Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 4x11: "Turn Left"

Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Graeme Harper

Rose: “What’s your name?”
Donna: “Donna. And you?”
Rose: “Oh I was just passing by. I shouldn’t even be here. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s so wrong.”

Over the past ten weeks we’ve had a fair amount to get through. With clues being thrown about the darkness around in every episode, mentions of disappearing bees and planets and brief appearance from a certain woman, it’s high time to give some answers and that’s what this episode kinda does.

Like last year with “Utopia”, “Turn Left” is an episode that leads into the final two instalments of this season but unlike the former it’s not so clear cut. It’s also the third Doctor-Lite episode the series has given.

The one thing I’ve loved about all of the Doctor-Lite episodes is how fundamentally different they are to each other. “Love And Monsters” weighed the pros and cons of fandom while “Blink” was all gothic and creepy and gave a potential companion in the excellent Sally Sparrow.

This episode plays with the much tested ‘what if’ that practically every TV series on the planet has either done or will do at some point in their tenure. It’s not particularly original but it’s always engaging and with this episode, it produces some pretty shocking stuff.

Things begin with The Doctor and Donna on the Chino planet of Shan-Shen. The opener is light and breezy and the two of them are engaging in fun and with the traumatised way The Doctor was in the last episode, he’s entitled just to relax and try some frothy drinks with his companion.

However it doesn’t take all that long for the two of them to get separated either. For once it’s actually Donna who gets distracted when a fortune teller tries to entice her with a free reading. I have a friend who does some of that and he’s pretty good at it but he’s also not creepy like the woman begging to see into Donna’s past.

Donna to her credit does make an attempt to get the woman to sling her hook but this is one relentless lady and when Donna talks a little about The Doctor, the woman becomes a bit more curious. Then to prove that Lucius Dextrous from “The Fires Of Pompeii” wasn’t messing about, a creature does climb on Donna’s back.

From here on in, this episode is a mixture of the movie Sliding Doors and the Buffy episode “The Wish”. Back before the events of “The Runaway Bride” Donna had two directions she could’ve taken. One was the HC Clements job and the other was a job with Mr Chowdry.

Proving that all mums on this show can be head wreckers, you’ve got Sylvia giving Donna earache over which would be the better vocation. Apparently Sylvia thinks that Donna wants the HC Clements job simply to bag a husband. Given the relentless pursuit that Donna did to get Lance down the aisle she might have a point.

In this situation, Donna is forced to turn right on the road which means she lands a job with Mr Chowdry. It also means for the time being that Donna’s got a sorted life with a promotion and spends Christmas Day out on a work do rather than battling the Racnoss with The Doctor.

This leads to two interesting things. First off all, Donna’s co-worker Alice notices that there’s something on her back and tries to warn her. Donna’s pretty irritated and doesn’t really take the woman seriously but she ends up being distracted when the Racnoss’ web star starts attacking Earth.

With UNIT out on patrol the real shocker comes when Private Harris tells his superior over the phone that The Doctor is head. All we get to see is a hand dropping a sonic screwdriver but due to David Tennant’s busy schedule on “Midnight” it’s enough. Besides The Doctor is one of many casualties in this world.

The better part however is seeing Donna’s intrigue. She might not know who The Doctor is but that doesn’t stop her noticing the sonic screwdriver either. Then out of nowhere Rose comes running down the street and asks Donna about the body. Needless to say she’s not really pleased to find out it’s The Doctor but she doesn’t stay long enough for Donna to get any answers either.

Instead we cut to Donna getting fired from her job due to problems in London. More interesting is that on the news we get to see the Judoon take the Royal Hope hospital one minute and leave it back the next. Without The Doctor’s intervention not only is everyone except Oliver killed but the likes of Martha, Sarah Jane, Luke, Maria and Clyde are also casualties.

The Doctor’s on screen death was one thing but even without seeing the others, their deaths still hit a nerve. It’s also the closest to a reference to The Sarah Jane Adventures that we’ve had and if I wasn’t any the wiser I’d be thinking that a certain journalist was on the way back.

With Sylvia not really caring about Donna’s job loss, Wilf’s belief in aliens comes into play. Even before encountering The Doctor, Wilf was something of an alien believer but neither Donna nor Sylvia really wants to indulge him. You do want to shout at them to listen but even Donna is beginning to realise that something isn’t right.

Her suspicions are then confirmed when she goes out for a walk and encounters Rose for the second time. I’m really enjoying these spooky encounters between the two of them but most of it is teasing as well. Rose is sort of vague and Donna really gets pissed off when the mystery blonde keeps looking at her back.

More cryptically Rose tells Donna to get out of town for Christmas. Like anyone person being told by a random stranger to leave, Donna wants to know why and Rose just tells her to use the ticket in Mr Chowdry’s raffle. Funny that while Donna lost a job, she gains a vacation. I’d say as revenge goes it’s a pretty sweet thing to happen. Makes me wish I had done a raffle at my last job.

Of course being pampered in a nice hotel during the Christmas wasn’t Rose’s intention. She wanted Donna out of town to save her and it paid off. Remember that spaceship named after the Titanic? Well it really did live to it’s namesake by successfully wiping out all of London.

These little change of events in previous episodes is a brilliant twist and it does ram home much The Doctor is needed. However because of the Racnoss incident, as a viewer are we supposed to believe that Donna unintentionally saved The Doctor’s life by getting him out of the Empress’ lair?

I’m going to believe so because this episode has done nothing but make it feel like Donna is key to events. Also with London obliterated, Donna, Sylvia and Wilf have to share with a few families in one house in Leeds. Donna’s shouty side comes off nicely when telling a neighbour to pipe down and then when she gets involved in a bit of sing song with her lodgers.

There’s also some really touching moment with her family. Wilf is every bit as loveable here as he has been in every episode we’ve seen him and there’s a great scene between Donna and Sylvia where they talk about Geoff’s death. Even without The Doctor factoring in her life, Donna still has her own pain.

The last effective moments though see the Adipose raid 60 million Americans and then we learn the Atmos cars are loaded with gas. To make matters worse Gwen and Ianto have been killed by the Sontarans and Jack has been taken prisoner. Talk about stripping The Doctor of every possible defence.

The best stuff of this episode is the last twenty minutes. Donna’s insect has attracted UNIT attention and instead of jumping between universes, Rose is also back to give Donna a few solid answers. The first of those would be explaining to Donna about her relationship with The Doctor.

We also got to see Donna relive her first experience of seeing what the TARDIS looks like on the inside and there’s the sting in the tail – Donna has to die! It’s been practically prophesised since “The Fires Of Pompeii” and Rose does go a good length to explain as much as she can without revealing everything.

As episodes go, this is definitely Catherine Tate’s finest moment from start to finish. If there was anyone else out there who didn’t rate the woman, then this episode should satisfy them. If not, then I hope something from the last two will but honestly, Catherine is absolutely outstanding here.

Billie Piper is also wonderful in this episode too. Rose isn’t given quite as much to do as you’d expect but after those appearances in “Partners In Crime”, “The Poison Sky” and “Midnight” it’s finally nice to have Rose back in a stronger role. Just like Martha, Rose and Donna spark off brilliantly with each other and while her dress sense has improved for the better, her accent is noticeably different.

As for saving the world in her own way, UNIT manage to get Donna to do a bit of time travelling of her own to make sure that she does go left. The only way that Donna is able to do is to allow a lorry to run her over and even though our Donna isn’t really dead, I did feel upset seeing Donna die no less.

Back in the present time The Doctor manages to find Donna and removes the insect of her back. The creature is known as a Time Beetle but interesting enough when Donna opens up about her adventures, it’s two words that really piques The Doctor’s attention. After all he’s heard them plenty of times during Season One.

With ‘Bad Wolf’ being mentioned, The Doctor soon realises that the words are spread everywhere and in a cool moment, there’s also on the outside of the TARDIS. The inside however looks like it’s been cannibalised and the ending has The Doctor wary of imminent disaster.

Also in “Turn Left”

After three brief appearances, Billie Piper’s name is back in the opening credits and like Freema; she’s billed after David and Catherine. It was also nice to have her talking on Doctor Who Confidential as well.

Fortune Teller: “Don’t you want to know if you’ll be happy?”
Donna: “I’m happy right now, thanks.”

The Fortune Teller was played by Chipo Chung who played Chantho in last season’s “Utopia”.

Donna: “What’s that on my back?”
Fortune Teller: “Make the choice again Donna Noble and turn right. Turn right and never meet that man.”

Donna: “Alice there’s a great big web star shooting at people and you’re looking at me.”
Alice: “There’s something on your back.”

I was going to ask why we didn’t see The Master in this episode or get a Saxon mention but without The Doctor, he’d been stuck on Malcassairo.

Donna: “I’m sorry did you know that man? I mean they didn’t say his name. Could’ve been any Doctor.”
Rose: “I came so far.”

Donna: “Blimey are you alright? What was that, fireworks?”
Rose: “I don’t know. I was just walking along. That’s weird.”

We didn’t really learn much about Rose in this episode except for her working with the parallel Torchwood. She’s certainly advanced in techno-babble though.

Wilf: “You’re not gonna make the world a better place by shouting.”
Donna: “I can try.”

Donna (to Sylvia/Wilf): “There’s no war. There is no fight. There’s just this.”

In a lot of the later scenes, it looks like Donna is wearing Captain Jack’s jacket. Rose’s outfit is definitely more grown up than her usual attire too.

Donna: “You’re always wearing the same clothes. Why won’t you tell me your name?”
Rose: “None of this was meant to happen. There was a man. This wonderful man and he stopped it all. The Titanic, the Adipose, the Atmos. He stopped them all from happening.”

Donna: “Who are you?”
Rose: “I was like you. I used to be you. You travelled with him, Donna. You travelled with The Doctor in a different world.”
Donna: “But I never met him and he’s dead.”

The Fortune Teller and the Time Beetle were agents of The Trickster who threatened The Doctor in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode “Whatever Happened To Sarah Jane?” I love how that tied in beautifully at the end.

Rose: “Something’s coming Donna. Something worse.”
Donna: “The whole world is stinking. How could anything be worse than this?”
Rose: “Trust me we need The Doctor more than ever. I’ve been pulled across from a different universe because every single universe is in danger. It’s coming Donna. It’s coming from across the stars and nothing can stop it.”
Donna: “What is?”
Rose: “The darkness.”
Donna: “Well what do you keep telling me for? What am I supposed to do?”

Was anyone else hoping that with The Master in “Utopia”, Davros would appear at the end of “Turn Left”? I was a little disappointed that he didn’t. That being said a clip of him did appear in Doctor Who Confidential.

Donna: “I’m nothing special. I’m a temp! I’m not even that! I’m nothing.”
Rose: “Donna Noble, you’re the most important woman in the whole of creation.”

Donna (re The Doctor): “If he was so special, then what was he doing with me?”
Rose: “He thought you were brilliant.”
Donna: “Don’t be stupid.”
Rose: “But you are. It just took The Doctor to show you that. Simply by being with him. He did the same to me. To everyone he touches.”

Just like last season’s “The Sound Of Drums”, the Cloister Bell wrecked havoc when The Doctor and Donna went into the TARDIS. The constellation of Orion is also gone out.

Rose: “I’m sorry.”
Donna: “But I can’t die. I’ve got a future with The Doctor. You told me.”

The Doctor: “What two words? What were they? What did she say?”
Donna: “Bad Wolf. What does that mean? Doctor, what is it? What’s ‘Bad Wolf’?”
The Doctor: “It’s the end of the universe.”

The trailer for the next episode “The Stolen Earth” took my breath. Did anyone else squee majorly in seeing Luke, Gwen, Ianto, Harriet, Davros, the Judoon and that mystery woman?

I really want to be super critical with this episode but even the littlest of niggles are hard to take seriously. “Turn Left” is a brilliant lead in as far as I’m concerned to the finale and while the dystopian world without The Doctor is an obvious thing to do, it works so damn well. The next two episodes are going to be glorious. This season has felt a lot bigger and more ambitious than the previous three and while things are beginning to reek of fan-fiction, there’s still no other show that really sparks for me in such a way as this series does. It’s a just a pity that we couldn’t have gotten the briefest of an appearance for Davros but too much goodness happened to let that be a major problem.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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