Doctor Who – “Partners in Crime”

Yes it’s snowing here too in big chaotic swirls of snowflakes. Sadly the flakes vanish into the tarmac as if continuing to fall unimpeded towards the centre of the globe. Even on the garden the snow is only able to cling on grimly for about half an hour before melting away into airy nothing. We’re still seeing the odd flurry, in between bouts of brilliant sunshine when the damp grass looks startlingly green.

Since I went out to, ahem, party hearty immediately after last night’s Doctor Who season premiere I haven’t really had a chance to comment very much, but it’s been thoroughly dissected here, here, here and here amongst other places.

Overall I was disappointed; not because it wasn’t a fairly serviceable opening instalment but because it was merely serviceable and nothing more.

The plot feels very familiar, is meanderingly structured and has little sense of threat. It’s all very well to tell me that a million people will die but everything we see, from the villainess and her two (count ’em) henchman down, feels small scale. I think the only tense sequence is the one on the hoist, which in itself is the stuff of countless action flicks. Last year we had the much sparkier Judoon platoon on the moon. This year’s opener is more reminiscent of the perfunctory plot and lurching shifts of tone in ‘Rose’, and very reminiscent of the pilot for ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’. It all feels just a bit tired, and no amount of Murray Gold’s frantic orchestral flailing is enough to convince me otherwise.

I do like the idea that the aliens roaming the streets of Cardiff London this week are a horde of Miyazaki-style blobs of cuteness, and I sort of appreciate the unfocused satire of flim-flam diet pills. I also don’t hate Donna, particularly near the start when she’s pretending to be Sarah Jane Smith. I even quite enjoy the way she basically hijacks the Doctor rather than vice-versa. However, things devolve the more outraged she’s required to become, and her later scenes are very variable; the less said about the “mate” dialogue and the Bernard Cribbins ending the better.

I’ll make allowances for this being a season opener. When there are introductions to be made I do expect the amount of plot to be scaled back to make room. (This was never the case in the old series but with the new version’s emphasis on characterisation it’s not unexpected). What sinks the episode for me is that if we’re going to focus on character I need the main characters to be more witty and engaging. The humour is too broad and the one-liners too few, Tennant is stuck on manic auto-pilot, and Donna is only intermittently convincing.

Next week’s episode does look much better, but then I’m pre-disposed to like anything set in Pompeii.

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