In which the Doctor investigates Adipose Industries, who have recently launched a new weight-loss treatment - their slogan being "The Fat Just Walks Away". Unbeknownst to him, Donna Noble is investigating the same company. Ever since she met the Doctor a couple of Christmases ago, her life has remained in a bit of a rut, and she now regrets turning down his offer to travel with him. Both manage to trick their way into Adipose Industries' London HQ in order to secure a list of the company's customers, managing to miss each other repeatedly even though they are in the same part of the building. That evening the Doctor goes to visit a man named Roger Davey, who claims to have lost a few kilos. He tells the Doctor that he has been disturbed by his burglar alarm going off at the same time every night. The Doctor notices that he has a cat-flap, and recalls the company's slogan. Donna has an argument with her mother then goes up to the nearby allotments to see her grandfather, Wilf, who uses the spot to stargaze. He has been told about the Doctor, and urges that should she get the opportunity again then she should go travelling with him. Wilf had been the newspaper vendor whom the Doctor met a few months ago, after transmatting down to Earth from the Titanic spaceship. Donna then goes to see another Adipose customer - Stacey Campbell.
Donna has one of the gold pendants which are gifted to customers. Its proximity to the one which Stacey owns causes small fatty creatures to extrude from Stacey's body. Her entire body dissolves into the beings. Donna comes to her aid just in time to see one of them jump out of the window. She goes outside, again just missing the Doctor who is tracking strange signals. Stacey's dissolution is noted by Adipose's CEO, Miss Foster, and she sends a team to collect the fatty creatures. The next day, both return to the HQ, Donna hiding in the toilets until after everyone has gone home. Miss Foster knows that someone is still in the building, and discovers a journalist named Penny hiding in the same toilets. The Doctor uses a window cleaning cradle to spy on Foster's office, and is shocked to see Donna across the room doing the same thing from the door. As they see each other and try to communicate, Foster spots them and her guards give chase. Both meet up on the stairs and head for the roof. Donna explains that in order to find the Doctor again, she had been investigating strange occurrences which she thought he might also be looking into, such as the recent disappearance of bees and the claims of Adipose Industries. They use the cradle to escape down to the ground but Foster has her own sonic device and disables it. Donna almost plunges to the ground, but she and the Doctor manage to break back into the building.
Miss Foster confronts them and reveals that she is really Matron Cofelia of the Five-Straighten Classabindi Nursery Fleet. She chose the name "Foster" as this is her role - to act as nanny to the millions of fatty creatures which she is creating. They are baby Adipose, created out of human fat. Every time an Adipose customer takes one of their pills a baby is made out of their fat whilst they sleep, which is then picked up by her retrieval teams. The Adipose are an alien race whose nursery planet was lost. The Doctor points out that her activities on this planet are illegal and she risks prosecution by the Shadow Proclamation. Now that the Doctor has discovered what she is up to, she decides to bring forward her plans. Thousands of people will be dissolved like Stacey to produce Adipose offspring - a process known as parthenogenesis - and a spaceship has been summoned to collect them. The Doctor manages to prevent full parthenogenesis taking place, but thousands of the creatures are still created all over London, making their way towards the HQ. They are then teleported up to the massive spaceship. Miss Foster is ascending with them, but the Doctor warns her that she is no longer needed by the Adipose now that the children have been born, and she is complicit in their illegal activities. The Adipose let her go and she plunges to her death. Wilf, on his allotment, manages to miss the alien spaceship as it flies overhead. The Doctor suddenly finds that he has a new companion for his travels. Before she leaves she must leave the car keys for her mother to find, and asks a blonde-haired woman to pass on a message for her. The woman is Rose Tyler, who walks away and vanishes. Later, Wilf sees the TARDIS fly past the allotments, with Donna waving at him from the door...
Partners In Crime was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on Saturday 5th April, 2008. It opens the fourth series of the show, and see the return of Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, who had featured as the one-off companion for The Runaway Bride - the 2006 Christmas Special.
Jacqueline King returns as her mother Sylvia, but sadly Howard Attfield, who had played her father Geoff, passed away after filming only a few location scenes. As his character was a recurring one, it was decided to have Geoff die in the narrative prior to this episode, and his role in proceedings went to a new character - Donna's grandfather Wilf Mott. Bernard Cribbins had played an unnamed newspaper seller in a cameo appearance in Voyage of the Damned, and he was invited back to reprise and expand on the role. This coincidence would feed into a story arc point for the season, as the Doctor notes the ways in which Donna's life intersects with his own.
In preparing the fourth series it was not known that Tate would be available, and Davies had worked on creating a new companion - a journalist named Penny. When it became clear that Tate was willing and able to reprise Donna, the journalist was reduced to a supporting role for this one episode - mainly there for comic effect.
The big surprise for viewers on the night was the reappearance of Billie Piper as Rose Tyler. The short sequence in which she appears had been cut out of the preview discs sent to reviewers. The character was due to return at the end of the season, and it was decided to seed her return throughout the whole series with a couple of brief glimpses.
Series Story Arc:
We've already mentioned the coincidences linking Donna's life with the Doctor's.
Then there is the mention of bees disappearing.
The other things disappearing are planets, as the Adipose have lost their nursery planet.
We see an ATMOS sticker on the windscreen of a taxi.
Sarah Lancashire, who had risen to fame through a long-running role in Coronation Street, plays Miss Foster. Davies based the character on Jo Frost, from the reality TV series Supernanny, and he claims that Eva Peron was another influence. Lancashire herself thought of her as a warped version of Mary Poppins. Penny is played by Verona Joseph, Roger by Martin Ball, whilst Stacey is Jessica Gunning, who appeared alongside Christopher Eccleston in the first season of Fortitude.
The Adipose were computer generated creatures, modeled using the same software (Massive) that gave us armies of Orcs, Dwarves and Elves in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Overall, it is a fast and fun start to the new series. The threat level is negligible - the Adipose deliberately intended to be cute rather than scary. The scene where the Doctor and Donna first see each other again is hilarious.
Things you might like to know:
- Yes, adipose tissue stores energy in the human body as fat.
- There were many design drawings for the creatures, and Davies went for the one with the little fang. They were made to look like slabs of lard, and Davies was inspired by a stuffed toy he owned.
- Massive allowed the massed ranks of Adipose to perform independently, whilst the solo ones were handled by more conventional CGI means.
- This episode was recorded fourth, just after the Sontaran two-parter, which was why they had the ATMOS sticker on the taxi.
- The Rose sequence was filmed during the making of Turn Left (by Graeme Harper), as were the reshoots with Cribbins replacing Attfield.
- The spaceship was intentionally designed to look like the one from Close Encounters of the Third Kind - as the one seen in the movie was referred to as the 'Mothership', tying in with the parental themes in this story.
- Miss Foster's demise was inspired by the many, many falls of Wile E. Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons, as he was often seen to pause in mid air before plummeting into a canyon.
- The window cleaning cradle sequence had originally been written for an earlier story - Smith and Jones.