Thoughts on: Partners in Crime

The Series 4 opener was a good (re-)introduction for Donna Noble, now to be taken on as the Doctor’s full-time companion, but the episode was not without its faults. The main issue that stuck out like a swollen part of the anatomy was the almost facepalm-inducing story premise. It’s about an alien species growing living fat babies from obese humans. I’m not quite sure what was going through RTD’s mind when he decided this was a cracking idea for a series opener… I really can’t comprehend it. What made it worse was that those walking fat babies were realised in CGI so comically (I mean that in a bad way). It was just silly. More than ever before, this show felt like a children’s show. Series 4 is an exceptional series on the whole, but its opener is probably its weakest point for the inane storyline. Granted, this opener was more about introducing Donna—which it did exceptionally—than the plot, but given the quality of previous companion introduction episodes, Smith and Jones and Rose, I’m not as disposed to overlook the poor story that I might have been.

Onto Donna. I liked the Ten-Donna partnership in The Runaway Bride, so of course it’s excellent to see them together again. Donna was re-introduced really well here. She was shown to be a frustrated woman; all the motivation and the energy to make something of herself that the Doctor had inspired in her the last time they met was seemingly frustrated as she found seeing the world and doing something with her life “easier said than done”. This received beautiful exposition in some touching dialogue between Donna and Wilf under the stars as Donna spoke wistfully of her longing to find the Doctor again. It’s all the more ecstatic when the Doctor and Donna are reunited again, in that genuinely hilarious scene involving the Doctor and Donna playing charades through the windows at Adipose Industries. I think the tone of the Doctor’s accepting Donna as his companion at the end of the story was really optimistic and sweet, and I’m looking forward to seeing their “matey” partnership play out over Series 4. One more thing—I like the way Donna has been toned down from her “shouty fishwife” characterisation in The Runaway Bride and made a gentler person. It’s a sensible character development: Donna seems more jaded and humbled than she was when we saw her last. I think her experiences at Christmas and since have given her a lot to think about, which has ultimately changed her outlook and attitude.

Wilf, by the way, is already shaping up to be an excellent recurring character. Also, that cameo of Rose’s was stupefying, and a just a bit hair-raising. Although of course I know what’s coming, it’s clearly setting up something big for the finale, and did that brilliantly. I only wish I’d been a Doctor Who fan when that was first broadcast, so I could hear the sound of fans’ jaws around the world dropping in dumbfounded unison.

Rating: 6/10.

Thoughts on: The Runaway Bride

I don’t really have much to say about this episode. I enjoyed it, probably more than I should have. It was fun, lighthearted, delightfully camp, and exactly the kind of thing you want to sit back and put your feet up to on Christmas night (or Boxing Day night for us in the Antipodes). In the greater scheme of things, it was a pretty mediocre episode of Doctor Who with an unimaginative plot, an extremely camp villain, and overblown action sequences padding out 60 minutes due to the dearth of substantive story. But I didn’t even mind. This episode wasn’t trying to be ambitious or even trying to be a serious episode of Doctor Who, it was some mindless, entertaining fun to settle down to after a tiring day of cooking and feasting and socialising with relatives. In that respect, it did what it set out to do admirably, and I can’t really fault it for not being, or even trying to be, something else.

One aspect of this episode I really liked, though, was the partnership of the Tenth Doctor and Donna. David Tennant and Catherine Tate clearly have great chemistry together, and their characters, more or less from their first encounter, are an absolute joy to watch together. Their personalities complement each other so perfectly, bouncing off each other brilliantly. I would say that, even from this episode alone, the Tenth Doctor and Donna work better together onscreen than did Ten and Rose. I mean, Ten and Rose were cute, but Ten and Donna are genuinely funny. I can definitely see why Russell T Davies jumped at the opportunity to bring Donna back as a proper companion, as he did.

Another thing I liked about this episode was the way the Doctor’s execution of the Racnoss children was portrayed. That was a really, uncharacteristically intense moment in this episode, with the haunting screams of the Racnoss Empress and the flames and flood engulfing the Doctor. It was another of the Tenth Doctor’s “dark” moments. I’ve mentioned before the idea that the Tenth Doctor may have actually been the darkest of all the Doctors, a darkness that, most of the time, he suppresses behind a jovial and affable exterior, but which comes out when he loses control. We catch only glimpses of Ten’s dark side as it comes out only infrequently, but it’s definitely there, lying just beneath the surface, suppressed but not quashed. The Racnoss death scene was a very powerful moment, in general and in terms of the Doctor’s characterisation. The theory is a really compelling one which I’m inclined to think is true, which would make Ten a far more interesting incarnation of the Doctor than he’s usually given credit for. The Doctor definitely has a very dark side to his persona, which waxes and wanes between his incarnations just as his other characteristics do. All of the revival Doctors have had fairly prominent dark sides, due to the lingering effects of the Time War upon the Doctor, and the Seventh Doctor displayed the most darkness of the classic Doctors. I like my Doctors to have a dark side, so I really appreciated this scene.

Rating: 7/10.