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New Who Openers In Perspective: Partners in Crime

Connor Johnston continues the series looking at past New Who openers with Series 4′s.

tennant-tate-partners-gen

The fat just walks away”

adipose-570Russell T Davies once said that: “The marvellous thing about ‘Doctor Who’ is that it tells stories that no one else can tell”; and more so to almost any other episode in my eyes – “Partners in Crime” is definitely a story undeniably unique to Doctor Who. We opens Series 4 with this weird and wonderful romp of a tale that interestingly chooses to plant its main focus on the character’s dynamic rather than the individual episode plot itself – not that it is in any way ignored or not given enough justice. “Partners in Crime” focuses with great emphasis on the theme of friendship. Using its comedic romp-y tone it tells the second introductory chapter in the story of one of the greatest TARDIS teams of all time by reacquainting us with a lonely Time Lord and a Sassy Temp from Chiswick determined to be find the Doctor once more, even if it means braving the villainous Miss Foster and her marching newborn “army” of vaguely humanoid blobs of fat. NOTHING bar Doctor Who could ever attempt anything close to that brief – Yet somehow it manages to do just that, and successfully too – delivering an exciting hilarious and iconic story enjoyed by many still today, after almost 6 year since it was first broadcast. This is “Partners in Crime” in perspective.

“Ohh, fascinating. Seems to be a bio-flip digital stitch, specifically for…”

tennant-tardis-console-partnersThe Doctor we are reacquainted with during ‘Partners in Crime’ is essentially a very lonely one – emphasized by the heartbreaking scene where he realizes he is truly alone in the TARDIS and in the universe. From the Doctor’s point of view “Partners” opens after the events of “Last of the Time Lords” and “Voyage of the Damned” – between having had Martha leave him, the only other living Time Lord die in his arms and losing Astrid on the Titanic Star cruiser, the Doctor has been left almost broken in the face of all these fatalities. It takes “Partners in Crime” to dig the Time Lord out of the gutter, thrusting him into the adventure and excitement that is so iconic in the Tenth Doctor’s era and perfectly executed in this episode. After over 2 years and almost 3 whole series’ in the titular role, David Tennant doesn’t fail at all to bring a new found energy and refreshed nature to the character through his investigations at Adipose Industries and new found relationship with a certain Miss. Noble….. And no, I don’t mean Sylvia.

Cos he’s still out there, somewhere. And I’ll find him gramps, even if I have to wait a hundred years. I’ll find him.…”

donna-noble-catherine-tate-partners-in-crimeI could very easily write for hundreds and thousands of words expressing my love for Donna Noble (And have actually – see here), but for me easily her most importance appearance is “Partners in Crime”. In her first appearance, “The Runaway Bride”, she is without doubt an incredibly enjoyable character – but to really sell her as a full time companion we needed to also get a deeper insight to Donna as a person rather than an attraction – something I feel personally “The Runaway Bride” struggled with. Luckily, “Partners” is perfect in showcasing and previewing the range of her character we would bear witness to throughout the series. It’s no secret that Catherine Tate is the Queen of Comedy, and there were countless moments throughout the episode where we are treated to several hysterical fits – but what really sells Donna initially are the moments like the beautiful slow paced and mellow scene in the garden watching the stars with her Grandfather Wilfred Mott. We learn more about how Donna’s mind works and what she’s missing in life – delving past the sassy, tough exterior to a more honest, sensitive character we meet many more times as the series progresses. A part played flawlessly and quite surprisingly impressing by Tate.

“I’m waving at fat…”

Miss-Foster-Sarah-Lancashire-partnersThe “threat” of Partners in Crime is a difficult thing to define. Yes, the Adipose are technically the monster of the episode, but cuddly toddler aliens made of human fat are never ever going to come across as threatening – and for God knows what reason: it just worked! There’s something quite refreshing about the difference in tone for this episode as opposed to other adventures – having monsters that you’d rather cuddle up next to you on the sofa then scream and run away from is so bizarre and different, it really is invigorating! Of course there needs to be some tension in the episode – and it this tension isn’t derived for the fact that these adorable little stress toys can end up killing millions of people (at time’s I think I’d rather the Adipose), then it comes from the “step-in villain” Miss Foster played by Sarah Lancashire. It’s no secret that Lancashire was not the first choice for the role after Alex Kingston (who later returned as the iconic and reoccurring role of Professor River Song later in Series 4) had to turn down the part due to other filming commitments, but she definitely did incredible justice to the role presenting an undoubtedly intimidating intergalactic Super-nanny making for a good foil to the Doctor, before meeting her end in an appropriately comical manner.

You’re not mating with me, sunshine!”

tennant-tate-partners-brainyAs Donna Noble jumped on board the TARDIS for the first time for a full time companionship, she came after 2 companions that both had a substantial love interest in the Doctor as part of their main plots. Wanting to offer a clear differentiation between Rose, Martha and Donna the decision was made that Donna and Ten’s relationship would be a very different: They would be best mates. From the first few interactions during “Partners in Crime” it was clear that the connection Donna and the Doctor had was instant. They fit together like puzzle pieces; travelling the universe and defeating bad guys together as a team, always moving forward and “Onwards” to new horizons hand in hand. The opening sequence particularly is special as it somehow stresses the duo’s perfect dynamic before they even meet by showing how in sync the two are. The first moment they meet (which the audience knew for certain was imminent) there is spark between the two – an explosion of electricity that maintains the excitement of the episode until its conclusion. What makes the couple even more genuine is the fact that they are both exactly what the other person needs in this moment in time: The Doctor; sad, lonely craving a best friend. Donna; lacking self-confidence, direction, motivation and the belief that in any way she is special. To the Doctor, Donna is life and excitement – and most of all the best friend he’s always needed, and to Donna, the Doctor is her saving grace – over the series validating her own belief in herself and reminding her how important she is individually in the universe. Their relationship was supportive, equal and with both parties having such a deep respect and admiration for one another that the duo just worked – fitting together in every way… like some sort of ‘DoctorDonna’.

“Good Morning, Adipose Industries”

donna-tate-partners-in-crimeOne thing often ignored while looking at “Partners” is the excellent level of production elements – headed by James Strong’s incredible directing. The opening scenes particularly reflect the romp like energy of the episode, making for some hilarious sequences of the Doctor and Donna just missing each other over and over again. Another highlight being the incredibly funny mime conversation between the two (a performance improvised by Ms. Tate on the day of filming) which was executed perfectly! This marries flawlessly with the exciting score of Murray Gold – He starts off with the retooled, rocked up opening theme for the show then immediately moves into Donna’s quirky theme: “A Noble Girl About Town” which explores jazzy variations on the previous versions of her theme from “The Runaway Bride”. The score fits very well to the episode, since it is essentially such a light-hearted and slightly cheesy (in a good way) plot. “Life among the Distant Stars” is also from the opener and includes quite a sharp difference the tone from the rest of the episode’s score. The beautiful track starts as a quiet, reflective piano with a tinge of sadness and yearning, ending with a full-fledged orchestra – mirroring the progression of the episode’s plot perfectly.

But we’ll get there one day. In a hundred years’ time we’ll be striding out amongst the stars. Jiggling about with all those aliens. Just you wait.”

donna-noble-catherine-tate-wave-partners-in-crimeThe conclusion to Partners in Crime is not an overly clever one, (in extreme cases it could even be considered a “Deus Ex Machina”), the main villain doesn’t come across as really too much of a threat (despite the fact they have the potential to kill thousands of people), and the overall tone of the episode is a little ‘cheesy and rompy’ – but one must stress that “Partners in Crime” was never meant as a serious episode – the focus and aim of the episode is based primarily on building a dynamic between the Doctor and his new companion as well as refreshing and reinvigorating the atmosphere of the show – and in that respect it succeeds tenfold! Partners in Crime is an incredibly fun episode, riddled with weird and wonderful idea’s and a stunning direction and score; the episode will in my eyes forever be a classic – not for the clever resolution or the spine tingling monsters – but for the introduction and immediate development of what is easily one of the best TARDIS teams the Whoniverse will ever know. It served as the perfect bookend to a perfect series as we watched these two mates begin their journey on top of a building in Central London, before traveling to every corner of the universe – a trip of a lifetime! A trip one could never in a million years forget! …. Unless … you know *cough*.

Rating

Throughout this series of In Perspective articles we are going to provide a rating for the episode to allow for some comparisons and to see what elements are actually important to making a good opener. The following ratings were produced by taking the individual ratings of five contributors (David Selby, Jack Hudson, Lewis Hurst, Simon Mitchell and Tomas Edwards). These ratings were then averaged to provide a number which should be relatively free of individual bias. The results are as follows:

  1. Episode Rating: 8.1/10
  2. Effectiveness as an Opener: 8.2/10
  3. Monster Rating: 6.8/10
  4. Character Rating: 8.6/10

This gives the episode a total score of 31.7/40 So far this leaves the Episode One ‘Leader-board’ looking like this:

  1. Smith and Jones: 34.9/40
  2. Rose: 34/40
  3. Partners in Crime 31.7/40
  4. New Earth: 28.4/40
Step back in time...

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69 comments
jamesanash101
jamesanash101

I love this episode, a brilliant start to my favourite series! Tennant and Tate are on fire, they have such a brilliant comedic/friendly/buddy-movie dynamic. It's a fun, in some places dark, romp that wonderfully re-introduces one of the best companions. But it was the spine tingling cliffhanger with Rose that gives it such a high mark, it took me completely by surprise and was perfectly done! A solid 9/10 from me!


MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

To the people who say the Adipose are too silly and cute for us to be scared of them: Isn't that the entire point? The Adipose are supposed to be cute and innocent and don't have much sense about what they are doing to other people, while the real villains are Miss Foster and the elder Adipose.


For me, it's very refreshing to have a "monster" that isn't out to cause any real harm.

Moonlightmile71
Moonlightmile71

Fantastic series opener and what I still consider the strongest series to date .

mgm1229
mgm1229

This is an episode I can show my 3rd graders on the last day of school without scaring anyone enough that I get in trouble.

Scootersfood can sense your guilt
Scootersfood can sense your guilt

To me the scene where the Doctor and Donna see each other through the window is the funniest scene of Doctor Who ever. Classic!

stargazer0118
stargazer0118

Solid episode with a fun plot that reintroduces Donna in a great way. Plus the adipose are adorable!

Rating: 8.5 


9101112
9101112

Donna was funny and sympathetic and to the point, I liked her as a character and she and 10 played well off of each other in every situation.....my favorite time between the 2 of them was when everyone would mistake them as a couple and they would respond like a brother and sister who was just grossed out by someone by saying " No no we're not we're not a couple"

Night at the Whovies
Night at the Whovies

I never understood how the guards shooting at the door itself would unlock it . . .

MrRazza, Latest Result: Mr Pink is Human
MrRazza, Latest Result: Mr Pink is Human

In contrast to the previous openers, Partners In Crime sets out to be a more rompish episode, and like all of RTD's era openers it does its job. Similarly to Smith and Jones, it doesn't surpass Rose in terms of setup ability, but then it doesn't have quite so much to do. It's a reintroduction to the companion, to a future ally in Wilf (who doesn't instantly fall in love with Wilf?) but mostly its to bring in a new dynamic in the TARDIS. The monster is weaker to make way for this - and to draw parallels with 10 and Donna's last encounter, when the Doctor did kill the babies. Amusing and enjoyable - always a great watch.


Partners In Crime - 9/10

Smith and Jones - 8.5/10

Rose - 8/10

New Earth - 6/10 

Switcharoo
Switcharoo

This is were it all came together.....were the pieces fell into place. 

This story marked the beginning of greatness.....the peak of perfection.....the absolute zenith of....er.....zenithness. Its the moment were two preceding seasons worth of hard work and hair gelling toil came together to form a pinnacle of hirsute excellence.....

Yes, lasses and laddies, its 'Tennant Hair Phase 4'.....the totally funkin' emboldened years.....bigger, better, spikier. 

This is when a tenure, an era, a Doctor was defined.....in sticky uppy form. 

Season 4 Tennant.....because we're worth it.

Americanwhovian
Americanwhovian

Donna is my favorite new who companion along with Clara. Donna and 10 are one of my favorite tardis team next to 7 and ace and 4 and sja

MaddyKika
MaddyKika

One of my favorite openings! It's funny because I don't like the fat thing very much, but the Adipose are just so cute.


And then there's Donna. I simply ADORE her! The scene where she and the Doctor see each other through the glass is terrific, couldn't stop laughing! Absolutely incredible together! 

ahunter8056
ahunter8056

Without a doubt, this is definitely my least favourite series opener. It's not a terrible episode, but it's not at all exciting. 

  1. Episode Rating4/10
  2. Effectiveness as an Opener: 4/10
  3. Monster Rating: 2/10
  4. Character Rating: 5/10

This gives the episode a total score of 15/40 So far this leaves the Episode One ‘Leader-board’ looking like this:

  1. Rose: 34/40
  2. Smith And Jones27/40
  3. New Earth: 22.5/40
  4. Partners In Crime15/40

TheNightmareChild
TheNightmareChild

If you don't crack a smile even once during this episode, then I'm sorry for whatever happened to you that transformed your soul into the cracked, black husk that it is now.  Because this episode is a screaming riot at its highest points, and at its lowest points it's still a damn fun romp of an episode.  It introduces Donna, my favorite companion as well as a favorite for a significant number of others.  And it's funny that I should say that since initially, in 'The Runaway Bride' I wasn't too sure that I liked Donna that much, as she kinda' just came off as a bit loud and rude in that one.  But 'Partners in Crime' shed a new light on her as a woman with no direction in life and no sense of self worth, but at the same time possessive of a fierce determination and really strong instincts.  She became immediately endearing to me in this episode and I only grew to love her even more as the series went on.  As the article itself says, she is exactly what the Doctor needs, and the Doctor is exactly what she needs.  Donna needs adventure, and the Doctor needs someone to enjoy his adventures with.  They are each other's missing piece.  Sarah Lancashire is great as the cold, austere Miss Foster, who is undoubtedly in my mind the villain of the episode.  The Adipose were victims of circumstance really.  They didn't ask to be born the way they did, and afterward they were ultimately harmless.  So basing a monster rating on them doesn't feel right to me.  Then again, Miss Foster isn't exactly a typical monster either, but she is definitely a good villain; a woman who has a job to do and will get it done, humanity be damned.  This episode also showcases Russell T's gift for tone mixing.  Because even in a lighthearted romp such as this, the Adipose are born is still rather horrific, as demonstrated in the scene where poor Stacie gets all parthenogenesised.  Quite a sad, slightly disturbing scene but it somehow manages to not feel out of place in this episode, and it's the kind of thing that RTD thrived on.  


Baker Street is on Karabraxos
Baker Street is on Karabraxos

This, as said in the article, is a fun romp. It's not some action movie or thriller, it's not meant to be a blockbuster; it's a thoughtful, funny, entertaining, character-driven 45 minutes of Doctor Who-ness. My favourite scene would be either: when Stacey dissolves into Adipose; Donna's conversation with Wilf; Wilf waving the Doctor and Donna off. This episode always puts a smile on my facè, and that's why I love it.

Episode Rating: 9/10

Effectiveness as an Opener Rating: 9/10

Monster Rating: 6.5/10

Character Rating: 10/10

Total Score: 34.5/40

Polyphase
Polyphase

By far my favorite series opener. Donna has been the best companion of the new series and the best actor by a long way. She even managed to drag Davids performances up to her level and the dynamic between the two of them was wonderful.

Episode Rating: 10/10

Effectiveness as an Opener: 10/10

Monster Rating: 5/10

Character Rating: 10/10

RoastNewt
RoastNewt

I've always loved this episode. It might have silly aliens and a plot that's tissue-thin, but it's just so fun and heartwarming that I can't bring myself to dislike it. Plus, the window miming scene might just be the best moment of Doctor Who, well, ever!

LGwalchmai95
LGwalchmai95

This is a great fun episode with plenty of jokes, Tennant and Tate on top form and a very good villain in Ms Foster. But one of the best things about this episode for me is the reappearance of Wilfred Mott. I love Wilf, he's so awesome, he reminds me of the guy I go to the football with! He's a great character, and it's nice to see Donna have someone to confide in and share her secret with, so she doesn't have to keep it a secret from everyone. He's a great, really supportive bloke who'd probably get on with anyone. We'd all love a Wilf in our life. He's just a character that makes me smile whenever he's on screen. Bernard Cribbins is a brilliant actor, he delivers his lines with expertise and he's one of them who can make you laugh with just a look! He's brilliant, and I'm glad Bernard was brought back to play Wilf, even though he wasn't originally intended to. He's a great actor and Wlf's a brilliant character. :)


Huknar
Huknar

Partners in Crime, for me, is the best start to a series we've ever had. It did everything an opener needed to do and is one of the most memorable stories, for me ever. Donna and Ten have such an impossibly good dynamic that every-time they are in a scene together I find myself with a wide, cheek to cheek grin. And that miming scene is pure gold. And then there is that breathtaking cliffhanger, the return of rose! Now I knew she would be back for series 4, but to see her in the first episode took me completely by surprise and it really sets up the rest of the series in a good way. Best opener for the best series with the best Doctor and the best companion. (Of course in my subjective opinion). :)

JamesStroud
JamesStroud

Monster rating of more than 4? Seriously? This is probably the worst idea for a monster I've ever seen (and I've seen the happiness patrol) but it was at least well done. With the criticism out of the way, the episode was fab, the characters were utterly fantastic, especially Ms Foster

Mikeyboss182
Mikeyboss182

I like Partners in Crime I think it's pretty good. My favourite part is the ending when Wilf waves off Donna and the Doctor, such a great moment makes me smile every time.


Planet of the Deaf
Planet of the Deaf

I've not been doing the marking bit, but would definitely ahead of Smith & Jones and Rose. Donna is great (even if to me she occasionally feels like a comedy character from the Catherine Tate show rather than a real person), and Wilf is wonderful (RIP Howard Attfield) but I find the whole concept of the Adipose brilliant, the sort of thing that RTD is really good at. A magic pill to lose weight, what a brilliant way to infiltrate a planet. 

I love the ambiguity of the Adipose, yes they are stealing your fat, but for all the people that only lost fat and nothing else, well everyone's a winner! It's refreshing to have a cute 'villain', which in its own way is doing nothing wrong, the sort of bizarre scenario that no other show can feature. 

TardisBoy
TardisBoy

So far for me the openers are listed as follows:


1. Smith and Jones: 37/40

2. Rose35/40

3. Partners in Crime: 33/40

4. New Earth29/40

MaraBackman
MaraBackman

This is among my favourite episodes, because it made my 1# team-up in the TARDIS a reality. Donna is still my favourite companion and every moment in Series 4 between Tennant and Tate is magic. :)

'Cos Guess Who? Ha!
'Cos Guess Who? Ha!

I _LOOOOOOOOVE_ this episode.


This episode is absolutely fantastic. Honestly, it is hilarious, funny, but it has dark moments, it has beautiful moments of drama, it has character moments. Genius. 9/10. I don't even care that the CGI is awful and it gets a bit silly in places. This is fantastic entertainment.

This is RTD at his peak. David Tennant at his peak. The whole series at its peak. So much fun. So joyful, exuberant, bold, playful, and yet with dark edges. Honestly, this is really, REALLY good.


And that Doctor / Donna meeting scene.....yes. Yes!

TheNightmareChild
TheNightmareChild

@Scootersfood The pantomime itself is funny, but the part of that scene that really got me LOL'ing is the reveal of Miss Foster just looking at them.  The timing on that was amazing, and combined with the utterly straight face on Miss Foster, it was simply hilarious.

TheNightmareChild
TheNightmareChild

In terms of series openers, 'Smith and Jones' is still my favorite, but I enjoy this episode for what it is and for introducing my favorite companion and Doctor/companion dynamic in the show.  It's also the first series opener to properly introduce the series arc, which is also a plus.  My rankings:  

1. Smith and Jones  2. Partners in Crime  3. Rose  4. New Earth 

RoastNewt
RoastNewt

Oh, and can I just say, that scene where poor old Tracey collapsed into Adipose terrified me as a kid. The special effect used still gives me shivers to this day!

TheNightmareChild
TheNightmareChild

Had to reload the page twice just to get this comment in its current configuration.  I pretty much had to bully Livefyre into submission just to make my comment look like this. X(

robdw
robdw

@RoastNewt Nice moment - "Used to terrify me as a kid." I was 15 when Rose broadcast, so I've only ever watched Doctor Who with (relatively!) adult eyes. I've heard a lot of people sharing their fond childhood memories of the old stuff over the years, but this is the first time I've seen any nostalgia about the new stuff! Little bit wonderful.

RoastNewt
RoastNewt

(And what I actually meant to say was Stacey!)

MaraBackman
MaraBackman

@ Notsosmartguy the dalek of Jersey @JamesStroud Here's a pitch for a story: Small vermin come aboard the Tardis, causing much damage to the circuitry and the Tardis crashes into a spaceship on an important diplomatic mission. The creatures run amok in the style of the Gremlins and start to mutate due to the temporal energy at play.