Doctor Who 4.11: Turn Left

Spoilers beneath the cut:

Before I get any further, I have to confess that I thought this episode was absolute genius. After a Donna-lite episode last week, I had sort of assumed that this week’s would be a Doctor-lite one and I wasn’t entirely sure of how well it would work. I adore Donna to itty bitty pieces, but you never know whether a companion can carry an entire episode.

I needn’t have worried ๐Ÿ™‚

Things to love:

– Donna!
– The way that the entire episode was built from one ‘what if?’ that seemed tiny yet built an entirely different reality.
– The mention of the characters from the other spin-offs. That just made me grin.
– Donna’s brilliance and bravery recognised.
– Although Rose is back, it wasn’t what I expected and I was really happy with the way they did it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Rose, but I had a feeling that they’d turn Rose into some goddess/saint-like woman that absolutely isn’t what the character was.
– Rose has learned from her time with the Doctor and her time with the Torchwood on her world. The intelligence that the Doctor saw has been put to use and she’s obviously been studying.
– The follow-through on what would have changed with the Doctor dead actually made sense. And it was also terrifying.
– We now know that the first episodes of SJA must have happened before the first episode of Doctor Who season 3. And that the finale of Torchwood must have happened before the Sontaran episodes. It’s more time-line than we had yesterday morning.
– The SJA team dying actually made me sadder than the Torchwood team dying.
– Donna! Donna!
– Even without the Doctor, Donna does eventually discover how brave and brilliant can be. It’s the circumstances she needed, not just the man.
– Wilf. Because he is Wilf.
– The AU Earth was seriously nasty.
– The final five minutes. Just wow.

I had a feeling that the lost planets that have been mentioned all season would be important so I’m really pleased to have that assumption confirmed. Now I just have to see what happens with the Medusa Cascade. And the disappearing bees.

This was one of those episodes that had me open-mouthed at various points. The ripples of change as the impact of the Doctor being dead spread were horrific and it was a terrifying vision of the future. The Year That Wasn’t may not have happened (with no Doctor, there was nobody to go to the end of time and resurrect the Master – cool), but what happened instead was no better. If anything it was worse because humanity did a lot of it to itself.

It was an episode that needed familiarity with all four seasons of Doctor Who to fully appreciate the changes, but hopefully it wasn’t entirely confusing to those who have only watched from this season. I suspect that those who have no idea of Torchwood or SJA may not have picked up on the mentions, but I doubt that unfamiliarity with them would have ruined the episode.

It was kind of a pay-off episode for fans who have watched everything. Hopefully the episode worked for those who haven’t, but there were so many layers for those of us who have watched everything.

That final revelation of Bad Wolf had me completely transfixed. I was expecting those “two words” to be Rose Tyler. It was much cooler with Bad Wolf. Now I want to know how Rose sent the words through time again. Part of me argues that Rose couldn’t have known in Parting of the Ways that she would need to send that message twice. Yet she was the Time Vortex at the time so perhaps she did know? She says that she knows everything that was, everything that is, everything that will be. It’s possible.

Or perhaps next week we’ll be told how she managed it.

I am so pleased that RTD and co. remembered the Cloister Bell. For some reason it’s always been a part of canon that I love so to see the Doctor and Donna return to the TARDIS with the Bell ringing was just perfect.

Now that the Doctor has mentioned it, I’m realising that Donna has got rather a large amount of coincidence around her. It’s like a lot of her life is tangled with the Doctor’s in a way that none of the other companions have been. What is she?

I was watching with paranoidangel42, which was great fun, and we spent an interesting morning debating how much of an impact the other companions had on the Doctor’s life and whether they had the same level of influence. I think that our conclusion was that all the new companions have had an element of extreme importance to them in a way that most of the classic companions didn’t. For the most part, the absence of the classic companions wouldn’t have made quite so much of a difference. Barbara and Ian are the exceptions – they were the ones who forced the Doctor to re-examine his moral compass – but the rest (even Ace, sadly) didn’t become quite so intrinsic to the Doctor’s actions. It’s interesting and I think it has a lot to do with the change in the role of the companion between classic and new series. Something that needs more thought, I feel.

With only two episodes remaining – two that I feel are going to be rather tense and exciting – I am now entering spoiler-avoidance time. I haven’t watched the next week trailer and I plan not to. I’m not quite at hiding from the Internet stage (yet!), but I am hiding for anything that might even hint at anything. As the Internet and spoilers become easier to access, I’m finding that I enjoy reaching an episode or film without any clue of what will happen more and more. I suspect that it’s because I’m so often spoiled for at least a bit of the plot for most things so it’s that bit more special if I can watch a show that I care for spoiler-free.

In other words, no spoilers for 4.12, 4.13 or beyond in comments, please ๐Ÿ™‚ Unless it is uneducated speculation on things mentioned in this review.

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