I thought I might try actually writing reviews of the episodes in the new season of Doctor Who as they air. Why? Boredom, I suppose. A misguided sense of obligation to my fellow fans, perhaps. Whatever the reason, here we go without further adieu.
Short Synopsis: The Doctor and Donna are each investigating the same company, the producer of a miracle diet pill that promises that “The Fat Just Walks Away.” They manage to miss each other while conducting their independent investigations, until a return visit produces the opportunity for a comedic reunion. The company’s evil plan to misuse the fat of the people of Great Britain is of course finally thwarted, but not before another alien ship flies across the night sky of London in full view of thousands of people. Donna joins the Doctor on his travels, but on her way bumps into one of his old friends.
Story: Average. There has been a recurring theme in the new Doctor Who series, that of a company with a deep, dark secret that the Doctor either chooses or is forced to expose. The people in charge of the company are generally aliens, are working for a behind-the-scenes alien or are somehow under the control of some kind of alien. This story is no different, the only real distinguishing feature being the precise details of the plan involved. The evil alien plan is a bit weak and not terribly ingenious, but it gets the job done. I imagine the children of Britain went to bed tonight staring at their tummies wondering if cute little white jelly babies were going to start jumping out.
The reunion of the Doctor and Donna was actually fairly well handled. I’m curious as to how Donna suddenly managed to become a crack investigator of the paranormal, when she certainly didn’t demonstrate any of those qualities (or many redeeming qualities at all, come to think of it) during the Runaway Bride Christmas special. The reasons that the actions of the company itself drew both Donna and the Doctor in for a look weren’t terribly well explained – a brief stint at Health and Safety for Donna was hinted at, but the Doctor just seemed to show up with some kind of weirdness detector.
Acting: Good. There is a great scene with David Tennant in the TARDIS where he encounters an “expository moment” and starts talking out loud as if there is someone there to hear him, but when he looks up and remembers he’s alone you can’t help but feel his loneliness. The Doctor needs “a mate,” a friend to travel with – someone to talk to, someone to look after. This is perfectly understandable, most people that travel don’t do so in solitude – at least not if travel itself is really their objective.
Donna seems to be handled by Catherine Tate with a little bit more reserve this time around, and the effort is appreciated. Donna isn’t a brilliant person like Martha, but she does want to see the things that her eyes have been opened to and isn’t scared of the idea that there is more to existence than what she was used to before her path crossed the Doctor’s. I guess she’s not dissimilar to Rose at her introduction – Rose seemed to handle the weirdness of the Nestene Consciousness without turning into a screaming wreck, and Donna managed to do the same. I’m heartened to see that Donna claims to have no romantic interest in The Doctor, and is traveling with him for the sake of travel. I was OK with Martha having an unrequited interest in the Doctor, but Rose and the Doctor were just too close for me, and I was squirming mightily by the end of Series 2.
Mrs. Foster, the sinister boss of the Adipose Corporation is well-played by Sarah Lancashire. There is a certain sinister nature to the character, both overtly displayed in action and implied through dialogue. As we saw in the trailer for Season 4 she does possess a sonic device very similar to the Doctor’s, but I’m hoping that most fans independently came to the conclusion before the episode aired that sonic devices aren’t just the tools of traveling Time Lords. The idea that the villain of the story was a nanny willing to break galactic law to “seed” a bunch of baby Fat Golems was somewhat original.
Overall: I’d say this was a solid but not great start for Series 4. The Doctor continues to be well-played by David Tennant, Donna is looking a little more promising and there is a hint at the season story arc at the end of the episode. The story was amusing and diversionary but not terribly involved, and certainly nothing groundbreaking for the series.
Next Week the Doctor and Donna visit the Roman Empire and may end up in Pompeii. Crickey!