion at Least) by Nathaniel Wayne 5/5/08

Wow, what a mixed bag this episode turned out to be. It revisits a lot of the themes that have run through the new series since Season One, yet at the same time highlights how the Doctor has changed over time and indicates how things will be different for this season. This episode has the always-thankless job of hooking up the Doctor with a new companion. These episodes have been handled well by the new series so far, but they're always tricky, usually having to do just as much about establishing the companion as giving us the wonderful antics of the Doctor.

Partners in Crime, however, manages to cut a break by bringing back Donna Noble from The Runaway Bride. So she doesn't need to be established from the ground up, just enough has to be given to let the audience know how she's been since last we saw her. However, nobody seemed to pass the memo onto Russel T. Davies that since we've seen her before he doesn't need to establish her as thoroughly as was done with Rose and Martha. So we're treated to repeated scenes and dialogue about her discontent with her dull life and the point is just hammered into the ground. Some scenes like the one she shares with her grandfather are quite delightful. Others, like the one in the kitchen with her mother, are almost interminable. Also, the scenes establishing Donna resurrect what is starting to become a bit of a tired theme in the new series, which is the impact the Doctor has on those he leaves behind. At first, this was an interesting angle because it was something that had never really been explored before. But now we've seen it done with both Rose's and Martha's families and really truly run into the ground with Love & Monsters. While I recognize it's important to establish why she wants to join the Doctor now when she turned down the opportunity before, it just feels like a retread in many ways.

Aside from the way in which she is sort of over-established in this episode, I'm very happy to see Catherine Tate return and be the Doctor's new companion. Having done variations on potential romance with two companions in a row now, it's nice to see the Doctor paired with somebody with whom there really seems to be no romantic angle to be played at all. And, in fact, the very idea is wonderfully and flatly dismissed towards the end of the episode. It's time for the Doctor to have a companion who is completely platonic, and I think there's a clear chance for a more antagonistic relationship as well, which could bring a new kind of energy to the show if it's done properly. It's also nice to have the change that's happened in the Doctor as seen through the eyes of Donna. She points out some minor adjustments to his character that I personally hadn't really noticed but now that they've been pointed out I'm rather pleased about.

Aside from the new companion, the plot is somewhat blah. The Adipose company has its new miracle diet pills out on the market in London and about to go nationwide, but, as we all immediately suspect, there's something unpleasant going on behind the scenes. The actual effects of the pills are actually quite inventive. It's such a shame that Davies had to ruin the potential surprise and shock by dropping a painfully obvious hint early in the episode (made all the worse by the line delivery from the otherwise solid Sarah Lancashire which just screams "this is a big hint!"). It was interesting to see a villain who could match the Doctor in terms of technology, though this idea was used in fairly obvious ways. Tennant has slipped back into the role of the Doctor without missing a beat and he maintains that wonderful almost manic energy that makes him so engaging and he also forges a very interesting connection with Catherine Tate that I'll be very interested in watching develop. And the scene when they first see each other after a half an episode of near misses is just delightful.

The effects are kind of bland. There's a very nice but unoriginally designed spaceship and the effects of the diet pills result in some of the least convincing special effects yet on the series, though I suppose they serve the purpose they're intended for.

While the episode in and of itself isn't stellar, it does set up the season well in terms of both the Doctor and the new companion. And then of course there's that one delightful moment towards the end (you'll know it when you see it) that is a very nice surprise and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. I think that, after the previous season had gone fairly dark, overall this episode shows that this season may potentially lighten up slightly and be a return to the more fun aspects of the show that were so wonderfully prominent in the first season.

Skin Deep by Mike Morris 28/5/08

Oh good god. This is a bad joke, right? This has to be a really, really unfunny joke.

A bit of context is required here. I've just seen Episode 6 of Series 4, which is so far shaping up to be the worst series since the show came back. I've long been meaning to start reviewing the show story-by-story, but a few things (like my complete inability to write a review of the Series 3 finale that extended beyond "well I thought it was pretty good, actually") kept getting in the way. One of those things with the constant belief that Series 4 might be getting better, and then the repeated sense of being kicked in the teeth. Right now, Doctor Who is bad. It's very very bad. And Partners of Crime is, quite possibly, the worst of the lot.

It's Russell T. Davies, and Russell T. Davies is a great writer. Unfortunately, he's a great writer who appears to be corrupted by his own success. Once upon a time, Doctor Who was lean and dynamic and fresh. Now it's churning up... this.

The things wrong with Partners in Crime are numerous, even if you don't count Catherine Tate. As it happens, though, I do count Catherine Tate.

Here's the thing; the character of Donna actually works quite well here. She's someone who turned down the chance to go with the Doctor and has been haunted by it ever since, to the extent that she's looking into any sort of weird activity with the hope of him turning up. Whereas the Donna of The Runaway Bride was essentially pretty useless, and annoying and shouty with it, this Donna's annoying and capable. She blags her way into a press conference where That Woman Who'll Always Be Raquel Off Corrie To Me is publicising a diet pill. What? Donna missed the Cyberman invasion because she was hungover in Spain, but now she's started investigating super-effective diet pills? My, the woman has changed.

The Doctor's doing the same thing, but - here's the punchline, kids - they never meet. Actually, this is quite well-choreographed, and up to a point the whole thing's pretty engaging. You do, obviously, have to apply a hefty discount given that Catherine Tate's starring in it, and the woman's not an actress. But it's brash, confident (because Rusty doesn't lack confidence), and well-choreographed. There's the core of a good idea here, too; the diet pills are causing people's fat to gather itself into an alien life-form and waddle off to god-knows where. Some real body-horror to be had in that concept, the sort of grotesquery that Doctor Who can do so well.

Until, that is, we see the first human-Adipose transformation. The decision was made to trade this widely before the episode aired, and the mistake's obvious. Firstly because it spoils the surprise, and secondly because anyone who saw the Adipose would surely think twice about watching the show at all. It's not that they look rubbish, it's that they seem to be specifically designed to look rubbish. These are creatures made entirely of fat, remember? The gooey, squidgy, nasty stuff that Channel 5 likes showing you on the 100 Greatest TV Operations? So why do they look like shiny computer-generated beanbags? Why, and here's the pointed bit of the question, why do they look like things that might be merchandised in a few months?

The rest of the episode is garbage, of course. There's been some almost-funny comments in the mainstream media about this satirising diet pills and eating disorders, which makes you wonder whether everyone in showbiz-world is suffering a mass hallucination. Not only does the programme not say anything at all about the fetishisation of thinness, it doesn't even hold up to its own internal logic. The story says that Adipose industries has one million customers, and also that an Adipose is created from each person each night. So where on earth are they all? Exactly how many are required?

And yet, the obvious story flaw only becomes apparent about halfway through; namely, that there's no real threat until the Doc and Donna intervene. So people's excess weight is turning into little baby-alien things. Erm, so what? It seems a rather symbiotic relationship as far as I can tell, and I sure as hell wouldn't mind giving birth to an Adipose or two if it enabled me to get around the 5-a-side pitch a bit quicker. Even the Doctor notes that "it's not a bad system", and when he tries to take the moral high ground he resorts to saying that doing this sort of thing on a Level 5 planet is illegal. Er, what? I'm not sure which baffles me more... the notion of some sort of intergalactic police force having a go at people for trespassing (maybe; a sort of mixture of Judoon and those blue-shirted wallies that were in The Twin Dilemma), or the notion that this is a Doctor who'll quote rules and regulations without questioning why they exist in the first place.

Or, just to put it in perspective; in Series 1, Christopher Eccleston was quite happy to let nasty aliens wander around in human corpses, and when Rose objected he told her to go and stuff it. Now, as if to emphasise that this is no longer a programme that's interested in challenging our preconceptions, David Tennant objects to the Adipose birth process for exactly the same reason that Rose did to Eccleston's "recycling" project. Namely, that it's all a bit *wuuuuuuuhhh*. If the Doc went back and started working for the army he couldn't be more conservative.

And that, really, is the nub of the matter; there's a terrible, grinding conservatism in Partners of Crime, that moves the story beyond the realms of the dull and into the realms of the vaguely offensive. Raquel OffCorrie's villainess isn't just based on that Supernanny woman, and made up to look like her... she's actually called a "Super Nanny", just in case those people who don't consume every piece of detritus the mass media throws at them didn't get it (and fair's fair, I didn't get it; but I preferred it that way). The only time that Donna gets any sort of real material is when she talks about how rubbish Earth is, and dismisses a trip to Egypt as "guidebooks and don't drink the water." She might be the first companion not to be interested in the Doc's Rod of Rassillon, but that doesn't disguise the fact that the only why she can make her life seem worthwhile is finding the right man. Lindsay gleefully tells Donna that she's dumping her boyfriend because "I can do better than him now", the sort of vile trading-up mentality that at least merits some sort of put-down. The whole thing feels horribly insular, as if the programme itself has become convinced that it's better than real life.

"Who says you're not important?... I've never had a life like that." Remember that, kids?

And yet, even that's not getting at what really bothered me about Partners in Crime, although it was certainly what I found the most distasteful. There's the strangest feeling here that we aren't watching a Doctor Who story at all; it feels more like a pastiche, a Children in Need special featuring those two famous people off the telly. This spreads itself through to David Tennant's performance: he's really a collection of mannerisms in this one, a return to his uneven performance of the Series 2 that never feels like anything other than a man Acting, and Acting hard. To be fair to Tennant, he's probably struggling to make some of the duller scenes at least feel vaguely intriguing. The direction has this problem, too; you can do all the camera tricks you want, including that funny thing where the camera zooms in and zooms out at the same time (oh, you know what I mean), but when your climax involves the Doc fiddling about with some random machine in the basement and spouting technobabble, it'll look like the desperation it so clearly is.

The thing that really sums up the problem with the story is the ongoing thread with the journalist, who - oh my sides - keeps getting tied up in a chair and having a gun pointed at her. The Doctor's not even vaguely interested in looking after her, because we all know that the story's not real and any threat is just for a bit of a laugh. The only word that comes close to this attitude is "smug", although even that doesn't really capture it. It suggests that this isn't really a story at all so much as a place, a brief stop in the well-choreographed world of Showbizland. It's a piece of media detritus, and it's so gleefully happy as part of that detritus, so happy with its status as detritus, that it doesn't feel the need to justify its own existence as anything but detritus.

I'm going to stop saying 'detritus' now.

(If Partners in Crime were genuinely funny, of course, this might not matter so much. But watching Catherine Tate gurning through glass isn't my idea of fun.)

On the plus side... Tate probably gives her best performance of the season so far, although more because she's not given any testing material than anything else. She scrapes 'mediocre' for most of the time... but then you get to that godawful "You're not mating with me, sunshine" scene and she reverts to playing Catherine Tate TM. I'll discuss Tate more fully on some other occasion here, but suffice it to say that she's poor-to-middling here; and it's about as well as she ever does.

(In fact, it's impossible to know why the Doctor shows more interest in Donna than he does in the investigative journalist who's actually been asking the right questions. Maybe he's decided that he doesn't want any more brilliant companions - although, since in Smith and Jones he classified "the windows aren't airtight" as brilliant, it does make you wonder how dense Donna must be.)

All in all, Partners in Crime ain't good. It's facile, smug, facetious and - worst of all - dull. However, it didn't even annoy me, really. Bad stories usually annoy me. But this - this gurning pastiche, with famous people running around a parody of a Doctor Who story - didn't really come close. Because, in truth, it's not really a story at all.

A Big Step Back by Adrian Pocaro 8/7/08

As this is my first review, the reader must excuse my lack of eloquence, if any. I'm an American who's been watching Who since the Davison era (thanks PBS!), and through the Sci-Fi channel and BBC America I can stay fairly current. I'm sure that I will go back and review previous installments as I have just discovered this site, but let's start with the series four opener. This was a complete and utter mess of a story. After the growth that we saw in series three now we go back to semi-juvenile humor and a bland, not-too-well-thought-out storyline. I'm worried. But let's start with what I liked.

Catherine Tate is toned down considerably here, but there was very little that she could do worse than Runaway Bride. She is also looking much better and her backstory is believable for once. After all, how do you live with refusing to join the Doctor when the offer comes by? And THANK GOD we have a companion that doesn't want to shag the Doctor. I never thought I would miss Peri's whiny ways but I think that the tenth Doctor could use a break from this unrequited love angle. "I just want a mate!" So do we, Doc. So do we. The bit where they are talking to each other through the window is a charming bit, and I very much liked the scene where the Doctor is in the TARDIS, talking to himself, only to look up and realize that he is, in fact, alone. The look on Tennant's face conveys the emptiness inside, and I for one multilayered approach that he has taken of late.

But that's just about where the positives end. Sarah Lancashire is utterly wasted as an actress. She delivers her lines seamlessly, nowhere near over the top, and yet the premise behind her villain (and the whole story, to be honest) is far below her. I wish that RTD had saved her to portray a more, let's say, familiar, villainess. The "secret" of the pills is absolutely ridiculous and something that I would expect to see in Series One along with farting aliens and talking pieces of flesh suspended in mid-air but then, that's Russell T. Davies for you isn't it? Don't get me wrong, I'm am utterly thankful that he brought our beloved series back and clearly he has the best of intentions at heart, but he needs to pull a Gene Roddenberry maneuver and let other, more talented, writers articulate his vision. Case in point, the dialogue is as campy as I've seen it and not even the regulars can seem to muster any kind of tension in this storyline. But, as I said, the storyline never really did that much for me anyway.

Donna has some nice scenes with her grandfather who seems like a nice enough guy that I wouldn't mind seeing again, unlike some of the other domestics past. That goodbye scene though... arghh! Can we please start to take this show seriously?

And then there's that scene. If you've seen it, you know what I mean. And I for one, although I am in the minority about this, am not happy, excited, or elated about it. In fact, I fear the future. Be honest with yourselves. Do we really want to go back to THAT place? Seriously?

Series three was a big step forward. The Doctor stopped joking around so much and started to show gravitas. The stories were, on average, an improvement from the previous years. Now we start series four and I can't help but feel that a regression has taken place. Laughs have always been in Doctor Who, but never have they come so cheaply. A story that moves so fast it's over before you care. (I'm a big fan of the two parters, by the way. More time for exposition and development, like the 4 parters of old.) Not a strong start, but let's hope, for the series sake, it's only a false start.

Inauspicious Beginnings by Greg Long 4/8/08

I had high hopes for series 4 of (new) Doctor Who. David Tennant has proven that, given a decent script, he can be a joy to watch as the Doctor, so the viewer can always hope that this time, they will see something good. In Partners in Crime, it was not to be. Instead, we get another Russell T Davies fiasco, a self-conscious self-parody closer in spirit to 60's Batman than Doctor Who. In fact, the episode is so like Batman that the villain leaves deliberate clues for the hero to follow, taking an alias and using a motto that deliberately hint at their dark intent.

Now, certainly, it isn't as if the classic series never stooped to that kind of thing (Chameleon Tours in The Faceless Ones springs to mind) but this sort of thing was clumsy in the children's television of 1967 and it hasn't gotten any less so. Another "Batmanism" is the inclusion, in Foster, of a smirking two-dimensional villain who revels in their own evil. To be fair, this also happens in the classic series, but it was a weakness at the time and at least they weren't winking to us about it as if that somehow made it clever instead of lazy characterization.

The irony is, when dealing with ordinary people in ordinary situations, Davies characterization can be quite good, something he proves again in this episode. But he only takes the ordinary seriously, not the extraordinary; that which is different exists only to be laughed at. Hence we get another "comedy" alien where we might have had something genuinely frightening or even thought provoking. Hence we get suspension of disbelief shattering moments like the Doctor and Donna constantly just missing seeing each other, and even Foster performing a Wile E Coyote look to camera before falling from a height. Any sense of reality flies right out the window and all tension is lost because the program is constantly yelling to us "I'm a television program!"

It goes without saying that the story is resolved by another dues ex machina, with Donna pulling from her pocket the very thing that the Doctor needs to save the day. Tennant does his best to sell all of this to us, but it is all just too much. Similarly, Catherine Tate tries hard with Donna, but the character, even if not as badly written as before, is still a bumbling clown. All up, it is disposable junk, not worth watching twice.

A brave move indeed by Nathan Mullins 8/12/08

There's absoloutly nothing to dislike here. So the creatures in this episode (the Adipose) aren't the creepiest, vicous, meanies to come up against the Doctor but so what? This episode is a true classic for many, many reasons. For starters, the writers had to think up a way of getting the two leads (the Doctor and Donna) to meet one another again since they last met in The Runaway Bride, two Christmases ago. I liked the fact that Donna had an investigation of her own before the Doctor got involved. Matron Cofelia (Miss Foster) has developed a pill that will justify the fat that simply walks away. Adipose industries is the company she works for and it's not long before the Doctor gets involved.

May I say that, since Doctor Who had seen series 3 end on such a high note, it came back with a new setup that really worked. David Tennant acts as though he hasn't stepped out of the role and he's been in about three or four drams since it came back for a fourth series. Catherine Tate proved to me that she was worth having back as the Doctor's companion because it seems that since we last met her, she's done a lot of growing up and had been telling herself that she made a mistake when she refused to travel with him. But I must say that I was in shock when I saw how prepared she was for the trip of a lifetime with him when I saw his reaction to all the bags she pulled from out of her car. I mean, she must have known he'd return.

The Adipose were something else. I mean, they're not all that bad. When I first saw them in the Radio Times, I can't say I was impressed, but they've grown on me and after I repeatedly watched them on BBC3 on a Doctor Who repeat, I must say that the episode was a blast! Of course, we were bound to meet Donna's family as we did Rose Tyler's and Martha Jones', but theres nothing wrong there. I quite enjoy that part and I love Bernard Cribbins as Donna's grandfather Wilf. Although I despise her mother, but she wasn't terribly irritating like Jackie (thanking my lucky stars.)

A positive start to season four and, to be honest, from what Voyage of the Damned screened at the end of the episode, it looks like the rest of the season's going to be brilliant.

A Review by Finn Clark 22/9/09

It's a comedy. D'oh. If you cast the UK's number one female star, known for her comedy sketch show, it shouldn't be surprising for them to write her a comedy. That's what they did with the (brilliant) The Runaway Bride and that's what we get here too. As a result we have both of Catherine Tate's first two stories both being explicitly comedies, in each case to a degree we haven't seen since the Hartnell era. Doctor Who has often been funny, but this is actually "the comedy genre" rather than just "has laughs". That's how they're structured.

Like that story, this one falls down a bit in the second half, but I think this copes better by not trying to reach so far. It's not trying to blow our Christmas-laden minds, but instead is doing something weirder. This is a story in which people's excess body fat turns into cute little aliens and walks away. We've seen criticism of New Who for being too safe, for giving us formulaic Saturday evening family fare instead of anything riskier, but I don't believe I've ever seen this before. Of course it's crowd-pleasing and funny, but that's what you want from a season opener. There's an evil corporation seeding the world with its products of death, just waiting to press the big red button and kill us all... with cutie-wutey snuggle bunnies. Miss Foster isn't a bad person, really. She's just differently ethical. All she wants is to make babies, which is something you don't often say about a character in Doctor Who. Arguably it's the alien infiltration we thought we were getting with Rose, except that it's practically a parody. You could cut-and-paste Autons in place of the Adipose and you'd hardly have to change a thing. You could even keep the, ahem, climactic alien rampage across London, although you'd need to tell the extras to do a bit more running and screaming.

Of course, the story ends with the Doctor just standing by and watching as aliens fly down to make everything all right, but that's almost the point. It's a NICE invasion. The thing's constructed like a shaggy dog story. There certainly are New Who episodes in which the Doctor's lack of plot involvement is regrettable, but this isn't one of them. The real meat of the story involves the relationships of the Doctor and Donna. A more serious niggle would be that the second half runaround is a bit of a waste of time, but it's still featherlight and fun. It's just that it's empty calories, that's all.

Going back to the beginning, I love the gag of the Doctor and Donna coincidentally doing the same thing at stage after stage of their investigation. It's even clever. Rusty's problem was always going to be how to reintroduce Donna without being seen to do so. After all, we've all seen The Runaway Bride. Then, on top of that, there's Tate's performance. I hated her in the Christmas special, but I loved her here. Apparently Russell T. Davies said in the Radio Times that she'd been rounded out from "a shouting fishwife to someone who's quite vulnerable and emotional". Sounds about right to me. I'm not arguing. She's still got a bit of Peri in her, but in the sense that this is what Peri should have been and wasn't. Look at how she reacts to stepping inside the TARDIS, for instance. "I know all that, although frankly you could turn the heating up." More than any other companion, Donna brings the Doctor down to earth. That's the joke. She's always 100% grounded. This could have been annoying had Tate delivered a bad performance, but instead it's great.

Similarly, this story shows The Idiot's Lantern and Fear Her how you do domestic. "Ten past one in the morning, the burglar alarm goes off." Doctor Who needs more scenes of people worrying about their burglar alarms. However, the comedy disappears and everything becomes gentle and lovely when it's time for Tate and Bernard Cribbins. Awesome, both of them. It's interesting to note that the following scene is of the Doctor talking to himself in the TARDIS before realising that he's alone, but the important thing is that no praise is too high for Cribbins.

If we're looking for nitpicks, then I'd like to know what happened to conservation of mass when the lady got Adiposed. There was a lot of her and not many waddling lumps afterwards. I also thought the Doctor was a bit cavalier with the sonic pen. I can see that it was too useful for him to be allowed to keep, but couldn't it have blown up when he put the two sonic devices against each other? Incidentally, the bin he drops it into isn't the one into which Donna drops her mother's car keys. One has a bag and the other doesn't.

However, the important thing is that this is a story in which a character delivers lines while hopping along tied to a chair. It's clear what kind of spirit we're meant to be watching in. That's one of many lovely moments, by the way, despite the fact that the actress messes up a wonderful line. "I'm going to report you for madness." That should have been funnier. Other moments I adore include the popping up heads, the squish under the taxi and the Looney Tunes effect of turning off the gravity beam. Obviously it's ridiculous, but it's easily handwaved. Gravity doesn't glow. The light beam would presumably be a side effect or a safety feature for ease of aim and manipulation. It's funny. That's all you need, really. One subjectively wonderful line would be "it's a beautifully fat country". The Japanese contingent says aye.

Oh, and I haven't even yet mentioned the lip-reading conversation. Funniest live-action thing I've seen in years, although in anime I've seen Kodocha. Laugh? I nearly died. Tennant's easier to lip-read than Tate, by the way.

I'm going to single out a single moment. Note the playfulness of the scene where Donna's sitting there while her nagging mother fades in and out around her. They spent money on that special effect, you know. If they'd cut that shot, we could have had an alien with six-inch fangs instead. It's never the easy option to take that kind of step away from realism, but I love the fact that they did so. That's confidence. Russell T. Davies is completely out of control, in all the best ways. Here we have a writer who knows how to play, which is a more important skill than you'd think. Writing that's in no way playful is writing that's half dead.

This story is deliberately lightweight, but that doesn't mean it's not special. On the contrary, for my money it's worth a thousand stories like Tooth and Claw. I appreciate the surprises. I love the incidental music, which is bright and Partners in Crimey. I admire the fact that they felt confident enough to go against the expected season opener pattern of "bigger, Bigger, BIGGER!!!!" Last year they had alien rhinos taking a London hospital to the moon. How do you top that? Why, with monsters that make Alpha Centauri look like Aliens vs. Predator. We have cute aliens! Doctor Who had never done cute aliens before, if you don't count Beep the Meep.

A Review by Jamie Beckwith 5/4/10

Any misgivings I had about Catherine Tate evaporated as the episode progressed. I'm not a fan of her sketch show but I do think she's good at capturing characters (even if it's usually stupid or obnoxious characters), so I didn't doubt her ability as an actress. Donna seemed so annoying in The Runaway Bride but I rewatched it again a few days ago and whilst I still don't rate it very much in terms of the series overall, one can almost forgive Donna shrieking and stomping about and throwing tantrums and slapping the Doctor. She had, after all, to all intents and purposes, been kidnapped by an alien on her wedding day.

On to Partners in Crime itself. It was a fairly solid season opener and the fact that both the Doctor and Donna are known to the audience allows for a bit of comedy in the beginning as their paths keep crossing, missing each other by a few seconds each time.

The plot itself was silly but within the Doctor Who parameters of "it makes sense" silly, and it was nice to have a bunch of aliens who weren't bent on conquest or wanting to destroy the Earth for nefarious means. As David Tennant points out in Confidential, if it weren't for the extreme side effect of getting killed, humans and the Adipose could probably get on quite well.

It was nice to see that Martha hadn't been forgotten and that the Doctor had sobered up to the consequences of what he'd done to her. She's still my favourite companion of the new series (Rose who?) so I'm looking forward to her return later in the season. The Doctor inviting Donna aboard was nicely inverted as a consequence of this and when they finally set off I'd found that I was actually quite looking forward to Donna's adventures with the Doctor. I wasn't expecting THAT at all!

Total Whogasm! I kinda regretted being home alone (My family had gone to the theatre and though I was invited I had to reply "Do you not know me?! I'm fully booked for the next 13 Saturdays!") because there was no one to share the hand-punch-in-the-air moment of brilliance.

7/10 with a Whogasm bonus point for that bit at the end.

A Review by Harry O'Driscoll 3/2/11

This story is like some sort of joke! The whole thing is treated as a comedy and cheapens Doctor Who to some sort of little kiddies show.

Any idea that this show could be real was totally dashed with the stupid comedy premise here. The whole idea of the Doctor and Donna keep missing each other really takes a stretch of the imagination, and things aren't helped by Murray Gold's stupid musical score. The whole invasion of Earth idea has been done to death in the new series. I know that technically that there is no invasion here but it is getting a bit unbelievable that every alien has their plan set on Earth; surely there are other planets out there? Besides the whole point of Doctor Who is to take us to faraway places in the Universe, not to have half the series set in the modern day.

The monster in this story is possibly the cutest monster I have ever seen, so how on earth does this episode scare people? Ms Foster is hardly threatening, thinking that an icy demeanour and some heavies make her belong in the Doctor Who monster hall of fame.

The worst thing of all is that the plan is not actually that evil, as both the Adipose and the humans get what they want (they actually say as much in Confidential!). The danger only happens due to the Doctor's interfering; this could have worked to the story's advantage. However, a nice point could have been made on how the Doctor's actions actually cost lives, they could question whether the Doctor ever really saves anyone or whether disaster just seems to follow him. This could have been a recurring theme in season 30 but RTD wants to maintain this image that the Doctor and the companion are always in the right.

Is there anything good to say on the story? Bernard Cribbins as ever makes a great performance as the lovable Wilfred Mott and the Doctor and Donna make a great duo, but that hardly enough to salvage this story.

You ain't mating with me, sunshine! by Evan Weston 6/11/15

Series 4 of Doctor Who is a strange beast. It's probably the only run of the show so far that can't really be defended as good television (unless you count the main arc of Series 6), which is both sad and fascinating. This is due to a couple of key factors that begin to show themselves in Partners in Crime: the casting of Catherine Tate and the subsequent reliance on comedy, and the dumbing down of the scripts by showrunner Russell T Davies and co., who were at this point helming one of the BBC's most successful and beloved programs, one which many believed would fail. This combination results in a series of stories that are just too flimsy to analyze as serious drama, and a ham-handedness that hadn't shown up before or sense.

Partners in Crime is a great, if perhaps too successful, example of the typical Series 4 story. An evil alien nanny is duping the British public into birthing her client's babies by marketing their eggs as diet pills. Seriously? How did that make it out of Russell's head and into the ears of another human being, much less into a produced episode of Doctor Who? Oh, and I forgot to tell you, they come out as little CGI balls of fat. Yup. The silliness is cranked up to 10 for what really serves as a companion introduction episode, and it just feels wrong the whole way through. I found myself rolling my eyes constantly, groaning more than laughing at the ridiculous story concept, which the two leads are forced to try and take seriously.

Catherine Tate, to be honest, does not do a particularly good job of this. She's not quite as cringeworthy here as she will be in the next few stories, but my goodness, what a failure by the casting department. That's not to say that Tate isn't talented - she's very funny, and I enjoy a lot of her work - but she and Doctor Who just don't mesh. I get the want for a non-romantic companion and one that appeals to the average person, but to celebrity-stuntcast that role and then make her a blathering fool wasn't exactly the right idea. Donna kind-of worked in The Runaway Bride because her story made narrative sense; here she's just a lovelorn spectator without the love part, a shadow of a female character just waiting for her man to take her to the stars. It's quite silly how her actions are explained by "I was looking for you!" as if that was going to work, and Tate's mugging gets annoying at points.

Her interplay with David Tennant is a high point, though, and the two have undeniable chemistry. I do feel bad for Tennant both in Partners in Crime and throughout Series 4, because he's forced to deliver all of these godawful lines and be a silent comedian after the dramatic highs of Series 3. However, he manages to make lines like "This is your one chance, because if you don't call this off, then I'll have to stop you" at least somewhat appealling, and I appreciate his full-on embrace of the new tone. It's not a good change for the show, mind you, but he does with it what he can. I also enjoy his interaction's with Tate's Donna: it's easy to see why the Doctor would want to travel with her still, and the two of them are quite funny as a pair. In fact, the whole thing is pretty hilarious. Comedy is the obvious strength with this story, and it's hard not to let out a big laugh when the Doctor and Donna are miming across the villain's lair.

The issue with Partners in Crime, then, as I've alluded to earlier, is that there's absolutely no dramatic depth to be found. The villain's plan is silly and convoluted, death is treated as something to be laughed at as long as people are exploding into adorable goo, and most of the script is just a Stooges-style chase through Adipose Industries' headquarters. The first ten minutes of the episode exist solely to provide reams of useless exposition and to make sight gags of the Doctor and Donna almost meeting. Oh, look, there they go again! The plot is so inane and meaningless that it's extremely difficult to care about anything happening on screen. Things make no sense: Why would the reporter be hiding in a bathroom? Why would Cofelia think the Adipose would bring her back with them when she failed, despite showing a large degree of intelligence throughout the story? What the hell was Donna doing with fake identification? You can turn the plot into a block of Swiss cheese if you think about it for 30 seconds, and while that's been cropping up in Davies' work for some time, it's especially bad here and throughout Series 4. Simply put, it's television for dumb people, and if Davies had that much contempt for his audience, he should have left the show before this series.

What works better are the smaller character moments, particularly with Donna's grandfather. We met Wilfred Mott very briefly back in Voyage of the Damned, but he actually gets to act a bit in Partners in Crime. Bernard Cribbins is utterly charming, one of the best actors to ever appear on Who, and even in brief glimpses we fall in love with his character. The hilltop conversation between Wilf and Donna comes this close to convincing you of her motives almost entirely on the strength of his acting. We also get some sweet continuity moments between Donna and the Doctor, as he explains Martha and his failure with her. She also asks about Rose, and guess who's back... even for just a second, Billie Piper's defeated expression still manages to light up the screen, and her return is extremely welcome. At least, that's what I thought at the time; The Stolen Earth/Journey's End hadn't yet defeated my faith in humanity. But more on that later.

For now, Partners in Crime is the start of, in my opinion, easily the worst era in new Doctor Who. The overt simplification of the plot (likely for what Davies believed to be a mainstream, stupid audience) and reliance on comedy to carry the drama almost completely fails, saved somewhat by funny moments and character coherence. Sadly, future Series 4 episodes don't even have that going for them.