Doctor Who is in the home stretch of the fourth season, with only two more to go after this newest one. After a largely companion-less episode last week, we get a largely Doctor-less one this time. Here’s a review of “Turn Left,” with spoilers.
Doctor Who 4×11 “Turn Left”
Writer: Russell T. Davies
What’s Going On:
The episode opens with the Doctor and Donna shopping in an Asian-alien market on some far-flung planet. Donna wanders into a fortune teller’s stall and becomes the victim of a time-leeching bug that takes her back to before her initial meeting with the Doctor. It forces her to turn her car right instead of left at a critical juncture, causing the meeting never to occur.
Through the rest of the episode, we see an alternate universe as things would have happened had Donna never met the Doctor. As it turns out, quite a few things would have gone awry, not the least of which being the deaths of the Doctor, Martha, Gwen Cooper, Ianto Jones, Sarah Jane, all of London, a big chunk of America, and likely the entirety of the planet. The events of past episodes are revisited in more catastrophic settings, from the Titanic crashing onto London to the Adipose successfully ascending to the Sontarans destroying Torchwood and capturing Jack Harkness.
Donna encounters Rose Tyler, somehow dragged through time and space back to our world. Rose is trying to guide Donna back to the correct reality so that the world will be set right.
Lessons Learned Here:
- Donna apparently never has heard of the Holocaust.
- Playing It’s A Wonderful Life with Donna Noble is a lot more effective than playing it with James Stewart.
- Rose’s favorite hobby is throwing people under the bus. Literally.
- Billie Piper has been replaced by a Skrull.
How It Ends:
Rose sends Donna back to the point in time at which she made the “right turn” choice so that she can make her past self turn left, averting all the resulting disasters. Donna realizes she can’t make it to the intersection in time, so she sacrifices herself, leaping in front of a truck to cause a traffic jam. As Donna is dying, Rose comes to her and tells her to tell the Doctor two words when she returns. The world then rights itself, and the Doctor finds Donna in the fortune teller’s stall after she has killed the time-leech. She repeats the two words to him: “Bad Wolf.”
Overall this was a brilliant episode. Doctor Who does alternate universes remarkably well, and it’s always neat to see past events replayed in a butterfly effect manner. It reminds me of the Marvel What If? comic books that alter one event and then show how everything else would have played out. It seems that Donna has something Special (yes, with a capital “S”) about her that draws parallel universes and fortuitous meetings to her.
Rose tells Donna that she’s going to die, something that also was hinted in the Library two-parter. Donna believes she’s fulfilling the prophecy when she leaps in front of the bus at the end of “Turn Left,” but I doubt it’s that simple. Things never are easy in the Whoniverse, and letting Donna off the hook by having her sacrifice an alternate universe self would be a lot simpler and less dramatically imposing than what probably awaits her.
The return of Bad Wolf was a neat touch, even if it does portend the apocalypse. I’m intrigued to find out how Rose pulled it off this time, given that she didn’t seem to be infused with the power of the TARDIS like she was in season one. Perhaps back then, when she was able to see all realities and possibilities, she went ahead and seeded “Bad Wolf” into this time and place?
And finally, what the heck, Billie Piper? Granted, it’s been a long time since she’s played Rose Tyler, but her voice and mannerisms were completely different from her two seasons as a companion. After watching the episode, I read in an interview about Billie having trouble remembering how she did Rose’s voice, but this seemed like something more. Rose sounded like she’d had her wisdom teeth extracted the previous day, and that surely wasn’t something Billie Piper did intentionally. I hope her future appearances in the series aren’t as jaw clenchingly sibilant.