The fourth series of Doctor Who has kicked off and what an excellent start it is. You can tell things are new right off the bat as the signature title music has been jazzed up a bit. I’m not sure I like this new mix, but each change to the theme over the years has took a bit of time to grow on me so we’ll see how this one does. Then we go right into the Doctor and his companion doing what they do best, snooping around. Except Donna Noble isn’t the Doctor’s companion yet. Their paths crossed previously in the 2006 Christmas special, but Donna chose not to travel with the Time Lord at that time. Since then we discover the character has wandered aimlessly, unable to resume a normal life after the Doctor gave her a glimpse of all the wonders in the universe. Now, she has thrown herself into becoming an amateur detective, investigating any report of the unusual and otherworldly in the hopes of running across the Doctor again. There are indirect name checks to previous episodes and even a possibly oblique reference to Doctor Who’s sister show Torchwood.
Which all leads to Donna and the Doctor independently investigating Adipose Industries, a company that claims to have invented a miracle diet pill that only requires you to take one pill a day to lose weight. The first twist here is that, while both are doing the same thing and often in the same room, the two don’t actually encounter each other until about halfway through the episode. This meeting is the highlight of the episode as the two characters are on opposite sides of the room wherein the bad guys are interrogating a prisoner. The Doctor is in a window washers carriage outside a window looking in while Donna is peeking through the glass in a door when the two spy each other and then proceed to carry on a conversation, except in mime. Really, trust me on this, it’s possibly the funniest scene that’s ever been on television. From there wacky hi jinks ensue. It’s a terrific and thoroughly enjoyable tale. Oh, and the trigger is pulled on the big mystery of the season in the closing moments as…no, you need to see it for yourself. If you’ve been watching since the show’s return your jaw will drop open with shock as we get a huge reveal right away instead of the slow buildup of previous series. This promises to be the best series of Doctor Who yet.
The script by Russell T. Davies is just brilliant and further proof that he was the man to bring the show back. He has a keen grasp of what makes great Doctor Who and his pacing is, as usual, impeccable. David Tennant is fast becoming my favorite Doctor and he just owns the role. There is a scene early on where he starts to talk to a companion that isn’t there that just hits you in the gut. Beautiful stuff. Catherine Tate, either in spite of or because of her lengthy career as a comedienne, will really surprise everyone with her performance as Donna. The guest actors Bernard Cribbins and Sarah Lancashire absolutely shine on screen are a joy to watch. Thankfully Cribbins, at least, will be showing up in later episodes. And the director, James Strong really does a marvelous job with this one. There are several scenes that convey their meanings in very subtle, yet unmistakable ways, most notably when Donna is in her kitchen with her mother berating her. Again, beautiful stuff. In the end, I give this one five out of five stars. Next week, Pompeii in late August, 79 AD. Should be a hot time (yeah, sorry for that!).
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