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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “Partners in Crime”

(tons of spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode! and no comments from party poopers — this is a love fest only / previous: Episode 0: “Voyage of the Damned”)

“The fat just walks away.” Oh, if only… and be careful what you wish for, too…
Even grading on the Doctor Who curve for weirdness, this is one of the most bizarre — if delightfully so — episodes ever, and certainly among the funniest. And, even more oddly, the most poignant. Poor Stacey melting away into nothingness is horrifying and yet, I gotta admit, kinda hilarious, too: not in that meanspirited way that, handled in another way, might have suggested Stacey got what she deserved or just reveled in her misfortune, but in that way that acknowledges that the human desire for a quick and easy fix for what ails us only makes us, you know, human. And the little blobby adipose babies? So cute and cuddly and sweet… I love the touch of having them wave to everyone. (And oh, all the poor things squashed by the cab! Yuck… and tee-hee, too.)

I hated Donna her first time out, not that she wasn’t interesting as a character or that Catherine Tate isn’t a riot: I just seethed with jealousy that she had a chance to be with the Doctor and completely missed how wonderful he is, or how amazing that experience was. I mean, what kind of idiot is she? And she turned down an invitation to go with him? Madness…

So I’m glad to see that she’s come to her senses and is properly pining for the Doctor, that she now appreciates what she had and let get away. But here it’s all poignant, too: how physically close she was to the Doctor so often, and never realized (and you gotta imagine that’s happened before in her searches for him that we haven’t seen). When she explains to the Doctor how she tried to change her life for the better after her day with him, her frustration is perfect: “I went to Egypt, I was gonna go barefoot and everything. And then it’s all bus trips and guidebooks and don’t drink the water and two weeks later you’re back at home. It’s nothing like being with you.” Oh man, does Russell Davies get the appeal of the Doctor, or what? Only a true fan could have written that…

And the Doctor, talking to himself in the empty TARDIS, actively seeking out trouble cuz he’s so bored… (How did he find out what was going on at Adipose, I wonder. What made him suspicious?) It’s so sad. He only has to ask me, and I’d be gone with him in a shot…

Tate and David Tennant are fantastic together. They’re so funny individually — I love the bit when the Doctor is shaking and banging his little gadget (does it go ding when there’s stuff?) in the universal sign language for frustration with technology, even the super high-tech stuff; and Tate on the phone with her mother (“I’m in church”) is great. And they’re funny without it being a detriment to the characters, not as asides but as integral parts of the characters. But together… Their silent conversation across Foster’s monologuing could be the single most hilarious scene on Doctor Who ever.

I’m not so sure about Donna’s rejection of the idea of the Doctor as anything other than just a buddy, though. “You’re just a long streak of alien nothing” — she doesn’t really believe that, does she? How do you not fall in love with a cute guy who owns a time machine and has adventures across the universe? I mean, if the Doctor told me, “Look, you can come with, but no hanky panky, cuz I only screw it up anyway,” I’d be like, “Yeah, sure, man, whatever, I just wanna see the stars and stuff,” and then secretly plan my seduction once I was onboard, because, you know, anything to get into the TARDIS. (Hey, that’s what Martha did. It didn’t work, but at least she tried.) So what else was Donna gonna say but “Ugh” to the suggestion that she might want to do that with the Doctor. Even if that was a genuine reaction on her part, I bet it doesn’t last forever…

Random thoughts on “Partners in Crime”:

• I love the music in this episode, with the bouncy 60s spy-show vibe. Was the Man from UNCLE from Gallifrey?

• The Doctor in a cube farm? There’s an alien environment he hasn’t been in before, at least not that we’ve seen.

• The cab that pulls up to Donna looking for Stacey? It’s got a little sticker on the windshield that reads “Atmos” (and so does the one later in the episode, that runs over all the little fat babies). Something called Atmos will come back in Episode 4, which debuts tomorrow night in England, if last week’s coming attractions weren’t lying — but, what? Sontarans are running a cab company?

• And yet more seeding for future episodes: Donna mentions all the bees disappearing… and she will mention that again in Episode 3. Surely that’s gotta come home to roost (to hive?) later this season — wasn’t there a giant bee in the Season Four coming attractions?

• The Doctor with a stethoscope! How did it take so long for that to happen? (It reappears again in Episode 3.)

• I wondered why the Doctor would have to sneak in to Adipose and hide away in a closet all day — the way that Donna hides in the bathroom stall — just so he could be there after closing time, when he could just pop the TARDIS in later. But aha: he spent the day trying, fruitlessly, to get into the computer core…

• The nursery ship? Jeez, the people of London must be totally terrorized…

• The Doctor is always surprised when he gets hit on — like the phone rep at Adipose, who tries to give him her phone number. He has no idea what affect he has on people… on us mere humans, anyway. Hilarious. (Bet that bit gets cut from the Sci Fi version.)

• Then again, when the Doctor reveals to Donna, rather embarrassedly, that Martha fancied him, Donna scoffs: “Mad Martha, blind Martha, charity Martha.” And he almost looks like he believes Donna, like he really, really hasn’t got a clue about himself. (Yeah, that bit’s sure to get cut, too.)

• Another bit sure to be cut: the Doctor on the floor at the cat flap. That’s a nice funny touch, so of course it’ll disappear from Sci Fi. Anyone watching the show only on Sci Fi is getting a slightly skewed picture of the Doctor, and a sense of the show that doesn’t quite approximate how funny and full of great little character touches it is.

• Rose? What?! Is she trying to break through from the other universe? I mean, if Donna spoke to her, she was there, or something was there: a ghost of Rose? What? *sob*

• Great quotes:

“If cynicism burnt up calories we’d all be thin as rakes” –Ms Foster (oh, if only!)

“It’s no good sitting there dreaming. No one’s gonna come along with a magic wand and make your life all better.” –Donna’s mum, to Donna. (Maybe someone with a sonic screwdriver, though…)

“How do you lose a planet?” –the Doctor
“Oh, politics are none of my concern.” –the Matron

(next: Episode 2: “The Fires of Pompeii”)

MPAA: not rated

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