Recap: Doctor Who NS S4 E11 "Turn Left"
The Doctor and Donna drop by the Chinese-inspired planet Shan Shen, a long way from Earth. The Doctor does some shopping while Donna lets herself be talked into a free fortune-telling session. But the fortune-teller is interested in Donna's past
, not her future... specifically, she wants to know how Donna came to meet the Doctor. Something creepy and crawly moves towards Donna and latches onto her back.
Remember "The Runaway Bride
", when we first met Donna? She was marrying a guy she'd met at work. Flashback to Donna's first day at H.C. Clements. Her mum comes along, and harangues Donna about interviewing for a different job, a better
job, with some guy she knows. All Donna has to do is turn right instead of left at a certain intersection, and she'll never have started at H.C. Clements, never met Lance, never been sucked aboard a TARDIS in flight, never — and this is the crucial bit — told the Doctor to stop when he was murdering a Racnoss nest. So, the Doctor drowned in the Thames and died
that Christmas Eve, and Donna didn't much care, because she never knew who he was. To Donna, the only thing out of place seems to be the fascination her friends have with something on her back that they glimpse, and the young blonde woman who's suddenly turned up looking very distressed.
But Earth, as it turned out, would end up caring very much. When Royal Hope Hospital was transported to the moon
, the Plasmavore was stopped, but the hospital was trapped on the Moon until it was too late. All but one person in the hospital died
— including medical student Martha Jones — and the Earth escaped destruction only because one Sarah Jane Smith
, at the hospital with Luke, Maria, and Clyde, was able to deactivate the Death Ray
Without the Doctor around to stop it, the starship Titanic crashed into London the following Christmas
, destroying the entire city with its nuclear engine. Donna and her family are OK, because they left London for Christmas on the advice of a mysterious blonde woman.
Mysterious blonde woman — dimension-hopping Rose Tyler — keeps popping up in Donna's life as it continues to suck
. Aid promised from the United States to the victims of the nuking of London is cancelled after the Adipose kill millions of them
. The Sontaran stratagem
very nearly succeeds, as well; it is stopped only by the Torchwood
Three team, at the cost of their lives and leaving Jack stranded on the Sontaran homeworld.
And Donna and her family are forcibly moved to Leeds, while the minorities are shipped off to "labor camps". One night, when Donna notices that The Stars Are Going Out
, she finally decides to follow the mysterious blonde woman.
The woman, remaining nameless, explains who the Doctor was and that he was never supposed to die. She takes Donna to a UNIT operations base where they have hooked up the Doctor's TARDIS to their equipment which includes a circle of mirrors. The blonde woman and UNIT use the equipment to show Donna the presence of a large beetle riding her back, though they can't remove it. Instead she tells Donna that they are going to correct the timeline, but it requires sending Donna herself back to fix it. After realizing this might wipe her from existence, Donna agrees to do so, and is told to stop herself from turning right on that fateful day.
The time jump leaves her half a mile away with only a few minutes to get to the intersection, an impossibility to fix. Without any other options, Donna throws herself in front of an oncoming vehicle, fatally wounding her, but creating a traffic jam that her earlier, impatient self is unwilling to wait for, and makes the left turn. As the alternate Donna dies, the blonde woman appears again to her, and tells her a two word message to give to the Doctor before she blacks out...
Donna wakes up in the fortune teller's room, the Time Beetle having fallen off her back dead. The fortune teller scurries away as the Doctor arrives. Donna explains what she saw, and the Doctor explains that the Time Beetle is part of the Trickster's Brigade. Donna wasn't picked for any special reason: stealing timelines is just what the Trickster's Brigade does, and it usually has no major effect. Donna just happened to be a bit more involved in time-shattering events than the usual victim. The Doctor casually comments on Donna's bad luck to involve herself in parallel worlds all the time, when Donna suddenly recalls the blonde woman. The Doctor, instantly alert, asks Donna for more information, and Donna recites her last words:Bad Wolf
The Doctor races outside to find every banner and sign, even the TARDIS doors, now reading "BAD WOLF". Racing inside and closely followed by Donna, the Cloister Bell has started tolling, the end of the universe soon imminent.
- America Saves the Day: Subverted. They were going to send aid money to help Britain, but the Adipose disaster was relocated to America and ended up killing 60 million Americans, so they focused on recovering from that instead.
- And Starring: Billie Piper makes it into the opening credits like this.
- Anyone Can Die: Taken to ridiculous levels in the alternate dimension. An entire hospital killed with only one survivor, the entirety of London killed when the Titanic crashes, and 60 million Americans killed and converted to Adipose.
- Among the confirmed dead are Martha Jones, Sarah Jane Smith, Gwen Cooper, and Ianto Jones. We never find out what happened to Captain Jack, but considering this means he never met the Doctor again...
- Arc Words: The arc words from series 1, Bad Wolf, appear on every sign. And the bees disappearing. And we find out what exactly the "something on [Donna's] back" is.
- Best of All Possible Worlds: The alternate universe in this episode is very much a worse place.
- We have the alternate universe created when Donna turns right in "Turn Left", which causes the Doctor to die at the Thames Barrier when he defeats the Racnoss, and several contemporary attacks on Earth to cause mass casualties, and/or wipes out several of the Doctor's allies (including Martha, who he never met here). Naturally, Donna set her timeline back on its proper course at the end of the episode.
- Blue Box: The TARDIS.
- Borrowed Catchphrase: Rose borrows the Doctor's, "I'm sorry... so sorry..."
- Britain Is Only London: Averted, as the latter sections of the story are said to take place in Leeds, in West Yorkshire Oop North.
- Butterfly of Doom: As the title indicates, all Donna does is turn right instead of left. This plunges the world into a dystopian hell.
- Continuity Nod: The Cloister Bell (the TARDIS' Oh Crap signal, first heard in "Logopolis") ringing at the end. The Trickster is a time-altering villain in The Sarah Jane Adventures, Metropolitan Magazine was indeed SJS's former employer in the classic period (as mentioned in her first story, "The Time Warrior")
- Contrived Coincidence: The one in "Partners In Crime" was Lampshaded.
- Cosy Catastrophe: The middle part, at least - before the Emergency Government starts "relocating" immigrants, almost certainly to their deaths, and the stars start going out.
- Crapsack World: Without the Doctor there to do his thing, the world gets worse and worse.
- Although at least we avoided the Master's reign of terror (though that was cosmic-retconned away anyway) as without the Doctor's intervention he presumably died at the end of time.
- Deader Than Dead: The Doctor is apparently too dead to regenerate. Though we're pretty sure that drowning in the Thames can't bring a Time Lord back.
- Deconstruction: Rose basically stands in for the Doctor in this episode, including the dimensional comings and goings, name obfuscation, misplaced enthusiasm, technobabble, and hints of an Omniscient Morality License. But when you live in a Crapsack World like this one and you're not used to the Doctor's shenanigans, all these attributes would probably make the Doctor seem like a bit of an asshole...and Rose does come off as a bit of an asshole.
- Distant Reaction Shot: The Titanic crashes into London, resulting in an enormous mushroom cloud visible from Donna's holiday home.
- Everybody's Dead, Dave / Kill 'em All: Doctor, Martha, Sarah Jane, Maria, Clyde, Luke, Gwen, Ianto. With Donna and Rose the main characters of the episode and Jack immortal and Owen and Tosh already dead, that's every character that's ever had billing in all three series. Since this all gets reversed by the end of the episode, it's also an example of the Second Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics.
- Expospeak Gag: "Keep the jacket on at all times, it's insulation against temporal feedback. This will correspond to local time wherever you land. This...is to combat dehydration" (offers ordinary glass of water).
- For Want of a Nail: Donna turns right instead of left, and the whole world - probably the whole universe - changes.
- In Spite of a Nail also: It doesn't matter whether Donna turns left because she's being stubborn or because there's a traffic pileup, or that she has a mysterious dead doppelganger.
- Also there are the Doctor's "future" actions that happen "in the past". See Fridge Logic for more.
- From Bad to Worse: Supreme example of this trope, in spades. As bad as the Doctor's universe can be, Donna's World is downright horrifying by comparison. Everything that could Kick the Dog does in this episode.
- Worse still when you consider what the Doctor's would-be companions go through:
- Martha Jones never meets the Doctor, and sacrifices her life to save one man when the Royal Hope Hospital is stolen by the Judoon.
- Sarah Jane Smith never meets him again, but is able to resolve the situation at the hospital at the cost of her life, allowing the Judoon to return it to Earth.
- Without the Doctor's expertise (or Martha's UNIT connections), Torchwood is forced to deal with the Sontarans, ending with Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones igniting the atmosphere by blowing up the Sontaran mothership from within it.
- Captain Jack doesn't even get a mention, but it can't be good when one considers that this means he never met the Doctor again.
- And of course, Donna Noble. In the year following her father's death, she is fired from her job, narrowly dodges the nuclear explosion of London, is shoved into the kitchen of a home housing dozens of people with no money and no identity, only for the United Kingdom to start shipping people to death camps (which might even be Cyber-conversion camps) in a desperate attempt to save their own as Davros sets off his reality bomb. Oh, and there's this time-traveling blonde stalking her...
- After Series 6, one could even infer something even worse than the stars going out is going to happen. With the Doctor prematurely dead, Amy and Rory never became companions, thus negating the eventual birth of River Song. With the Doctor already dead and River never existing in the first place, his supposed "death" at Lake Silencio will never occur, thus a fixed point in time becomes irrevocably altered, causing the destruction of time itself. Although it's a moot point, seeing as the Silence would have likely disbanded after the Doctor's death, thus rendering the fixed point of Lake Silencio nonexistent.
- Gilligan Cut: Wilf says America is sending aid money, so everything will be fine soon. Cut to a news report saying that 60,000,000 Americans have been converted to Adipose.
- Heroic Blue Screen Of Death: Rose goes blank and silent when Donna says the Doctor has died, seemingly in denial that she has been dimension-hopping for so long only to find out that the Doctor has died.
Rose: I came so far...
- Also how the Doctor died in the first place - after killing all the Racnoss and without Donna to snap him out of it, we infer that he basically stood still and let the water catch up to him.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Martha gave her oxygen tank to her coworker, Sarah Jane and co died stopping the malfunctioning MRI, Gwen and Ianto died exploding the Sontaran ship, and Donna jumped in front of a truck to cause a pileup so her past self will turn left and undo all the damage.
- Humans Need Aliens: Lampshaded when the world starts to decay and even reality itself ceases to exist without the doctor's intervention.
- Kick the Dog: Donna's mother calling her a disappointment.
- Late Arrival Spoiler: When the Sontarans attack, Rose spoils the series 2 finale of Torchwood by only mentioning Ianto, Gwen and Jack.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: After the line about the stars going out, Donna looks straight at the camera and says, "I'm ready." Cut to Rose, right there.
- Limited Wardrobe: Donna asks why Rose is always wearing the same clothes.
- Make Wrong What Once Went Right
- Mind Screw: Once you get over the disaster and the sadness and the temporal weirdness and try to work out what the heck just happened, it becomes this to some degree.
- Missing the Good Stuff: Donna missed the crash of the Titanic, bringing the total to three London-based disasters she's somehow managed to miss.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: The "England for the English" law, passed by the new emergency Government.
- Oh Crap: The Doctor from the second Donna mentions that Rose was blonde. Then it gets worse not once, but twice.
- The Cloister Bell rings. It only ever rings when something really bad is going to happen.
- Even before Donna goes back in time, the conversation with Rose where Donna realizes that dead is dead:
Rose: Good luck.
Donna: I'm ready.
Rose: One minute past ten.
Donna: 'Cause I understand now. You said I was gonna die, but... you mean this whole world. It's gonna blink out of existence. But that's not dying, 'cause a better world takes its place. The Doctor's World! And I'm still alive!
Rose doesn't answer.
Donna: That's right. Isn't it? I don't die, if I change things, I don't die, that's... that's right, isn't it?
Rose remains silent until...
Rose: I'm sorry.
- The look on Donna's face (and her immediate reaction) mirrors just about every fan watching the episode.
- Planet of Hats: Shan Shen is basically Friendly Local Chinatown.
- Prophecy Twist: Donna will die... well, she did. In a way.
- Although the next episode suggests that wasn't it, and Donna is still a bad insurance risk.
- Putting on the Reich: The British government seems to do this, if Wilfred's comments when the Roccos are taken away are to be believed:
: Labour camps. That's what they called them last time. Donna
: ...what d'you mean? Wilf
: It's happening again. Donna
: What is?
Cut to the perpetually optimistic Mr. Colasanto, also a World War II
vet, who is hugging his wife and breaking down in tears as they are hauled away.
- Worse, we know the full extent of what's going on, and Wilfred can't. From Bad to Worse: The Cybermen theme is playing.
- This is all Unfortunate Truth in Television as well: During the Second World War many Italian families were put to work in labour camps due to Italy being allies with Germany.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: The reason Donna doesn't have anything to make her cling to her life in this alternate universe is that Russell T Davies gave up on his original idea of her having children during the middle of this havoc, since she already had a good marriage and children in Steven Moffat's episode, that would air two weeks earlier. Also, The Doctor hints that there's something strange about the multiple alternate universes popping up around her because Russell and Steven were both using the same idea. It was worked into the plot after they exchanged emails about the episodes.
- Reset Button
- Shout Out: Possibly an unintentional one, but the plot of the middle half of this episode - a series of disasters at home and abroad leading to Britain becoming a fascist police state led by a totalitarian government who are forcing minorities into death camps - is remarkably similar to the backstory of V for Vendetta.
- Special Effects Failure: As good as the episode is overall, the Thing On Donna's Back is clearly plastic and has about as much movement as a wind-up toy. The shot where it falls off at the end makes this particularly obvious.
- Tear Jerker: When Mr. Rocco and Wilf salute each other before the Roccos are taken away, you will need some tissue handy.
- The Stars Are Going Out
- Stepford Smiler: Rocco as he is being sent off.
- What If?
- Wistful Amnesia: Kinda-sorta. When Donna denies knowing anything about the Doctor, she's visibly crying.
- Wonderful Life: And just to evoke this trope even more, the point of incident takes place before Christmas.