At last! Andrew summed all that sentiment up perfectly, so I won’t add to that, except to say that I am glad its back, if a little nervous.
I have several gripes with Catherine Tate. Not least the idea that The Guardian put out there on the same day as episode 1 was broadcast that she’s “Britain’s best-loved woman comic”… I don’t particularly find her sketch show all that funny and there are characters on that which make me want to put my foot through the telly.
But in 2006, whether I liked it or not, she encroached on my ground… She was in Doctor Who. And she was, well, alright. It wasn’t a great story, and the character was pretty unlikeable. But it was alright. It was watchable – but having David Tennant in the cast does that to a programme…
So what on earth was this going to be like with the grating Donna by DT’s side, combatting what looked to be the least-threatening menace since the half-painted Myrka stumbled into the Sea Station in Warriors of the Deep? Its so much harder to get away with crap monsters these days. It was much easier when it was very clear to all that this hideous alien/creature was obviously a man in a half-painted suit – because Doctor Who fans didn’t care – its about getting lost in the fantasy of it all, letting your brain compute this as real for 20 minutes a week. Now, though, CGI has added it’s double-edged twopenneth in. On the one hand, they’re able to create the most stunning things I’ve seen on UK telly. On the other hand, there isn’t anything to be left to the imagination. So how were they going to pull this off?
The answer, came from the mind and keyboard of RTD. This wasn’t a sparkling story by any means. It had the required numerous pointless chases (I’m not saying that’s a bad thing) that it takes to be an RTD script. But there is so clearly a chemistry between Tate and Tennant that is such a winning formula that its impossible to misfire (it seems). Incidentally, I agree, Andrew – RTD’s opening episodes have tended to be up and down – the first season’s Rose was stunning. The second season’s New Earth was a huge disappointment to me – I found it all rather boring, to be honest. Last year’s Smith and Jones was just about perfect in pitch, script, acting and drama. And this year, well, it hit a nice middle ground. A concern that nagged at me was that Tim’s comment about Star Trek films in the majestic series Spaced (“Sure as night follows day, sure as eggs is eggs, sure as every odd numbered Star Trek movie is s**t.”) would become true for RTD’s season openers. It had been so far, with season two being a real fly in the ointment. Sure it wasn’t s**t, but it wasn’t all that good either. If cat nurses can’t save the thing, its a wonder the doctor managed to.
What saved Partners In Crime, though, was the script and the acting performances. Sarah Lancashire and Bernard Cribbins (I hope he’s a regular occurance!) really added brilliant depth to it all, and the sparks between the Doctor and Donna were gloriously not romantic, but oh-so-funny! To avoid quoting the “mouthing” scene again, I’ll go for the confrontation with Mrs Foster in the building – it was tense, climactic and ended with a moment of comic brilliance from Tennant (“Do you know what happens when you put two sonic devices together? [Mrs Foster: No] Neither do I – let’s find out!”)
My instinct was that I hated the aliens. But after a second watch, actually I didn’t. It wasn’t that I hated them – I hated what they stood for. Yes, they were a deceptively clever conception with the name and some of their reasonings for coming to earth, but I’m always uneasy at social comment in Doctor Who. And this felt clunky and not at all suited. It has happened before – the whole Slitheen saga in Season one had huge echoes of the debates surrounding the Iraq war – but that was more used for comic effect really. This seemed and felt more like comment on society. I guess its fair game, and you never know, it might convince some youngsters to shed a few pounds to avoid dissipating into a bundle of cute aliens. But it just felt wrong to me.
It was OK. I really did enjoy it, and I watched it twice without balking, but there were too many things that rankle slightly. And coming back to a point Andrew made… yes – I sat there at the end and thought that Rememberance of the Daleks was a better season opener. In fact, in the week since, I’ve seen some of Spearhead From Space and Robot… Both excellent openers. My goodness, I sound like a fan. When did that happen?!
And Tate? You’re alright by me if things carry on like that. I can only see it getting better and it didn’t start in a bad place…