Turn Left (Doctor Who)

Turn Left (Doctor Who)

number = 201
serial_name = Turn Left

caption = In the makeshift TARDIS-powered UNIT time machine, Rose shows Donna what is on her back
show = DW
type = episode
doctor = David Tennant (Tenth Doctor)
companion = Catherine Tate (Donna Noble)
companion2 = Billie Piper (Rose Tyler)
guests =
*Bernard CribbinsWilfred Mott
*Jacqueline KingSylvia Noble
*Joseph Long – Rocco Colasanto
*Noma Dumezweni – Capt. Magambo
*Chipo Chung – Fortune Teller
*Marcia Lecky – Mooky Kahari
*Suzann McLean – Veena Brady
*Natalie Walter – Alice Coltrane
*Neil Clench – Man in Pub
*Clive Standen – Private Harris
*Bhasker Patel – Jival Chowdry
*Catherine York – Female Reporter
*Ben Righton – Oliver Morgenstern
*Loraine Velez – Spanish Maid
*Jason Mohammad – Studio News Reader
*Sanchia McCormack – Housing Officer
*Lawrence Stevenson – Soldier #1
*Terri-Ann Brumby – Woman in Doorway
*Lachele Carl – Trinity Wells
*Paul Richard Biggin – Soldier #2cite web|url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/s4/episodes/?episode=s4_11&action=credits|title=Credits|date=2008-06-21|publisher=BBC|language=English|accessdate=2008-06-21]
writer = Russell T Davies
director = Graeme Harper
script_editor = Brian Minchin
producer = Susie Liggat
executive_producer = Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Phil Collinson
production_code = 4.11
date = 21 June 2008
series = Series 4
length = 50 minutes
preceding = "Midnight"
following = "The Stolen Earth"
imdb_id = 1205436
"Turn Left" is the eleventh episode of the fourth series of British science fiction television series "Doctor Who". It was broadcast on BBC One on 21 June 2008. This episode marks the return of former companion Rose Tyler following several brief non-speaking appearances earlier in the series. The episode revisits the settings of a number of previous "Doctor Who" episodes in the last two years, showing how they might have turned out if the Doctor and Donna Noble had never met.


The episode begins with the Doctor (David Tennant) and his companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) strolling through a market place on the "Chino-planet of Shan Shen". Donna is persuaded by a fortune teller (Chipo Chung) to examine her past: specifically, the first event that led to her encounter with the Doctor. Donna recalls an argument with her mother Sylvia (Jacqueline King) at a road junction: Donna wishes to turn left to become a temporary employee at the security firm H. C. Clements; her mother wishes for her to turn right to apply for a secretarial job at a local photocopying business. The fortune teller gives her another chance and persuades her to turn right; as she does, a large beetle-like creature crawls onto her back.

The narrative focuses on an alternative history where Donna never met the Doctor and recalls several previous episodes: the Doctor dies during the events of "The Runaway Bride", leading to the deaths of his companions during the events of "Smith and Jones" and "The Poison Sky" and the nuclear destruction of London during "Voyage of the Damned". Throughout the episode, several characters, most notably Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), take an interest in the invisible beetle on her back.

After the events of "The Poison Sky", Rose tells Donna of their comparable roles in the Doctor's life and explains that Donna is instrumental to saving the universe. When Donna's grandfather Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins) sees the stars go out, Donna acquiesces to Rose's request: she must travel back in time and ensure her past self turns left at the junction. After Donna materialises in Sutton Court, Chiswick, she realises she cannot directly influence herself at the junction; instead, she causes a traffic jam by stepping in front of a haulage truck. As she dies, Rose whispers the words "Bad Wolf" to her.

The episode's final scene takes place on Shan-Shen, where Donna's actions cause the beetle to fall off her back: the fortune-teller screams in horror, telling Donna she was far stronger than she thought, and asks her what she will become. The Doctor blithely walks in, unaware of what's happened, and inspects the beetle: he says that it is part of the "Trickster's brigade", a menagerie of monsters that change timelines in small ways. He comments that Donna's actions inadvertently created a parallel universe and compliments her; his words cause Donna to remember Rose, who said a similar thing. Donna begins to remember Rose's warning and tells the Doctor. Initially dismissing it as a remnant of the creature's influence, the Doctor become more interested when Donna describes Rose to him. When she repeats the words given to her by Rose -"Bad Wolf"-, a panicking Doctor exits the fortune teller's room and sees all text rendered as "Bad Wolf", even the notice on the TARDIS. He enters the TARDIS, hears the Cloister bell, and realises the end of the universe is imminent.



"Turn Left" is a "Doctor-light" episode: a low-budget production that features the Doctor in a reduced role. Instead of the episode featuring Donna in a reduced role, "Turn Left" was written to complement "Midnight"; "Midnight" would feature the Doctor in the central role and "Turn Left" focused on Donna and Rose. The episode was written by the show's head writer and executive producer, Russell T Davies. He compared the main concept of the episode—life without the Doctor—to the 1998 film "Sliding Doors". Davies hoped to pose a question to the viewer: "does the Doctor cause or prevent death?". The episode focuses on the scale of deaths without the Doctor; the death toll surprised Davies when he wrote the script. Lead actor David Tennant cited the deaths that surrounded his character as a major part of the Doctor's guilt. The episode's tone phrase was "life during wartime"; Davies reflected his description by comparing the labour camps Rocco Colasanto (Joseph Long) was sent to with Auschwitz concentration camp. Davies emphasised developing the characters of Rose Tyler and Donna; Susie Liggat, the episode's producer, thought Rose describing Donna as "the most important woman in the whole of creation" was therapeutic for the former character; and Donna's realisation that she must die was intended as the epitome of the character's maturation.

Another key component of the episode is the return of Rose Tyler, portrayed by Billie Piper. Piper's return was planned during filming of the second series; in January 2006, Piper made a "pact" promising to return to film several more episodes. Davies and Piper cited her other projects—specifically, her roles as Belle de Jour in "Secret Diary of a Call Girl", the eponymous character in the BBC adaptations of Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart quartet, and Fanny Price in the ITV adaptation of "Mansfield Park"—to explain that her departure was permanent.cite journal|last=Pixley|first=Andrew|date=2008-08-14|title=Turn Left|journal=Doctor Who Magazine|publisher=Panini Comics|location=Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent|volume=The Doctor Who Companion: Series 4|issue=Special Edition 20|pages=116-125|accessdate=2008-08-22] Davies created the expectation of Rose's return by mentioning her in dialogue and featuring Piper in cameo appearances in "Partners in Crime", "The Poison Sky", and "Midnight".

Davies explained the episode's climax—the effects of the Rose's warning—in the companion episode of "Doctor Who Confidential". The words caused no inherent harm; "Bad Wolf" acts as a warning sign for the Doctor, and Rose's invocation of the phrase signals that the parallel universes Rose and the Doctor inhabit are collapsing into each other. Davies declined to state whether the episode was part of the series finale; he preferred to stay out of the imminent fan debate. The episode was described by "Doctor Who Magazine" as "partly acting as a prelude to the two-part series climax".

Time Beetle

The "Time Beetle" which was responsible for the creation of the parallel timeline was described in the episode's script as "a huge black beetle... shiny carapace, spindly black legs moving and flexing, mandibles clacking together". Its design was influenced by the Giant Spider of Metebelis 3 that clung to Sarah Jane Smith's back in "Planet of the Spiders".cite serial | title = Here Come The Girls | series = Doctor Who Confidential| network = BBC | station = BBC Three | city = Cardiff | airdate = 2008-06-21] The beetle's normal appearance was deliberate; prosthetic designer Niell Gorton thought that familiarity would ease the narrative and cited the cat nuns from "New Earth" and the Judoon from "Smith and Jones" as examples. The prosthetic was made using fibreglass and fitted on a harness to not burden Catherine Tate's performance. The episode's director, Graeme Harper, explained in the episode's commentary that only "psychic" characters—such as Lucius from "The Fires of Pompeii"—were aware of the beetle's existence.cite episode |title=Turn Left |series= |credits=Graeme Harper, Tracie Simpson and Nick Murray |network=BBC |station=BBC7 |airdate=2008-06-21 |seriesno=1 |number=11]


The episode was primarily filmed in the seventh production block between 26 November and 8 December 2007, alongside filming of "Midnight". The first scenes were filmed in Bay Chambers, Cardiff; the housing office where Donna's family was relocated to Leeds was filmed in a storage area adjacent to the photocopying business. The following evening saw filming of Rose and Donna's first meeting in Butetown, Cardiff. Scenes set on "Monday 25 [June 2007] "—specifically, Donna preparing to make her decision and Donna racing to ensure she turns right—were filmed between 27 November and 29 November, in the order they were aired. A double had to portray Tate in the car; Tate did not have a license. Donna's race to prevent herself from turning right was filmed on St Isan Road in Cardiff, which was locked off for safety concerns. During the evenings of the 27th and the 28th, scenes on Wilfred's allotment in Leeds were filmed; on 29 November, Rose's second meeting with Donna and Piper's cameo in "Partners in Crime" were filmed.

The first studio scene—Donna in the fortune teller's room—was filmed on 30 November 2007, on a redressed Torchwood Hub set at the show's studios in Upper Boat. The outdoor scenes in Shan Shen—comprising Tennant's entire contribution to the episode—were filmed on 1 December 2007 in Splott and near the Cardiff Royal Infirmary. The shoot was marred by difficulties: rain delayed redressing the alley from Chinese script to the "Bad Wolf" posters; and several extras left at lunchtime because of a misunderstanding over their payment. The final scene of the day was the Doctor's examination of the Time Beetle in the fortune teller's room. The scenes in the country hotel was filmed in Portkerry on 3 December 2007.

The scenes in the terraced street in Leeds were filmed in Machen Street, Penarth, on 4 December and 5 December. The cast listened to The Pogues' "The Wild Rover" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" before singing the songs themselves. Graeme Harper decided to focus on Jacqueline King in the scene when her character, Sylvia Noble, stares vacantly in a despondent manner as Donna talks to her; Harper considered the scene to be "Jacqueline's moment" and thought the scene would be more powerful if the focus was kept on one character. The outdoor scenes were filmed on 5 December: the Colasanto family being sent to a labour camp was filmed during the day; and the ATMOS devices ejecting exhaust fumes was filmed in the evening.

Filming continued with a night shoot on 6 December; scenes inside and outside the pub on Christmas Day were filmed in The Conway pub in Pontcanna before relocating to a nearby park to film the scenes contemporary with the events of "The Poison Sky". Thompson Park was originally scheduled for the shoot; the location was changed at short notice to Sophia Gardens because Tate was suffering from a mild case of influenza. The final scenes to be filmed—the scenes in the makeshift UNIT base—were filmed in a decommisioned steel factory in Pontypool, on 7 December and 8 December. Filming for the episode was completed with pick-up shots in January 2008.

Because the episode was on low budget, the episode had to rely heavily on stock footage and pre-existing graphics: the "Titanic"'s descent into Buckingham Palace and the American television report of the populace being transformed into Adipose utilised footage from "Voyage of the Damned" and "Partners in Crime", respectively; and images of the Racnoss Webstar and the ignited sky were already created by The Mill. The episode's small budget impeded production; Davies wanted the TARDIS prop to be burning until he was reminded that he was writing the "cheap episode".

Broadcast and reception

"Turn Left" was watched by 8.09 million viewers, [cite web|url=http://www.barb.co.uk/viewingsummary/weekreports.cfm?report=weeklyterrestrial&requesttimeout=500|date=2008-07-03|accessdate=2008-07-03|publisher=BARB|title=Weekly Viewing Summary w/e 22/06/2008] giving it a 35% share of the total television audience. [cite web|url=http://www.gallifreyone.com/news-archives.php?id=6-2008#newsitemEkEuEkVEplLkesqJdB|title=Turn Left - Overnight Ratings|author=Marcus|date=2008-06-22|publisher=Outpost Gallifrey|accessdate=2008-06-23] The episode received an Appreciation Index score of 88 (considered Excellent). [cite web|url=http://www.gallifreyone.com/news-archives.php?id=6-2008##newsitemEkEukEAZZVDFPURIIk|title=Turn Left - AI and Digital Ratings|author=Marcus|date=2008-06-23|publisher=Outpost Gallifrey|accessdate=2008-06-23] It was the fourth most-watched programme of the week, the highest placing a regular episode of "Doctor Who" had ever achieved to that point; the 2007 Christmas special "Voyage of the Damned" was the second most-watched television program on Christmas Day. [cite web|url=http://www.gallifreyone.com/news-archives.php?id=7-2008#newsitemEkEVEEFyFlbzkyHPdc|title=Turn Left - Final Ratings|author=Marcus|date=2008-07-03|publisher=Outpost Gallifrey|accessdate=2008-07-04]


Ben Rawson-Jones of Digital Spy gave the episode four stars out of five. He opened by comparing the episode to "Sliding Doors" and discussing the trope of alternate histories; he thought the concept was overused, but contended "there's enough humanity and rewarding moments to make 'Turn Left' an intriguing endeavour." Rawson-Jones complimented Davies on balancing frivolity and "bleak darkness":blockquote|'Turn Left' certainly shifts tone from light to dark on various occasions, and is far more effective for doing so. This mirrors the performance of Catherine Tate, who has found the right balance between the shouty-comedy moments and the tender, emotional scenes.

Take the evacuated Donna's Italian housemate, who she calls 'Mussolini' in a rather incongruous but non-malicious piece of racial stereotyping. He appears to be a nauseatingly cheerful stock character, but suddenly we're stunned and affected by the fact that he's being carted off to a concentration camp.|Ben Rawson-Jones|Digital SpyHis analysis of the scene continued; he called the writing "powerful ... for a family show, especially as Wilf poignantly remembers the similar horrors he has experienced in the last World War". His major point of criticism was Piper's acting: specifically, she compared her accent to " [having] her mouth numbed with local anaesthetic".cite web|url=http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/cult/a102599/s04e11-turn-left.html|title=Doctor Who: S04E11: 'Turn Left'|last=Rawson-Jones|first=Ben|date=2008-08-21|publisher=Digital Spy|accessdate=2008-08-23]


External links

*BBCDWnew | year=2008 | id=S4_11 | title=Turn Left
* [http://www.thewriterstale.co.uk/pdfs/Doctor%20Who%204%20Ep.11-%20Shooting%20Script%20-%20Turn%20Left%20-%2030.01.08.pdf Shooting Script for "Turn Left"] at the [http://www.thewriterstale.co.uk/ official website] for Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook's ""
*Brief|id=2008k|title=Turn Left|quotes=y
*Doctor Who RG|id=who_tv41|title=Turn Left|quotes=y

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