TV REVIEW: Doctor Who 4.11 "Turn Left"

Original UK airdate: 21/6/08

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Written by: Russell T Davies

Directed by: Graeme Harper


Rose returns, the Doctor dies and Donna plays a cosmic game of consequences, discovering she may be the most important woman in the whole of creation…

A clever, powerful episode, revisiting and remixing some of New Who’s greatest hits into strange new shapes. Davies dares to take a cheeky visual gag from Voyage of the Damned – the Titanic’s near miss with Buckingham Palace – and turn it on its head, showing how a Christmas Day chuckle can be an inch from huge human tragedy. There’s a pleasingly polemical edge to its depiction of Britain as a nightmare state – at odds with the show’s usual championing of humanity – and a surprisingly chilling realisation of just how much we need that skinny boy in the pinstripes and Converse.

The moment where a trembly Wilf announces that “The stars are going out!” packs a primal shiver. All hail the Cribbins!

The premise is pure Sliding Doors, of course, but this style of ‘What if?’ scenario has been an SF banker for years. The beetle on the back owes a conceptual debt to the giant, shoulder-hugging arachnids of 1974 Jon Pertwee tale "Planet of the Spiders".

The beetle is said to be “one of the Trickster’s brigade” – the Trickster was a time-bending foe in the first series of Sarah Jane Adventures.

Lots of tingly throwaway references for Who nuts, from Rose’s mention of a causal nexus (last heard in Tom Baker’s 1981 swansong "Logopolis") to the fact that Sarah Jane used to write for Metropolitan magazine, consistent with her intro in 1973’s "The Time Warrior". They don’t just throw this together, you know.

Catherine Tate. Who else? She totally owns this showcase episode, resurrecting the raucous harpy from The Runaway Bride before reminding us just why we love Donna so much now. Heroic, huggable and just damn lovely.

So what’s the truth behind Donna Noble, then? Pringle-loving temp from Chiswick or key player in some secret cosmic drama? As the Doctor says, “Sometimes I think there’s way too much coincidence around you, Donna…” Feel those series finale hints, people.

Wilf: “Come on, you’re not going to make the world any better by shouting at it.”
Donna: “I can try.”

Nick Setchfield

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