Partners in Crime sees the Doctor returning to Earth to investigate a suspicious weight-loss company, while former ‘runaway bride’ Donna Noble does the same thing, hoping to run into the Doctor, be whisked away on more adventures in the Tardis and escape her boring life. Yes, Catherine Tate is back, like it or not, but thankfully she’s toned down her character’s obnoxious attitude since last time so she’s a lot more bearable now.
As for the plot, it’s certainly brisk. Season openers (those with new companions, anyway) always take place on Earth and have to cram in both character introduction and a standalone plot, but whether that be Nestene, Judoon or Adipose, it’s always rushed and resolved too quickly. It would be nice to have a new companion just hop aboard the Tardis and have the first episode set on an alien world for a change, without all of this “saving the Earth in 45 minutes” stuff we keep getting.
I’ve said it before, but it’s particularly egregious here: there is too much sonic-screwdrivering. Far, far, far too much. The Doctor does little more than run back and forth pressing his little magic button. Not even for purely electronic uses; he opens normal doors and windows, shoots another sonic device from Ms. Foster’s hand and even unties ropes with it. Ropes! Since when did sonic vibrations (or whatever it uses) untie ropes? When did the Doctor stop getting his hands dirty? The sonic screwdriver has become such a lazy way to push the plot along that they’ve had to introduce ‘deadlock seals’, but now these are breakable with two sonic devices so then we get double deadlocks and triple deadlocks. Everything is sonic this and deadlock that, and it’s spread into Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures too, where everything from doors to handcuffs are ‘deadlocked’, just so we’re absolutely sure they’re unbreakable, until they’re not.
The Adipose aren’t your normal invading aliens, despite their presence on Earth being technically illegal. Interestingly, it’s the Doctor and Donna’s meddling that puts the human race in danger, as a million people are almost converted when production has to be sped up. If they’d not stuck their noses in, the Adipose would have just been converted from fat, the pills would have done what they were supposed to do, the Adipose ship would have left harmlessly and everyone would be a winner. Whoops!
Well, despite its faults, there are a few good things about Partners in Crime. For starters, it’s pretty funny. There’s some great performance comedy, particularly the bit where the Doctor and Donna are miming to each other through the windows and popping their heads up and down in the office cubicles. It’s also a relief that they’re not doing the ‘romance’ thing again, as Donna makes it quite clear that is off the table (the Doctor is a little presumptuous, frankly). Another plus is that Wilf is back, rewritten as Donna’s granddad, and he’s a lovely enthusiastic character with lots of charm. Then there’s the Adipose, whose primary function is to sell toys, but I have to admit, they are pretty cute. Finally, even though I’d already seen this episode once before, the surprise appearance from Rose at the end was a startling moment that I’d forgotten all about.
In the end, though, this is a fairly silly episode that does little more than set us up for the rest of the series. Appropriately, then, it could do with trimming the fat.