Doctor Who in Review: Season Four, Episode #1 – New Companions, Old Feelings
The hit BBC series Doctor Who kicked off its fourth season on the Sci-Fi Channel this weekend, so there’s no better time than the present to kick off an episode-by-episode analysis of the reinvigorated science-fiction classic here on ComicMix.
Every week, we’ll have our best Who-philes go through the most recent episode with a fine-tooth comb (or whatever the "sonic screwdriver" equivalent might be) and call out all of the continuity checks, names dropped and storyline hints we can find to keep in mind for future episodes. We’ll post our analysis the following Monday, so you have ample time to check out the episode when it airs each Saturday at 9 PM EST on Sci-Fi Channel.
Keep in mind, we’re going to assume readers have already watched the episode when we put fingers to keyboard and come up with our roundup of important plot points. In other words, SPOILER ALERT!
Let’s begin now, shall we?
Season Four, Episode #1: "Partners in Crime"
In Brief: After a series of missed connections, Donna Noble reconnects with The Doctor (a.k.a. The Tenth Doctor), who she’s been looking for ever since their first adventure together in "The Runaway Bride." They discover that the miraculous weight-loss pill taking London by storm is actually too good to be true, and London is being "seeded" with new, alien life at the expense of its diet-crazy populace. In the end, the city is saved, we’re introduced to a new species, The Doctor has a new companion and we bid a fond "hello again" to… Rose?
Continuity Check: As Donna and The Doctor catch up while fleeing Miss Foster, it’s clear that the previously oblivious Miss Noble has changed her ways since meeting the traveling timelord. As she runs through all of the strange happenings in London since they parted ways, she mentions "that replica of the Titanic flying over Buckingham palace" — a call-out to the events of the most recent Christmas Special episode, “Voyage of the Damned.” Even so, she writes it off, telling him, "I thought, ‘That has got to be a hoax!’"
References to Donna’s last encounter with The Doctor abound in this episode, with the resolution of the Adipose affair drawing comparison to The Doctor’s lethal solution to the Racnoss Empress’ plans for global conquest during Donna’s last encounter w/ The Doctor. For example:Donna Noble: “What are you going to do, then? Blow them up?”
The Doctor: “They’re just children, they can’t know where they came from.”
Donna Noble: “Well, that makes a change from last time."
Pulling the Heart Strings: It’s no secret that the cast of Doctor Who has often been asked to make wild stories believable by virtue of their performances instead of (or occasionally, despite) campy special-effects. Where they’ve really shined with the new series, however, is in producing some very poignant moments that add real depth to both the characters and the long, complicated Doctor Who mythos.
In one such moment from "Partners in Crime," The Doctor takes a tissue sample back to the TARDIS for analysis, and soon begins excitedly talking about his findings — only to realize that he’s talking to himself… alone in the TARDIS and without a companion.
As Who scholars will certainly note, The Doctor has shown before that he is likely to talk to himself when he is left alone. The Fourth Doctor had long conversations with himself when he was companion-less during the television episodes "The Deadly Assassin" and the beginning of "The Face of Evil." Likewise, The Eighth Doctor remarked to himself that he has a nasty habit of talking to himself when he’s left alone (in the audio play "Storm Warning").
The Creature Report: The Adipose "fat creatures" look like something you could find on cuteoverload.com — a sort of Mogwai/Kirby/Tribble love child. Be honest: You were expecting them to suddenly flash a set a razor-sharp teeth and start munching up the population, too. Oh, and the adipose are apparently based on a stuffed toy Doctor Who Executive Producer Russell T. Davies had as a child. The name comes from human "adipose tissue" — a.k.a. "fat."
Also of note on the creature front, Sarah Lancashire’s portrayal of "Miss Foster" (pictured at right) in this episode channels Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada when it comes to playing the role of a cold, calculating bitch. Of course, that made her big "SPLAT!" at the end of the episode all the more satisfying.
Mother Dearest? The creators of Doctor Who seem to have some significant mommy issues, as this marks the third companion in a row with an overbearing mother character. Is The Doctor any good at psychiatry?
The Swipe File: Anyone else think the Adipose spacecraft looked remarkably like the ship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind?
Tools of the Trade: Wondering why The Doctor seemed remarkably unfazed by Foster having a sonic tool of her own (and subsequently tossing it into a trash bin at the end of the episode)? In the earlier Doctor Who series (prior to The Ninth and Tenth Doctors), human scientist Liz Shaw and Romana both created their own sonic screwdrivers (though they were very limited compared to the one that The Ninth and Tenth Doctors use) and Miss Foster’s only seems able to do basic sonic functions of opening and closing doors. Since it doesn’t seem to be a multi-purpose tool like the Ninth and Tenth Doctors’ devices, and since we know from Liz and Romana that such devices can be built even by human standards (which Toshiko Sato proved in the Torchwood Season Two episode "Fragments" when she constructed a "sonic modulator"), it makes sense that The Doctor would discard Foster’s device — seeing as how it didn’t have any extra purposes beyond those of his own.
Questions Answered: For anyone wondering how aware The Doctor was of former companion Martha Jones’ feelings for him, this episode had all the answers. When Martha’s effect on The Doctor comes up in conversation, The Doctor smugly explains, “She fancied me.”
As for knowing the long-term effect os his relationship with Martha Jones, The Doctor explains to Donna Noble that he "destroyed her for life.” The Doctor’s remarks about destroying Martha for life may be an assumption that he believes she will never settle for a quiet life like the one he sometimes envies in others — a life that The Ninth Doctor remarked he will "never have" in the episode "Father’s Day".
According to The Doctor, “seeding a Level 5 planet is against galactic law” – begging the question of "Who’s in charge of these laws and where can we get a copy?" But this isn’t the first time Earth has been categorized as such. In The Fourth Doctor television episode "City of Death," Romana referred to 20th Century Earth as a "Level 5 civilization." One of the Slitheen called Earth a Level 5 planet in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Revenge of the Slitheen," and Captain Hardaker called Earth the same thing in the recent Christmas Special episode "Voyage of the Damned." The term seems to refer to a planet that has yet to take the final steps towards regular/public alien contact and trade.
Questions Unanswered: Apparently, deadlocks are the bane of the Timelords. For all of their time-manipulating machines and other amazing scientific advances, this whole “deadlock” thing foiling sonic screwdrivers seemed to be over-used in this episode. Furthermore, how exactly does one “deadlock” things?
Again with the Shadow Proclamations! Late in the episode, Foster expresses concern that The Doctor "alerted the Shadow Proclamation.” On the BBC website, the video feature "Captain Jack’s Monster Files" seems to indicate that th adipose "First Family" was indeed arrested under the Shadow Proclamation — and that the kids are taken into custody. So far, we know that the plastic Nestene Voice from Season One episode "Rose" also violated the proclamation, the Sycorax laughed at the proclamation in the Christmas Special episode "The Christmas Invasion," too. What is this mysterious Shadow Proclamation?
Hint of Things to Come? During Donna’s speedy review of the strange events she’s chased in order to try and reconnect with The Doctor, she mentions ”bees disappearing." The Doctor seems a bit puzzled, and asks her, ”What do you mean about the bees disappearing?" The conversation moves on, though, and we’re left wondering about the bess, too — and assuming their "disappearance" has something to do with the big bee in the previously released BBC Doctor Who Season Four preview.
At one point, The Doctor refers to former companion Rose Tyler’s present situation as "still lost." Key word: "Still" — as in, a condition that could eventually change.
Endings and Beginnings: The sudden appearance of former companion Rose Tyler at the end of the episode brings the companion-centric focus of this week’s adventure to a dramatic, cliffhanger-style conclusion. It also seems to hint at a future return for the popular companion, and adds some amount of confirmation to the rumor that the relationship between The Doctor and his past and current companions will play a major role in the storyline developing over the course of the season.
First Thoughts on Next Week’s Episode, "The Fires of Pompeii": Human sacrifice, volcanoes and feminist theory — we’re just glad Davies and Co. were able to get some use out of those Rome sets before they were torn down!
Special thanks to the ComicMix crew of Mike Gold, Kai Connolly and Alan Kistler for this week’s Doctor Who analysis. Photos courtesy of SciFi.com. For more on Doctor Who and other great programs, check out Scifi.com and the BBC.