Doctor Who in Review: Season Four, Episode #11 – Turn Left
The hit BBC series Doctor Who is now in its fourth season on the Sci-Fi Channel, and since we’re all big fans here at ComicMix, we’ve decided to kick off an episode-by-episode analysis of the reinvigorated science-fiction classic.
Every week, I’ll do my best to go through the most recent episode with a fine-tooth comb (or whatever the "sonic screwdriver" equivalent might be) and call out the highlights, low points, continuity checks and storyline hints I can find to keep in mind for future episodes. I’ll post the review each Monday, so you have ample time to check out the episode once it airs each Friday at 9 PM EST on Sci-Fi Channel before I spoil anything.
Missed a week? Check out the "Doctor Who in Review" archive or check out any of the past editions of this column via the links at the end of this article.
Keep in mind, I’m going to assume readers have already watched the episode when I put fingers to keyboard and come up with the roundup of important plot points. In other words, SPOILER ALERT!
Let’s begin now, shall we?
Season Four, Episode #11: "Turn Left"
IN BRIEF: While seeing the sights with The Doctor on a distant planet, Donna Noble is lured into the shop of a fortune teller who takes Donna back to a crucial point in her timeline: the moment when she decided to "turn left" and take a position at the company where she would eventually meet The Doctor. Something unseen skitters into the room and climbs on Donna’s back, and the fortune teller convinces her to change her mind, go back to that point and turn right instead of left. The story then shifts to a retelling of some of the major events of the last few seasons as theywould have occurred without Donna meeting The Doctor, kicking off with the death of The Doctor (and the mysterious return of Rose Tyler) during "The Runaway Bride," and then through several other key episodes — all seen from Donna’s perspective were she to have never met The Doctor.
Rose returns to offer up some cryptic assessments of the future of the universe, and Donna and her family endure one disaster after another, with people occasionally telling her there’s something — some "thing" — on her back. When the stars begin to disappear, Donna finally agrees to work with Rose, and together they reveal the "Time Beetle" on her back that has changed the course of her history and in doing so, the fate of the whole planet. Donna goes back in time and manages to right the course of history by sacrificing her alternate-universe life. Suddenly returned to the fortune teller’s shop and her life with The Doctor, Donna then manages to pass along a message from Rose that sends The Doctor into a panic: "Bad Wolf."
A PLOT POINT 63 YEARS IN THE MAKING: Leave it to the forward-thinking creators behind Doctor Who to begin seeding important plot points as far back as 1945. That was the first time Bugs Bunny mused that he "should have made a left turn at Albuquerque" — in a War-era cartoon titled "Herr Meets Hare" — and now we finally understand what he was hinting at all these years. Bravo, Who team, bravo.
THE CREATURE REPORT: Did anyone else feel a bit let-down by the Time Beetle when it was finally revealed? In retrospect, the methods used for hinting at the creature’s existence (with all the hisses and clicks and buggy sounds, and the occasional insectoid leg creeping over Donna’s shoulder) ended up being far more terrifying than the bug itself. Apparently, rumors (which I believed would prove true) claiming the thing on Donna’s back would be one of the spiders harkening back to the 1974 "Planet of the Spiders" storyline were completely off-base. Chalk that one up as a miss for the home team, folks.
LOST IN TIME: I’m not even going to start trying to figure out how all of the events from the last few seasons, not to mention the events from prior seasons of Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, all fit into the timeline of the new universe created by Donna’s "turn right" decision. That one just makes my head hurt. If you’re feeling brave, however, there’s an exhaustingly comprehensive rundown of exactly those sorts of continuity-driven issues over at The Doctor Who Wiki.
ABSENCE MAKES THE VOICE GROW… DIFFERENT? While she’s been popping up here and there throughout the current season, Rose Tyler’s been away for quite a while — and it looks like there’s a reason she’s remained silent in each of her cameos prior to this episode. Did anyone else notice some significant changes in her voice and/or speaking patterns? She didn’t sound like the character I remembered, so after looking back at an episode of two several season ago, it seems that her voice has indeed changed since she last parted ways with The Doctor. Theories, anyone?
NAME-DROPPING: There was no shortage of references in this episode to both major and minor characters from previous seasons of Doctor Who and all of its various spin-offs. Basically, if a character was important enough to have a name, it was name-checked in "Turn Left." My favorite? The return of the Private Harris of UNIT, the soldier who stumbled upon the Sontaran cloning vat in "The Sontaran Stratagem," was hypnotised into kidnapping Martha Jones and eventually died off-screen when the Sontarans got tired of using him to do their dirty work. I salute you, Harris.
QUESTIONS ANSWERED/UNANSWERED: Well, I guess we know what all that stuff about Donna having something on her back was all about, eh? (See my review of Episode #2, "The Fires of Pompeii.") Now if we can just find out what’s up with the Medusa Cascade, why The Doctor’s name is such a big deal, where the planets have gone and, well… what the heck happened to the bees, we’ll be all set. There are only two episodes left in the season, so it’s probably wise to prepare for a flood of revelations in the two-part finale.
READER REPORT: In the comments regarding last week’s review, ComicMix reader (and occasional contributor) Vinnie Bartilucci once again provided some interesting info about Episode #10, "Midnight," and the way the Who team manipulated actors’ voices to achieve the chilling effects:
With not too many CGI or prosthetic effect in the story, the real stars of the episode turn out to be the sound editors. The BBC companion series "Doctor Who confidential" dedicated the whole show to the sound team this episode. They revealed that to film all the overlapping sounds, they filmed the scenes several time, each with only one actor yelling, and the others miming. That way they were able to play with the levels all they liked. Quite a complicated episode.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE NEXT EPISODE, "The Stolen Earth": Well, it looks like the gang’s all here! So now there’s no good reason the mystery of the disappearing bees (the most important mystery of the season, as far as I’m concerned) will go unsolved… right?
Thanks to the good people at The Doctor Who Wiki for information related to several of this week’s story notes.
Want to know what you’ve been missing? Check out all of the past "Doctor Who in Review" features via the following links: