Review: Doctor Who – 4×1 – Partners in Crime

Thumbs up for nu-<strong>Who</strong>

Three firsts for Doctor Who this year:

  1. I’m reviewing the first episode sober. No, you haven’t entered the Twilight Zone. It’s true, it’s real, and it’s happening right now.
  2. It was actually cute of all things. Sure, Big Finish has done cute but this is the first time I can think of that the TV series has done cute.
  3. Russell T Davies wrote the opening episode and I liked it.

Plot
During an alien emergency in London, a woman called Donna Noble must search for an old friend who can save the day – a man named the Doctor. But can even the Doctor halt the plans of the mysterious Miss Foster?

Was it any good?
Normally, you can rely on Rusty to put together a fluffy piece of unchallenging rubbish that’s fun but absolutely nonsensical and that doesn’t bear up to the slightest bit of scrutiny.

For once though, while he’s put together something that is indeed fluffy and fun, it actually holds together relatively well.

There are most of the usual RTD hallmarks: running up and down corridors, slapstick, lots of over-long action scenes, a perfusion of multipurpose sonic devices, sticking his own thoughts into characters’ mouths (do you reckon the Doc would really have a go at investigative journalists? Three words to you then – Sarah Jane Smith), odd ideas about science, et al. But for all that, the script wasn’t overloaded with these hallmarks.

It was just nice. The little adipose creatures were very, very cute and generally inoffensive. Even Miss Foster the Supernanny wasn’t too awful, just a little ruthless. 

Then there was the re-introduction of Donna. For all that worry about Catherine Tate, I found Donna quite likeable, really, and more of an equal to the Doctor, ready to call him up on things and (thankfully) not hanging on his every word – and, erm, more attractive than either Rose or Martha really as a result. Her failure to live up to the ideals the Doctor instilled in her rang true to life, as did her chasing of him to recapture her only real moment of glory in life. 

Then there’s Donna’s family. Obviously, having Bernard Cribbins in something makes it innately great by default. But Donna’s mum and grandpa, while no more realistic than either Martha or Rose’s families and burdened by the stereotypical sniping mum RTD always includes, had a warmth that the others didn’t. It was almost like one of those families you used to see on kids’ shows in the 70s and 80s like Jonny Briggs. I felt a wave of nostalgia watching them. That might have been Bernard Cribbins again though. 

Some good comedy moments (particularly the miming scene), too, the CGI really held together, bar a couple of TARDIS shots. The continuity with previous nu-Who episodes was good and I liked the fact that the Doctor regrets the damage he caused to Martha’s family as a result of his tussles with the Master, making him reticent to take on a new companion (wasn’t so reticent with Kylie, but who wants a Christmas downer, hey?). 

Then, of course, there was Pipes in what looked like a dodgy blonde wig. Clearly, her return is going to be this series’ Bad Wolf/Mr Saxon theme rather than crowbarred into her reappearance episode, which bodes well.

Not a huge amount of depth to the plot, but nice. The usual worry now is that things generally move along at a relatively tepid pace until about episode six or seven before picking up towards the end of the series. But with a good start to the season, the pattern’s been broken. So maybe we can expect consistent quality all the way through. That would be nice.




  • I enjoyed it too. Review up. Yay! Here’s to a top class series!
    PS you illustrated this with a picture of Donna???!!!! Don’t you know your market by now?

  • MediumRob

    It’s Donna’s first outing as a proper companion and she was the only one giving the thumbs up sign. There’ll be plenty of opportunities for DT pictures later, plus you’ll be getting a little icon of him next to every review. Besides, OMG, DonnA iZ SO HOTT!!!! One for the lads this time. 😉

  • “Besides, OMG, DonnA iZ SO HOTT!!!! One for the lads this time. ;-)”
    We’ll give you this one, just because we like Donna. You *do* know owe us a picture of Tennant in glasses though, obviously.
    I can’t say I thought this episode was particularly *good* but my lordy I enjoyed it. It gave me hope for future episodes, something that very quickly ebbed away last series.

  • Well, I actually really like CT (and so does Cloud: its the redhead thing) so that worked for me. I especially liked the way that the Doctor acknowledged what he’s done with Martha and the rather shoddy way he let her love him and do the whole ‘saving the world’ thing. I also enjoyed having managed to keep myself unspoilered about Rose (so a bit la-la-la not listening when you say anything about future arcs of the series).
    overall, LOVELY stuff. Thank heck for BBC iPlayer!

  • I’ll see what I can do about pictures of DT in glasses, but he’ll need to wear them more frequently because I’m running out of them.

  • Thumbs up from the maniac household too,apart from sorry Rob, have to disagree (and so does my nine year old)- the aliens were crap. But apart from that this was a lot of fun. And I forgive the aliens for being crap because it sort of reminded me of the very first episode with the plastic dummies, which in turn reminded me of Jon Pertwee’s first stint as the Doctor, screaming down a hill in a wheelchair, while shop dummies, daffodils and plastic chairs were busy attacking people. Dr Who is nothing if not daft, and I like it when RTD reminds us of that.
    And I absolutely LOVED Bernard Cribbins stargazing from his allotment. Magic.
    We watched William Hartnell later that evening meeting the daleks for the first time, which was slightly surreal. My first doctor (just) was Patrick Troughton, so I’d not seen this one before. Couldn’t believe what a trickster the Doctor was, or how slow it was. But the daleks were pretty scary. No wonder I was so scared of them when I was five…

  • TemplarJ

    I was very against the idea of Tate’s casting, just shows that I’m wrong about just about everything. PiC was just great, great fun and genuinely laugh out loud funny.

  • espedair

    I loved it. Just the right level of funny, some cracking likes (‘you want to MATE!’) and a good twist at the end.
    Funny thing is almost everyone I’ve spoken to today said they didn’t like it. When I pushed them, the comments ranged from ‘it should just have been better’ too ‘I was just a bit underwhelmed; You just can’t please some people. So its good to know it wasn’t just me!
    Bring on more I say 😉

  • Had I remembered to wear my patented “helm of an ADHD eight-year-old” this time, as I have done with my previous Who reviews, I’d have probably agreed with you that it lacked a little something for the kids in terms of a decent baddie. But without it, I liked the idea that there wasn’t a proper villain – at least, not on-screen.
    The helm will be back for episode two, though, don’t y’all be a-worrying.
    “Jon Pertwee’s first stint as the Doctor, screaming down a hill in a wheelchair, while shop dummies, daffodils and plastic chairs were busy attacking people”
    Ooh, be careful to conflate Spearhead from Space, Pertwee’s first adventure which did indeed involve the wheelchair and shop dummies, with Terror of the Autons, his fifth story which featured daffodils and plastic chairs. Although they are almost exactly identical in terms of plot, the first is pretty adult and had my beloved Liz Shaw as the companion (she saves the day! She fixes the Doctor’s bloody gadget while he’s busy being attacked by an octopus!), while the second is the first story for The Master, is more child-friendly and is encumbered with Jo Grant as a companion.
    Don’t worry: the longer you spend here, the more these vital details will be impressed into your mind. Soon, you will be one of us.
    “We watched William Hartnell later that evening meeting the daleks for the first time, which was slightly surreal. My first doctor (just) was Patrick Troughton, so I’d not seen this one before. Couldn’t believe what a trickster the Doctor was, or how slow it was. But the daleks were pretty scary. No wonder I was so scared of them when I was five…”
    Yeah, he’s pretty evil at the beginning. Have a watch, if you can, of An Unearthly Child, his very first story. He electrifies the console to give Ian a shock and stop him from opening the doors, he spends the whole time laughing at how primitive and stupid humans and there’s one bit where it looks like he’s going to bash in a caveman’s skull with a rock. The first episode is great, the other three less so, but it’s worth a look.
    As for slowness, yes it’s terribly slow. But then, they had to chuck out 52 episodes a year back then on next to no budget, when there was no technology to do anything properly, only one standing set and four regular characters – they had to cut all the corners they could. And if that meant dragging stories that just about warranted two episodes out to seven, eight or even 13 episodes, so be it.

  • You Are Not Alone.

  • What can I say Rob, but that I am very old, and my memory is not what it was? I remember clearly Jon Pertwee regenerating and waking up in hospital to the medics being surprised by his two hearts, plus the wheelchair and the shop dummies. I thought the plastic daffodils and the suffocating chair were in the same storyline, not necessarily the same episode. I have very vague memories of Liz Shaw but I LOATHED Jo Grant who was so wet. I wasn’t much keener on Sarah Jane, and I think RTD has improved her beyond all recognition. I know lots of people haven’t enjoyed Martha, but frankly compared to the assistants of my youth she is heaps better. At least she gets to DO something…
    Anyway. I stand corrected. How refreshing to meet someone who is even more obsessed with Dr Who minutiae then I am….!!
    The first episode of the daleks one I thought was quite atmospheric, but it lost its way a bit after that. Dragged the sprogs into look but they are spoilt 21st C children and they don’t get it if it isn’t fast and furious… I did quite like William Hartnell’s grumpy old man persona though.
    Roll on Saturday… Donna being sacrificed also harks back to a Jo Grant episode where she’s nearly sacrificed to a demon and there’s a mad gargoyle lobbing bricks at the brigadier. Great fun. Though peculiarly they all do dancing round the maypole at the end. How times have changed…

  • “there’s a mad gargoyle lobbing bricks at the brigadier”
    Chap with the wings! Five rounds, rapid!

  • That would be The Daemons 😉
    Last story of the eighth season and ends up with the Master being captured.
    As for Liz Shaw v Jo Grant, here’s why Liz had to leave (don’t it make you sick?) plus a clip of her wonderfulness in action, and here’s my reasoned argument why she was so great. Nuff said.
    Tune in next week (and more or else every blog entry) for quibblings about the minutiae of Doctor Who.

  • Got to see the episode last night with my buddies from the Bit Torrent underground. I thought it was great fun and bodes well for the rest of the season. And between the script and Catherine Tate, we got excellent results in the overhaul of Donna’s character. Best reintroduction of a character so far this year in any show…..
    I hope the BBC, or the production company, whoever, remembers the lessons learned by Pixar with the original ‘Toy Story’ and their 3-eyed alien toy characters – there better be Adipose toys on the shelves in time for Christmas!
    In the group I was watching this with, we all agreed we wanted to buy Adipose toys… for the young-uns, of course….. ::cough!::

  • Rob
    a) thank you for the link to The Unearthly Child. Have realised I have seen bits of it, but not the whole, and certainly not enough to pick up what a nasty old git the Doctor appears to be. Mind you I did like Wiliam Hartnell’s knowing looks to the camera… Daren’t start watching whole series as I have far too much to do, but will try to catch up from time to time if I ever have a spare moment.
    b)Ooh, thanks for all that info on Liz Shaw. Now she sounds EXACTLY like the kind of heroine I wanted when I was a lass, except they didn’t seem to exist at all. I am sure you are absolutely right in everything you say (you are certainly right about SJS who screamed with monotonous regularity), but sadly I have very few memories of LS and lots of wet Jo and wimpy SJ.
    c) Yes it was The Daemons – I hadn’t seen the original but my husband bought it a while back and we both thought the chap with wings line was the best bit in it. I think we should mount a campaign to bring back the Brig. Must confess was rather shocked with the Guantanomo Bay type stuff that Unit did to Tosh in Torchwood. The Brig would never have let that happen. Plus if Unit has got so rotten, why is Martha working for them?
    On the subject of The Daemons, was it only me who thought that the Beast in the Satan Pit was pretty similar?
    I can see I am going to have to ration my visits here, Rob. I am already an expert at online timewasting, and I can forsee idling away many happy hours here, where I am going to be out minutiaed every time I stop by…

  • “Saw this and thought of you”
    I do play a mean bassoon.
    “In the group I was watching this with, we all agreed we wanted to buy Adipose toys… for the young-uns, of course….. ::cough!::”
    You can join our campaign for Adipose toys over at Rullsenberg’s. Anyone who’s got a heart would want one.
    “b)Ooh, thanks for all that info on Liz Shaw. Now she sounds EXACTLY like the kind of heroine I wanted when I was a lass”
    She was. Sigh. Still, if you thought Hartnell was a git, try some season seven Pertwee, who happily spends his time lying, cheating and generally throwing the humans to the dogs so that he can fix his TARDIS and escape from Earth. I do love the ending of Ambassadors of Death probably most of all DW stories: aliens sorted, bad humans sorted, yet all the details of how to make everything okay are still up in the air. Doctor says “Right, I’m off to fix the TARDIS”. Everyone wonders where he’s going when there’s still so much to do, so he gives them a few ideas of what to do next and then says that Liz Shaw can sort it all out for them before scarpering for the nearest exit. Marvellous.
    “was it only me who thought that the Beast in the Satan Pit was pretty similar?”
    I think there’s actually a head nod to The Daemons in either The Impossible Planet or The Satan Pit, with the suggestion that the Daemons are an echo of the Satan beast or something.
    “I can see I am going to have to ration my visits here, Rob.”
    Now, now, I can see you’ve drawn completely the wrong conclusion there. You need to spend more time here, obviously. Stay… stay…

  • My husband and I are at loggerheads on best Doctor of our childhood. His is JP mine is TB. I do remember JP being a bit slippery, but I think you don’t quite pick up how much as a kid. We do have several classic series which we try to educate the kids with. They can’t quite cope with the wobbly sets though… Interesting Dr Who aside. In my former life as a real person (ie before I had children) I had to once take out a literary agent who had also worked on Dr Who. He told me that in the seventies it was de rigeur for the script to call for hundreds of Ice Warriors say, and for the Beeb to say you can have five. So the same five actors had to run over and over the same hill…Apparently they were all jealous of Star Trek which had a proper budget.
    I have only fleetingly watched the Satan’s Pit episodes so I must have missed that reference, but as soon as I saw the Beast I thought of it.
    I’m having a blast here, Rob. It’s just I haven’t enough hours in the day as it is. I have edits to complete on my second book, and am allegedly starting a third when the kids go back to school. Talking of which they need breakfast.
    But don’t worry, like Arnie, I’ll be back…
    PS Am sure you can tell me which series it was which had the Master in possession of a thought machine which made you imagine your worst fears. Sarah Jane was tied to the chair in that episode and I think was frightened of rats or something. It was the only series of Dr Who which was banned in our house for being too scary – even for behind the sofa watching. I seem to remember Ice Warriors in it too, but I may have made that up…

  • “My husband and I are at loggerheads on best Doctor of our childhood.”
    You might be interested in our previous discussion of the subject of best Doctor, although I’m not sure everyone got what was I driving at.
    “He told me that in the seventies it was de rigeur for the script to call for hundreds of Ice Warriors say, and for the Beeb to say you can have five. ”
    That would be the likes of Death to the Daleks and Day of the Daleks, which had three Daleks to play with and they were falling apart a bit by the stage, as I recall (although Stuart may recall better). I’m pretty sure it was Troughton’s Power of the Daleks that had the same three Daleks circling the camera to give the impression of millions of the blighters though.
    “I’m having a blast here, Rob. It’s just I haven’t enough hours in the day as it is”
    Well, glad to hear you’re enjoying it here! I don’t know about the other assembled journos and writers here, but when deadlines come, it’s procrastination time for me (my wife says she can always tell when an article’s due because suddenly the flat’s spotless). But doing a bit of writing normally gets me in the mood. And of course, writing a comment on a blog is a form of writing, so coming here and commenting might turn out to be helpful to you…
    “Am sure you can tell me which series it was which had the Master in possession of a thought machine which made you imagine your worst fears. Sarah Jane was tied to the chair in that episode and I think was frightened of rats or something. It was the only series of Dr Who which was banned in our house for being too scary – even for behind the sofa watching. I seem to remember Ice Warriors in it too, but I may have made that up…”
    That would be The Mind of Evil, although that featured Jo Grant rather than Sarah Jane. There may have been Ice Warriors in Jo’s nightmare, because she met them in The Curse of Peladon, although it’s been a while since I’ve seen it.

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