“Turn Left” – Review: Redux

Donna Noble “She told me to warn you. She said two words.”
The Doctor “What two words? What were they? What did she say?”
Donna Noble “Bad Wolf.”

Turn Left

In much the same way that Martha Jones’ arrival in Torchwood for three episodes heralded the beginning of a trilogy of stories focusing on Owen Harper, “Turn Left” sees the hotly anticipated return of Rose in a story focusing heavily on the new companion, Donna.  Many will argue that this is all just and proper given the tour de force that Catherine Tate delivered up to and including this, the 11th episode of Series Four. The same people will be bleating that Ms Tate acted Ms Piper off the screen.  They may, just, have a point… Catherine Tate was magnificent.  At its core, this was an episode about looking back but not so much tying up loose ends as going back and unravelling what had happened since before the Doctor and Donna first met back in The Runaway Bride.  As the tapestry of Earth’s history was disentangled, we were treated to the kind of twisted history tale that is the dream of fanboys (and girls) up and down the country, myself included I should add.

Incidents, name checks, musical cues, visual nods and characters turned up from the show’s recent past as well that of its spin-offs, to delight the observant among us as well as the more casual viewer, and that was before we even got to the Next Time trailer. However, this was far from a celebration and thankfully a million miles from those lame highlight episodes that we see from time to time on American imports. After the dark, sci-fi elements of last week’s Midnight, we get now’t but bleak despair this week.  I wonder what happened to the fun, bounciness that we were promised of tea-time family viewing that was espoused for so long. The tone has been becoming more like Battlestar Galactica every week. The descent of English society into a refugee state with no voting rights and labour camps was handled so brilliantly within the 45/50 minute format yet never deviated from the personal story and strife of the Noble family.  The scene with Sylvia looking towards the middle distance with a lost and forlorn look as Donna tried to connect with her was simply heartbreaking.

As the resolution got closer the only flaw in the whole episode became apparent with the rather hopeless looking Time Beetle that was the cause of the whole story in the first place. They attempted to sell it off as nod towards the spider on Sarah-Jane’s back in Planet of the Spiders way back when. However, someone should tell Neil Gorton that creatures would look much better if they hung on people’s backs by attaching to them with their legs rather than under their thorax.   They really should have left the creature as something that remained largely hidden on the periphery. That is only nitpicking at what was otherwise a fabulous scene setter for the two-part finale.

Before Donna zapped back into the past with the help of a Heath Robinson time machine designed by UNIT and Rose, we were witness to one of the finest scenes of Doctor Who I can remember as the realisation dawned on alternative-Donna that she was going to need to make the ultimate sacrifice. Without the strength of character forged through her travels with the Doctor, her reaction was just like any of ours would have been. Donna’s “suicide” that followed her transportation back echoed strongly of Pete Tyler’s death in Father’s Day, especially as Rose was first on the scene, mysteriously dispatched there from who knows how or where in her alternative universe.  And then the denouement, as, back in the correctly adjusted universe, Donna recalled the two words spoken to her by the blonde stranger, “Bad Wolf”.  Excellent camera work and direction from Graeme Harper showed us all the Bad Wolf signs in the Shen Shan market and then back to the TARDIS with its cloister bell tolling and the desktop theme adopting a new red glow.  Next week it’s the end of the universe and this mini-marathon is hitting its straps once more.

Highlight: Bad. Wolf.

Lowlight: The toy beetle.

Talking Point: I barely even noticed that this was the Doctor-light episode of Series Four

Demon’s Run Rating: 17 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 21st June 2008

Marathon Status: Going strong, so much so that I’m thinking about the next one.

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  1. October 7th, 2013

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