You can scroll past this review, go on living your life the exact same as you are now. Or; you could change your mind, you could read this review of Turn Left. You could change the future, read this review and change the world!
Donna’s entire world collapses, but there’s no sign of the Doctor. Instead, she finds help from a mysterious blonde woman – a traveller from a parallel universe. But, as Donna and Rose Tyler combine forces, are they too late to save the whole of creation from the approaching darkness?
It’s strange that in the preceding 45 years, Doctor Who had never tried to tackle alternate realities at all; sure we’ve had parallel universes now and again, and again, and again; god they do love bringing Rose back considering she can never return. This episode is in the unique position of being absolutely riddled with references to the past and having good reason to, instead of just chucking an Ood in a bar so fanboys can do a little squee. Even though this episode is the Doctor-Lite episode that we’ve had in every series since The Tenth Doctor graced our screens; (Series 2 had Love & Monsters, Series 3 had Blink and Series 4 had Turn Left) it uses the lack of the Time Lord to great effect, pretty much forcing Rose Tyler into the position of the Doctor, keeping Donna in the companion role.
The alternate reality starts on Christmas Eve 2006, just before the events of The Runaway Bride, which was Donna Noble’s first encounter with the Doctor. The Racnoss ship destroying the City of London, the Doctor going too far and destroying the Empress of the Racnoss by blowing up her ship with the help of UNIT as Donna wasn’t there to stop him. As events unfold, we see the Doctor, dead, being carried away into the back of an ambulance. Luckily, the Doctor dropped his Sonic Screwdriver so the audience knows it’s really him; however my one gripe is how come nobody from UNIT thought to pick it up? The next moment, enter Rose Tyler, looking for the Doctor.
Cut to the near future, or as us Whovian’s know it, the beginning of Series 3 with the events of Smith and Jones, the Royal Hope Hospital vanishing to god knows where (we know it’s the Moon, but nobody else does). In this scene when Donna gets fired from her role as Personal Assistant to Mr Chowdri, she delivers some absolute corker lines such as ‘Cliff, I’d leave you the mouse mat, but I’m worried you might cut yourself’. As events unfold in this alternate reality, we learn that Martha Jones didn’t make it out of the incident alive, however she did have one moment of selflessness as she gave the last Oxygen tank to another trainee nurse. In my opinion, an absolute unnecessary blow in this scene was that, along with Martha’s untimely demise, it also emerges that Sarah Jane Smith was in the hospital, in place of the Doctor, and she also died. You could also mistake this episode for being written by a certain Mr. Moffat. Like the previous scene, the end of this one features an appearance from the rather mysterious Rose Tyler, this time offering Donna life saving advice to get out of the city next Christmas. Christmas in the Whoniverse is rarely good come to think of it.
Cut to Christmas 2007, with Wilfred Mott being as festive as one can expect to be at Christmastime (God I wish I knew Wilf) and, as can be expected, another disaster for the Earth. This time in the shape of the Titanic crashing Buckingham Palace, which as we all know was supposed to be stopped in Voyage of the Damned. Personally, I feel like this one has the most disastrous consequences; the Noble family have to move to Leeds. (As someone from Wakefield, which is next to Leeds, I can honestly say I’d rather live in Leeds.) One thing that makes this episode not totally depressing are Donna’s one liners; “You’re not going to make the world better by shouting at it” “I can try.” I remember watching this episode as a child and thinking it was a rather fun episode that paid homage to the Tenth Doctor’s era, however, watching it as an older, wiser young adult, the themes shown in this episode are very bleak and political, especially once the Noble’s had moved to Leeds. The themes of refugees, immigration and the world under constant attack seem to resonate more now than they did in 2008 when this episode aired.
Whilst in Leeds, at some point in 2008, America, who was supposed to be sending financial aid over to England to help us out, suddenly gets it’s own crisis, in the shape of people dissolving into fat aka Adipose as seen in Partners In Crime. The thing in this scene that is the most poignant is Sylvia’s reaction to the breaking news. Here we see a woman who is normally feisty, opinionated and rather loud become quiet, reserved and tired. For me, Sylvia shows the audience just how easy it can be to break the human spirit. Things only get from bad to worse, with Atmos in the cars slowly choking people to death. If only the Doctor were here in this reality, we could have seen The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky. Oh well. Luckily for us, we still have Torchwood to keep us safe from killer exhaust fumes, sadly they also perished. Rest in peace Gwen Cooper, Ianto Jones and Captain Jack Harkness.
Luckily for Donna, Rose returns yet again and this time, is slightly more cooperative in giving her information. The scene between Rose and Donna in this episode I have to say is completely stolen by Catherine Tate’s performance. Anyone who thought all she was good for was comedy should be shown her acting abilities in Doctor Who. The raw emotion that she irradiates whilst trying to convince Rose that she’s nothing special is so heartbreakingly believable.
The short scene immediately after is so chilling and dark, it goes over most children’s heads. When the Giovanni’s are sent away from Leeds to Labour Camps, you can see the sorrow in poor Wilf’s eyes. He knows exactly what dark forces are at work, ensuring that ‘Britain is for the British’. The scariest part of all, these Labour Camps aren’t forced into play due to another alien invasion; this is humanity’s doing.
Once Donna notices that the stars are going out and she agrees to go with Rose and UNIT, we begin to see Donna as selfless as any companion before her or since her. Once she sees the Time Beetle on her back, you get a sense that Donna has become a woman with nothing to lose. Once Donna realises she has a purpose, you see her arguably happier than we’ve seen her in this whole alternate reality.
Unfortunately, when she travels back in time, she’s half a mile away with only four minutes to change the direction of her car; instead of arguing with her past self like she intended (and what a scene that would have been) she knows she has to sacrifice herself so that reality could be restored to the one we know and love. For anyone who says that Donna isn’t brave, rewatch this episode.
The only thing that I don’t like about this episode is the Time Beetle, which is part of the Trickster’s Brigade; there is literally no need for there to be a monster in this episode as it’s already packed to the rafters with throwbacks. I wouldn’t have minded so much if the Time Beetle looked convincing or menacing but unfortunately it fails on all fronts.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For Turn Left, I will give a rating of: