Doctor Who: Partners in Crime

Donna: 'I'm waving at fat.'

After 'The Runaway Bride,' I was unsure whether having Catherine Tate as a permanent companion would be good for the show. There's already a thick seam of humour running through Nu-Who—would the introduction of a renowned comedienne upset the already precarious balance of humour and drama? Thankfully, her character this season was a far cry from the Donna we saw back in 'The Runaway Bride'. This was a more vulnerable and wistful Donna. Gone is the shouting fishwife—and I have to say, I think it was a change for the better.

It was nice too, to see the return of Wilfred Mott (capably played by the wombling free Bernard Cribbins). Cribbins had a small role in last year's episode 'Voyage of the Damned', but as with Donna, they've substantially fleshed out his character. He's now Donna's grandfather: a Chiswick allotment holder, with a keen interest in amateur astronomy. The allotment scenes were where I actually started to like Donna. When she's not bawling at people, she's actually quite sweet. And I loved the mime scenes between her and the Doctor. Ridiculous, of course, but so brilliantly acted by Tate and Tennant, that you couldn't help but smile.

At heart, this was really a children's story. The Adipose were nauseatingly sweet, from their fat fingered waves, to their cute, albeit blubbersome, bodies. They reminded me of baked potatoes. They also had 'action figure tie-in' written all over them. Not long after this episode aired, some ingenious fan called Mazzmatazz published instructions on her website on how to make Adipose toys out of wool. She also published knitting patterns for the Ood—until the BBC forced her to take them down. Which is a shame really. Google 'adipose knitted toys' if you're curious. Cute, or what?

For adults, however, the Adipose were a pretty feeble effort. To be honest, I'm not sure the visual effects team could have done much to enhance them. They were just too featureless, which I suppose was intentional—fat is pretty devoid of personality—but they never really looked like anything other than CGI-ed blobs. Maybe it was the concept which failed, as opposed (adipose?) to their on-screen representations.

I've always liked Sarah Lancashire. I'm not sure why exactly, her character in Corrie was as limp as a limpet's limp bits, and she does tend to get stereotyped with somewhat drippy roles. So the character of Miss Foster was a real departure for her. She was like an evil Mary Poppins. She even flew up into the sky at the end. Thankfully, Tennant's mockney accent is marginally more believable than Dick Van Dyke's... but I digress, Miss Foster (or Cofelia) was a curious foe. The Adipose actually helped people to lose weight, so Miss Foster wasn't a villain in the traditional sense of the word. Her breeding plan actually benefited mankind. At least at first.

And the scenes aboard the TARDIS, with the Doctor speaking aloud, before remembering he was alone, were really quite touching. The TARDIS looked enormous with only him inside. Time for a new companion, methinks. I mean, it's not as if Rose is coming back, is she? Okay, well I guess she is, but I was still moderately surprised to see her so early in the season. I have to confess, despite me not enjoying her second season as much as her first, seeing her again was a real thrill. Maybe Russell can undo some of the damage he did to her character—or at the very least make her less annoying.

Other Thoughts:

—How exactly did Stacey's contorted skin just turn into fat? And how do the Adipose get out without breaking the skin?

—I wish they'd shown us how the Doctor got Donna in through the window. She was too high up, wasn't she? And if Miss Foster had dead-locked the building, how did the Doctor open the window below Donna?

—Do the Adipose have teeth? Teeth made of fat? Surely not?

—Miss Foster's full title was Matron Cofelia of the Five Straighten Classabindi Nursery Fleet, Intergalactic Class.

—Adipose Three is one of the 27 planets which were moved to the Medusa Cascade in 'The Stolen Planet'.

—We had our first reference to the bees disappearing tonight.

Billie says...

Yes, the little fat monsters were silly and not at all memorable, and the number of customers they had before even announcing the product made no sense at all. The Matron would have done much better if she had just made a secret deal with the pharmaceutical industry; she could have safely had millions of adipose babies and no scandal at all. But then we wouldn't have had little fat things floating up in the air and waving, and that would have been too bad.

But I liked a lot about this episode. I liked the gleefully evil Matron Mary Poppins, and Penny the unfortunate journalist. I liked that Donna had a trunkful of suitcases ready for the TARDIS. And the scene where the Doctor and Donna met again and carried on a conversation with an office full of bad guys and two pieces of glass between them was just delightful. So was Donna's farewell to her wonderful grandfather. Definitely worth watching for those two scenes alone.

Like Paul, I was apprehensive and distinctly unthrilled about Donna's return... that is, until I saw this episode. Everything I disliked about Donna in "The Runaway Bride" was gone. She was no longer a strident, unhappy stereotype; she was a funny, enthusiastic, resourceful woman who had realized what she really wanted, and went after it with a singular intensity. And she succeeded – partially. I think Catherine Tate's performance hinted pretty strongly that Donna was hoping for adventure and romance, but realized when the Doctor was talking about Martha that romance wasn't in the cards. So she took what she could get, and she did it with a smile on her face. Good for her.

Quotes:

Penny: "Oi, you two! You're just mad, do you hear me? Mad! And I'm going to report you for... madness!"

The Doctor: "You've got a hatbox."
Donna: "Planet of the hats, I'm ready."

Donna: "Some people just can't take it... and some people can! So then! TARDIS! Come on!"

The Doctor: "With Martha, like I said, it got... complicated. And that was all my fault. I just want a mate.
Donna: "You just want to mate?"
The Doctor: "I just want a mate."
Donna: "You're not mating with me, sunshine!"
Doctor: "A mate, I want a mate!"
Donna: "Well, just as well, cos I'm not having any of that nonsense! You're just a long streak of nothing!"
---
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.

3 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Wilf’s little dance for joy at the allotment as he cheers on his granddaughter may be one of my all-time favourite Doctor Who moments.

shawnlunn2002 said...

This was a strange opening episode but better than either Rose or New Earth.

Donna, I was reluctant when I heard when she was coming back but I guess a year and a half was enough to show growth on her part.

The Adipose were cute but more worthy for The Sarah Jane Adventures than here. I liked Matron Cofelia though.

Rose's appearance towards the end was a great moments as was Donna and Wilfred's scenes.

Donna's horror heavily suggested that she doesn't see The Doctor romantically, yet their dynamic is the best from the new series.

I've done a review for Dreamland on my blog.

Michael Colvin said...

I really liked the first 10 minutes or so of this episode. I liked that Donna and the DOCTOR were on parallel paths and such. I know it would have felt too Sarah Jane, but I wish that Donna had been a reporter or something other than just looking for The Doctor. It would have made her a little more interesting.

The scene where they're talking through the glass and then Ms Foster asks if she's interrupting was just brilliant farce but also wildly funny. When Ms. Foster fell, she had this Will E. Coyote moment where the light went off and she hung there before she fell. I was waiting for the word ACME to appear somewhere.

The little babies were just silly, but I loved the "they just walk away" tagline coming true.

Fun and lite-hearted. I wish that Rose hadn't re-appeared quite so fast - it undercut the new companion relationship between the Doctor and Donna. But still nice to see BP again.