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New Series Episode 45:
Partners In Crime

Plot

Donna Noble has come to realise that she made a mistake when she declined the Doctor's offer to travel with him in the TARDIS. Now she finds herself seeking out every hint of the unusual and the unexplained, in the hope of running into him again. Her plan succeeds when both she and the Doctor begin to investigate a company run by the sinister Miss Foster which offers a suspiciously effective diet pill. They discover that Miss Foster is actually using the human race as the breeding ground for the alien Adipose -- and millions of lives are at risk.

Production

Ever since Doctor Who returned in 2005, it had become tradition that each season's debut adventure would be recorded during the initial production block for that year's episodes. For the 2008 season, however, this pattern changed: the premiere would be made partway through the filming schedule in order to more evenly distribute the scripts written by executive producer Russell T Davies. As a result, although Davies expected to introduce the Doctor's new companion in this first episode, the character would actually need to be ready for inclusion in several other scripts which would be made before or alongside Davies'.

The result of this was that Davies had only barely begun work on the actual script for the season premiere when plans for the new companion underwent a major change. Davies had intended to pair the Doctor with a thirty-something companion named Penny Carter, who was based in part on Donna Noble, the character portrayed by Catherine Tate in the 2006 Christmas special The Runaway Bride. During March 2007, however, it was learned that Tate herself was interested in returning to Doctor Who, and a deal was rapidly put together to have Tate feature as Donna in all thirteen episodes of the 2008 season.

To this point, Davies' ideas for the first episode were fairly vague. He had considered setting the story in suburban London, with a spaceship sealing off a section of the city under an enormous dome while an alien was hunted through the streets. By the end of March, Davies had decided to drop the spaceship element; instead, a dilapidated old house would hide a portal to another planet which had been overrun with vicious, dog-like Vorlax. The last survivors of this world had opened the portal to Earth in order to rid their world of the invaders. The hordes of Vorlax pouring through the portal would tie in with Davies' interest in featuring a computer-generated monster which could be depicted as numbering in the hundreds or thousands, as had been successfully achieved in recent movies such as 2002's The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers.

In early April, however, Davies became disillusioned with the Vorlax plot. Instead, he realised that since Donna was not a new character who had to be introduced from scratch, he could write a very different sort of season premiere. This inspired the idea of the Doctor and Donna separately investigating strange goings-on in an office block, constantly missing each other by a hair's breadth and thus not meeting until halfway through the adventure. Initially, Davies considered basing the adventure around cosmetic surgery, with people receiving “Botox” injections containing alien spores that burst and transform the victim into a monster. By July, his focus had shifted to the weight-loss industry, with pills turning human fat into sentient creatures. In mid-July, Davies began coordinating with visual effects firm The Mill to achieve sequences involving hundreds of these Adipose onscreen at the same time.

By the start of August, however, it was clear that a script for the season premiere would not be ready in time for the planned production schedule. Originally, the debut episode was to be made alongside The Fires Of Pompeii as the season's third recording block, directed by Colin Teague. The latter episode already bore a number of challenges -- not least several days' filming in Italy -- and so it was decided to cleave the block in two; The Fires Of Pompeii would solely comprise Block Three, while the premiere would now form Block Four. This meant that Teague would be replaced on Davies' episode by James Strong, who had recently completed the 2007 Christmas special, Voyage Of The Damned.

With the pressure to complete his script now somewhat alleviated, Davies was finally able to finish his first draft for what would eventually become known as Partners In Crime on September 6th. At this point, the villain of the piece was called Miss Rattigan; this was changed to Miss Foster because Davies felt that it better encapsulated her motherly role. Davies also decided to acknowledge his original plans for the season's companion by introducing an investigative journalist named Penny Carter. One of the episode's key set pieces, involving a window washer's cradle, had originally been planned for the previous year's opening episode, Smith And Jones. It had been cut from that script due to concerns about the story's length, but Davies felt that it was too good an idea to dismiss entirely.

Eager to provide Donna with a touchstone to modern-day Earth, Davies decided to bring back her parents, Geoff and Sylvia; Howard Attfield and Jacqueline King agreed to reprise their roles from The Runaway Bride. Attfield had enjoyed many small roles over the years, including episodes of The Darling Buds Of May and Lexx and the movie Ever After. King's credits included appearances in Doctors, The Bill and 55 Degrees North. She had also been cast in the 2003 Doctor Who Unbound audio play Deadline from Big Finish Productions.

Meanwhile, Davies had also been considering a more surprising return in Partners In Crime. From an early stage, he had planned that the 2008 season would culminate in the return of many of the characters that had been featured prominently since Doctor Who returned in 2005. It had now been decided that this would be Davies' final season finale: the programme would be rested during 2009, appearing only in the form of several specials, and the last of these would bring Davies' time on Doctor Who to an end. As such, Davies wanted to make the conclusion of the 2008 season as big as it could possibly be. Key to this was the return of Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper; the former companion had last appeared in 2006's finale, Doomsday, in which she was trapped in a parallel universe, seemingly forever.

Now, however, Davies had devised a way to bring Rose back, and in March, Piper confirmed that she was interested in appearing in as many as four new Doctor Who episodes. Davies began contemplating the possibility of including a scene at the end of the season premiere which would feature a brief glimpse of Rose -- a scene which would either be edited out of any preview tapes or replaced with an analogous scene in which Rose did not appear, in order to preserve the surprise until the episode's transmission. Davies was still mulling over this idea in August, when it was learned that Piper would be on honeymoon during January -- overlapping with the intended filming dates of the two-part season finale. Davies feared that he would have to rework the season's storylines to omit Rose, but executive producer Julie Gardner was able to rejig the schedules of all those involved in order to accommodate Piper's availability. At this point, it was also agreed that a surprise sequence featuring Rose at the end of Partners In Crime should be pursued. However, this would have to be structured in such a way that it could be filmed during the making of Turn Left, the first episode in which Piper would make a fully-fledged return to the series.

Filming for Partners In Crime began on October 4th at Waterloo Gardens in Cardiff, covering some of the scenes outside and within Stacey's home. The rest of this material was completed the next day, at Glan Rhymni in Tremorfa; the same building also served as Roger's house. By now, it had been decided to record a small charity mini-episode, Time Crash, as part of Block Four; this was taped on October 7th. The day after, work on Partners In Crime resumed, with the Adipose Industries press conference filmed at the Odeon Cinema in Cardiff.

Also recorded on the 8th, at Grange Well Park in Caridff Bay, was the scene in which Donna talks to her father while he's stargazing. This marked Howard Attfield's first work on Doctor Who since The Runaway Bride, and sadly it was immediately clear to the cast and crew that Attfield was not in good health. When he invited Attfield back to the programme, Davies had been informed that the actor had recently undergone chemotherapy to treat cancer. At the time, however, Davies was unaware that Attfield's cancer was not in remission, and his chemotherapy sessions were still in progress. Attfield himself was frank about his long-term prospects: although it was intended that Geoff Noble would appear in The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky -- the next story in production -- and then in the final three episodes of the season, Attfield acknowledged that there was no certainty of his participation.

As a result, Davies amended the scripts for The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky to allude to Geoff having been unwell, and began considering the possibility of writing the character's death into the season arc, with Donna becoming a stronger person after dealing with the loss of her father. It was also suggested that Attfield might record all of his scenes for the rest of the season within the next few days, despite the fact that Davies had not yet written the scripts for the last three episodes.

The sequences on the roof of Adipose Industries were filmed on October 9th and 10th at the British Gas Building in Cardiff; stairwell material was also taped on the latter day. The 11th and 12th saw a suite in the Dominions Arcade in Cardiff double as Miss Foster's office. The cubicles, meanwhile, were actually located on the premises of Picture Finance in Newport. The company's staff played the extras in these scenes, recorded on October 13th. Sequences in the corridors of Adipose Industries were next to be completed on the 15th, at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

Meanwhile, shortly after completing his work on Partners In Crime, Attfield -- his body weakened by his cancer -- suffered a broken leg, and his wife suggested to the Doctor Who crew that Attfield would not be able to return to the series. Out of respect for Attfield, Davies immediately ruled out recasting the role of Geoff. Instead, he proposed reviving one of his initial ideas for Penny Carter, in which a key figure in the putative companion's life would have been her stargazing grandfather. Producer Phil Collinson suggested that they approach Bernard Cribbins, who had had a cameo role in the 2007 Christmas special, Voyage Of The Damned, as a newsvendor named Stan. On October 15th, Cribbins agreed to join the cast of Doctor Who. Davies immediately amended the script to replace Geoff with Cribbins' character, whom he decided to rename Wilfrid Mott. Geoff Noble would now be acknowledged as having passed away sometime between the events of The Runaway Bride and Partners In Crime.

Work on October 16th began with the TARDIS interior scenes at Upper Boat Studios. Also recorded on this day was the material outside the wine bar visited by Sylvia and her friends, which was actually Bar Icon in Cardiff. On the 17th, a residence on Nant Fawr Road in Cardiff served as Donna's home, while Donna convinced the Doctor to take her onboard the TARDIS at Crockherbtown Lane. Work at the latter location also included a remount of the stairwell sequence, caused by a lighting problem with the original version. Cast and crew returned to Crockherbtown Lane on the 18th for various exterior scenes; more of these were taped on the premises of the British Gas Building. The same day, footage of the Adipose Industries foyer was captured on Kings Way in Cardiff.

October 19th and 20th were spent at Upper Boat dealing with various pick-up, insert and effects shots. The last day of principal photography was the 23rd, when the Fat Cats Restaurant in Cardiff posed as the interior of the wine bar, and the material in the Adipose Industries washroom was completed at nearby Tiger Tiger. On November 19th, two sequences were remounted: a scene in Stacey's house at Waterloo Gardens, and Donna boarding the TARDIS near Scott Road in Cardiff.

The next day, material at the Noble residence was rerecorded at Nant Fawr Road. This originally featured only Donna and Sylvia, but Wilf now appeared as well. The team then shot a new version of the hilltop scene with Wilf in place of Geoff; the location this time was Cardiff's Grangemoor Park. On the 29th, the surprise scene involving Donna and Rose was recorded during the making of Turn Left at Franklen Road in Cardiff. As planned, this would be excised from all preview prints of the episode, to be restored only for its broadcast debut. Finally, on December 18th, a pick-up shot of Donna arriving in the Adipose Industries foyer was taped at Upper Boat.

Sadly, Howard Attfield finally succumbed to his cancer on October 31st. In tribute, it was decided that Partners In Crime would be dedicated to his memory, and this was reflected in the closing credits. For a time, it was thought that the new season would begin on April 12th, 2008, but in mid-March, it was decided to bring the date forward a week, to April 5th. For the first few episodes, however, Doctor Who would air around 6.20pm -- much earlier than had typically been the case since the show's return in 2005. This timeslot was not to Davies' liking, but despite fears of how the programme's ratings would be impacted, Partners In Crime garnered an audience of 9.1 million. Surprisingly, this was better than any premiere since Rose propelled Doctor Who back into the national consciousness in 2005, and was a sign of things to come in the ensuing weeks...

Sources
  • Outpost Gallifrey: New Doctor Who Series News Page, edited by Shaun Lyon.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #20, 19th November 2008, “Episode 1: Partners In Crime” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook (2008), BBC Books, ISBN 978 1 846 07571 1.
An Adipose baby

Original Transmission
Date 5th Apr 2008
Time 6.19pm
Duration 48'28"
Viewers (more) 9.1m (10th)
· BBC1 9.1m
Appreciation 88%


Cast
The Doctor
David Tennant
Donna Noble
Catherine Tate
Rose Tyler
Billie Piper
(more)
Miss Foster
Sarah Lancashire
Wilfred Mott
Bernard Cribbins
Sylvia Noble
Jacqueline King
Penny Carter
Verona Joseph
Stacey Harris
Jessica Gunning
Roger Davey
Martin Ball
Craig Staniland
Rachid Sabitri
Clare Pope
Chandra Ruegg
Suzette Chambers
Sue Kelvin
Taxi Driver
Jonathan Stratt


Crew
Written by
Russell T Davies
Directed by
James Strong
Produced by
Phil Collinson
(more)

1st Assistant Director
James Blackwell
2nd Assistant Director
Jennie Fava
3rd Assistant Director
Sarah Davies
Location Manager
Gareth Skelding
Unit Manager
Rhys Griffiths
Production Co-ordinator
Jess van Niekerk
Asst Production Co-ordinator
Debi Griffiths
Production Secretary
Kevin Myers
Production Runner
Nicola Brown
Floor Runner
Andy Newbery
Contracts Assistant
Kath Blackman
Continuity
Sheila Johnston
Script Editor
Lindsey Alford
Camera Operators
Rory Taylor
Julian Barber
Focus Puller
Steve Rees
Grip
John Robinson
Boom Operator
Jeff Welch
Gaffer
Mark Hutchings
Best Boy
Peter Chester
Electricians
Steve Slocombe
Clive Johnson
Ben Griffiths
Stunt Co-ordinator
Tom Lucy
Chief Sup Art Director
Stephen Nicholas
Art Dept Production Manager
Jonathan Allison
Supervising Art Director
Arwel Wyn Jones
Associate Designer
James North
Art Dept Co-ordinator
Amy Pope
Set Decorator
Malin Lindholm
Props Buyer
Catherine Samuel
Standby Art Director
Ciaran Thompson
Design Assistant
Al Roberts
Storyboard Artist
Shaun Williams
Standby Props
Phill Shellard
Nick Murray
Standby Carpenter
Will Pope
Standby Painter
Ellen Woods
Standby Rigger
Keith Freeman
Property Master
Paul Aitken
Dressing Chargehand
Matthew Wild
Senior Props Maker
Barry Jones
Props Maker
Nick Robatto
Construction Manager
Matthew Hywel-Davies
Scenic Artist
John Pinkerton
Graphics
BBC Wales Graphics
Costume Supervisor
Lindsay Bonaccorsi
Asst Costume Designer
Rose Goodhart
Costume Assistants
Barbara Harrington
Louise Martin
Make-up Artists
Pam Mullins
Steve Smith
John Munro
Casting Associates
Andy Brierley
Amy Rogers
VFX Editor
Ceres Doyle
Assistant Editor
Carmen Roberts
Post Production Supervisors
Chris Blatchford
Samantha Hall
Post Prod Co-ordinator
Marie Brown
SFX Co-ordinator
Ben Ashmore
SFX Supervisor
Danny Hargreaves
Prosthetics Designer
Neill Gorton
Prosthetics Supervisor
Rob Mayor
Online Editors
Matthew Clarke
Mark Bright
Colourist
Mick Vincent
3D Artists
Stephen Regelous
Dave Levy
Serena Cacciato
Matt McKinney
2D Artists
Bryan Bartlett
Simon C Holden
Greg Spencer
Sara Bennett
Tim Barter
James Moxon
Murray Barber
Loraine Cooper
VFX Co-ordinators
Jenna Powell
Rebecca Johnson
VFX Production Assistant
Marianne Paton
VFX Supervisor
Barney Curnow
Dubbing Mixer
Tim Ricketts
Supervising Sound Editor
Paul McFadden
Sound FX Editor
Paul Jefferies
Foley Editor
Kelly-Marie Angell
Finance Manager
Chris Rogers
Original Theme Music
Ron Grainer
Casting Director
Andy Pryor CDG
Production Executive
Julie Scott
Production Accountant
Oliver Ager
Sound Recordist
Julian Howarth
Costume Designer
Louise Page
Make-Up Designer
Barbara Southcott
Music
Murray Gold
Visual Effects
The Mill
Visual FX Producers
Will Cohen
Marie Jones
Visual FX Supervisor
Dave Houghton
Special Effects
Any Effects
Prosthetics
Millennium FX
Editor
Mike Jones
Production Designer
Edward Thomas
Director of Photography
Ernie Vincze BSC
Production Manager
Tracie Simpson
Executive Producers
Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner


Media
DVD Releases
Doctor Who: Series 4 Volume 1 (2008; single disc)
Buy: UK
Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth Series (2008; boxed set)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Doctor Who: Series 1-4 Box Set (2009; boxed set)
Buy: UK
Doctor Who: The David Tennant Years (2011; boxed set)
Buy: Canada · USA
Doctor Who: Series Four, Part One (2014; two discs)
Buy: Canada · USA

Updated 6th July 2014