Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Doctor Who S4E01 - Partners in Crime

Basic plot – There’s a new cure to obesity. Invented just so Donna can meet the Doctor again.

The details of what happened (Spoilers!):

Donna’s realized post-Runaway bride that it was silly to pass up the Doctor’s invite to travel with him (really Donna, how daft were you then!?), and has been looking for him ever since. How does she look for him? She looks for trouble. Alien trouble. Chances are, the Doctor’ll turn up.

So she chances upon Adipose Industries, where Ms. Foster has just announced a new pill-cure for obesity. Pop it once a day and ‘the fat just walks away’.

Obviously, Donna isn’t buying it and decides to do a little investigation of her own. She poses as a Health and Safety officer and manages to get hold of the client list and a pendant that Adipose offers as free gift.

From the client list she visits Stacy Campbell. She’s lost 11 pounds in 5 days and is now all set to dump her current boyfriend because she can ‘do better than him now’. She excuses herself to get ready for the ‘dump-date’. Donna, waiting, starts to look at the pendant she whacked from Adipose Industries, and does a little fiddle with it.

And that’s when the alien stuff starts.

With every fiddle from Donna, we see Stacy give a little lurch, till the latter checks her tummy and finds her flesh squeezing out a fatty little… little… well, I don’t know what to call it… baby being. Fatty little baby alien being, obviously. Ah, we’ll call it Fatty Little Alien Baby, or FLAB, in short. (And that’s original, RTD, mind you)

Ms. Foster senses the FLAB’s ‘birth’ ( ‘We have an unscheduled parthenogenesis’), but also realizes that the birth has been witnessed (by Stacy). Now she can’t have witnesses now, can she? So she ‘activates full parthenogenesis’ which causes the now panicking Stacy to ‘burst up’ into multiple FLABs. When Donna gets there, there’s nowt of Stacy and just one FLAB who gives her a cheery wave before it ‘walks away’.

‘The fat just walks away’. Get it?

Now that’s good enough trouble, so the Doctor can’t be far away. He’s been doing some investigating of his own at Adipose Industries as ‘John Smith – Health and Safety’. Interestingly, he was doing his investigating at the same time as Donna, but thanks to some excellent camerawork, missed bumping into her.

(All those bobbing heads, looked like it was a Hammer Heads game in there for a while!)

Anyway, back to the Doctor’s investigation. The Doctor also gets hold of the client list and a pendant, and in addition, fends off a flirty invite. (‘You be Health, I’ll be Safety’.) From the client list, the Doctor now goes to meet Roger Davy, who claims he’s lost a kilo every night by 1:10 am. Why the time? Because that’s when Roger’s burglar alarm keeps beeping off for no reason, and he checks his weight before going back to bed. That gets our good Doctor thinking, and he asks Roger whether he has a cat flap. Which he does, but Roger insists he is ‘not a cat person’. The Doctor reminds Roger that one can not only enter through a cat flap, but also exit through a cat flap, and muses ‘The fat just walks away…’

And then, just as the Doctor's leaving and advising Roger to lay off the pills, his… his… (oh dear, what do you call that thing)… Fatty-Watty Detector (?) starts beeping. That’s the same time that Ms Foster got the ‘unscheduled parthenogenesis’ alarm, so now you can place the Doctor’s time in the story.

The Doctor tries following the signal and runs around. Since the Doctor is following the signal from Stacy’s parthenogenesis, we see that the Doctor and Donna are running around in the same neighbourhood, but do not meet just yet –that’s reserved for some excellent acting and probably the lone brilliant screenplay in this epsiode.

Time to call it a day, for both the Doctor and Donna. We’re now given tidbits to what Donna’s life is and has been about: She’s unemployed at the moment, was employed with Health & Safety for all of three days before she walked out (probably realized the Doctor wasn’t going to drop in. Or she whacked the ID card), stays with her chattering mother, has a granddad she dotes on, and her granddad likes looking out into the sky. She tells her granddad (Gramps) that she’s looking for a man in a blue box.

Meanwhile, Ms Foster has figured out that the only way an unscheduled parthenogenesis could take place was if someone had stolen an extra pendant out of the Adipose building. She checks the security camera and thinks she’s found the infiltrating lady.

Next day- time to infiltrate the Adipose building. The Doctor sonics his way into the building and hides in a basement closet. Donna walks in with her Health & Safety card and proceeds to while the rest of the working day away hiding in the washroom. When the rest of the office leaves in the evening, the Doctor pops out to do his probing. Donna is about to step out when her mother calls her on her mobile, nagging her to get her car back home. Just then she hears Ms Foster from outside and cuts the call.

Ms Foster threateningly advises the infiltrator to come out, but Donna stays put. Foster’s men-in-command begin knocking down the door of each cubicle, and Donna nearly resigns herself to being caught. But Donna wasn’t the only investigating human, there was also Penny Carter, a reporter, who’d found that Adipose’s research claims were fake. Penny was the one Ms Foster was looking for, and they found her before they got to Donna’s cubicle.

The Doctor uses the window cleaning platform to descend and peek into Ms Foster’s cabin. Donna follows Penny and Foster as they enter the latter’s cabin, and peeks in to the room through the glass panel the door has. Penny gets tied up in Ms Foster’s office, where Foster eventually informs her that the FLABs are called Adipose, that they are proper beings. Ms Foster’s a wet nurse (Matron Cofelia in her world), whose role is to birth an entire new generation for the Adiposian First Family.

The Doctor eventually turns his peek away to across the room, where he finds a door, and through the glass panel (Murray Gold’s music reaching crescendo), DONNA.

What follows next is best watched here:

They eventually realize that Ms Foster can now see them, and run. You then get your usual Doctor Who runaround along with a little tussle with Ms Foster who’s jamming every effort through her sonic pen (and you thought there were only sonic screwdrivers. Pfft.). Typically, Donna topples over and ends up dangling for dear life on a cable. The Doctor manages to sonic Foster’s sonic pen out of her hands and into his, gets into the building, goes downstairs, and plucks dangling Donna off the cable. While they’re still running, they run headlong into Ms Foster. The Doctor now gets all Doctor-y and warns Foster that it is galactically illegal to seed a Level 5 planet (Earth, silly), but of course Foster ignores that and wants to shoot the Doctor and Donna off. To which our good Doctor simply buzzes the sonic screwdriver and the sonic pen head to head, which sets off a rather loud sonic shrill, temporarily incapacitating Foster and her minions, allowing our protagonists to make their escape.

Ms Foster now decides to expedite the birthing plan. The Doctor guesses she’ll do something like this, and goes back to the closet he hid in earlier that day, for that’s where he found a large alien machine wired up to the centre of the building. Ms Foster flicks her switch on and soon we find half of London (well, at least ‘One million in the Greater London Area’) twitching and lurching till FLABs start popping out of them, creating the panic that Doctor Who’s London is now familiar with.

The Doctor needs to swtich the machine off before it can do further harm to the human race (in a crisis, the FLABs convert all human mass into Adipose, you see), but realizes he can’t do it as he would need one more of the pendants. At which, Donna triumphantly produces the pendant she had taken from Adipose, and the Doctor does his Doctor-Woctor thing and shuts the machine off.

There’s still 10,000 Adipose FLABs roaming the streets and the Nursery Ship now arrives to take them home. However, now that the Adiposian First Family has their kids, they get rid of Ms Foster as she is a risky witness to their having broken inter-galactic law. They drop Ms Foster off mid-beam-up, and she plops flailing to the ground.

Excuse of an adventure done, now it’s time to figure what happens to Donna. The Doctor throws Ms Foster’s sonic pen into the bin, and then there’s Donna lumping all her luggage on to the Doctor, but now the Doctor has had enough of disappearing companions and is trying to talk Donna out of travelling with him. He’s worried about how close he got to Rose and then how close Martha got to him and how he really just ‘wants a mate’. Typically, Donna thinks he said he ‘wants to mate’ and gets all affronted till the Doctor clarifies, and then they’re both good and ready to go.

Now for the remaining big one for the episode: Donna remembers she has to return the car keys to her mother. She pops the keys into a bin on the street, phones her mum to pick it up, and asks a lady standing by to point the bin to her mum when she arrives. The lady turns around, and it’s Rose.

Rose, looking a bit morose, and then turning around walking away, and then fading away.

The end. (There’s some stuff about Donna walking into the TARDIS and then flying past her Gramps, but we’ll leave that.)

What I liked:

  • The mime when the Doctor and Donna finally met (and if you didn’t watch it then, go back up and watch it now.)
  • The ‘bees disappearing’: Donna rambles on to the Doctor about how she went chasing after every ET-like incident to try track him down including UFOs, signs, crop circles, and even thought that the ‘bees disappearing’ was connected. The Doctor didn’t understand what the last one was, and neither did I. A little googling showed that there are reports of bee population being decimated ‘but no one knows why’ ( . Oh, and apparently, Night Shyamalan’s next, The Happening, is about the bees disappearing.

(The same website that spoke of the bees disappearing also had conspiracy theories about Adipose, which explains how Donna got looking into Adipose)

  • Overall, taking the idea of an unhealthy populace looking to reduce weight, and turn it into a macabre alien story. I also liked how Roger Davy looked thin enough not to need any more pills, yet there he was, looking to get thinner. And Stacy, she was nowhere near glam-girl thin, and yet, vain enough to think ‘she can do better now’. Vanity, thy name is SFF fodder.
  • That I had to read up and remind myself what ‘parthenogenesis’ was.
  • That I came up with FLAB.

What I think

  • There’s a sonic pen loose on Earth and I wonder if that becomes significant. Me already thinks Rose must have picked up the signal on Parallel Earth and came through, looking for the Doctor. She could perhaps stay only for so long, hence the fading away, back to Parallel Earth
  • I think the bees will have a larger say across the series. Although, given RTD’s recent trick with Astrid, it may just be a red herring.
  • I wonder if Donna was the one who picked up the Master’s ring last season. One of the trailers seemed to indicate familiar red nails… Although, there was a very un-Donna like cackle...


  • Those FLABs! Really! They looked so unreal, even the music seemed to take on a Tom & Jerry tone!
Overall Rating:
God, I hope the rest of the season is not as trite as this.


Payal said...

"Vanity, thy name is SFF fodder" *fall over laughing* ;-P

The idea of taking body image insecurities and making a story out of that was interesting (and maybe it'll scare kids away from pill-popping to lose weight!), but honestly... RTD, what where you thinking???

And was it just me or was the SFX left wanting in this episode?

Just the last four episodes left. Now can we hope PiC was a very big lull in an oncoming RTD storm? ;-)

Andrew said...

Worst episode ever - as the comic book guy would say. Well, perhaps not quite (there are some very poor "classic" series stories you couldn't even dream of). Hey, even Love and Monsters was better than this. Series 4 not hitting the spot although Pompeii and Ood are better. And of course Mr Timey Wimey himself with his library mystery...

Allons-y! said...

Yuss! The bees did have a larger say!