(This will be a relatively spoiler-free review)
Sometimes, it's hard to be a Doctor Who fan.
Much of it is due to the obnoxiousness of certain fans - where some have well-reasoned objections (a tendency towards "magic", slight spottiness in the writing, and making it more child-oriented versus family-oriented), others are much more pretentious, and seem unable to take a joke. (See fellow blogger Dorian's photo essay). In fact, I was kind of not looking forward to "Partners in Crime", after the major misfire of "Last of the Time Lords". (Although "Voyage of the Damned" did redeem the franchise somewhat).
What I didn't expect was for "Partners in Crime" to be so silly, so goofy, so much fun...and I enjoyed every single minute.
It won't go down in history as one of the "classic" episodes, but you can get the almost palpable sense that Davies needed to write this script...if only to get away from the sturm und drang of Season Three. In fact, the episodes kicks off in a similar way to last season's "Smith and Jones"...only the near-misses between the Doctor and his new companion are done in a slightly screwball comedy style which - surprisingly - works well. (Even their first meeting, done in relative silence, has a slight mix of humor and drama).
In fact, I found myself liking Donna a lot more than I did in "The Runaway Bride" - there, I thought she was rather shrill and, well, obnoxious. Here, Davies gives us a context for her nature...and in fact, this is refreshing. If Rose was the great love of the Doctor's life, and Martha was the companion with the schoolgirl crush, Donna is the companion who wants to travel with the Doctor - in fact, she pretty much cashes in on the Doctor's offer. I'm not familiar with Catherine Tate's comedy work, but I'm at least more open to having Donna return. (Plus, the speeches that Donna gives to her grandfather - portrayed by Bernard Cribbins - are simply touching, tender, and poetic).
And now, the "big bad" - OK, I'll grant you, it might be a little cutesy, but I think Davies is shooting for the kind of relevant-to-our-times vibe that Barry Letts and Terence Dicks attempted during Jon Pertwee's era. Does it work? Kind of - it's one of those menaces that, although you want to laugh, as the episode progresses, there definitely is a threat. Miss Foster will not go down as one of the great Doctor Who villains, admittedly, but this entire episode sets the tone for a full, fun season ahead. In fact, just switch the two lead characters, and you would have a typical episode of The Avengers.
Now, the episode does have its drawbacks - the ultimate resolution seems to be an "oh-great-I-need-an-ending" moment from Davies, and a brief scene, despite being spoiled multiple times on the Internet, still seems clumsy. However, all in all, this is a pretty good debut for what will be the swan song season for two members of the Doctor Who production team.
P.S. to Mr. Lefty Brown - Sci-Fi starts showing these in April. Don't have an exact date, but warm up the old Tivo, or DVR, or whatever you use.