“The most important woman in the whole of creation” [Doctor Who – Turn Left]
Is it just me, or is Doctor Who the best sci-fi show on TV right now? Yeah, okay – admittedly there’s not a lot of competition, what with Battlestar Galactica and Lost having wrapped up for the year, but even if they were still on the Doctor would be giving them a run for their money.
So here in ‘Turn Left’ we have an ace episode in which Russell T Davies again takes a quirky idea – Donna winds up in a Sliding Doors-ish alternate reality after turning right instead of left prior to meeting the Doctor, thereby changing her entire life – and adds some serious blue-tinted creepiness. And an enormous chattering insect pinned to Donna’s back. Gross.
I love the Doctor Who instalments which depict pivotal events of the series from outsiders’ perspectives (which is why ‘Love and Monsters’ is a great episode despite its bizarre downer ending), and this instalment took that notion and used it to reveal that, without Donna’s intervention, the Doctor, the Earth and the universe are/were/would’ve been all doomed.
In the brilliantly deranged parallel world she never met the Doctor on her wedding day and he later drowned in the Thames (which… isn’t quite convincing, even if his death was explained away with some contrived claptrap about it happening too fast for him to regenerate, but the episode is good enough for me to forgive the apparent plot hole), leading to some catastrophic disasters – mostly notably the space-Titanic colliding with Buckingham Palace, killing millions and irradiating the southern half of England. Ouch.
This plot is intriguing for two reasons: firstly, I often wonder what effect teeny-tiny mundane things are having on the course of my life, which of course was one of the overarching themes here; and secondly, how fascinating that Martha, Sarah Jane and Torchwood all attempted to step into the fill the void left by the Doctor, sacrificing their lives in his absence. David Tennant’s Doctor is so gangly and plimsoll-wearing that he doesn’t often cut an imposing figure – but you guys, he’s a big deal.
Seeing Billie’s name in the credits was unreasonably exciting – I fucking adore Rose, bless her. She didn’t have a lot to do this week – aside from bounce around time and space at will (which seems like another gaping plot hole: again, I’m in a forgiving mood) – but Catherine Tate made up for it with some truly A-grade acting. You almost wouldn’t believe that a woman who shot to fame basically doing silly voices is such a fine dramatic actress, and she really sells Donna’s dread at her growing realisation that she’s probably going to die saving the universe. Gulp.
Meanwhile, whoever’s doing the show’s concept design desperately needs some sort of swanky award: last week’s exquisite crystal pleasure planet was topped only by this week’s gorgeous opening shot, depicting an Asian-themed metropolis of the future:
‘Turn Left’ was really an episode that rewarded fans who’ve been watching since day one – I don’t know what casual viewers would have made of it, but I don’t really care. The preview of next week’s episode looks like a Doctor Who all-stars that’s building up to some over-the-top Dalek fluff. Awesome.