A First-Timer Watches Doctor Who: “Partners In Crime”
What an over-the-top and unapologetically silly episode. Which, for me, is a good thing! An “outer space super nanny” named Cofelia infiltrates Earth, posing as the head of a diet pill company called Adipose Industries. The organization’s tagline, “the fat just walks away,” turns out to be literal: the pill causes people’s excess flab to burst off their bodies in the form of cute little baby fat blobs (which are actually the next generation of the Adipose First Family). As he’s investigating Cofelia’s plan, the Doctor encounters Donna Noble—the runaway bride from the previous season’s Christmas special—who, it turns out, has been looking for him ever since their last adventure.
Donna seems like a fun replacement for Martha—though definitely a change in tone. While Martha’s unreturned feelings forced the Doctor to reflect on darker parts of himself—and showed those aspects of his persona to the viewer—his friendship with Donna seems safe from the vulnerability that accompanies emotional strain. I’m curious about the Doctor’s reflection on what happened between him and Martha: “I destroyed half her life,” he says. But what does this mean? Martha seemed more or less at peace with the way things ended, and none of her family died. Is he referring to the pain he put her through? To his inability to step up romantically? To the fact that nothing will ever match their travels together? In any case, it was satisfying to hear him speak fondly of Martha, after he so frequently overlooked her strengths.
Rose’s cameo also needs a mention. How the heck did she get there—however briefly—if the Doctor can’t even figure out a way to dimension hop? I’m guessing this isn’t the last we’ll see of her this season, especially since Donna has explicitly stated she has zero romantic feelings for the Doctor.
As for this episode’s specific story, while the premise was utterly absurd—in a fun way—I found it a little mean to some of its characters. Thankfully, there weren’t any broken-chair-style fat jokes, but it was a little unsettling to watch innocent folk writhe in pain as their fat literally jumps off their body and waddles away (usually waving goodbye first). It was especially hard on Stacey, an Adipose customer whose entire body breaks down into squeaky, sentient (and adorable) fat blobs. But before this happens, we see her stomach undulate and morph as it prepares to release its first flesh baby. This could be interpreted as a very shallow representation of an obese character: she literally just becomes fat.
Still, the script had enough goofy camp to deflect most intellectualizing. If this is the tone for the rest of the season, it will be a fun one.