On Earth in 2008, the Doctor investigates a company called Adipose Industries, the makers of a diet pill that magically makes the fat “walk away,” suspecting that there’s something sinister to their miracle cure for obesity. Little does he know that his friend, former runaway bride Donna Noble, is also at Adipose, having just taken a job in health & safety. Also realizing that Adipose’s claims are too good to be true, Donna begins her own investigation. Donna’s family has criticized her for not sticking to any one job for any length of time since the mysterious circumstances around her not getting married, but what she can’t explain to them is that she regrets not taking the Doctor up on his offer of travel in the TARDIS – and hopes she’ll see him again someday. As she and the Doctor independently snoop around Adipose, they both learn of the more sinister agenda behind the miracle diet pill – and each other’s presence. Just as quickly, they’re both on the run, with Donna leaving no doubt that she expects to be off with the Doctor once the current crisis is over. There’s just one problem: she’s assuming that they’ll both survive the wrath of the mysterious Mrs. Foster once the secret of Adipose is out.
written by Russell T. Davies
directed by James Strong
music by Murray Gold
Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Sarah Lancashire (Miss Foster), Bernard Cribbins (Wilfred Mott), Jacqueline King (Sylvia Noble), Verona Joseph (Penny Carter), Jessica Gunning (Stacey Harris), Martin Ball (Roger Davey), Rachid Sabitri (Craig Staniland), Chandra Ruegg (Clare Pope), Sue Kelvin (Suzette Chambers), Jonathan Stratt (Taxi Driver)
Notes: The episode carries a dedication to Howard Attfield, the late actor who played the role of Donna’s father in The Runaway Bride. He originally shot some scenes for Partners In Crime, but upon his death, the bulk of his dialogue was rewritten for Donna’s grandfather, played by Bernard Cribbins. According to the show’s producers, Donna’s grandfather is indeed the spirited but perhaps slightly unhinged newsstand man encountered by the Doctor (and also played by Cribbins) in Voyage Of The Damned. The Doctor’s observation about how things can come and go through a catflap are nearly identical to a similar comment his seventh incarnation made in 1989’s Survival – a story whose working title was Catflap.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: A cheerfully light-hearted story with twists both fun and ominous, Partners In Crime does a great job of reintroducing Donna to the show and presenting her as, perhaps, a slightly more sympathetic character than she was in The Runaway Bride. That’s not to say that she isn’t still aggravating in her own uniquely endearing way, but it’s a breath of fresh air after the Doctor’s relationship with both of his previous companions became increasingly angsty.
This brings us to one of my favorite things in Partners: it addresses, in dialogue, on camera, that the Doctor (and, by extension, Doctor Who) is going to get away from the “companion has a crush on the Doctor” plot element that was a staple of the first three seasons of the new show. It was an unusual thing to do with Rose, but in having Martha also harbor unrequited love for the Time Lord, it became a cliche that didn’t do any of the companion characters any favors. Here, it’s stated up front that the Doctor isn’t looking for anything more than a platonic relationship at most, and with Donna on board as the new companion, you can probably bet on the testiest TARDIS team since the days of Ace and the seventh Doctor. I look forward to that.
That being said, the idea that Donna has put her life on hold just in case the Doctor shows up again is an interesting glimpse into her character; in that respect, she’s a sadder case than Sarah Jane Smith. At least Sarah had traveled with the Doctor for a long time before returning to Earth and finding everyday life unfulfilling (at least until she got her own show). For Donna to have done that after just one adventure is rather sad.
There’s also a surprising sting in the tail with the appearance of Rose in the closing moments of the show. The show’s makers had made no secret of the fact that Rose would be reappearing in the fourth season, and even if they had tried to cover it up, people catching the sight of Billie Piper filming scenes on the streets of Cardiff was just a little bit of a dead giveaway. But I think everyone was expecting one appearance, late in the season; now it seems that Rose may be this season’s “recurring theme,” in much the same way that Saxon/the Master was in the third season, Torchwood was in the second, and Bad Wolf was in the first. I have a feeling we’ll be catching lots of fleeting glimpses of Rose.
The scene in which the Doctor and Donna have an extremely animated (but silent) conversation through two panes of glass was priceless, one of the best comedic moments the new Doctor Who has yet pulled off. I went back and watched it about ten times – it simply does not get old. Despite some fans decrying the casting of Catherine Tate as a regular, she clearly brings her whole bag of tricks to the table in this one, with both dramatic and comedic moments on display. She’s not the second coming of Bonnie Langford. (And maybe I should point out that I’m not sure what was so terrible about Bonnie Langford’s stint as the Doctor’s sidekick in the 1980s anyway – hopefully fandom will come around, because there’s probably a better-than-even chance that Tate will have better scripts with which to stretch her acting muscles than Ms. Langford ever did before the days of Big Finish Productions.)
Overall, a great open with inordinately cute alien critters hopping around, and a promising new TARDIS team – providing that the writers can handle Donna better than they did Martha.