Sunday, April 27, 2008

Doctor Who: 'Partners in Crime' (4x01)

This weekend I watched the first episode of Doctor Who’s fourth season, as well as the first four episodes of Torchwood. Watching Torchwood makes clear what the strengths of Doctor Who are, it’s that infectious joy the Doctor has at discovering the unknown. While I love the huge, dark two parters that lose out each season, the essence of the series is going to new places, seeing new things and experiencing something that takes you away from dreary everyday existence. Torchwood focuses more on that dreary existence, and consequently is a less engaging series. It’s not bad, but hasn’t done anything to really hook me so far.

I’ll start with the Doctor Who episode. As they usually do early in the season, things start off on a lighter note, with ten minutes of goofy comedy missed connections. It’s not the kind of thing I usually go for, but I really enjoyed it here, the heads bobbing out of cubicles, just barely missing each other every time. This all culminated in the really funny window to window discussion that finally brought our two main characters together.

But before that, we get a good idea of what Donna’s home life is like. Donna isn’t like Rose or Martha, she doesn’t have a whole life ahead of her, she’s lived and has realized that nothing she’s going to do is going to match what she had with the Doctor. Thematically, it’s similar to what they did with Sarah Jane in ‘School Reunion.’ It’s interesting because it makes the Doctor simultaneously the best thing in these peoples’ lives and the worst because he makes it impossible for them to go back to regular life. One of my favorite scenes in the whole series is Rose, Mickey and her mother at a restaurant in ‘Parting of the Ways,’ where she says that she cannot live like she used to anymore, she’s seen too much.

But, like Sarah Jane, Donna has gone into action in the Doctor’s absence, carrying on his mission. One of my favorite scenes in the episode is Donna’s conversation with her grandfather. The show is at its core about the joy we get from discovering the universe, and it’s really touching to see someone who’s looking to the stars instead of just staying trapped on the ground. The ending moment, when Donna waves to him from the Tardis, is the kind of thing that could play as cheesy on another series, but this show has such irony free love of human possibility, it works wonderfully. It’s the kind of moment you only see on this show.

Along with this we get some more fun comedy adventure stuff. Donna’s brassier attitude is a nice contrast to the awed demeanor of the previous two companions. She’s not going to be shocked to travel to the past or future, and I’m thinking she’ll help the Doctor to examine himself a bit. Here, we already can see how he’s thought about what happened to Martha, the pain she suffers weighs heavy on his consequences. He has to wonder, would everyone he takes on the Tardis have been better off if they’d never met him? Ultimately, the show leans toward the idea that the bad stuff is worth it if it means getting a chance to see the wonderful things that are out there.

But, I don’t think most people were thinking about all that at the end of the episode, instead it was one brief cameo that lingered, and that’s the surprise reappearance of Billie Piper as Rose. My reading of the scene is that she’s somehow able to project out of the parallel universe, into ours, that she’s working to come back to the Doctor, but isn’t quite able to pull it off yet. I’m eager to see her return, and it’s nice that we get some hints early in the year, it just doesn’t come out of the blue later in the series.

So, that’s it for the Who season premiere. Coming up next, my thoughts on Torchwood.


Jacob said...

One thing I forgot to mention after your review of the Master episodes - have you seen the "Time Crash" short that takes place between them and "Voyage of the Damned"? It's just a little five-minute thing, but I had a lot of fun with it:

Patrick said...

Is Time Crash on the third season DVD? If not, I'll check out the Youtube.

Jacob said...

Nah, I imagine it'll be on the season 4 DVD though.

Patrick said...

Well, that's too long to wait. I'm watching the Youtube now.