Doctor Who: Turn Left

Fortune Teller: 'Turn right and never meet that man. Turn right and change the world.'

Choices change lives. Even seemingly insignificant decisions can alter our lives irrevocably, and tonight Donna was faced with a relatively small dilemma. Should she turn left, or should she turn right? 'Turn Left' explored the would-be consequences of her turning right.

In the alternate timeline that was created, Martha and Sarah Jane were dead, Buckingham Palace had been destroyed by a plummeting Titanic, ATMOS was slowly poisoning the earth's populace, and the staff and patients of the Royal Hope Hospital never made it back from the moon alive (with the exception of Dr Morgenstern) as a result of the Doctor not being there to save them. Because there was no one there to restrain him, he died fighting the Racnoss. As a result, the world was without its protector.

When I first saw the alien of the week, my initial thoughts were 'Oh, please God, spare us the ignominy'. The time-munching beetle looked like one of those novelty backpacks you see kids wearing to school. Definitely not the show's finest hour. Russell T. Davies explained in Doctor Who Confidential that 'Turn Left' was a low budget episode, and at times, it showed. Thankfully, the story itself more than made up for the low-tech alienage. And let's face it, we've seen worse. Wirrn grubs, anyone? Pee-yew!!

Since this was a Doctor-lite episode, Tennant was only on-screen briefly, but in contrast to previous years, instead of it being companion-lite too, Donna was given the starring role. Predictably, she had a pretty rough time of it. Sylvia was utterly horrible to her. Being told that she'd never amount to anything must have been soul destroying, and the sad thing is, I think Donna believed it. Which made it all the more poignant when Donna sacrificed herself to save the Doctor. Not that Sylvia would ever know her 'useless' daughter's great deed. I'm still not sure why Sylvia is so hard on her. Is it just grief over her husband's death? Whatever the reason, I didn't enjoy seeing Donna being mentally beaten down like that.

It was impossible not to like Rocco. He was one of life's optimists. He also made Donna and her family welcome, despite their cramped living conditions. In truth, their situation was intolerable, yet he still faced up to the prospect of captivity with a smile on his face. Of course, it was all fake. Both Rocco and Wilfred knew the probable fate which awaited his family, so it was harrowing to watch them being driven away, and sad to see Wilfred so helpless—doomed to stand by and watch history repeat itself.

I enjoyed seeing Rose again. I grew tired of her in season two, but season three didn't benefit from her departure as much as it should've. And Rose works well as a returning companion. At least her character now has direction. But what was up with Billie Piper's accent? One minute it was fine, the next she sounded as though she had a lisp, and at other times she seemed to drop the accent altogether. According to Doctor Who Confidential, Billie had problems remembering how to play Rose, so maybe that explains an accent in flux.

But dodgy accents aside, Rose's return was suitably mysterious and I look forwards to seeing how her story pans out. A reunion with the Doctor seems inevitable. The question is: how's it all going to end?

Other Thoughts:

—If Donna had never met the Doctor, would the Doctor ever have met the Racnoss and been killed by it? Wasn't him meeting the Racnoss a result of him meeting Donna?

—The actress who played the fortune teller, Chipo Chung (no, I'm not making her name up,) also played the character Chantho in season three episode 'Utopia'. Thankfully, she was far less annoying in this episode.

—A free reading for gingers? Nice.

—Awful northern stereotyping! I don't live far from Leeds and I don't own a whippet. Of course, I'm allergic to dogs, otherwise I would—whippets are awesome. As are flat caps and scrofula. [/sarcasm]

—Another reference to missing bees.

—It was sad to see the TARDIS with the Doctor dead. It looked so dark inside, derelict almost. Rose said it was dying, and that's exactly how it looked.

—'The Trickster' was a reference to a character from the Sarah Jane Adventures.

Billie says...

And to think that when Donna was introduced, I didn't like her.

I loved this episode. It wasn't just about an alternate universe where all the terrible things happened and the stars went out. It was about how anyone can be a hero, how our decisions can make the world better or worse. Donna believed that she was ultimately unimportant, but her unselfish choice saved the universe. Wonderful performance by Catherine Tate. She made me cry.

This one was also like the other side of "Midnight," pun intended. We saw the worst side of people in "Midnight," and the best here. Donna, ready to do what she had to to save the world despite being told constantly by her mother that she was worthless. The foreigner, Rocco, who showed the world such a brave face under such horrible circumstances. Rose, traveling across universes to do what she had to do.

The bug was an unfortunate entry in the special effects department, yes. But it was also a really interesting metaphor for the burden Donna carried. It was all on her shoulders, all the time.

Quotes:

Alice: "There's something on your back."

Sylvia: "At least you got the hole punch. And a raffle ticket."

Donna: "Pop your clogs and and go feed whippets."

Sylvia: "Even the bees are missing. You don't see bumblebees any more."

Rose: "I think you dream about him sometimes. It's a man in a suit. Tall thin man. Great hair. Some really great hair."

Donna: "I'm nothing special. I'm a temp."
Rose: "Donna, you're the most important woman in all of creation."

Donna: "If I change things, I don't die. That's right, isn't it?"
Rose: "I'm sorry."

Donna: "Doctor, what is it? What's Bad Wolf?"
Doctor: "It's the end of the Universe."
---
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...


-- If Donna had never met the Doctor, would the Doctor ever have met the Racnoss and been killed by it? Wasn't him meeting the Racnoss a result of him meeting Donna?


If Donna had turned the wrong way, the Rocnoss, then Lance would have infected some other co-worker to release the Rocnoss and her children. The Doctor probably would have found her due to her having the alien particle in her body, but she may well have not had the strong personality that Donna did to keep the Doctor from dieing during the fire. She may well have just run and left the Doctor to his fate. Donna was important because she was bossy and concerned and angry and brave enough to stand up to the Doctor.

shawnlunn2002 said...

I've watched this episode so many times and I still can't get sick of it.

What if episodes are so bleeding cliched that it's hard to do something truly original with them.

This one didn't try - world without Doctor, equal disaster but it was such an epic story that it didn't matter.

Donna being the most important woman in the universe is a great. It's even good that all of Rose's interactions in this episode were with Donna as well.

Definitely the best Doctor lite episode the series has tried.

daniel c w said...

I second percysowner's theory.

And to me, the Doctor dieing, because he faced the Racnoss under different circumstances, sounds better than "Donna wasn't there to save him from himself"

Mark Greig said...

Those time beetles, eh. You’d think the effects people would’ve made some leaps and bound since Planet of the Spiders. Oh well, goes with the territory I suppose.

Nevertheless this was an exceptional episode with a trio of amazing performances from Catherine Tate, Bernard Cribbins and Jacqueline King.

Ben said...

A favourite of mine. Yes, we know that if the Doctor died all we'd see is horror and woe, but what else could they do with this episode? I loved how they made referance to pretty much everything, including how Sarah-Jane and her team died fighting the Judoon in the hospital with Martha and how Torchwood all died fighting the Sontarons. A nice hint of seeing them all soon.
Some exceptional performances as well. This is Catherine Tate's finest hour, especially in the mirror scene and Bernard Cribbins can make you cry with his, "It's happening again," speech. Rose on the other hand... I don't know where the lisp came from. Nice to add some mystery to her charactor, even though I thought her story was pretty much told back in series 2. If you look past the huge plot holes; why did the versperform not destory the world, why did the Daleks not turn humans (wince) into Daleks, is there a mad Lazerous running about? then this episode is very good indeed.

Patryk said...

As the 9th doctor would say: Fantastic! Nevermind the fake bug, special effects are always last on my list when the story is engaging.

I will never get tired of alternate universes where the hero is gone and everything goes to hell. The Wish during 3rd season of Buffy was also fantastic.

Another thing i love is vague references to coming darkness/end of the world. They induce more chills down my spine then the actual events later taking place. The unknown is always more scary. ;)

Michael Colvin said...

I have to say - I've never been more excited to see the words Bad Wolf. What a terrific little ending.

This became a horrible episode for Donna and a terrific episode for Catherine Tate.

I agree that Billie Piper's sound was way way off. I could barely understand her sometimes. It was just distracting and should have been cleaned up in Post production.

But great great story overall.

Josie Kafka said...

First episode of Doctor Who that made me cry. The "labor" camps did me in.

Why are alternative reality episodes always so good? Logically, they should feel like wastes. (I'm thinking especially of Buffy's "The Wish.")

Paul Kelly said...

Josie, you must be the master of watching series' all in one go. First Supernatural. Now Doctor Who.

By way of a reward I grant you three Captain Jack episodes out of the next seven.

You're welcome ;o)

Josie Kafka said...

Yeah, I've really done nothing worthwhile for the past four days.

Wait...I mean I've spent the past four days doing the most important thing ever. Watching TV. Right?

The Doctor Donna said...

*Le sigh* There's a reason my 'name' on here is what it is.

This is my favorite episode. Yes, even more favored than 'Blink.' I usually re-watch whole seasons over the course of a few weeks, but I often find myself watching this one by itself.

Oh beautiful, beautiful Donna. How I miss thee. I hope your life now is wonderful...damn I get too attached.