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26 February 2015 @ 07:12 pm
NuWho Rewatch: Partners in Crime  
It is interesting to note that Doctor Who has a bit of a track record of casting actors known for their work in comedy, starting their tenure on the show off in a broadly comic fashion, only for them to end up playing the part largely straight, if not seriously.

Pertwee starts his time on Doctor Who indulging in that 1970s comic staple of disguising himself as a cleaning lady, only to end up as the first action Doctor. Sylvester McCoy's first story is full of malapropisms, playing the spoons and somewhat ill-advised (given the budget/rehearsal time available) physical comedy and he ends up as the darkest and most manipulative of the Doctors. Partners in Crime starts out with a sequence of events almost reminiscent of a bedroom farce as the Doctor and Donna repeatedly narrowly miss meeting up which leads to them spotting each other through windows and indulging in an elaborate mime show.

NLSS Child giggled through all of it. It is certainly much more professionally done and better executed than the comedy of Time and the Rani. At this distance in time it is harder to comment on Spearhead from Space which, at any rate, is relying somewhat less on Pertwee's comic credentials. Doctor Who can accommodate a range of styles and is certainly flexible enough to do this kind of comedy every once in a while.

Tate's portrayal was to continue to be more broadly comic than either McCoy's or Pertwee's, though this was often used to underline serious points or to bring the Doctor down to Earth when he was showing signs of getting too self-important and angst-ridden. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I don't think it is ever as clearly signposted, though, as it was in this opening episode.

Other than Tate's (re)introduction as a companion, the most notable thing about the story of Partners in Crime is that the alien plan isn't really particularly malignant. In fact the evilest thing about it is the way Nanny goes about attempting to cover it up and Davies has to, basically, rely on the legalese of "The Shadow Proclamation" to explain why it has to be covered up at all. The adipose are both original and intentionally cute. They make a nicely different monster for the show.

The other notable thing about the episode comes from The Writer's Tale in which Davies agonises at length about why the doorways in the Adipose building are so conveniently electrified. Of all the plot holes that litter Davies' tenure as show-runner this is one of the most minor, and it seems very odd that this should be the one he devoted so much time to papering over during the writing process.

Davies was good at season openers, generally delivering something light and frothy that provides a good backdrop for the (re)introduction of characters. Rose seems the most significant of the four, but then it has a lot more ground to cover and so less space for the kind of runaround fun than the others do. Partners in Crime is no exception. It does what it does well, its comedy moments actually work but it isn't attempting any particularly deep or serious.

"Wait! Was that Rose?" NLSS Child asked at the end.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/144453.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on February 26th, 2015 08:57 pm (UTC)
Actually, Pertwee's comedy cleaning lady comes in The Green Death near the end of his run, by which time the UNIT family has been built up enough for comic banter with Mike Yates: "I like your handbag!" Pertwee does have a weird 'comedy' moment in the shower in Spearhead, though. Sorry to be pedantic.

Anyway, I've never liked this story, or Donna, very much. I found this too story slight to really care about, although it seemed better than some of the previous season. I think by this stage I was enjoying the tenth Doctor's adventures in comic strip form in DWM much more than on TV, not least because I didn't have to imagine the extremes of Tennant's performance.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on February 27th, 2015 11:51 am (UTC)
Actually, Pertwee's comedy cleaning lady comes in The Green Death near the end of his run

Does it? *doh* - shows how long it is since I saw either. I always remember fan wisdom saying Pertwee started out playing things for laughs, but my memory is that Spearhead is much more dominated by the introduction of UNIT than by Pertwee's performance and UNIT was really a lot more serious (or at least action-oriented and macho), at least in inception, than a lot of the Troughton stuff had been.

I find it hard to see this as qualitatively greatly different from New Earth or Smith and Jones. The Cassandra body-swap sequences are not greatly different in comedic tone to the "through the window" pantomime we have here.
dm12 on February 27th, 2015 03:03 am (UTC)
"Partners (in Crime)," what a perfect description for these two! It was so refreshing to see a companion that had a bit more life experience behind her, who wanted to do her part to help and wanted to learn. She wasn't after the Doctor as a love interest, but as a teacher and friend.

Donna started out being afraid of the Doctor, but ended up fearing for him. She was in the traveling to see what she could do for the universe, not to see what the universe could do for her. She became a full partner, helping him, directly sharing in his burdens, supporting him when needed, yet she could take him down a peg or two when it was for his benefit or on behalf of others. Her arguments with him were never based on her own whims, but to help someone else, even him.

Where he saw the big picture, she pointed out the details that would often be the missing key to resolving whatever issue was at hand. As I've said before, her background as a temp served her (and him) extremely well. She was able to come into a new situation, quickly assess the issues, people and problems to be solved, develop a plan of action, resolve it, then move on. Exactly what the Doctor does!

True partners, each complemented the other. They were better together!

Oh, and I found the "to mate/a mate" thing hilarious! Apparently Tate and Tennant did, too, at the read through; they were cracking up! It was fascinating, too, that the "monsters" in this really weren't monsters, and that the plan really did work and did no harm as long as there was no emergency parthogenesis. The Doctor at least saw that and did no harm to the babies, just let them go. The only problem was that it was illegal and being done without fully informed consent, hence the need for the evil emergency. An interesting contrast to the baby Racnoss (although those were harmful from birth).

Edited at 2015-02-27 03:09 am (UTC)
louisedennislouisedennis on February 27th, 2015 03:33 pm (UTC)
It must be said I'm not a fan of "to mate/a mate" conversation. Much like the "orphan/often" discussion in Pirates of Penzance (if you've ever seen it) I think it is a joke that rapidly outstays its welcome.

I think one of the key things Donna did was never let him indulge his tendency to angst. If he had to make a terrible decision or something happened to remind him of Gallifrey etc., she expected him to carry on afterwards, and particularly to continue to behave just as compassionately as he had before.
dm12 on February 27th, 2015 03:49 pm (UTC)
I just saw video of them at the read through, and everyone had great fun with that line. That kind of stuck with me; it also emphasizes a bit how Ten sometimes mumbled and it could lead to a misunderstanding, and how Donna definitely didn't see him as a romantic interest. All in one short scene. Sets the tone for the season, sets the refreshing difference between Donna and his other two companions as Ten. She totally viewed him as an alien and wanted nothing to do with a "relationship" with him.

You're right about Donna. Although she was very compassionate and sympathetic, she realized that they had a job to do. Best to get on with it, learn from it, and move on. More about that in "Fires of Pompeii" and "The Doctor's Daughter."

Edited at 2015-02-27 07:50 pm (UTC)